Radwa Ashour; translated from the Arabic by Barbara Romaine
published 2011 • 5 ¼” x 8” • 282 pages
ISBN 9781566568326 • paperback • $15.00 •
"A stimulating read... Pandora's box-like it raises, explicitly and implicitly, the kinds of difficult questions that all writers at some point ask themselves: What does it mean to write? What is a novel? What is a life?"
—Nur Elmessiri, Al Ahram Weekly
Winner of the Cairo International Book Fair Prize
Specters alternates between the stories of Radwa and Shagar: two women born the same day, one a professor of literature, one of history. The novel that results is part fiction, part autobiography, part oral history, part documentary—a metafiction moving between Radwa, who is writing a novel called Specters, and Shagar, whose has written a history, titled Specters, about the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin. The novel’s structure pays lyrical, compelling tribute to the ideas of the Arab qareen—double or companion, and sometimes demon—and the ancient Egyptian ka, the spirit that is born with and accompanies an individual through life and beyond. Specters unites the projects of history and literature in an evocative, penetrating meditation on the dissolution of boundaries between the personal and the political, on contemporary life in a fractured world.
Radwa Ashour, a highly acclaimed Egyptian writer and scholar, is the author of more than fifteen books of fiction, memoir, and criticism; among them, Siraaj and Granada have been published in English. She is a recipient of the Constantine Cavafy Prize for Literature. She lives in Cairo, where she teaches literature at Ain Shams University, Cairo. She is married to the Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti and is the mother of the poet and political scientist Tamim al-Barghouti.
Barbara Romaine has been teaching Arabic for nearly two decades, currently at Villanova University. Her other translations include Bahaa Taher's novel Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery and Radwa Ashour's Siraaj. She received an NEA fellowship to support the translation of Specters.
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