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Additional Information
ISBN: 9781949641165
Pages: 260
Size: 5x8
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Distributed By: Publishers Group West

Slipping

by Mohamed Kheir
Translated from Arabic by
Robin Moger
$16.95

“A brilliant, lucid dream of a book.…There are shards of magic to be found on every page of this novel.” –Omar El Akkad, author of What Strange Paradise

“A luminous dreamscape of Egyptian tales and traumas, Slipping inhabits the gaps and interstitial spaces where journeys and stories, actions and reactions, even faces and names, begin to elide and overlap. I could reread Slipping infinitely.” —Anna Claire Weber, White Whale Books

Slipping is a novel of the strange spaces in the folds between magic and reality, the in between places in every city, the stories that fog and change as memory erodes. It’s also a story of both personal and national tragedy of dreams deferred and the pyrotechnics of regret. Strange, beautiful, challenging, and perfect for fans of Kathryn Davis and Carmen Maria Machado.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books

A struggling journalist named Seif is introduced to a former exile with an encyclopedic knowledge of Egypt’s obscure, magical places. Together, as explorer and guide, they step into the fragmented, elusive world the Arab Spring left behind. They trek to an affluent neighborhood where giant corpse flowers rain from the sky. They join an anonymous crowd in the dark, hallucinating together before a bare cave wall. They descend a set of stairs to the spot along the Nile River where, it’s been said, you can walk on water. But what begins as a fantastical excursion through a splintered nation quickly winds its way inward as Seif begins to piece together the trauma of his own past, including what happened to Alya, his lover with the remarkable ability to sing any sound: crashing waves, fluttering wings, a roaring inferno.

Musical and parabolic, Slipping seeks nothing less than to accept the world in all its mystery. An innovative novel that searches for meaning within the haze of trauma, it generously portrays the overlooked miracles of everyday life, and attempts to reconcile past failures—both personal and societal—with a daunting future. Delicately translated from Arabic by Robin Moger, this is a profound introduction to the imagination of Mohamed Kheir, one of the most exciting writers working in Egypt today.

Praise

“Haunting… Kheir’s masterful storytelling not only encourages, but almost necessitates, rereading. Slipping is a novel about the fragility in all things: society, love, even reality.” —Foreword Reviews

“Mohamed Kheir is an exceptional talent and Slipping is a brilliant, lucid dream of a book. Translated with nuance and care by Robin Moger, it is a dizzying dissection of fragmented lives, and reading it brought me back to Egypt, the country of my birth, in a way both familiar and entirely new. There are shards of magic to be found on every page of this novel.” –Omar El Akkad, author of What Strange Paradise and American War

“In Mohamed Kheir’s Slipping, where one street has gone silent for fear of the deadly corpse flowers that fall from a rich man’s garden, another surges with improvised rebellion. Kheir shows us that the living and the dead haunt each other equally—every city a necropolis, every song one of mourning—through a music suffused with the feeling of ‘all the singing I’d ever known run together in one moment.’ Slipping is a crushing and deeply political lament, with a many-angled architecture that recalls Gonçalo Tavares, and the deepest feel for gauzy intersubjectivity this side of Mulholland Drive. Robin Moger has as usual done a champion job shepherding its luminous obscurities and weird proximities into English.” —Ian Dreiblatt, author of forget thee and translator of Spiral, by Dmitrii Furman

Slipping is a novel of the strange spaces in the folds between magic and reality, the in between places in every city, the stories that fog and change as memory erodes. It’s also a story of both personal and national tragedy of dreams deferred and the pyrotechnics of regret. Strange, beautiful, challenging, and perfect for fans of Kathryn Davis and Carmen Maria Machado.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books (Cambridge, MA)

“A luminous dreamscape of Egyptian tales and traumas, Slipping inhabits the gaps and interstitial spaces where journeys and stories, actions and reactions, even faces and names, begin to elide and overlap. It’s a book that challenges linearity in an effort to honor the cyclical nature of both history and relationships, a book that lingers within the daily moments of magic—joyful, sorrowful, furious, and everything in between—that give the human experience its luster. I could reread Slipping infinitely.” —Anna Claire Weber, White Whale Books (Pittsburgh, PA)

“A magnificent, richly imagined novel which belies a murmuring sorrow, Mohamed Kheir’s Slipping is phantasm in poetic prose. Set after the failed Arab Spring uprising, the Egyptian author’s first novel rendered into English is, at once, a dreamlike labyrinth, an amalgamation of the magical and the mundane, a dirge or lament for a possible future far from fruition, and a heady, aesthetically wondrous evocation; so many things, yet so unlike anything else.” —Jeremy Garber, Powell’s (Portland, OR)

“Mohamed Kheir’s English language debut is pure atmosphere, inhabited by characters caught in the web of fate, tragedy, and the Arab Spring. It’s a stunning feat of craft, creating seemingly disjointed pocket universes tied together by human beings and the haunting remnants of their long-lost connections. Slipping is a book to be savored and continuously explored, much like the magical worlds described within.” —Laura Graveline, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)

Slipping is a beautiful novel about remembrance and memory and the mind’s need for wonder and hope.” –Anton Bogomazov, Politics & Prose (Washington, DC)

“An extraordinarily sensitive feat of literary engineering and an adventure in narrative prose that establishes Kheir as one of the leading lights of the current literary scene.” —Al Modon

“One of the most beautiful and lyrical Arabic novels of recent times… brilliant…like the melody that slips frictionless into your mind to become a part of you, as though it was written for you.” —Yazin Al Haj

“This singular text lies before the reader like the pieces of a puzzle, and invites you to make sense of their disorder. The connections are there but you must look hard to see them and the reward comes in the final pages, where the novel’s fragmentation stands revealed as an avatar of an individual’s disintegration and the chaos of an entire society.” —Shorouk News

“A mosaic of minor tales and the ghostlike forms of characters come from worlds not our own.” —Al Dustour

 

Author
Mohamed Kheir is a novelist, poet, short story writer, journalist, and lyricist. Slipping (Eflat Al Asabea, Kotob Khan Publishing House, 2018; Two Lines Press, 2021) is his fourth novel and his first to be translated into English. He lives in Egypt.
Translator
Robin Moger is a translator of Arabic to English currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. He has translated several novels and prose works into English including Iman Mersal’s How To Mend (Kayfa ta), Nael Eltoukhy’s The Women of Karantina (AUC Press) and Youssef Rakha’s The Crocodiles (7 Stories Press).
Excerpt

Dawn was breaking as we climbed a rough track through wracks of scrub. We rose with the hillside, the Nile we had crossed like saints falling away behind us, broad and still and unobtrusive, its either bank lined with a thin strip of high palms and indeterminate herbage. And just as we were beginning to pant, there, suddenly, was an opening in the slope’s rocky folds, scarcely large enough to admit a grown man, and in this opening, from within, fingers were beckoning to us. So we bent and entered.

I had been expecting quiet, so the voices and blur of movement took me by surprise. When my eyes had adjusted to the light I saw a large gathering seated on the ground, most of them women and children, and caught the scent of incense in the air. Overhead the sun was rising shyly, preceded by its rays which, an expertly placed spotlight, fell against a bright and almost blank white wall facing us.

Then the singing began.

Praise songs for the prophet, prayers, God’s names, all sounded echoless and somehow out of keeping in this ancient space, and then the women and children stopped singing, though their chants and charms continued to tremble in the air. Everyone was staring at the wall, as though they were at the cinema, and I stared with them.

Here was the cure for those denied visions, for those whose supplications fell flat: the hidden wall was the secret these clustered hamlets never divulged. To strangers, nothing but a scored and pillaged ruin, but for these people, in these minutes between dawn and sunup, on those blessed mornings heralded by the full moon nights, you could, if you were a believer, and true, and full of love, see the one you sought.

Look well and pray to the prophets and when your faith is brimming over then you will see them: the beloved. Clear as day or through a veil. Held by your eye, or embodied in your mind. They will greet you or guide you or reassure. Look first at the wall until your eyes go white with it, till they blink and tear.

And then we began to hear muffled weeping around us, and the sound of women murmuring names, and as I sat there, cross-legged, a little boy crawled past my foot and I leant forward, and brushed his hair with my hand, and its coarseness astonished me. And I leant back against the wall. I told myself that if these people were able to see their departed here in this place, then how much sooner and clearer should be my visions of the dead? So I stared until my eyes burned, and I saw.

I saw night and then, in that night, the form of a black dog moving through the darkness. It was followed by a second dog, then a third, and so on until there were five. Five dogs, now standing on a street corner I thought I recognised, and now on the move, a quick trot in formation like a military patrol towards the entrance to a building. An entrance which made me straighten where I sat.

It was my old home, my place of play and sanctuary. I saw the five dogs pad up the stairs to the fifth floor where we’d lived, pause for a moment outside our apartment, and then I heard the first dog give a peculiar howl, in which he was quickly joined by the others.

Then I remembered. I saw, and I remembered.