– Nezar Andary
Youssef Rakha’s mesmerizing book Barra and Zaman: Reading Egyptian Modernity in Shadi Abdel Salam’s The Mummy, takes on the gargantuan task of attempting to place The Mummy within both a historical and personal context; weaving the political and cinematic history that birthed the film with the author’s own tenuous relationship with it.
As with The Crocodiles, his new writing, Barra and Zaman (the Arabic words meaning outside/abroad and time/of the past), features numbered paragraphs and a first-person perspective. There is music to his sentences and poetry to his prose. It's a work of auto-theory, an emerging term used to describe works of literature, art and criticism that integrate autobiography and subjective expression with philosophy and theory to transgress genre conventions.
World Literature Today
Rakha [posits] the provocative idea that Egyptians should accept colonialism as part of their national heritage, that nationalism couldn’t have existed without the very thing it set itself up against. We should not ignore being demeaned, he says, but we also shouldn’t make it our focus, that we are much more than that. Rakha suggests that identity is like mercury: try to grasp it and it will poison you.