A LAND LIKE YOU, translated by Joyce Zonana

: Nathan (T.)

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344pp., paperback, Reprint, Calcutta, (2020) 2023


First published in French in 2015 as Ce pays qui te ressemble.

Novel set in 1925 in Haret al-Yahud, the old Jewish Quarter in Cairo.

"Focused on Cairo’s poor Jewish alley (hara) and Muslim delta villages, this hypnotic novel shows how Egypt came to sever its ancient bond between Muslim and Jew, intertwined cultures that call humans 'Children of Adam' ... Chronicling the fate of Egypt’s Jews, Joyce Zonana’s vibrant yet nuanced translation renders A Land Like You a gorgeous feast for the senses and the spirit." Michele Levy, World Literature Today.

"In this breathtaking mixed-genre fictionalized history and fantastical tale, Tobie Nathan offers a poignant account of the last five decades of Cairo’s Jewish community, prior to its calamitous departure for other lands in the 1950s. Through a cornucopia of sensuous allusions to aromas, dishes, amulets, prayers, saints’ tombs, songs, dances, films, and witty colloquialisms, the reader becomes a privileged witness to an Egypt characterized by an intimate cultural continuum between Jews and their neighboring Muslims. Sex, pregnancies, birth, breastfeeding, ablutions, illnesses, desire and death all intersect, revealing shared rituals, beliefs, hopes, and fears. Throughout, A Land Like You rejects the emerging idea that one cannot be both Jewish and Egyptian. In a kind of a metaphorical claim to indigeneity, the novel maintains a consistent lyrical homage to the land through the protagonist’s emphatic pronouncements that Egypt as umm al-dunya (the mother of the world) is also his mother ..." Ella Shohat, author of Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices

Professor emeritus of psychology at Université–Paris VIII, Tobie Nathan is the author of a dozen novels and numerous psychoanalytic studies. Born to a Jewish family in Cairo in 1948, Nathan fled with his family following the 1957 Egyptian Revolution. Educated in France, Nathan is a pioneering practitioner of ethno-psychiatry, and in 1993 he founded the Centre George Devereux where he worked primarily with migrants and refugees. He has served as a diplomat in Israel and Africa and is a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2012, he received the prestigious Prix femina de l’essai for his memoir. The original French edition of A Land Like You was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt in 2015. 

Writer and literary translator Joyce Zonana is Professor Emerita of English at the City University of New York. A MacDowell Fellow, she received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Award for A Land Like You and is the recipient of the Global Humanities Translation Prize for her translation of Joseph D’Arbaud’s The Beast, and Other Tales. She is the author of a memoir, Dream Homes: From Cairo to Katrina, an exile’s journey.