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Hunger: An Egyptian Novel

Mohamed El-Bisatie
Translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 124
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    As with his earlier works, Mohamed El-Bisatie’s novel is set in the Egyptian countryside, about which he writes with such understanding. Episodic in form, it deals with a family—Zaghloul the layabout father, Sakeena the long-suffering wife, and two young boys. The central theme of the book is hunger: the hunger of not knowing where one’s next meal is coming from, and the universal hunger for sex and love. Sakeena’s life revolves round trying to provide her family with the necessary daily loaves of bread that will stave off starvation. Labor-shy Zaghloul works on and off at one of the village’s cafés, but prefers to spend his time listening in on conversations about subjects such as politics, which he would have liked to know more about, if only he had been an educated man. He is also intrigued by the stories told by young university students about their sexual exploits. Eventually chance presents him with a new job: to keep company with an elderly and over-fat man and help him on and off the mule he has to use for getting about. After looking in turn at the lives of the husband and the wife, the novel finally focuses on their elder son, who, although lacking the advantages of any sort of education, nonetheless shows more initiative than his father, and discovers his own way of contributing to the family bread larder. Despite its bleak title, Hunger is told with a lightness of touch and the writer’s trademark wry humor.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-198-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Chapter 1 The Husband
    (pp. 1-36)

    A s usual when there is no bread left in the house, Sakeena wakes up early and seats herself on the stone bench, with her headcloth rolled up in her lap, having washed her face and put on the one gallabiya that she possesses and that she has had for many years; it has grown thin with time, and the color of its roses has disappeared. She does not sleep in it, making do with her shift, with its many patches.

    She is joined by her husband and the two boys, who are still sleepy. One of them is twelve,...

  4. Chapter 2 The Wife
    (pp. 37-62)

    Sakeena was at her place on the stone bench. She was tired from waiting for the first signs of daylight. The sun had come up and people were still asleep. There was not the sound of a footfall in the lane. She was unable to wait. Her stomachache had lessened. It was bad at the beginning, as happened in the month of fasting. She bore the first few days with difficulty: a stomachache and feelings of dizziness. After two or three days the pains would go. It was how one became accustomed to it. Most of the days of Ramadan...

  5. Chapter 3 The Son
    (pp. 63-76)

    Sakeena was sitting in her place on the stone bench and the two boys were where they usually sat. The young one had his head on her thigh, his skinny body stretched out, as he tried to get back to sleep. He had returned home with wounds on his legs and would not talk about it. She discovered them by chance: some of them were swollen with pus. She squeezed them to clear them, then bandaged them.

    The older one squatted by the door not looking at her. Day does not break before she is off in her search of...

  6. Back Matter
    (pp. 77-78)