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On June 13, 1974, Shagara, a low-level employee at the Alexandria shipyard, is charged with taking workers to cheer for the motorcade of Egyptian President Sadat and his guest President Nixon. Instructed to pay each worker half a pound at the end of NixonÂ’s visit, Shagara pays them half that, spares them the festivities, and pockets the difference. So begins The House of Jasmine, which follows Shagara, a loner who yearns for female companionship, as he traverses the city of Alexandria and tries to parse his feelings toward its changing landscape. Within the humor of this classic novel is nestled an indicting eyewitness account of this essential period of Egyptian history. In it one can observe the social changes and popular sentiments that comprise the prologue for the Egyptian revolution of January 2011.
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Ibrahim Abdel Meguid was born in Alexandria in 1946 and is among Egypt s best-known and highly acclaimed writers. His works include The Other Place, No One Sleeps in Alexandria, Birds of Amber, and Distant Train. In 1996 he was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.
Noha Radwan is assistant professor of Arabic and comparative literature at the University of California Davis. She is the author of Egyptian Colloquial Poetry in the Modern Arabic Canon.
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