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#Free Kindle ⚡ وقائع حارة الزعفراني ò An Unknown Observer Is Watching The Residents Of A Small, Closely Knit Neighborhood In Cairo S Old City, Making Notes The College Graduate, The Street Vendors, The Political Prisoner, The Caf Owner, The Taxi Driver, The Beautiful Green Eyed Young Wife With The Troll Of A Husband All Are Subjects Of Surveillance The Watcher S Reports Flow Seamlessly Into A Narrative About Zafarani Alley, A Village Tucked Into A Corner Of The City, Where Intrigue Is The Main Entertainment, And Everyone Has A Secret Suspicion, Superstition, And A Wicked Humor Prevail In This Darkly Comedic Novel Drawing Upon The Experience Of His Own Childhood Growing Up In Al Hussein, Where The Fictional Zafarani Alley Is Located, Gamal Al Ghitani Has Created A World Richly Populated With Characters And Situations That Possess Authenticity Behind Their Veils Of Satire . . . . . The Zafarani Files originally published as Waqa i Harat al Za farani, 1976 Trans Farouk Abdel Wahab Cairo New York The American University in Cairo Press, 2009 This early novel by one of Egypt s most prolific short story and novel writers is a slapstick comedy set in Cairo s teeming al Hussein neighborhood, back in the days of Anwar Sadat Egyptian president, 1970 1981 The crowded, run down and entirely imaginary Zafarani alley is inhabited by 50 or named and mostly zany characters, each obsessed in his or her own way by sexual performance their own and all their neighbors and their social standing Normally, they tolerate one another s routines including the effendi an honorific for the rare alley dweller with a steady job and some high school education who pimps his own wife, the virile and rustic baker who has found work as a male prostitute at the baths, the ancient sergeant major retired with his hallucinatory memories of serving the king and crown prince back before Nasser s revolution, the alley s only college graduate who dreams of swaggering around with a pistol, and their wives and mistresses whose greatest entertainment besides sex, of which they are very demanding is starting or watching their own loud and violent quarrels The quarrels are mostly about who has the best sexual partner, but having the most impressive domestic appliances also boosts a woman s status Sitt Madame Busayna, besides demanding daily intercourse from her beleaguered bus driver husband, spends his money on outrageous luxuries like a transistor radio the alley s first this is mid 1970 s, remember and even a many buttoned washing machine But one day the mysterious gnomic sheikh who lives in a tiny, dark apartment at one end of the alley, and whom hardly anyone has ever seen, magically deprives the alley s men of what they prize most their sexual potency He hints that this is just the first step of his world changing program, by which he will end all quarrels and bring universal harmony The pimp loses his customers, the male prostitute his job, the other men a taxi driver, a railroad coaler, a low level bureaucrat, et al their self confidence, and the women have to resort to ever desperate methods to get sexual satisfaction Meanwhile, the government apparatus for political repression tries, with hopeless incompetence, to investigate these strange events while simultaneously denying to the world that anything unusual is occurring.For a non Arab reader it is hard to keep so many characters straight, especially since the names are often similar For example, Nabil, Nabila and Umm Nabila are three different people, the first a young man that some of the local women fall in love with, the second a 26 year old female schoolteacher and unwilling spinster, and the third her mother Umm means mother of, and may be followed by the name of either a daughter or a son And inevitably, and despite the best efforts of the translator, English readers will miss a lot of what must be jokes in Cairene slang and subtle political digs that must have been very naughty in the time of Anwar Sadat.This work is a lot sillier than the better known Naguib Mahfouz s mythification of another Cairo alley Children of Gebelawi, 1981 or his portrait of generational conflicts at the end of the Sadat period The Day the Leader Was Killed, 2000 , but its silliness is also sharp edged satire Al Ghitani appears to have set out to scandalize everybody, religious sheikhs, pretentious bureaucrats, ignorant shopkeepers and tradesmen, women though gently , and the organs of the police state The only characters who come across as reasonably sane are the politico, possibly a Communist or so the state bureaucracy imagines just released from long imprisonment, the young man who visits him to learn about the world, and the sweet natured wife of the merchant Radish Head who escapes the alley and its ridiculous prejudices to parts unknown, though rud to have run off to live with her English instructor.And finally, nothing ever gets resolved With so many characters, each with his own craziness, there is no central element holding them all together as a story except the sheikh s curse or blessing, or whatever it s supposed to be But we never find out what happens to the sheikh or even whether he really exists as they imagine him or with the curse of impotence, which may still be in effect in that fictitious alley Unfortunately, this is one of only three of al Ghitani s many novels available in English He s a writer we should know Though ultimately The Zafarini Files fails to come to a satisfactory conclusion, it succeeds in amusing us by antics of its ineffectual and nutty characters, and gives us a glimpse of social conflicts in Cairo 30 years ago But maybe not so much has changed in Cairo and its al Hussein neighborhood Check out this April 14, 2008 article A City Where You Can t Hear Yourself Scream New York Times