Iman Mersal presents 'Traces of Enayat'

From one of the preeminent poets of the Arabic-speaking world, a brilliant work of creative nonfiction retracing the mysterious life and erasure of Egyptian literature's tragic heroine.


Third Place Books is honored to welcome Iman Mersal to our Ravenna store for a discussion of her new biographical work, Traces of Enayat, translated by Robin Moger. This event is made possible by Mersal's U.S. publisher, Transit Books. This event is free and open to the public.

Cairo, 1963: four years before her lone novel is finally published, the writer Enayat al-Zayyat takes her own life at age 27. For the next three decades, it's as if Enayat never existed at all. Years later, when celebrated Egyptian poet Iman Mersal stumbles upon Enayat's long-forgotten Love and Silence in a Cairo book stall, she embarks on a journey of reflection and rediscovery that leads her ever closer to the world and work of Enayat al-Zayyat.

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About Traces of Enayat. . .

"A subtle and universal exploration of identity."—Aida Alami, The New York Times

Cairo, 1963: four years before her lone novel is finally published, the writer Enayat al-Zayyat takes her own life at age 27. For the next three decades, it's as if Enayat never existed at all.

Years later, when celebrated Egyptian poet Iman Mersal stumbles upon Enayat's long-forgotten Love and Silence in a Cairo book stall, she embarks on a journey of reflection and rediscovery that leads her ever closer to the world and work of Enayat al-Zayyat.

In this luminous biographical detective story, Mersal retraces Enayat's life and afterlife though interviews with family members and friend, even tracking down the apartments, schools, and sanatoriums where Enayat spent her days. As Mersal maps two simultaneous psychogeographies—from the glamor of golden-age Egyptian cinema to the Cairo of Mersal's own past—a remarkable portrait emerges of two women striving to live on their own terms. With Traces of Enayat, Iman Mersal embraces the reciprocal relationship between a text and its reader, between past and present, between author and subject.

 

Praise for Traces of Enayat. . .

"A subtle and universal exploration of identity."
—Aida Alami, The New York Times

"The prose shines and the central literary mystery will keep readers turning pages. This beguiling volume captivates."
Publishers Weekly

"A resonant literary biography by way of fractured, obsessive sleuthing."
Kirkus Reviews 

"Traces of Enayat [is] a creative nonfiction text that defies categorization, in which [Mersal] continues her investigation of the untold histories of women’s mental health at the intersection of middle-class morality and cultural canon-making. The archive, its gendered composition, and its silences, are for Mersal a constant point of departure and return."
—Vina A. Ramadan, BOMB


Poet, writer, academic and translator, Iman Mersal was born in 1966 in the northern Egyptian Delta and emigrated to Canada in 1999. First published in Arabic in 2019, Traces of Enayat won the prestigious 2021 Sheikh Zayed Book Award, making her the first woman to win its Literature category. Author of five books of Arabic poetry, her most recent poetry collection, The Threshold, won the 2023 National Translation Award and was shortlisted for the 2023 Griffin Poetry Award. She is also the author of How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts (2018), which weaves a new narrative of motherhood through diaries, readings, and photographs. Mersal’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books and The Nation, among others. She is the Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Alberta, Canada. (Photo credit: Bertrand Gaudillère)


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