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The Crocodiles by Youssef Rakha
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The Crocodiles

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The Crocodiles by Youssef Rakha
Paperback $17.95
Dec 09, 2014 | ISBN 9781609805715

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“In poet/journalist Rakha’s brilliant novel, set in Cairo between 1997 and 2011, the suicide of an iconic female activist, the founding of the Crocodiles Movement for Secret Egyptian Poetry by a bunch of young idealists, and the birthday of Nayf, who’s struggling to translate Allen Ginsberg’s “The Lion for Real,” all converge on a single June day. Whether Ginsberg’s lion is God or love, revolution or fate, the young people here aren’t quite ready, though they’re full of talk. The numbered paragraphs read like prose poems and flow like the best fiction.” Library Journal

“From its opening depiction of a suicide to its final pages, the author paints a disquieting picture of wild young people who can only look forward to a future that remains unresolved.” Publishers Weekly

“Rakha writes with keen authenticity and imbues each scene in this kaleidoscopic, intelligent, and unconventional novel with unparalleled verisimilitude, essential reading for our turbulent times.” Booklist

“What happened in Egypt around its second revolution was a mixture of grandeur and pettiness, of sorrow and mirth, of expectation and despair, of theory and flesh. All of which may be found in The Crocodiles, a novel where reality sheds its veil to reveal its true face — that of a timeless mythology.” —Amin Maalouf, Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Samarkand
“Youssef Rakha’s The Crocodiles is a fierce ‘post-despair’ novel about a generation of poets who were too caught up in themselves to witness the 2011 revolution in Egypt. Or is it? With its numbered paragraphs and beautifully surreal imagery, The Crocodiles is also a long poem, an elegiac wail singing the sad music of a collapsing Egypt. Either way, The Crocodiles—suspicious of sincerity, yet sincere in its certainty that poetry accomplishes nothing—will leave you speechless with the hope that meaning may once again return to words.” —Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?

“Influenced by Roberto Bolaño’s “ultrarealist” group of young poets in The Savage Detectives, and also by the American “Beat Generation,” Rhaka’s book is a collage-form account, told in paragraph-length, numbered passages that read like diary entries, about a generation of young writers and artists in Cairo. This novel is exuberant with the passions and energies of youth, and what young people endured to become artists and activists during the Mubarak regime from just before the turn of the millennium until the revolution and disillusioning aftermath of the Arab Spring. The form of it, too, is most welcome, as it can be read in very short bursts without losing anything.” Words Without Borders

“Youssef Rakha has channeled Allen Ginsberg’s ferocity and sexual abandon to bring a secret Cairo poetry society called The Crocodiles to life. He’s done something daring and not unlike Bolaño in his transforming the Egyptian revolution into a psychedelic fiction thick with romantic round robins, defiant theorizing and an unafraid reckoning with the darkest corners of the Egyptian mentality.”—Lorraine Adams, author of Harbor

“I found myself absolutely mesmerized by the poignancy and power created by Rahka’s unrestrained style; the heightened moments of beauty, despite their sequestration, are beautifully balletic in their structure and come fast and often.” —Skyler Vanderhoof, The Review Lab

“Think Roberto Bolaño’s modern classic ‘The Savage Detectives,’ with its creative sense of plot and pacing, relocated from Mexico City to Cairo. Renegade poets, bursts of violence, sex and love, all of it bubbling over alongside the revolution in Tahrir Square.” SFGate

The Crocodiles . . . revolves around Cairo’s intellectual and creative circles, particularly those active during the 1990s . . . . Rakha is both totally authentic and original in his creation of language . . . . Taken together, the zombie hordes in [Rakha’s earlier novel] The Sultan’s Seal and the unformed intellectuals of The Crocodiles complete a terrifying vision of dreams broken before they can begin.” —Ibrahim Farghali, Chronic

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