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.


US-Moroccan singer Abir releases second EP

Updated 09 August 2020

US-Moroccan singer Abir releases second EP

DUBAI: US-Moroccan singer Abir has released this week her second EP, “Heat.”

The Fez-born crooner’s new musical project is a collection of seven songs, which she describes as “Arab pop.”

The new EP is accompanied by visuals for the singles “Inferno” and “Yallah.” Both music videos were shot on location in the Moroccan desert just outside of Marrakech with the help of a team of all Arab creatives. 

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I can’t believe I’m announcing this!!!!!!! My sophomore EP, HEAT, will be with you Friday, AUGUST 7TH This project is near and dear to my heart for reasons far beyond music. I consider this project to be the culmination of many years of growth and self-discovery—a journey that extends to a newfound connection with the meaning of my name, an Arabic word that translates as “fragrance of a flower” and ultimately signifies a certain blossoming into the woman I've become. As a daughter of the East and West, I wanted to explore that duality in my music as well as contribute to the conversation surrounding Arab women + challenge the narrative that exists in today's world. I pray you receive this project with an open heartPre-save link in my bio! AUGUST 7TH, YALLAH!!!

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“As a daughter of the East and West, I wanted to explore that duality in my music as well as contribute to the conversation surrounding Arab women and challenge the narrative that exists in today’s world,” the singer said on Instagram ahead of the EP’s launch. 

“This project is near and dear to my heart for reasons far beyond music. I consider this project to be the culmination of many years of growth and self-discovery.”