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Sonallah Ibrahim

Rebel with a Pen

Paul Starkey

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An introduction to the novels of the contemporary Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim

Sonallah Ibrahim is one of the most important Arabic novelists of the modern era, with an unrivalled reputation for independence and integrity among contemporary Egyptian writers. Here, each of the author’s novels is discussed individually, beginning with the seminal Tilka al-ra’iha [That Smell] (1966) and ending with al-Jalid [Ice] (2011), with each work discussed in its literary, social, historical and political context.

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Series Editor's Foreword
1. Introduction: Background and Context
2. Rebel with a Pen
3. Cairo Prison: Tilka al-raʾiha (1966)
4. Michelangelo and the Dam: Najmat Aghustus (1974)
5. CocaColaland: al-Lajna (1981)
6. War in Lebanon: Bayrut Bayrut (1984)
7. Consumer Society: Dhat (1994)
8. Prison of Dishonour: Sharaf (1997)
9. Widening Horizons (1): Sex, Memory and Revolution: Warda (2000)
10. Widening Horizons (2): In the Land of the Capitalists: Amrikanli (2003)
11. Return to Childhood: al-Talassus (2007)
12. The French Connection: al-ʿAmama wa-al-Qubbaʿa (2008) and al-Qanun al-Faransi (2008)
13. Filling a Gap: al-Jalid (2011)
14. Epilogue

About the Author

Paul Starkey was, until his retirement in 2012, Professor of Arabic and Head of the Arabic Department at Durham University, UK, and Co-Director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World. He is currently Vice-President of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies. Paul Starkey has published widely in the field of modern Arabic literature, as well as on Middle Eastern travel literature; he was co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature (1998) and author of Modern Arabic Literature (EUP, 2006). He has also translated a number of novels and short stories into English, including most recently The Book of the Sultan’s Seal by the Egyptian author Youssef Rakha.


This finely nuanced, clearly written and comprehensive study introduces readers to the writing of one of Egypt's most prominent, accomplished and controversial writers of fiction in the last half-century--Sonallah Ibrahim.

- Roger Allen, Emeritus Professor, University of Pennsylvania

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