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Ice (The Arab List)

Ice (The Arab List)

Current price: $21.50
Publication Date: November 15th, 2019
Seagull Books
Special Order - Subject to Availability


The year is 1973. An Egyptian historian, Dr. Shukri, pursues a year of non-degree graduate studies in Moscow, the presumed heart of the socialist utopia. Through his eyes, the reader receives a guided tour of the sordid stagnation of Brezhnev-era Soviet life: intra-Soviet ethnic tensions; Russian retirees unable to afford a tin of meat; a trio of drunks splitting a bottle of vodka on the sidewalk; a Kirgiz roommate who brings his Russian girlfriend to live in his four-person dormitory room; black-marketeering Arab embassy officials; liberated but insecure Russian women; and Arab students’ debates about the geographically distant October 1973 War. Shukri records all this in the same numbly factual style familiar to fans of Sonallah Ibrahim’s That Smell, punctuating it with the only redeeming sources of beauty available: classical music LPs, newly acquired Russian vocabulary, achingly beautiful women, and strong Georgian tea.
Based on Ibrahim’s own experience studying at the All-Russian Institute of Cinematography in Moscow from 1971 to 1973, Ice offers a powerful exploration of Arab confusion, Soviet dysfunction, and the fragility of leftist revolutionary ideals.

About the Author

Sonallah Ibrahim is one of Egypt’s best-loved contemporary novelists. His works available in English include The Committee (2001), That Smell and Notes from Prison (2003), Zaat (2004), Stealth (2009), Beirut, Beirut (2015) and Warda (2021). His novel Ice was published by Seagull Books in 2019.

Praise for Ice (The Arab List)

"Ibrahim’s focus on the mundane and his deadpan tone frame his oblique observations of Soviet society. Subtly, the author picks up its inconsistencies and dark humor."
— Los Angeles Review of Books

"The structure of Ice mimics a diary—and depends on the writer’s telegraphic but carefully honed style, which gives the reader a sense of the chilling, grim texture of daily life in Soviet Russia in the 1970s."
— World Literature Today

"Since the appearance—such as it was—of his debut 1966 novella, the Egyptian writer Sonallah Ibrahim has been one of the most intriguing and important figures in contemporary Arabic literature. . . . Written and published at the very moment Egypt was entering the Arab Spring, Ice is a curious missive from a partly real, partly imagined past to a generation awakening to hope and upheaval—as well as the possibility of dashed illusions."
— 4Columns