The House of the Coptic Woman A Novel

The House of the Coptic Woman A Novel

AUC Press

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by Ashraf El-Ashmawi

Translated by Peter Daniel 

Tightly plotted and taboo-breaking, this explosive story takes readers to the roots of religious strife where the smallest of sparks can start a bonfire

Nader, an idealistic public prosecutor at the outset of his career, leaves Cairo to start a new posting in rural upper Egypt. On his first night, a mysterious woman named Hoda shows up at his lodgings. She is on the run from an abusive husband and, harboring a dark secret, seeks a new start in this small village and hopes to escape her harrowing past.

Nothing is to be easy for Hoda or Nader, and the dramatic circumstances of their first meeting signal the disquiet to come. It is not long before tensions between Copts and Muslims, already on a knife-edge, spiral into a spate of unexplained killings and arson attacks. The locals blame the trouble on the supernatural, and Nader is thrown into a quagmire of sectarian conflict and superstition that no amount of formal training could have prepared him for. His investigations are thwarted at every turn, by uncooperative witnesses and an obstructive police force. As Nader and Hoda each pursue happiness and justice, their parallel journeys struggle against the forces of ignorance, poverty, hatred, and greed.

With its echoes of Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Diary of a Country Prosecutor, this is a powerful and personal tale of conflict, crime, and upheaval in rural Egypt.

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