The Jokers

The Jokers

Albert Cossery

Fiction

Who are the jokers?The jokers are the government, and the biggest joker of all is the governor, a bug-eyed, strutting, rapacious character of unequaled incompetence who presides over the nameless Middle Eastern city where this effervescent comedy by Albert Cossery is set.The jokers are also the revolutionaries, no less bumbling and no less infatuated with the trappings of power than the government they oppose.And the jokers are Karim, Omar, Heykal, Urfy, and their friends, free spirits who see the other jokers for the jokers they are and have cooked up a sophisticated and, most important, foolproof plan to enliven public life with a dash of subversive humor.The joke is on them all.
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The Colors of Infamy

The Colors of Infamy

Albert Cossery

Fiction

A delightful, deeply funny novel about the triumph of the perfect prankster — an elegant gentleman pickpocket in Cairo.His eyes "shine with a glimmer of perpetual amusement"; his sartorial taste is impeccable; Ossama is "a thief, not a legitimated thief, such as a minister, banker, or real-estate developer; he is a modest thief." He knows "that by dressing with the same elegance as the licensed robbers of the people, he could elude the mistrustful gaze of the police," and so he glides lazily around the cafe´s of Cairo, seeking his prey. His country may be a disaster, but he's a hedonist convinced that "nothing on this earth is tragic for an intelligent man."One fat victim ("everything about him oozed opulence and theft on a grand scale") is relieved of his crocodile wallet. In it Ossama finds not just a gratifying amount of cash, but also a letter — a letter from the Ministry of Public Works, cutting off its ties to the fat man. A source of rich...
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Proud Beggars

Proud Beggars

Albert Cossery

Fiction

Early in "Proud Beggars," a brutal and motiveless murder is committed in a Cairo brothel. But the real mystery at the heart of Albert Cossery's wry black comedy is not the cause of this death but the paradoxical richness to be found in even the most materially impoverished life. Chief among Cossery's proud beggars is Gohar, a former professor turned whorehouse accountant, hashish aficionado, and street philosopher. Such is his native charm that he has accumulated a small coterie that includes Yeghen, a rhapsodic poet and drug dealer, and El Kordi, an ineffectual clerk and would-be revolutionary who dreams of rescuing a consumptive prostitute. The police investigator Nour El Dine, harboring a dark secret of his own, suspects all three of the murder but finds himself captivated by their warm good humor. How is it that they live amid degrading poverty, yet possess a joie de vivre that even the most assiduous forces of state cannot suppress? Do they, despite their rejection of social norms and all ambition, hold the secret of contentment? And so this short novel, considered one of Cossery's masterpieces, is at once biting social commentary, police procedural, and a mischievous delight in its own right.
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