Sonallah Ibrahim’s That Smell and Notes from Prison

New Directions
Publication Year: 

One of the most influential Arabic novels of recent times, That Smell is Sonallah Ibrahim’s modernist masterpiece. Composed in the wake of a five-year prison sentence, the semi-autobiographical story follows a recently released political prisoner as he wanders through Cairo, adrift in his native city. Published in 1966, the novel was immediately banned. For this edition, the translator Robyn Creswell has also included an annotated selection of Notes from Prison culled from Ibrahim’s prison diary — a personal archive comprising hundreds of handwritten notes scribbled on Bafra-brand cigarette papers. These writings shed unexpected light on Ibrahim’s groundbreaking novel.