Allegory, trauma and an unfinished revolution in Kitāb al-Naḥḥāt by Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Laṭīf

  • Naglaa Waly independent researcher


After the Arab Uprisings and the dramatic consequences of the protests in Egypt, Egyptian novelists produced an abundant number of literary works that deal with the dynamic and complex reality after 2011. Most of these works chronicle complex back stories which reflect national and individuals' crises in the society of the last few decades. This article focuses on Kitāb al-Naḥḥāt (2013); “The Sculptor's Bookʼʼ) by Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Laṭīf and argues that, though it reads and feels like a surreal or fantastic narrative, its events point allegorically at the political and social reality of Egypt in a circuitous and urgent manner. Thus, this article looks at how allegory (Benjamin 1928, Jameson 1986) can help to shed light on the literary treatment of political violence, historical collective trauma and argues that reading ʻAbd al-Laṭīf ‘s novel through a lens of trauma theory enables us to perceive the profound critique of the political Egyptian arena post 2011 as proposed by the writer. The article points out three traumatic tropes: absence, indirection, and repetition. The analysis of literary devices such as fragmentations, alienations, and nightmares will highlight the persistent aching pain and the insidious trauma of the protagonists. Moreover, addressing the main formal and stylistic features of the novel offers a chance to study the changes that may reverberate in narrative forms and symbolic meanings in Egyptian literature post-2011.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Naglaa Waly, independent researcher

Naglaa Waly received her PhD in Linguistic Studies and Translation at Ain Shams University in 2012. In 2016 she further received a Master’s degree in Afroasiatic Languages and Literatures at the University of Naples “L’Orientale.” She has been a lecturer in Arabic at the University of Turin till 2021. She is a literary translator and editor of the series Letteratura egiziana contemporanea of Istituto per l’Oriente Carlo Alfonso Nallino. Her field of research covers these areas: translation studies and the contemporary Egyptian novel. In 2017, she won the “Lifetime Achievement Award for Translation” from the Italian Ministry of Culture.

She can be reached at: