Traces of Enayat Iman Mersal
Cairo, 1963: Enayat al-Zayyat's suicide becomes a byword for talent tragically cut down, even as Love and Silence, her only novel, languishes unpublished. Four years after al-Zayyat's death, the novel will be brought out, adapted for film and radio, praised, and then, cursorily, forgotten. For the next three decades it's as if al-Zayyat never existed. Yet when poet Iman Mersal stumbles across Love and Silence in the nineties, she is immediately hooked. Who was Enayat? Did the thought of her novel's rejection really lead to her suicide? Where did this startling voice come from? And why did Love and Silence disappear from literary history? To answer these questions, Mersal traces Enayat's life, interviews family members and friends, reconstructs the afterlife of Enayat in the media, and tracks down the flats, schools, archaeological institutes, and sanatoriums among which Enayat divided her days. Touching on everything from dubious antidepressants to domestic abuse and divorce law, from rubbish-strewn squats in the City of the Dead to the glamour of golden-age Egyptian cinema, this wide-ranging, unclassifiable masterpiece gives us a remarkable portrait of a woman artist striving to live on her own terms. Blending research with imagination, and adding a great deal of empathy, the award-winning Egyptian poet Iman Mersal has created an unclassifiable masterpiece.