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Proud Beggarsby Thomas W. Cushing
Synopses & Reviews
Early in "Proud Beggars," a brutal and motiveless murder is committed in a Cairo brothel. But the real mystery at the heart of Albert Cossery's wry black comedy is not the cause of thisdeath but the paradoxical richness to be found in even the most materially impoverished life.
Chief among Cossery's proud beggars is Gohar, a formerprofessor turned whorehouse accountant, hashish aficionado, and street philosopher. Such is his native charm that he has accumulated a small coterie that includes Yeghen, a rhapsodic poet and drug dealer, and El Kordi, anineffectual clerk and would-be revolutionary who dreams of rescuing a consumptive prostitute. The police investigator Nour El Dine, harboring a dark secret of his own, suspects all three of the murder but finds himselfcaptivated by their warm good humor. How is it that they live amid degrading poverty, yet possess a joie de vivre that even the most assiduous forces of state cannot suppress? Do they, despite their rejection of socialnorms and all ambition, hold the secret of contentment? And so this short novel, considered one of Cossery's masterpieces, is at once biting social commentary, police procedural, and a mischievous delight in itsown right.
About the Author
Albert Cossery (1913–2008) was born in Cairo. He settled in Paris after the Second World War and lived there for the rest of his life among some of the most influential writers and artists of the last century. In 1990 Cossery was awarded the Grand Prix de la francophonie de l’Académie franaise. His books, which have been translated into more than fifteen languages, include Men God Forgot, The House of Certain Death, The Splendid Conspiracy, and The Jokers (available from NYRB Classics).
Alyson Waters has translated books by Vassilis Alexakis, Louis Aragon, René Belletto, Réda Bensmaia, Albert Cossery, and Tzvetan Todorov. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship, a PEN Translation Fund Grand, a residency grant from the Centre national du livre, and was twice a translator in residence at the Villa Gillet in Lyon, France. She teaches literary translation in the French Department of Yale University, is the managing editor of Yale French Studies, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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