Bassem Shahin
Assistant Professor of French, Drew University
bassem@nyu.edu

Abstract

This essay will attempt to draw out the structural assumptions of the high-profile Egyptian revolution by revisiting a few short stories and novels by the Egyptian francophone novelist and philosopher of revolution, Albert Cossery. Writing between the late 1930s and the turn of the 21st century, Cossery offered a controversial reading of revolution, focusing his critical lens on his native Egypt. The Egyptian context of the 1930s and 40s informed his reading of revolution—Egypt remained under British jurisdiction; Arab and Egyptian Renaissance, and specifically Egyptian surrealism; the end of Turkish rule and the strategic location of Egypt during World War II. Cossery eventually moved to Paris at the end of the war, took a hotel room, and died in the same room sixty years later, having gone back to Egypt only a couple of times and having lost his command of Arabic. A dandy, a highly marginal character, Cossery befriended many of his famous contemporaries—Egyptian writers and surrealists, French novelists, actors and filmmakers, Italian and Greek painters, and American writers. His entire body of work, from the initial collection of short stories (Men God Forgot, 1946) to his last novel (The Colors of Infamy, 2001), can be read as a thoughtful exploration of revolutionary impasses.

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