|Title||اللجنة (the committee)|
|Year of Publication||1997|
This spare, swift and ultimately chilling fantasy of interrogation and persecution in contemporary Egypt suggests that all of us are controlled by forces we often have no inkling of. The novel begins with a frustrating and unexplained interview conducted by a group known simply as the Committee. A young man is forced to belly dance, drop his pants and underwear (and worse), then to name the 20th century's most important achievement. He is also asked to write "a study on the greatest contemporary Arab luminary." The young intellectual struggles to find a subject for his project, but he soon settles on a doctor with a reputation for international philanthropy. After a year has passed, the Committee appears at his apartment to inspect his progress. Just as abruptly, they depart, leaving one of their members behind to monitor the narrator's every move, until finally he is driven to murder his observer. For this crime, the Committee sentences him to a bizarre punishment worthy of Dante. In keeping with Ibrahim's reputation as the "Egyptian Kafka," the Committee is anonymous, oppressive and symbolic of familiar social forces though recent world events will prompt readers to associate it with more specific clandestine organizations. Ibrahim (The Smell of It) creates a highly claustrophobic mood with elegant descriptions and the smooth incorporation of historical detail, bringing global depth to this work. As the dark narrative proceeds, its critique of broader social madness masquerading as civilization becomes clearer and clearer, making this a provocative addition to Ibrahim's respected oeuvre.
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