from the February 2010 issueTeach This Text Albert Cossery's 1955 masterpiece, Proud Beggars, takes place in the squalid slums of Cairo. While some residents struggle with oppression, poverty, and corruption, others renounce the hypocrisy of society and embrace their freedom from the material world. Characters include the former university professor Gohar, who has thrown over his previous life to work as a bookkeeper at the brothel; his drug dealer and fellow "proud beggar," Yeghen; the melodramatic revolutionary El Kordi; his girlfriend, the prostitute Naila, whom he plans to save; Set Amina, the madam; and Nour El Din, a corrupt policeman. In this extract from the graphic version of the novel, the murder of a young prostitute sends an undercover policeman to the brothel in the guise of a rich merchant from out of town.
Translation copyright 2010 by Lulu Norman. All rights reserved.
"The Voltaire of the Nile," Albert Cossery (1913–2008) was born in Cairo. At the age of seventeen he moved to Paris, where he would live for the rest of his life. Some of his books translated into English are Men God Forgot, The House of Certain Death, The Lazy Ones, and Proud Beggars. In 1990 Cossery was awarded the Grand Prix de La Francophonie de l’Académie Française.
Golo (pen name of Guy Nadeau) was born in 1948 in France and lives in Cairo. He began his career in 1973 as a magazine illustrator for French music and various Egyptian newspapers, and he has published numerous graphic novels, including Mes mille et une nuits au Caire.
Translated from French by Lulu Norman
Lulu Norman is a writer, translator, and editor who lives in London. She has translated Albert Cossery, Mahmoud Darwish, Tahar Ben Jelloun, and the songs of Serge Gainsbourg and written for national newspapers, the London Review of Books, and other literary journals, in particular Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature, where she is an editorial assistant and regular contributor. Her first book translation, Mahi Binebine’s Welcome to Paradise (Granta, 2003) was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and her translation of Binebine’s Horses of God (Granta, Tin House 2013), won an English PEN award, was selected for World Literature Today’s "Seventy-five Most Notable Translations," shortlisted for the BTBA and the IMPAC, and also and runner-up for the Scott Montcrieff Prize. Her cotranslation with Ros Schwartz of Tahar Ben Jelloun's About My Mother comes out in October with Saqi Books.