Cairo Nights, by Anonymous
An uproariously funny, outrageous voice, nuanced with intelligence, wisdom, and not a little cheekiness:
Cairo Nights: Stories of a Night Girl
A dying prostitute's recollections of life,
womanhood, and sexuality.
The beauty of this novel is that the reader experiences the story through the eyes of an old woman, liberated by the approach of death. She tells the story of how she freed herself in her sexuality and lived outside of cultural constraints. The urgency in her story is tied to her wish to pass on her understandings before she dies.
The writer of Cairo Nights: Stories of a Night Girl is passionate about this project, which presents a slice of culture and humanity that directly affects women and their social and cultural standing and their basic human rights, and their hope for a full and satisfying life. It will be a book that opens a new frontier, and presents an alternative to the existing cannon—through the lens of a woman.
For this collaboration Plourde is working with the writer, who will have completed a first and literal translation to English, to craft a translation to resonate with US English-speaking readers.
Why Anonymous? The writer’s novel is in Arabic and it is not currently possible to safely publish the work in Egypt; if the work were to be traced to her it would lead to jail time or worse, as is evidenced in the most recent situation of the jailing of writer Ahmed Naji.
What makes Cairo Nights political and incendiary in the Egyptian government’s view is precisely what makes the book important. Egypt is a country where female genital mutilation persists, and women are expected to work outside of the house in appropriate roles while still holding their “acceptable” place in family and society. This creates a tension in which the “duty to tradition and desire for liberation represents a serious struggle in daily Egyptian life.” This oppression of women plays within social structures of patriarchal power and domination, directly against women’s sexuality, desire, and intimacy. In particular, sexuality is used as a weapon by the current regime to stop women from being active politically, as evidenced by the rise of street harassment and use of rape at organized demonstrations and protests—essentially systematic violence against women to help suppress the revolution. This self-perpetuating cycle of antiquated religious rhetoric, further fueled by heterosexual, reproductive, and monogamous social norms, sends women back home, away from the workplace, out of the public arena, without a voice in shaping society, and further away from self-actualization.