Tag-Archive for ◊ great success ◊

Author:
• Friday, March 28th, 2008

Samia Serageldin was born in the early fifties in Cairo, Egypt, the daughter of a wealthy landowner of a renowned Egyptian family. She married at twenty and went to England where she obtained an M.S. Degree in Politics from London’s school of Oriental and African Studies.

She emigrated with her family in 1980 to the U.S.A. and has lived since then in Michigan, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. She has two adult sons who live in two different continents from hers.

Samia Serageldin worked as a professor of French and Arabic language, an interpreter for an international company, a book columnist, a free-lance writer and as a public speaker on current affairs.

The Cairo House is Samia Serageldin’s first novel. It was first published in the USA in 2000, the UK publication followed a few years later in 2004. It’s semi-autobiographical, a way for the author to reconcile the present with the past. The book is about the changes and developments in Egypt during the decades following the 1952 Egyptian revolution.

Gigi the main character in the book relates her day-to-day life during the time of the four presidents who took power after king Faruk. President Naguib, then Nasser, followed by Sadat, and then Mubarak.

She starts her story in the good old days, the belle époque, of an Egyptian privileged wealthy, landowner family who went through hardship after president Nasser sequestrated their lands in the sixties. From then on, life will never be the same again neither for Gigi, her family, nor for Egypt.

Gihan (Gigi), the narrator and main character, is an introverted, complicated and tormented person. She hastily married a man who is a complete stranger to her, saying that “she was tired of waiting for life to begin.” She was young, inexperienced and believed innocently that life started with wedlock.

The expected happened, her married life was a failure. Her second marriage was not a great success either. Like most expatriates, she didn’t feel at home in the USA and she felt out of place in the new Egypt. She seemed to be helplessly lost until the end of the story, seeking a way out of her dilemma.

Despite that, it’s not easy to feel much compassion for Gihan, her character lacks some depth. The events and turmoil surrounding her life are described more elaborately, although some subjects could have been more developed.

The metaphors of the Chameleon for the constant readjustment between the two worlds, the East and the West, and the kaleidoscope for the change in fate, which are mentioned in several parts of the novel are, of essential importance to the author. It conveys what destiny is about. The slightest change in the kaleidoscope, like a small occurrence, can alter the route of one’s life and therefore make a substantial difference to one’s destiny.

The story of Gihan and her clan in The Cairo House reveals Egyptian culture, traditions, politics and unrest amongst the different classes in society under each new regime. The novel starts with a vivid and rich description of Egyptian society of the time, but as the author moves her character to the western world, the images are fading and are no longer of substance.

The Cairo House is an entertaining book to read. Written by an Egyptian who lived the various events that occurred in her country first hand, it’s valuable historically for the important Egyptian period of the first half of the twentieth century and the significant changes that followed whether in politics, culture, way of life or even the country’s infrastructure.

Samia Serageldin, in one of her interviews, says about The Cairo House : “I’ve been often asked why, since The Cairo House draws so heavily from my personal history, I did not simply write a memoir. It is often said that a memoir is fiction in disguise and a novel is fact masquerading as fiction. For me, at least, I could not have written as freely without the fig leaf of fiction…The great satisfaction of being read comes from taking others with you on that fascinating journey.”

If you enjoyed reading this article or found it useful, please consider donating the cost of a cup of coffee to help maintain the site...
Author:
• Saturday, March 03rd, 2007

It’s Khaled Hosseini’s first novel published in 2003.

This is mainly a story of guilt and redemption:

The guilt of a 12 year old boy, Amir, who fails out of fear to stand up for his devoted servant and best friend, Hassan, while getting beaten and raped by bullies.

The relief of a redemption as an adult by going back to Kabul to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab, whose parents had been shot by the Taliban, from the hands of the same bully who had become an important Taliban official.

Amir didn’t mind risking his life in order to escape from damnation and from being haunted by his disloyalty and cowardly actions.

He wanted to gain peace within himself and free his soul.

In the 4th line of part one in the book, Hosseini writes: “… That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realise I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.”

Hosseini manages to cover many themes in his first book with great success. He writes about love, honour, deceit, fear, redemption and about politics and its devious ways.

He also covers the life of Afghani immigrants in the United States of America.

The very close and vivid historical background takes us from the last days of the monarchy to the Russian invasion, then the rule of the Taliban and all the political turmoil up until nowadays.

Additionally, the touching story and the sympathetic characters and how real they seem to be, tend to bring to mind “The Kite Runner” as a memoir rather than as a novel.

After completing the last page one can’t help but feel emotionally involved. As Isabel Allende puts it so succinctly: “This is one of those unforgettable stories that stay with you for years … It is so powerful that for a long time everything I read after seemed bland.”

The strange thing is that Hosseini went back to Kabul after he wrote “The Kite Runner” and saw Kabul through the same eyes and memories of Amir who went back after 20 years absence.

Hosseini writes about it in the San Francisco Chronicle of August 10th 2003. The title is: “Following Amir – A Trip To Afghanistan In Which Life Imitates Art”.

After reading “The Kite Runner” I couldn’t help but finding some analogies with “The Shadow Of The Wind” by Zafon. To mention a few:

* The corrupted, sadistic, vengeful inspector Fumero and the sadistic, corrupted vengeful Taliban official, Assef.

* In “The Shadow Of The Wind” the book ends the way it started by Daniel taking his son, Julian, to the cemetery of forgotten books, like how Daniel, a few years earlier, was taken by his own father to the same place to choose a book.
By comparison, in “The Kite Runner” the book ends by Amir taking Hassan’s son, Sohrab, to a kite-flying competition, and finds himself repeating to Sohrab the same words that Hassan told him a few years previously while running after the kite “For you a thousand times over”.

I’d like to end with these few words that Rahim Khan wrote to his friend Amir: “… I want you to understand that good, real good, was born out of your father’s remorse. Sometimes I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir Jan, when guilt leads to good.” Then referring to Amir, he said: “There is a way to be good again, he’d said. A way to end the cycle. With a little boy. An orphan. Hassan’s son. Somewhere in Kabul.”