November 27, 2014
Publishers Weekly Online reviews Rakha’s “Crocodiles”

Publishers Weekly Online reviews Rakha’s “Crocodiles”

Publishers Weekly Online
November 2014

Rakha’s dizzying novel, set in Cairo between 1997 and the first days of 2012, disdains narrative arcs and linear chronology, perhaps because its focus is a group of young Egyptians who admire the freewheeling works of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and other Beats. The narrator, Youssef, and his friends form “The Crocodiles Movement for Secret Egyptian Poetry”, and spend their youth writing poetry and experimenting with sex, drugs, and booze. Behind them lurks the political unrest of Cairo, and once the Arab Spring reaches Egypt, one uprising quickly follows another. The novel is comprised of numbered, discrete paragraphs that lend the whole a disjointed feel. The narrative leaps between years and decades, often within the same paragraph; the result may be deliberately disorienting, but also places a distancing effect on events. But 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.

“Crocodiles”, Youssef Rakha, was published in English by Seven Stories Press, translated by Robin Monger.