1. What is the book?
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English
2. Who wrote it?
3. What is it about?
It is about a couple in a caustic, toxic relationship in Cairo, several years after
the Arab Spring, and the aftermath for both parties.
4. Why did I read it?
Besides being drawn to the title, the structure of the novel got me to pick it
up. It is divided into three parts. The first and second sections alternate
viewpoints between the unnamed woman and man. In the first part, each
perspective is prefaced with proverb-like questions. The climax occurs in the
second segment, which is given context in part through footnotes. The final
section, written as a play, somewhat deconstructs the rest of the text.
5. What do I think?
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is more layered and complex than what I
perceived at first glance. The short passages help to create a sense of the two
characters fusing together occasionally.
The woman is an Egyptian American living in Cairo, and Naga does a good job
of articulating her thoughts as a cultural outsider with blood ties to the
The novel is also uncomfortable at times, with glimpses into the man’s
psychotic, misogynistic thoughts and actions. It also offers insights into his
struggles with drug addiction and poverty in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
It is thought-provoking and, in my opinion, a worthwhile read!
Interested? Reserve your copy by clicking on the book cover image below:
Hello! My name is Tom, and I am a librarian here at the Niagara Falls Public Library. Welcome to a recurring blog post that comes out the 5th of every month, where I answer five questions about a book in our collection.