The brilliant, haunting and fascinating story of a pre-eminent and large family, Cairo society post-war onwards and Egyptian politics.
‘While I was writing the book, I thought the title was something I could decide on later. But in effect I realized that I would only know what the book was about when I knew what the title was. And the title is The Cairo House because the novel, for me, is about an entire era in Egyptian twentieth century history that witnessed the rise, and fall, of the nationalist movement, party politics, and the Egyptian landowning bourgeoisie. The history and fate of the house reflect this pivotal era that spanned a century and came to an end with the passing away of the last Pasha at the turn of the 21st century.’ Samia Serageldin
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‘Wonderfully evocative and grounded in a strong sense of place.’ Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls
‘The postwar history of Egypt is skillfully woven into this evocative first novel’s portrayal of a wealthy Cairo family’s susceptibility to the winds of political change… Serageldin’s richly observed study of a family and culture in transition and crisis succeeds both as ironical Proustian reminiscence and as a telling exploration of the ambiguities of status, loyalty, and belonging’ Kirkus Reviews
‘Serageldin sets this beautifully crafted novel in Anwar Sadat’s Egypt… Serageldin focuses on Gigi, who is born in a country with rapidly changing culture and ideals, moves to London and the US, but never feels that any of these places is home. The novel is a great find… for any reader interested in Egyptian culture, flawlessly rendered prose, or just a good read.’ Choice
‘This novel is about the personal changes – births, growing up, growing old, deaths – that make exiles of us all. Serageldin does a wonderful job of evoking Gigi’s Cairo milieu.’ Booklist
‘Using a beautiful prose style, Serageldin makes Gigi’s problems vivid and real. This semi-autobiographical novel…is fascinating and highly entertaining.’ Library Journal
‘Serageldin’s perceptive insights into the women who “have more than one skin” enrich this narrative of displaced and out-of-place women – expatriate intellectuals both spiritually and physically.’ The Middle East Journal
‘Beautifully written, haunting and evocative…a bittersweet reflection on the ability to feel comfortable in many cultures but at home in none. Serageldin’s command of the cultural and linguistic layers of her narrative is masterful.’ Topics Tip WorldFrom the Author:
While I was writing the book, I thought the title was something I could decide on later. But in effect I realized that I would only know what the book was about when I knew what the title was. And the title is The Cairo House because the novel, for me, is not just about Gihan, or even just about her clan, but about an entire era of Egyptian twentieth century history that witnessed the rise of the Pashas, party politics, revolution and counter-revolution. The history and fate of the house reflect this pivotal era that spanned a century and came to an end with the passing away of the last Pasha, my uncle, on the eve of the 21st century.
The real Cairo house, my family’s residence in Garden City, inspired the title, and the novel. It is still in the family, although unoccupied since my late uncle’s death at the age of ninety; as such it is the only one still owned by the original owners in what is known as Embassy Row in Cairo. The Serageldin house acquired particular historical significance on account of its political associations both before and after the revolution.
I've been asked why, since The Cairo House draws so heavily from my personal history, I did you 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; I would have felt far too inhibited by concern for family members and friends, given the personal and political sensitivity of much of the material. I would have felt under constraints to avoid anything that might be interpreted as scandalous or libelous. Moreover a memoir would have made for a less interesting narrative. Fiction allows one the license to conflate two aunts into "Tante Zohra", for instance; to incorporate historical material seamlessly; and best of all, to explore the "path not taken" at a crucial juncture in the story. But even as a novel, The Cairo House has been read as a roman à clef by Egyptian readers, and a far more accessible key than I realized, at that. And that has brought controversy.
The Cairo House is now available in a Harper Perennial paperback with an added P.S. section that is a very valuable resource for library and book groups, as well as course adoption: it includes a biography of the author, an interview, an essay by the author on writing, favorite places to visit in Cairo and Alexandria based on the novel, and much more."
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Book Description Fourth Estate Ltd, 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0007182163