A Book Found in a Cairo Market Launched a 30-Year Quest: Who Was the Writer?

10:42 PM Aida Alami 0 Comments


Crouching over piles of books in a market stall in Cairo one day in the fall of 1993, Iman Mersal stumbled upon a slim volume with a gray cover and a catchy title: “Love and Silence.”

Mersal, who was then a graduate student, thought the author might be related to a novelist and prominent anticolonial figure, Latifa al-Zayyat. She bought the book for one Egyptian pound.

What Mersal found instead was an intimate, introspective novel, an essential but largely forgotten work by a female writer in early contemporary Egypt. The voice, Mersal later wrote, was “modern, strange, limpid and beyond categorization.”

The book moved her, she said, and set her on a nearly 30-year journey to learn what she could about the author, a young Egyptian woman called Enayat al-Zayyat who died by suicide in 1963 after overdosing on pills. All she left was a note by her bed for her son, Abbas, that read: “I do love you, it’s just that life is unbearable. Forgive me.” After her death, her writing fell into oblivion.


Read the rest of the story on the New York Times' website

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