Friday, 14 August 2009


"The Germans, bless them, have a word for it. Kunstlerschuld means “artist’s guilt”; that is, the gritty niggling of remorse for getting to have fun whacking paint and words around when honest citizens are banging away at retail counters, sticking their arms down toilets and putting up with boring Nathan in accounts. It is a perfectly reasonable feeling. After all, getting to do what you like is a privilege in this world and the chap out there who heroically devotes his time to designing a product to gently heat Baby Wipes to perfect bum temperature is no doubt doing a fantastically useful duty, whereas some plonker like me, sitting pretty pondering adjectives while sipping a caffe latte, is the very picture of degeneracy." - Kate Holden

I hadn't heard about 'kunstlerschuld' until I read Playing Cards in Cairo. I read it to better understand My Egypt Girl's life experience - synopsis - Recently installed in Cairo as a freelance journalist and expat barfly, Hugh Miles soon meets and falls in love with Roda, a beautiful Egyptian doctor, who introduces him to Egypt's favourite pastime, the card game tarneeb, to her all-female card circle, and to a previously unseen side of life in the Middle East's greatest city. While the women cut and shuffle, Miles listens to their stories and learns about what it means to be a young Muslim woman, dating, dieting and divorcing in a country where traditional Islamic values are in the ascendant. Yosra struggles with an addiction to prescription drugs; Nadia copes with a baby and an abusive husband; neighbour Reem comes to terms with plastic surgery gone wrong; while her sister attempts to conceal her secret love-marriage from her family and to breathe life into a clothes shop run by a regime apparatchik with an Islamist vision of retail. Hugh Miles takes a fascinating sideways look at the lives of young Egyptians, and finds himself on a romantic adventure that will lead him to Islam and bind him to the Arab world for ever.


pia said...

love that intro - so true. This book sounds great, I'll keep it in mind as a future read. px

The Liberty Belle said...

Heading to Barnes & Nobles this weekend...Sounds like a great read!