Isabelle Mayault’s debut, Jours Tranquilles au Caire, launched this spring, and is currently on sale in Cairo in French, with an Arabic translation in the works:
Jours Tranquilles was released by Paris-based Riveneuve publishing house, and “these first-person chronicles describe what the daily life looks like in a city that is far from being quiet,” Mayault said over email. “The name is inspired by the French translated title of Henry Miller’s book, Jours Tranquilles à Clichy. I feel compelled to add that, nothing, however, compares with Miller’s novel in terms of débauche!”
Jours Tranquilles au Caire is set between March 2012 and June 2014, “roughly from elections to elections. In it, I mix on the ground stories (what it is to be working as a freelance journalist in this particular context) with more personal stories and also poems.” In between the chronicles, Mayault writes, there are “news agency dispatches look-alikes, meant to provide more detailed info and a chronological trail to the readers – it felt particularly helpful given the density of the news during those years.”
ere, she shares three poems from Jours Tranquilles au Caire, translated into the English by the author.
Cairo is a fiction
Curfew chronicles n°3
Curfew chronicles n°6
August in Cairo is like Vivaldi’s summer : slow and unleashed.
It smells like washing powder and ash.
Its green leaves dare not redden for,
All year, they remain covered with Sinai’s dust
Which is both comforting and toxic
Like a spell – although, a good one
From Moqattam, we stare at the sun being devoured by carbon
From a roof, parables colonizing the horizon,
Like a discreet shadow army
Empty bottles from all the water gulped roll sluggishly on the terrace
Jasmine flowers look toasted like brown bread, despite meticulous care
All the way up the hill, where aperitivo has started on London time,
Rumor has it that the curfew will be postponed until one hour before midnight.
Like in a fairy tale or a middle-school odyssey,
We cross town in a pink and square coach
The city doesn’t know for the curfew
Its inhabitants sunk behind thick walls