‘Apartment in Bab El Louk’: Collaborative Alienation

We chose him! From inside the apartment at Bab El Louk, we hear, ″you excel at the art of snooping.″ People come and go, but we have almost not connection or community or action. The whole text is set in and around a building in Cairo′s downtown Bab El Louk neighbourhood, where you can find the country′s interior ministry as well as its iconic Talaat Harb and Tahrir squares. You′ll stand there for a moment, but someone next to you will tell you to move along.″
A noir atmosphere
This section of the book reads more like a collection of noir prose poems than a story. You swear they′re/ eavesdropping on/ your phone calls, whispering/ perniciously;/ they size up/ your visitors and/ judge/ your/ every/ move.″
These short sentences don′t appear on the page as a block. Here as elsewhere, the book doesn′t focus on plot, but on atmosphere. The narrator is standing on a balcony, looking down at Talaat Harb Square, where Egyptian Central Security Force trucks are massing. The text tells us, ″You′ll be filled with empathy, eventually, and decide that you′re: Off to protest in Talaat Harb.″ But the giant image spread out below doesn′t depict fellow protesters. The reader and narrator share a sense of confusion about the slogan′s meaning. The oversaturated black-and-white image shows a few passersby in the distance, hurrying on, but no protesters. In a review of   The Apartment in Bab El Louk that ran   in   Qantara, ArabLit editor M. Only their shields have colour. Instead, they′re arranged in a cat-shaped poem, sneaking around after the reader. This scene is a marker of both the main character′s social and political alienation. Advertisements

Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditGoogleTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading…‹ Friday Finds: Words Without Borders Collects Writing by Tunisian WomenCategories: Egypt Lynx Qualey explores some of her favorite moments in the book:
From the review:
There is a moment at the centre of ″The Apartment in Bab El Louk″ that captures the book′s dark, alienated mood. Their bodies are rendered in black and white, their eyes shadowed or looking away from the reader. It comes in the first section of the book, a debut collaboration between writer Donia Maher and two artist-illustrators. Day after day, our hearts are with him.″ The words shoot out from the megaphones, spilling off the page. Black-and-green text bursts out of one car′s megaphones, repeating, ″We chose him! The first part, illustrated by Ganzeer, unfolds in an intimate second person. On the morning of presidential elections, we hear slogans coming from cars marked ″government″. There is one spot of colour at the middle – the statue of Talaat Harb (1867-1941) – but the statue, too, turns its back to us. We never do find the protesters: ″You′ll walk around the square for two hours, hearing protesters but never seeing them. As the narrator stands outside, protest chants float up to the balcony. Instead, it′s a line of grim and bored-looking police covered up by shields, helmets and sticks. Inside, the apartment will not get clean, no matter how much it′s scrubbed. And what we learn about Bab El Louk is always partial, distant, askance. They just ″follow/ you/ silently/ from place/ to place, occasionally ex/changing words. The next page brings the reader to the edge of the square. And outside, ″the crevices of the city are lonely and forsaken, like a deserted crime scene.″ The narrator adopts two cats, but there′s no connection here, either. ″Even so, you′ll sing snippets of the song, in tune with the departing cars as they cut across the square.″
Keep reading at   Qantara.