Book Review: Cold, methodical ‘Ice’ weaves politics and life together

The book is based on his own experiences studying at the All-Russian Institute of Cinematography. (Supplied)
Updated 03 December 2019

Book Review: Cold, methodical ‘Ice’ weaves politics and life together

  • “Ice” is written by celebrated Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim
  • Ibrahim’s book weaves between his life, that of his friends, and the international politics that seem to change the world around them

CHICAGO: In “Ice,” written by celebrated Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim, Shukri, a 35-year-old graduate, is pursuing his studies in Moscow in 1973. The winter is harsh, global politics are rampant and life in the “heart of the socialist utopia” is seemingly desperate, painful and brimming with history. Based on his own experiences studying at the All-Russian Institute of Cinematography, Ibrahim’s book weaves between his life, that of his friends, and the international politics that seem to change the world around them.

Soviet life is tough in the Brezhnev-era. Revolutions and past leaders are still vibrant in people’s minds. At the university, students go about their days as they walk through the city and its political banners that read “Forward Towards Communism” and “Long Live the Soviet People, Building Communism.” The winter is harsh as Shukri endures below-freezing temperatures and illness. His friend still cries over the death of Khrushchev, whose funeral Shukri attended with a journalist friend, recalling that he passed the graves of Chekhov, Gogol and Mayakovsky.

Shukri’s views are cold, methodical and often misogynistic as he describes life in Moscow as if keeping a diary. In between what is happening in the city, students from all over the world keep each other updated about global politics: Jordanian courts hand down the death sentence to 36 Palestinian freedom fighters, the Soviet’s push an Iraqi Ba’athist narrative to round up Nasserists, Libya recognizes East Germany, a military coup in Chile, war with Israel begins, America signs a cease-fire in Vietnam, eastern-European politics, and in his own country of Egypt, his friend writes to tell him not to return.

Between watching movies, reading books, going to the theater, working on his Arabic typewriters, listening to Muhammed Abdel Wahab and Farid Al-Atrash LPs, and passing through famous sites such as Pushkin Square, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Kremlin Clock and St. Basil’s Cathedral, Shukri moves through life quickly and without second thought, his friends and interactions limited and on the surface.

Ibrahim spent five years in political prison in the late 1950s to early 1960s. “Ice” was originally published in Arabic in 2011 and then translated into English by Margaret Litvin and published in English by Seagull Books in 2019.


Lebanese it girls Nathalie Fanj and Nour Arida join protests in Beirut

Updated 4 min 13 sec ago

Lebanese it girls Nathalie Fanj and Nour Arida join protests in Beirut

DUBAI: On Saturday, thousands took to the streets of Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square in anger to protest against Lebanon’s leaders following the devastating, mushroom-shaped explosion on Aug. 4 that killed over 150, wounded thousands, and left hundreds of thousands homeless. 

Among the protestors was Lebanese fashion blogger and fashion week Dior Beauty ambassador Nathalie Fanj, who documented the demonstrations, which took place not far from the blast site, on her Instagram Stories.

Fanj, who earlier this week wrote she was “devastated” and “scared for her kids” following the deadly blast, posted clips of protesters holding up the Lebanese flag and carrying signs demanding an international investigation against the government that seemingly allowed a stockpile of explosive material to sit unattended at their port for more than six years, only to explode on Tuesday with such power that it was felt more than 120 miles away in Cyprus.

Nathalie Fanj joined protests in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square on Saturday. (Instagram)

Fanj also reported to her 855,000 Instagram followers that the authorities were allegedly firing at the protesters.

“We were not armed, protesting peacefully and they shot at us and it wasn’t rubber bullets!” she alleged in her Stories. “They were firing at us! As if we’re the corrupt ones stealing and killing!”

Among the protestors demanding justice for the lives lost due to government negligence was model and actress Nour Arida. The model also shared pictures and clips from the demonstrations on her Instagram Stories.

“Today we were in the streets to get back this little angel’s rights,” wrote Arida on Instagram alongside a series of images of the protests and a photo of Alexandra, the 3-year-old girl, who passed away during the blast.

Lebanese model Nour Arida was also among the demonstrators demanding change. (Instagram)

Dubai-based fashion influencer Karen Wazen reposted one of Arida’s images of the demonstrators in Beirut and captioned it: “Every expat is there today in spirit. We want our Lebanon back.” 

Lebanese fine jewelry designer, Ralph Masri, whose pieces are beloved by Celine Dion, also shared footage of protestors gathered in Martyrs’ Square on his social media platform. The designer, whose atelier was destroyed during the blast, wrote there was “no going back.”

A number of public figures are showing solidarity for the Lebanese people. Amal and George Clooney recently donated $100,000 to Lebanese charities, while British hitmaker Dua Lipa urged her 50.1 million Instagram followers to help by donating blood.