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Like a Summer Never to Be Repeated

Like a Summer Never to Be Repeated

Mohamed Berrada
Translated by Christina Phillips
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Like a Summer Never to Be Repeated
    Book Description:

    Like a Summer Never to Be Repeated is a fascinating and highly experimental story based loosely around the author’s own experiences in Egypt as a Moroccan student and visiting intellectual. In Cairo the narrator, Hammad, takes us on a deeply personal journey of discovery from the heady days of the 1950s and 1960s, with all the optimism and excitement surrounding Moroccan independence, Suez, and Abdel Nasser, up to the 1990s and the time of writing, revealing an individual intensely concerned with Arab life and culture. Meanwhile, his regular visits to Cairo allow us to watch a culture in transition over four decades. Exploring themes of change, the role of culture in society, memory, and writing, in a text that combines narrative fiction with literary criticism, philosophical musings, and quotation, Like a Summer Never to Be Repeated is among the most innovative works of modern Arabic literature and a testimony to Mohammed Berrada’s position as a leading pioneer.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-158-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Part One Holes Unceasingly Filled

    • The Threshold of Bab al-Hadid Station
      (pp. 3-11)

      Hammad read what he had written on a white sheet of paper ten years earlier:

      Bab al-Hadid Square. August. The midday sun blazed as he stepped out of the train station in Cairo, his suitcase in one hand and a cardboard box containing a dark blue suit he bought the night he left Paris for Rome in the other. He wasn’t yet seventeen….

      He paused for a moment and let his thoughts wander: Why begin with Bab al-Hadid Square? Wouldn’t it have been better to begin with his family’s farewell in Rabat or with boarding the boat in Casablanca on...

    • Did It Really Happen?
      (pp. 12-21)

      Hammad reread what he had written and became immersed in thought. He had ignored several details, or they had escaped him at the time of writing. He hadn’t written enough about Nabih, for they were friends before traveling to Cairo and he had kept up with him after the tawjihiya and declaration of Moroccan independence, when Nabih decided to go to France and study commerce. Nabih was older than Hammad and often made controversial decisions, such as in the last year of primary school when he arrived one morning with his head completely shaved—totally bald—because his brother-in-law had...

    • Like a Summer Never to Be Repeated
      (pp. 22-37)

      Many things made the summer of 1956 a special summer for Hammad, with its radiant atmosphere and optimistic memories. The declaration of Moroccan independence in March 1956 had begun to be implemented and he had passed the tawjihiya (baccalaureate). Then came the announcement of the nationalization of the Suez Canal in July to crown these events and determine their path.

      Hammad was not in Morocco at independence but he and his friends were in Port Said when Gamal Abd al-Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal in Manshiya Square in Alexandria. However, being part of or close to an...

    • University
      (pp. 38-57)

      Hammad got to know the gate of Cairo University, its tall dome, and the chimes of its famous clock on his way to the zoological gardens. He waited longingly for the end of the summer so that he could enter the complex, which symbolized a dream he had entertained since he was a schoolboy in Rabat. He and Barhum had inquired about the names of the teachers, first-year curriculum, and teaching methods, and began preparing for this next difficult stage after they passed the tawjihiya.

      The first few weeks were characterized by excitement and eagerness to attend every lecture and...

    • Umm Fathiya
      (pp. 58-66)

      Like what else?

      Like Umm Fathiya: “A black bride adorned with pearl necklaces.”

      No one could remember how they first got to know her or agreed with her that she would take care of the housekeeping at the flat they rented in 1957 in Zamalek. The flat was between the building’s entrance and the basement; but then Zamalek was all alleys. With the regular arrival of the grant, it was inevitable that the three of them—Barhum, Alaa, and Hammad—would be left to themselves to face the phase of university and the trappings of bachelorhood, and to discover some...

    • Ambiguous Relationships
      (pp. 67-85)

      With her gentle melancholy smile and well-proportioned brown body, Fawziya had illuminated new aspects of body language and tenderness for Hammad and opened the gates wide before his fantasies. She was a fitting ‘introduction’ for the country of rosy, romantic films that tickled his imagination as a small boy in Fez. He couldn’t remember how the relationship with Fawziya ended, but tended to attribute it to him becoming immersed in the throng of ambiguous relationships that began with the arrival of the grant, renting a flat, and his gravitation to the things Cairo had to offer young men.

      During the...

    • Turnings
      (pp. 86-98)

      Hammad and his friends laughed a lot that evening, and he still laughed whenever he recalled the episode. They were standing at the door of the North African Students’ Club watching a formal inspection being carried out by two Egyptian secret police officers on North African students coming to a public gathering for the re-election of the organizing committee. The first rally had been stopped because of violent disputes and harsh words exchanged between the Independents and Baathists. The presence of security representatives the second time round was unavoidable so that clashes were not repeated. Hammad was standing with Barhum...

  3. Part Two Extending the Thread of Memory

    • The Honey of Zagazig
      (pp. 101-104)

      I arrived in Cairo, this time at six in the morning, with some friends, having just attended a conference together in Baghdad in solidarity with the Palestinians confined in Tall al-Zaatar at the end of August. We headed to the Hilton Hotel but were told we would have to wait until nine o’clock when some of the guests were leaving. We left our bags and went out to walk around and look for a café. Cairo was almost empty. The cleaners were going round with water hoses spraying the roads and the first minibuses and newspaper sellers were arriving in...

    • Did It Really Happen?
      (pp. 105-111)

      I seem to remember, as we were sitting in Café Astra on Tahrir Square that morning waiting for the hotel, that I saw the poet Amal Dunqul sitting in the corner. I had never met him before but recognized him from his picture in the paper. He was having coffee with someone and leafing through the papers. As we left I stopped at his table, introduced myself, and expressed the wish to interview him that week. He was quiet and a deep sadness enveloped his wide eyes. I took my leave and rejoined my companions, and was swept into the...

    • Wedding Song or When a Dead Man Observes the Living
      (pp. 112-125)

      At the beginning of the 1980s, I was analyzing the novelWedding Songwith postgraduate students and noticed that this was the only novel in which Naguib Mahfouz treats the relationship between the author and the fictional world from within the text, interrogating and disturbing the novelist. With the exception ofThe BeggarandAdrift on the Nile, which contain indications of the relationship between fiction and reality, the texts of Naguib Mahfouz’s novels do not interrogate themselves. The structure ofWedding Song, on the other hand, is built on contradictions generated by the dissimilarity and intermeshing of reality and...

    • The Game of Hallucinations
      (pp. 126-138)

      I didn’t stop visiting Egypt when I finished studying at the university in 1960. When I recall these visits it seems that most were to do with cultural events, such as seminars and conferences, especially after 1990. So the student of yesterday repaid some of his debt to the Egyptian university and Egyptian culture. Every seminar and meeting was an occasion for enrichment and an opportunity to examine Arab culture and the answers that Egyptian intellectuals and authors were offering to questions that bore an increasingly Arab stamp after the categories of ‘center’ and ‘periphery’ began to disappear, opening the...

    • Raw Narrative Walks on Two Feet
      (pp. 139-154)

      During the showing, despite a stream of humorous remarks, compensating for the films’ silence, I was glued to the powerful metaphor emitted by the silent images, which condensed a large portion of the life of each person depicted in swift movements, words they spoke but could no longer remember, places they inhabited and visited, and loved ones and friends who had died or from whom they had been separated. No doubt watching themselves that evening brought some of them pleasure or stirred regrets. But I did not think that a spectacle of this kind would match the intimacy that is...

    • A Pharaoh in a Cotton Shroud
      (pp. 155-163)

      At the end of November in 1996 my feet led me to the Cairo Museum one morning so that I could recover specters of the grand statues, mummies, vessels, and sarcophagi.

      This time the desire to visit the museum came after reading about the journey of Ramesses II’s mummy around the burial grounds of Thebes, Deir al-Bahari, and Paris before finally coming to rest in one of the large halls of Cairo Museum. For three thousand years the embalmed body of Ramesses II had remained present in life in death, perhaps hoping to be resurrected to resume life in the...

    • A Lady Wrapped in Pride
      (pp. 164-174)

      I like seeing Cairo from the Muqattam Hills: it appears clear and mysterious as my eyes wander over the dusty surface packed with remains and the minarets, domes, churches, graves, low-built houses, and tall buildings that come into view as the morning mist disperses.

      On the Muqattam Hills I often get carried away recalling resplendent moments in Egypt’s history. Her antiquities are unending: the Pyramids at Giza, Abu Simbel, verses from the Book of the Dead flowing on the surface of the Nile, the legend of Isis and Osiris, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, the exploits of the Fatimids,...

  4. Author’s Notes
    (pp. 175-175)
  5. Glossary
    (pp. 176-177)
  6. Translator’s Note
    (pp. 178-182)
  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-184)