The Book of Sleep
What is sleep? How can this most unproductive of human states—death’s shadow or the pinnacle of indolence—be envisioned as action and agency? And what do we become in sleep? What happens to the waking selves we understand ourselves to be?
Written in the spring of 2013, as the Egyptian government of President Mohammed Morsi was unravelling in the face of widespread protests, The Book of Sleep is a landmark in contemporary Arabic literature. Drawing on the devices and forms of poetry, philosophical reflection, political analysis and storytelling, this genre-defying work presents us with an assemblage of fragments which combine and recombine, circling around their central theme but refusing to fall into its gravity.
‘My concern was not to create a literary product in the conventional sense, but to try and use literature as a methodology for thinking,’ El Wardany explains. In this volume, sleep shapes sentences and distorts conventions. Its protean instability throws out memoir and memory, dreams and hallucinatory reverie, Sufi fables and capitalist parables, in the quest to shape a question. The Book of Sleep is a generous and generative attempt to reimagine possibility and hope in a world of stifling dualities and constrictions.
‘[C]ollective sleep is the heart of successful protest, El Wardany writes, cautioning that “any occupation where the occupiers do not bed down in their place of protest cannot be relied on.” But isn’t sleep the antithesis to the vigilance that protest demands? . . . No! The Book of Sleep is the clearest rebuke . . . against the disdain for rest. “The self which does not sleep is a neurotic self, plagued by itself. The group that does not sleep is willful and proud, unable to alter reality because it exists cut off from it.” It is only in sleep, El Wardany argues, that an arrangement with reality can be rebrokered. And if we do not sleep, the hopeful awakening will never come.’—Ania Szremski, 4Columns. Read the brilliant review here.
‘Moves between philosophy, anecdotes, poetry, political analysis and story to give us a portrait of contemporary Egypt during the time of former president Mohammed Morsi [. . .] beautifully translated into English by Moger and is a book to be read slowly and savoured.’—M Lynx Qualey, The National
If you are ordering from India, your order will be shipped from Seagull Books, Calcutta.
If you are ordering from the US or the UK or anywhere else in the world, your order will be shipped from the University of Chicago Press' distribution centre, Chicago.
Please note: For customers paying in currencies other than Indian rupee or US dollar, prices will be calculated according to the currency conversion rate at the time of purchase and may vary from the printed price.