Foi publicado em 2010 um volume com a tradução inglesa (de Chip Rosseti) de duas novelas de Bahaa Abdelmegid, um jovem escritor egípcio, professor da Universidade de Alexandria e das Universidades de Al-Azhar e de Ain-Shams, no Cairo, que adquiri em 2014, mas que só agora li.
Tinha aguardado uma ocasião propícia para contactar com a prosa deste promissor intelectual, e acabei por fazê-lo devido a um infausto acontecimento de que só há pouco tempo tive conhecimento: Bahaa Abdelmegid morreu no Cairo, no passado dia 13 de Dezembro, vítima de Covid-19, um vírus que é a maldição do século, se outras calamidades, naturais ou artificiais, não surpreenderem o planeta nas décadas que ainda faltam para se concluir o século.
Compõe-se o volume das novelas Saint Theresa e Sleeping with Strangers, editadas inicialmente e separadamente em árabe com a designação Sant Tereza (2001) e النوم مع الغرباء (2005).
Reproduzo a notícia do falecimento do escritor transmitida pela newsletter de The American University in Cairo Press:
«It was with great sadness that AUC Press learned of the death of young Egyptian novelist Bahaa Abdelmegid. He passed away in Cairo on December 13 from complications due to Covid-19.
A week ago, he posted a photo of himself on oxygen on social media. “Today, his Facebook page was filled with hundreds of tributes from colleagues and readers who wrote about his kindness, his gentle nature, and his encouragement of fellow writers,” wrote ArabLit blogger Marcia Lynx Qualey in her online tribute to the late writer.
“We will miss Bahaa greatly, as he was a big part of the AUC Press family of Egyptian writers,” said Trevor Naylor, AUC Press associate director, sales and marketing.
Abdelmegid combined two passions: writing and teaching. He was the author of a collection of short stories, two novellas, Saint Theresa and Sleeping with Strangers, translated by Chip Rossetti (AUC Press, 2010), and several novels, among them Temple Bar, translated by Jonathan Wright (AUC Press, 2014).
“Bahaa was a great author and a kind, gentle soul. It was wonderful to work with him as translator for his two novellas: he was generous with his time, responsive, and animated by his genuine love of literature,” said Rossetti.
Abdelmegid was also a visiting professor at Alexandria University and at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, and taught English and English literature at Ain Shams University.
In a book review of Temple Bar, Al-Ahram Weekly described Abdelmegid’s style as “absolutely arresting.” The novel explores the cultural and spiritual troubles of Egyptian student Moataz after he leaves Cairo for Dublin in 1998. A Fulbright scholar from a poor family, the protagonist endures various unexpected struggles after he enrolls at Dublin’s Trinity College to research a PhD thesis on Irish literature. The late author once referred to his novel as “semi-autobiographical.” His most latest novel, القطيفة الحمراء (Red Velvet), came out this year.
He obtained a BA in English and later an MA and a PhD in English literature from Cairo’s Ain Shams University. His MA thesis, entitled “The Theme of Violence in the Animal Poetry of Ted Hughes,” explored “the relationship between human violence in comparison to animal violence and how the two differ from each other.” While working on his MA, Abdelmegid obtained a Fulbright to study at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, and he spent a year as a PhD student at Trinity College, Dublin.
Tarek Ghanem, former AUC Press commissioning editor, attended one of Abdelmegid’s Arabic novel-writing workshops. “Bahaa was a gifted teacher, capable of bringing together creative writing, politics, psychology, all of which were bustling inside the workshop and outside the window.” said Ghanem. “He was widely read, passionate about world literature and its role in human existence and personal experience, filled with moving stories and anecdotes, capable of motivating all the participants to write and produce. Above all, everyone in the workshop loved him. . . . After meeting him, one can tell he is a popular and loved literature professor, the type you hear about in novels, impacting people’s lives for love. He was this kind of a person.”
AUC Press extends its deepest condolences to Bahaa’s family at this difficult time.»
As duas novelas incluídas no volume revelam um escritor preocupado com a vida social no Egipto de hoje, os problemas amorosos, económicos, sociais, religiosos dos egípcios numa perspectiva comparável à que Naguib Mahfuz (Prémio Nobel da Literatura em 1988) nos forneceu na sua vastíssima obra, especialmente na "Trilogia do Cairo": Entre Dois Palácios (1956)بين القصرين ; O Palácio do Desejo (1957)قصر الشوق ; O Jardim do Passado (1957)السكرية , sobre o quotidiano egípcio do século passado.
Entre os temas escolhidos conta-se, nestas novelas, a emigração para os Estados Unidos, a pequena delinquência, episódios no interior das prisões, prostituição, dinheiro, negócios, relações familiares e sexuais, questões entre muçulmanos, cristãos e judeus, a guerra com Israel, superstições, djinns, e tantos assuntos que não é possível descrever neste espaço.
Curiosa a epígrafe de Saint Theresa: "The Spirit is Willing but the Flesh is Weak", que é uma máxima cristã.
Deu-me especial prazer a referência a tantos restaurantes, cafés, ruas, lojas e outros sítios que tão bem conheço no Cairo e em Alexandria. Ler estas novelas foi também revisitar esses locais. Incluindo especialmente o restaurante Estoril, no Cairo, num espaço entre dois edifícios, em Tala'at Harb, onde nunca entrei porque olhando de fora vi-o sempre vazio. Ignoro se é bom ou mau, ainda que os preços da ementa fossem ligeiramente superiores aos normais. Mas com o Felfela ao pé, ou o Groppi ou o Café Riche, a opção estava feita.