Obama lists Pakistani author’s book among his best of 2017

Mohsin Hamid’s ‘Exit West’ has been praised by critics and book-lovers alike.
Updated 09 January 2018
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Obama lists Pakistani author’s book among his best of 2017

LAHORE: Former US President Barack Obama has made a point of ending each year by releasing a list of the books and songs that he most enjoyed over the past year and 2017’s list included a novel by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid.
“During my presidency, I started a tradition of sharing my reading lists and playlists,” Obama wrote on Facebook at the end of the year. “It was a nice way to reflect on the works that resonated with me and lift up authors and artists from around the world. With some extra time on my hands this year to catch up, I wanted to share the books and music that I enjoyed most.”
Hamid’s “Exit West,” a novel that was published in 2017 and deals with emigration and refugee life, made the most recent list. The author’s previous books include “Moth Smoke,” “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.”
The novel, which is part fantasy, follows the journey of a young couple in an unnamed city who seek to escape the civil war raging around them through a series of mysterious doors that take them further and further away.
Hamid’s book has been praised by critics and book-lovers alike — it made it on to Time magazine’s top ten novels of 2017 list and was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. The book’s film rights have been purchased by American film making team the Russo Brothers, so fans can expect a feature-length film based on the story in the future.
Obama’s list includes a diverse range of female authors and other international writers, including Jesmyn Wards “Sing, Unburied, Sing” and “The Power” by Naomi Alderman.


‘Tales of Yusuf Tadrus’ — the story of a struggling artist with bills to pay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Tales of Yusuf Tadrus’ — the story of a struggling artist with bills to pay

  • Esmat’s novel is a glimpse into the life of an artist, his constant attempt to merge imagination with reality and the life of a Coptic-Christian in Egypt

CHICAGO: Winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2016, Adel Esmat’s “Tales of Yusuf Tadrus” is the story of a young man from the city of Tanta that sits in the Nile Delta. Yusuf struggles to find a balance between his dream of oil painting, canvases and light with his reality of teaching English, providing for a family and attempting to understand where he stands in the world. 

Esmat’s novel is a glimpse into the life of an artist, his constant attempt to merge imagination with reality and the life of a Coptic-Christian in Egypt.

Beginning every chapter with “Yusuf Tadrus Says,” Esmat delves deep into the life of his protagonist, a young man whose very birth leaves him uneasy in life. Knowing his mother had not intended on having children and had devoted her life to God, Yusuf believes he is destined to be extraordinary and embarks on a complicated journey in art and life.

Esmat’s portrayal of Yusuf’s struggle is intimate and detailed. Yusuf is an extremely introspective, introverted character, whose world clashes with his art as it takes him from Tanta to Alexandria, back to Tanta and as far as Al-Tur.

Esmat insightfully narrates an incredible story of struggle and longing. He paints a picture of Egypt, especially Tanta, of the alley where Yusuf grew up on Ghayath Al-Din Street and his family life, his mother who collects contributions for the Holy Bible Association, and his father, Khawaga Tadrus Bushra, donning a Saidi jallabeya, a skullcap and a white scarf as he sells dry beans and seeds. Yusuf spends his childhood riding his bicycle with friends, collecting contributions with his mother, experiencing the Six-Day War and winning a painting competition that brings him to the Palace of Culture on Al-Bahr Street where he learns to draw and, eventually, paint.

Esmat creates in Yusuf a multifaceted character who is both the protagonist and antagonist in his own story, tormented between a dream and reality against the backdrop of an unforgiving society.