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Additional Information
ISBN: 9781949641165
Pages: 260
Size: 5x8
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Distributed By: Publishers Group West

Slipping

by Mohamed Kheir
Translated from Arabic by
Robin Moger
$16.95

“An extraordinarily sensitive feat of literary engineering and an adventure in narrative prose that establishes Kheir as one of the leading lights of the current literary scene.” —Al Modon

“One of the most beautiful and lyrical Arabic novels of recent times.” —Yazin Al Haj

Under mysterious circumstances, Seif, a struggling journalist, is introduced to a source for a new story: a former exile with an encyclopedic knowledge of the country’s obscure, magical spaces. Together—as tourist and guide—they step into a world hidden in plain sight. In Alexandria, they wait as trains bear down on them at the intersection of several busy lines; they follow a set of stairs down to the edge of the Nile and cross the water on foot; and down south, they sit before a bare cave wall, a cinema of private visions. What begins as a fantastical excursion through a fractured nation quickly winds its way inward, as Seif begins to piece together the mysteries of his own past, including what happened to Alya, his girlfriend with the gift of “singing sounds.” Seif alone confronts the interconnectedness of his own traumas with Egypt’s following the Arab Spring and its hallucinatory days of revolutionary potential.

Musical and parabolic, Slipping seeks nothing less than to accept the world in all its mystery. An innovative novel that searches for meaning within the haze of trauma, it generously portrays the overlooked miracles of everyday life, and attempts to reconcile past failures—both personal and societal—with a daunting future. Delicately translated from Arabic by Robin Moger, this is a profound introduction to the imagination of Mohamed Kheir, one of the most exciting writers working in Egypt today.

Praise

“An extraordinarily sensitive feat of literary engineering and an adventure in narrative prose that establishes Kheir as one of the leading lights of the current literary scene.” —Al Modon

“One of the most beautiful and lyrical Arabic novels of recent times… brilliant…like the melody that slips frictionless into your mind to become a part of you, as though it was written for you.” —Yazin Al Haj

“This singular text lies before the reader like the pieces of a puzzle, and invites you to make sense of their disorder. The connections are there but you must look hard to see them and the reward comes in the final pages, where the novel’s fragmentation stands revealed as an avatar of an individual’s disintegration and the chaos of an entire society.” —Shorouk News

“A mosaic of minor tales and the ghostlike forms of characters come from worlds not our own.” —Al Dustour

 

Author
Mohamed Kheir is a novelist, poet, short story writer, journalist, and lyricist. Slipping (Eflat Al Asabea, Kotob Khan Publishing House, 2018; Two Lines Press, 2021) is his fourth novel and his first to be translated into English. He lives in Egypt.
Translator
Robin Moger is a translator of Arabic to English currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. He has translated several novels and prose works into English including Iman Mersal’s How To Mend (Kayfa ta), Nael Eltoukhy’s The Women of Karantina (AUC Press) and Youssef Rakha’s The Crocodiles (7 Stories Press).
Excerpt

Dawn was breaking as we climbed a rough track through wracks of scrub. We rose with the hillside, the Nile we had crossed like saints falling away behind us, broad and still and unobtrusive, its either bank lined with a thin strip of high palms and indeterminate herbage. And just as we were beginning to pant, there, suddenly, was an opening in the slope’s rocky folds, scarcely large enough to admit a grown man, and in this opening, from within, fingers were beckoning to us. So we bent and entered.

I had been expecting quiet, so the voices and blur of movement took me by surprise. When my eyes had adjusted to the light I saw a large gathering seated on the ground, most of them women and children, and caught the scent of incense in the air. Overhead the sun was rising shyly, preceded by its rays which, an expertly placed spotlight, fell against a bright and almost blank white wall facing us.

Then the singing began.

Praise songs for the prophet, prayers, God’s names, all sounded echoless and somehow out of keeping in this ancient space, and then the women and children stopped singing, though their chants and charms continued to tremble in the air. Everyone was staring at the wall, as though they were at the cinema, and I stared with them.

Here was the cure for those denied visions, for those whose supplications fell flat: the hidden wall was the secret these clustered hamlets never divulged. To strangers, nothing but a scored and pillaged ruin, but for these people, in these minutes between dawn and sunup, on those blessed mornings heralded by the full moon nights, you could, if you were a believer, and true, and full of love, see the one you sought.

Look well and pray to the prophets and when your faith is brimming over then you will see them: the beloved. Clear as day or through a veil. Held by your eye, or embodied in your mind. They will greet you or guide you or reassure. Look first at the wall until your eyes go white with it, till they blink and tear.

And then we began to hear muffled weeping around us, and the sound of women murmuring names, and as I sat there, cross-legged, a little boy crawled past my foot and I leant forward, and brushed his hair with my hand, and its coarseness astonished me. And I leant back against the wall. I told myself that if these people were able to see their departed here in this place, then how much sooner and clearer should be my visions of the dead? So I stared until my eyes burned, and I saw.

I saw night and then, in that night, the form of a black dog moving through the darkness. It was followed by a second dog, then a third, and so on until there were five. Five dogs, now standing on a street corner I thought I recognised, and now on the move, a quick trot in formation like a military patrol towards the entrance to a building. An entrance which made me straighten where I sat.

It was my old home, my place of play and sanctuary. I saw the five dogs pad up the stairs to the fifth floor where we’d lived, pause for a moment outside our apartment, and then I heard the first dog give a peculiar howl, in which he was quickly joined by the others.

Then I remembered. I saw, and I remembered.