Fiction Serageldin, Samia The Cairo House

ISBN 13: 9780007182183

The Cairo House

3.67 avg rating
( 327 ratings by GoodReads )
 
9780007182183: The Cairo House

A beguiling, entrancing novel that tells the story of a prominent Egyptian family’s struggle to survive the turmoil of post-World War II Cairo.

Gigi grew up in a wonderful house in Cairo, a house that was home to a large, extended family. The men of the house were involved in politics and business, cotton and trading, and the women visited and gossiped, shopped and arranged marriages and other family matters. The house was always open to visitors, political associates, family: the traditional Egyptian hospitality mixed easily with a cosmopolitan style. It was an opulent world that seemed unchangeable.

But the pashas’ time was ending. Many were forced into exile, and for those who remained there was an uneasy mix of new expectations and old traditions. Gigi, a modern woman from a patrician background, faced the conflicts between a traditional marriage and the loss of a family, between exile and the need to create a new life while striving to stay in touch with her roots.

Samia Serageldin’s first novel is a brilliant, haunting and fascinating story of a woman, a family and a culture in transition.

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Review:

'Using a beautiful prose style, Serageldin makes Gigi's problems vivid and real. This semi-autobiographical novel…is fascinating and highly entertaining.' Library Journal (US)

'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 (US)

‘[Serageldin’s] own experiences lend The Cairo House an intimate, authentic tone, and provide an interesting prism through which to observe the shifting status of a complex nation.’ Scottish Sunday Herald

'The postwar history of Egypt is skilfully woven into this evocative first novel's portrayal of a wealthy Cairo family's susceptibility to the winds of political change… a telling exploration of the ambiguities of status, loyalty, and belonging'
Kirkus Reviews (US)

From 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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Serageldin, Samia
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