Saturday, August 11, 2007

Got To Hit The Bookstore

I found these two reviews of a book that I really have to buy. The Man In The White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado looks like a marvelous read. It is the story of her father's forced expatriation during Nasser's regime and how it affected him and his family who found themselves in New York. Lucette Lagnado is now an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, so obviously she made the transition well, but for her father the transplant never really worked. The period of Nasser's socialisation of Egypt was horrific for many Egyptians of European and Jewish backgrounds and also for many Egyptians who simply had been too successful in their enterprises in Egypt. The young state of Israel had high hopes that some of the Egyptian Jews would head there from Egypt and were happy to stir the pot to encourage emigration. Unfortunately, Tel Aviv simply was no match for Cairo (and probably still isn't), so the emigrants were far more likely to go to Paris, London, Geneva, New York, or Montreal. Canada is full of Egyptians who left Egypt during the 50's and 60's and I often get emails from their offspring who are now intensely curious about the fascinating country their parents left behind.

There is no question that Egypt now is not the Egypt of the 50's. Even my husband mourned the passing of the city that died with Nasser's changes, and he was born in the late 40's. But what is the same as in the past? It is the nature of life to change and one simply hopes for the best. I'm happy to see books from the refugees from Egypt because it will remind both the world and Egypt of the multiplicity of resources that Egypt had on hand. This was not a uni-cultural society at all. Egypt had layers upon layers of immigration and conquest and Cairo was the pearl whose brilliance came from the accumulations of cultures from the earliest times. Early Egyptians merged with Nubians, Sudanese, Hittites and others from the Fertile Crescent, Jews, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Berbers, the multitude of cultures brought in under the Ottoman Turks from the Balkans and southern Russia, the Europeans who came and fell under Egypt's spell....Egypt has been the true melting pot but rather than losing their shape and flavour in the process, it's as though people come, leave something of their lustre and take on some of the glow of the preceding inhabitants, leaving Egypt and themselves richer in the process. It really doesn't surprise me at all that Cairo is so hard to leave.

New York Times review:
International Herald Tribune review:

copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani


Robin J. said...

I never fail to learn when reading your posts.

nousha said...

"Egypt has been the true melting pot but rather than losing their shape and flavour in the process"

This is so true.

The father of my grandfather moved to Egypt in the late 19th century, however, my grandfather (i.e. the second generation) never felt alienated! And now, I can't imagine myself being anything but Egyptian (with all the melting of the different cultures it embeded)

Forsoothsayer said...

just read "out of egypt" by andre aciman. makes you feel a whole less sorry for egyptian jewish refugees...the shit they said about the rest of us!