THE HOUSE OF POWER by Sami Bindari


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Co-winner of the Mobil Oil Company-sponsored Pegasus Prize for Literature, given to foreign-language writers especially deserving of translation, this is a novel from Egypt, taking place some years ago--and it might have better been called the Hovel of Powerlessness, so bereft of good fortune is its hero. He is Saleh Hawari, a peasant on a feudal estate called the Palace--a house of power that reaches into every aspect of peasant life. Saleh can read and write, but when his father dies he must take up a hoe and work in the cotton fields. And the mixed pity and lust sent his way by Yasmeen, the town harlot, is no help, either; on account of her, he comes in for beatings that he's able to bear. . . for a while. Eventually, however, he hits back, flees to the desert with loyal friend Trunk, and adopts the Bedouin life. His continued tribulations in the desert pitch him to the edge of insanity--until, finally, Nasser's land-granting policy arrives to save the day. Bindari has written a literary equivalent to keening--harsh and limited and repetitious, free of all the novelistic efficiencies of character-shifting or flashbacks. It's all and only Saleh here, all drumming injustice as he goes from misery to misery. A weak import, then, only for the curious; Bindari's co-winner of the Pegasus Prize, Moussa (below), holds out more hope for the Egyptian novel.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1980
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin