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No One Sleeps in Alexandria
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Archived | Bookclub 2008 > "No One Sleeps in Alexandria" by Ibrahim Abdel Meguid

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message 1: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
No One Sleeps in Alexandria was one of the runner-ups for the Egypt tour stop. I read it a couple of years ago and intend to reread it. If anyone is reading and wants to discuss, please do so!

I remember that the book moved a little slowly, but i actually enjoyed it in this case. some books don't work for me when they move slowly; others are perfect that way.

I also remember having vivid pictures in my mind while reading...but part of that may be because i was actually in Alexandria, Egypt when i bought and started reading the book. My hotel had a little bookshop/giftshop. i bought Miramar and this one.

Niledaughter | 86 comments Now you are pushing me to start :)

Sorry ..out of topic
you read (Miramar) , did you watch the movie ? we may disscuss it next time in Naguib Mahfouz reading group ..

message 3: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I didn't know there was a movie! I will try to get it. Maybe I will join the Mahfouz group and try to follow along...

Niledaughter | 86 comments Marieke wrote: "I didn't know there was a movie! I will try to get it. Maybe I will join the Mahfouz group and try to follow along..."

yes, a classic & very good one:

So far The group is in Arabic , but you can join & communicate in English & with little help I think you can practice your Arabic there ;)

message 5: by Niledaughter (last edited Oct 17, 2010 10:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter | 86 comments (No one sleeps in Alexandria) as a TV serial (as far as I know was not broadcasted yet):

message 6: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Nile daughter wrote: "(No one sleeps in Alexandria) is TV serial (as far as I know was not broadcasted yet):"

omg i want to see that!!! the costumes are amazing. :D

Niledaughter | 86 comments I added it , so readers can feel the atmosphere ;)

message 8: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie When is the discussion going to take place? The movie DID pull me back into wanting to read the book. It is just that I already have so many books screaming to be read. I mean they are pounding their fists at me.

Niledaughter | 86 comments Chrissie wrote: "When is the discussion going to take place? The movie DID pull me back into wanting to read the book. It is just that I already have so many books screaming to be read. I mean they are pounding the..."

That was funny :D

The discussion can take place any time you want , I already read (50) pages , true it has a slow melody , but has so vivid descriptions of Egyptian peasant life , then Alexandria’s in 1939 & you can really feel WW2 hitting the doors …

message 10: by Niledaughter (last edited Oct 18, 2010 11:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter | 86 comments First as further data , the author presented (vendetta ) ..(the revenge un ending circle tradition ) - (an eye for an eye) in Egypt , even though it seems so bloody in the novel (lower Egypt- bahari) , still it is not as strong or destructive as it is in upper Egypt and (qibli) , it is called (Al-taar) .
This one was ended , live ceremonies :

message 11: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea | 658 comments I've started reading and am so impressed with how the writer evokes the time and place. I don't want to say too much until others have started reading. But I agree with Nile Daughter about the impression of world events. For the people in the middle of them, they are a nuisance, an interruption of their lives, not great historical events as we see them now.

message 12: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I tried to post here yesterday and apparently it didn't show up...I wanted to ask our Egyptian members what they think of the complaint that "No One Sleeps in Alexandria" was written for westerners, not Egyptians/ you agree with that? i sometimes understand this type of complaint about modern Arabic novels, but in this case i do i'm very curious what you guys think.

i can't wait to start re-reading this book...indeed Andrea, i think you'll see that WWII quickly becomes just a backdrop but one that happens to have a huge impact on the lives of the people in the story.

message 13: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie Marieke, I would love to hear what other Egyptians feel. I thought I was being discreet......

message 14: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
oh, chrissie...i saw an Egyptian person's review make that complaint, not yours. :D
but i think you did ask him about it, come to think of it...
i think i will find that review and ask him to elaborate his thoughts because as i recall, he did not explain why he felt that way. and of course i'll invite him to join this discussion if he's interested. :D

message 15: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie That would be terribly interesting. I put the question to two Egyptians, Mahmoud was the only one that answered, and I felt greatful that he did bother to answer. He recommended I read Palace Walk, which is the first of the The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk; Palace of Desire; Sugar Street. This author won a Nobel prize. That does say something, although I think for too long now the Nobel prize for literature has gone to authors only making a correct political statement. I have nothing against "messages" but first of all the writing must be engaging and a pleasure to read. If it is topped off with a good analysis of a problem, well that is an added trump. Of course that is only my humble opinion.......

message 16: by Niledaughter (last edited Oct 22, 2010 01:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter | 86 comments I read about 100 pages of the novel so far , I like it :)

Andrea :
I am from Cairo , I go to Alexandria from time to time , I loved you way he describes everything in it , evry thing was new for me..the details ..the streets , life ..society .
I liked the way he presented complicated relations ..foreigners ..Egyptians ..Muslims & chrestians , kebli & bahari …I did not feel bored even if the melody is slow :)

message 17: by Niledaughter (last edited Oct 22, 2010 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter | 86 comments Malikie & Chrisse

I read Mahmoud’s review , he said the novel is not his cup of tea , but he recommended it , by (for westerner) he meant that it has so much details , he did not feel he needs to read them , so for a westerner , it is important , he needs the descriptions from scratch to receive a clear image , besides he did not like the interferences between the international events & the local ..just stories for him..

But this was not my impression , I felt the words life with such details & I am living there : the world is upside down , we have nothing to do with that , but we are really in the middle of it !
For the rest of his review , I need to finish the bokk first ..

For (Palace walk) :
One of my favorite & the strongest part among the Naguib’s trilogy , Naguib is a philosopher , his books have so many layers & hidden messages , usualy his political reviews are said but through metaphors , one of the best in that direction : (Adrift on the Nile) ..

what does (making a correct political statement) mean ? I heard it several times , twice by Nawal El seaday for not getting it ?

message 18: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea | 658 comments It's interesting that Mahmoud didn't like reading details he was already familiar with. I remember reading Willa Cather's descriptions of the area I grew up in and thinking it was so wonderful to find the familiar described poetically. I think maybe that is a matter of taste.

message 19: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie Nile Daughter, I really am glad you are weighing in here with another pov!!! I too, as Andrea stated, an surprised that Mahmoud didn't like the description of those things he was familiar with. When I read about a place that I have visited and then I recognize much of what I saw, in the book, I have an easier time relating to the book. Amso, for people who have never been in Alexandria, like me, I would definitely appreciate descriptive details. But again, some authors pulls this off magnificently and others less so!!! Concerning the WW2 events, I would like the intertwining of historical events with the ordinary people that are caught up in them.......

If you were to compare Palace Walk and No One Sleeps in Alexandria, which one best draws you into the lives of the main characters? Which one teaches most about Egyptian culture, and I do NOT mean politics, but what dictates how the various Egyptian subgroups live their lives. What are their inner beliefs and customes? I personally want to learn more about Egyptian people rather than politics. That is just me.... Then of course I would also like to learn of the historical events and how they affected the Egyptians. Which book accomplishes that best? Is the Palace Walk VERY high brow and unclear, if everything is spoken of in metaphors? I am thinking I will not get these metaphors!!!!

A politically correct statement often it means the person expresses the "acceptable" viewpoint. What everybody WANTYS you to say. Now if you throw out an opposing, controversial pov that is NOT a politically correct statement. A politically correct statement is a statement that appeases those in power and offers no opposition and fits exactly what they have been teaching you to say. BUT YOU HAVE TO SEE THE CONTEXT of how the phrase is used to explain any better.

message 20: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea | 658 comments Yes, Chrissie, thank you for the explanation of "politically correct." Here in the U.S., it is sometimes also shorthand for the politically liberal point of view, maybe because it originated during a time when Bill Clinton was president? But in writings by Americans, the term can be used in very confusing and even contradictory ways. To be called "politically correct" or "pc" is almost always an insult, however.

message 21: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie Andrea, yes it is usually negative since it means you are not hinking yourself...... I didn't know the connection with it being "liberal"!

message 22: by NG (new) - rated it 4 stars

NG (ngnoah) | 33 comments I read no one sleeps in Alex long time ago, I can't remember all of it's details anymore, but still this novel made me a huge fan of Ibrahim Abdel Meguid!

Abdel Meguid is one of few Egyptian writers who can draw with there pens beautiful images, a kind of magical realism.. You will notice this in this novel the more you read of it..

I love reading details about places I've been.. It makes me nostalgic :) And since Alexandria is one of my favorite places on earth (I'm from Cairo btw), and since I've been to almost every WW2 memorial monument and mausoleum in the Egyptian north- western coast, including the well-known Alamein, and became a fan of WW2 history, you can imagine how much I fell in love with this novel..

But what made me appreciate it's details even more, is the fact that so many of the details of the "adventures" of "Magd al-Din" during his work in the rail road are actually true events that happened to the writer's father!!

According to Abdel- Meguid, in another book he wrote about his memories with "places", a sort of auto-biography, أين تذهب طيور المحيط من الأسكندرية إلى موسكو , his father was a rail-road worker during WW2, and he used to tell him all the stories of what he saw and endured in war, including the last train horrific event stated in the novel (I will not talk more about it for the sake of those who are still reading it).
This meant a lot to me.. I wish I could've known this while I was reading.. Was it going to make any difference?
I'm not sure, but I think it might've made me pay more attention to details.

message 23: by NG (new) - rated it 4 stars

NG (ngnoah) | 33 comments As for Mahfouz, he is really on of the best world-wide, and I say that because I haven't seen a foreigner who did not like him! He did deserve his novel fore sure.

But when it comes to his trilogy,I have to be very cautious when I recommend it to non-Egyptians..
The novels are great! But I'm afraid they are partially the cause of stereotyping the Egyptian society..
See, Mahfouz is talking about a community that does not exist anymore.. Egypt during the early years of the 20th century. Put that in mind then read it.. But unfortunately many foreigners read it first then come to Egypt expecting to see this same society here.. Or worse! They don't come at all and live with this idea: The patriarchal society where women and children cannot breath without the approval of the father!

Having cleared that, it is one of the best novels ever written!

message 24: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I'm supposed to return Adrift on the Nile soon, and since it's short I thought I'd start reading it this morning to try to finish it over the weekend before taking Meguid's book up was so familiar to me! I thought, is this book also a film? And it is! And I'm pretty sure I have seen it. But I'm still going to try to finish it before I get back to Meguid.

NG...I wasn't aware of any of the autobiographical aspects of "no one sleeps." that is fascinating and I'll keep it in mind when I am rereading it. I am jealous you have visited all those sites!

message 25: by Niledaughter (last edited Oct 23, 2010 02:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter | 86 comments For Mohmoud review :
As you both said , from a side it is a matter of taste and from anther side ..not all writers can handle the detailing in the right way ,until I finish reading ; I can not do the book any more justice, but in general my friends rated it as 4 stars in average ..

Andrea :
Do you still like it so far ? Are you close finishing it ?What did you think of( Bahi ) character ?
Chrissie :
Thank you for your sweet compliment , glad to help (even it is so simple) ..

For your question :
It is hard to answer it fairly , since this is my first read for Abdel Meguid (not finished) , in the same time I am one of Naguib’s fans and read a lot of his books !

I read Cairo trilogy about 10 years ago , I actually need to reread them , Naguib is genius in portraying the Egyptian alley’s society .. the heart of Cairo ,I think you will receive the descriptions you seek for .

In this saga you meet three generations of one family , having the historical events as background , but people ..the family , the complicated relationships are the main case ,( sy el saied )..the main protagonist is an unforgettable character , until today it is the symbolic name of any dominating man in his family , but note that this Egyptian community does not exist any more ..;)

Thank you for answering my question , I am not sure I got it right so I will read again later , for example it is okey for mario vargas yousa to criticize Peru but this can not be applied on all cases ?

message 26: by Niledaughter (last edited Oct 23, 2010 02:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter | 86 comments Ng
I did not see your post before posting , gald you joined us :D
I did not know about what you wrote either !! Thanks :)

Niledaughter | 86 comments Marieke wrote: "I'm supposed to return Adrift on the Nile soon, and since it's short I thought I'd start reading it this morning to try to finish it over the weekend before taking Meguid's book up agai..."

I did not see that to !!!
yes (Adrift on the Nile) is a movie :D , I read it twice to understand it :o

message 28: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie Ng, the points you made about both No One Sleeps in Alexandria and the Cairo Trilogy seem to me very important to know before reading either book. I too am more interested in NOSIA since it has actually describes many real events. The biographical element draws me to the book. I believe that when an author bases his fiction on a true event it resonates in another manner! Thank you very much!

message 29: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I don't want to pull the conversation too far off track, but i just wanted to say that i managed to read half of Adrift on the Nile over the weekend. i had to bring it back to work today but will be able to bring it home again tomorrow to finish. when i first started it, i immediately realized i had seen the film...but as i got farther along and Anis has more and more of his thoughts/hallucinations that take place in ancient history, i realized i have read the book before! it was kind of like wierd de ja vu because i can't remember when i read the book or where i was living at the time. but i do know that i read it before i visited egypt, and it's funny to read it this time and be able to clearly envision the houseboats moored along the banks of the Nile in Cairo...and i'm familiar with several other places that are mentioned. this is all just to say that i really want to read more Mahfouz and also i'm really excited to reread No One Sleeps in Alexandria. is this the only book by Meguid that has been translated into English? Has his work been translated into any other European languages, like German, perhaps? i would really like to read his "autobiography" that you mentioned above, Ingy.

and Nile DAughter, i'm a bit confused about Mario Vargas Llosa myself, but unfortunately i don't know much about Latin America and i've only (just now) read Death in the Andes. I think all great literature will be political to some degree...because humans are... :D

Niledaughter | 86 comments Marieke

I liked reading your adventure with (Adrift on the Nile) so much:D

I hope we will be able to discuss (No One Sleeps in Alexandria)soon , will the topic be closed by the end of October ?

Thanks for your note about (Mario Vargas Llosa), I was thinking of a non political one to read :

I am so much away from Latin America :o

message 31: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
oh no worries about time constraints! the threads at Great African Reads stay open forever! :D

I just added that Llosa book, Nile Daughter! the title makes me laugh...i also read the review from Bookmarks magazine and it looks like a really fun book. :D

message 32: by NG (new) - rated it 4 stars

NG (ngnoah) | 33 comments "No one sleeps in Alexandria" is the first book in Abdel Meguid's Alexandria trilogy.. Birds Of Amber is the second, and the third is not out yet as far as I know.
But they are separate books with separate characters (despite the fact that Magdeldin's name is mentioned in "Birds of Amber" once or so, but just for the sake of clarifying the timeline of the 3 books).
All 3 books talk about Alexandira in modern ages during events that caused major shifts in the city's history.

I believe most of Abde-Meguid's books were translated into English. But I'm not sure about the autobiography.

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Books mentioned in this topic

Miramar (other topics)
No One Sleeps in Alexandria (other topics)
The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street (other topics)
Palace Walk (other topics)
أين تذهب طيور المحيط: من الأسكندرية إلى موسكو (other topics)