"…writing is the only refuge."

El-Ahram‘s Youssef Rakha profiles Sonallah Ibrahim, whose newest novel, Al-Talasus (Voyeurism) is just out. The novel, which is set in 1948, explores inter-male relationships and is “a study in the absence of woman.” Ibrahim says, “While working I asked myself why this was important, other than the fact that it contained some things of a personal interest to me. And the answer is that it’s about the need for woman — as mother, as wife.” I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable about Ibrahim’s portrayal of women in his work. In The Smell of It, the only female character is a prostitute. In August’s Star, it’s the loose Russian blondes whose bodies get more description than anything else. And here, Ibrahim reduces women’s roles to caretakers: mommies and unpaid cooks/house cleaners/sex slaves. I know, I know, I’m overreacting, but I do wonder why nobody calls him out on this.

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