About Chronicle of a Last Summer
Cairo, 1984. A blisteringly hot summer. A young girl in a sprawling family house. Her days pass quietly: listening to a mother’s phone conversations, looking at the Nile from a bedroom window, watching the three state-sanctioned TV stations with the volume off, daydreaming about other lives. Underlying this claustrophobic routine is mystery and loss. Relatives mutter darkly about the newly-appointed President Mubarak. Everyone talks with melancholy about the past. People disappear overnight. Her own father has left, too—why, or to where, no one will say.
We meet her across three decades, from youth to adulthood: As a six-year old absorbing the world around her, filled with questions she can’t ask; as a college student and aspiring filmmaker pre-occupied with love, language, and the repression that surrounds her; and then later, in the turbulent aftermath of Mubarak’s overthrow, as a writer exploring her own past. Reunited with her father, she wonders about the silences that have marked and shaped her life.
“I heard the word revolution all the time but didn’t know exactly what it meant. Nobody answered me when I asked.”
I was captivated from the start. The intricate political views and opinions from the inside, the pauses of ambiguity contributed to my fascination. Purely political driven, conflicting views create interest.
Having a privileged young girl serve as narrator as she comes of age including her politics is insightful. She’s observant, knows when not to ask questions, a sponge soaking in all she hears, sees and is told, she is aware of much more than realized. Not easily influenced as her cousin Dido discovers.
A country and its people changed through the revolving door of power, politics and imprisonment. How life is in a constant state of flux and the days of permanence missed. You definitely feel as if you’re looking from the inside out, a privy intimate glimpse into the political upheaval of this complicated and controversial country through the eyes of a young girl cum young adult.
Yasmine El Rashidi is an Egyptian writer. She is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, and an editor of the Middle East arts and culture quarterly Bidoun. She lives in Cairo, where she is currently translating the works of Egyptian novelist Khairallah Ali.
Expected publication: June 28th 2016 by Tim Duggan Books