Children of the Waters
By Ibtihal Salem
Translated by Marilyn Booth (2002)
Ibtihal Salem's writing provides an excellent forum for studying both everyday life in Egypt and current literary experimentation in the Middle East. Her poignant pieces hover between the structure of story-telling, the visuality of vignettes, and the compression of poetry. They both record and evoke a literary ferment going on in Egypt today.
Salem's writing of the last thirty years is lauded for its social messages also. Finding the expression of sexuality necessary to explicate problems of Egyptian identity, Salem often links poverty to gender marginality. Her heroines, however, celebrate the heritages that have shaped them, even as they resist certain aspects of them. Like many writers in Egypt, Salem honors traditional folktales, even as she deals with contemporary problems from class and economic perspectives.
Marilyn Booth, one of the best translators of Arabic fiction working today, has dealt in her introduction to this collection with the unusual experimental form by examining Salem's craft as well as the contextual history surrounding the stories. Since Salem is writing "across genres," Booth helps the reader also by opening each piece with an explanatory comment, often quoting the author, and thus further illuminating Salem's portrayals of lives bounded by Egypt's waters: the Canal, the Nile, and the Mediterranean.
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