On Monday, December 6th we met to discuss Stealth (Al Talassus) by Sonallah Ibrahim. A coming-of-age story is given a creative twist in this intimate, offbeat, and strangely affecting novel. The young narrator, age 11, lives with his aged father in a disheveled furnished flat in Cairo. Exceptionally attuned to the moods, habits, and silent yearnings of the adults around him, the boy decides to get organized and become an expert on adult behavior. Surreptitiously, he listens in on adult conversations, observes adult mannerisms, and guesses about comments he’s not supposed to understand—and then he starts to sneak into neighboring apartments to watch adults napping, copulating, bathing, cooking, and all the other activities normal to their lives.
Sonallah Ibrahim is an Egyptian journalist, the author of eight novels, and a former visiting associate professor in the department of Near Eastern studies at the University of California–Berkeley. In 2003 he was awarded a prestigious prize by the Arab Novelist Assembly, which he turned down in protest of government policies.