Abu Golayyel's gritty tale of two men's ill-conceived quest for a better life via the deserts of the Middle East and the cities of Europe is pure storytelling
Two Bedouin men from Egypt's Western Desert seek to escape poverty through different routes. One--the intellectual, terminally self-doubting, and avowedly autobiographical Hamdi--gets no further than southern Libya's fly-blown oasis of Sabha, while his cousin--the dashing, irrepressible Phantom Raider--makes it to the fleshpots of Milan.
The backdrop of this darkly comic and unsentimental story of illegal immigration is a brutal Europe and Muammar Gaddafi's rickety, rhetoric-propped Great State of the Masses, where "the Leader" fantasizes of welding Libyan and Egyptian Bedouin into a new self-serving political force, the Saad-Shin.
Compelling and visceral, with a seductive, muscular irony, The Men Who Swallowed the Sun
is an unforgettable novel of two men and their fellow migrants and the extreme marginalization that drives them.
Hamdi Abu Golayyel, born in Fayoum, Egypt, in 1967, is a writer and a journalist. He is the author of numerous short story collections and novels, including Thieves in Retirement and A Dog with No Tail, which was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2008. He is editor-in-chief of the Popular Studies series, which specializes in folklore research, and writes for Arabic news outlets, such as al-Ittihad and al-Safir. Humphrey Davies (1947-2021) translated some thirty book-length works from Arabic, including The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany, and was a two-time winner of the Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.