Ice (The Arab List) (Hardcover)

By Sonallah Ibrahim, Margaret Litvin (Translated by)

Seagull Books, 9780857426505, 256pp.

Publication Date: November 15, 2019

List Price: 21.50*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The year is 1973. An Egyptian historian, Dr. Shukri, pursues a year of non-degree graduate studies in Moscow, the presumed heart of the socialist utopia. Through his eyes, the reader receives a guided tour of the sordid stagnation of Brezhnev-era Soviet life: intra-Soviet ethnic tensions; Russian retirees unable to afford a tin of meat; a trio of drunks splitting a bottle of vodka on the sidewalk; a Kirgiz roommate who brings his Russian girlfriend to live in his four-person dormitory room; black-marketeering Arab embassy officials; liberated but insecure Russian women; and Arab students’ debates about the geographically distant October 1973 War. Shukri records all this in the same numbly factual style familiar to fans of Sonallah Ibrahim’s That Smell, punctuating it with the only redeeming sources of beauty available: classical music LPs, newly acquired Russian vocabulary, achingly beautiful women, and strong Georgian tea.
Based on Ibrahim’s own experience studying at the All-Russian Institute of Cinematography in Moscow from 1971 to 1973, Ice offers a powerful exploration of Arab confusion, Soviet dysfunction, and the fragility of leftist revolutionary ideals.

About the Author

Sonallah Ibrahim is one of Egypt’s best-loved contemporary novelists. He spent five years in political prison from 1959 to 1964. His works available in English include That Smell and Notes from Prison, The Committee, Zaat, Beirut, Beirut, and Stealth. Margaret Litvin is associate professor of Arabic and comparative literature at Boston University.

Praise For Ice (The Arab List)

"Since the appearance—such as it was—of his debut 1966 novella, the Egyptian writer Sonallah Ibrahim has been one of the most intriguing and important figures in contemporary Arabic literature. . . . Written and published at the very moment Egypt was entering the Arab Spring, Ice is a curious missive from a partly real, partly imagined past to a generation awakening to hope and upheaval—as well as the possibility of dashed illusions."

— 4Columns