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The Pistachio Seller (Middle East Literature in Translation) Hardcover – October 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Middle East Literature in Translation
  • Hardcover: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse Univ Pr (Sd) (October 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815609191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815609193
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,400,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bassiouney's bighearted fourth novel (the first to be translated into English) portrays the agonies of love and identity. When Ashraf Daawood returns to Egypt in 1980, after growing up and becoming a banker in England, his cousin Wafaa falls hard for him. She must deal with her turmoil in secret, however, when Ashraf begins dating Lubna Thaabit, a feisty Communist journalist. After a brief stay in jail for her political leanings, Lubna breaks up with Ashraf, who returns to London and soon loses all his money. Penniless and disgraced, Ashraf flees to America, where his comeuppance involves working as a lowly cashier in a bank and living in poverty in a group house. Meanwhile, Wafaa has become a history teacher, supporting her parents and refusing to get married, doggedly waiting for Ashraf, with whom she shares an initially stilted correspondence that eventually shows signs of something deeper. Though sentimental in places and melodramatic in others, this story of self-discovery and the trials of love is delivered with warmth and humor. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

In the early 1980s, Egyptian teenager Wafaa falls desperately in love with her elegant older cousin, Ashraf, a banker and British citizen whose penchant for pistachios is an emblem of his Westernized sophistication. Alas, the wealthy Ashraf only has eyes for Lubna, a fiery Communist journalist. But Wafaa remains true to her dream of marrying Ashraf, as he severs his relationship with Lubna, loses his money, and winds up impoverished and living in squalor in America. But he still loves those pistachios and maybe, just maybe, might even now love faithful Wafaa. This first novel of Egyptian writer—and now Georgetown professor—Bassiouney to be published in English translation, The Pistachio Seller is freighted with a heavy load of symbols and often wooden dialogue but nevertheless offers an intimate look at Egypt in the 1980s and the changes that a dynamic decade were bringing to its life and culture. --Michael Cart

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on January 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Voted best novel of the year in 2006 by the International Alexandria Library, The Pistachio Seller by Reem Bassiouney is now translated from Arabic so that English readers can enjoy a delightful read.

This story begins with adolescent love as Wafaa, a young Egyptian girl, says with a sense of fun and humor: "It was Saturday. I remember. And while he was standing on a step ladder in the hall, changing a light bulb in the faint light coming through the window, I decided to love him."

Raised in a strict Islamic culture, young Wafaa struggles to come to grips with her own beliefs and the confusing conflicts of a young coming of age body. She meets her cousin Ashraf when he visits from England and develops a healthy respect and growing admiration for her world-traveled and educated older cousin.

Bassiouney lends much factual detail and precise description of the Islam and Egyptian cultures to her story and treats touchy subjects with realism and light humor. The characters are so well defined as to believe the story to be a true narrative of the characters. At times, I wanted to laugh out loud at the amusing thoughts and conversations that two adverse upbringings created in Wafaa and Ashraf. Other times I wanted to slap the characters for their actions and attitudes.

Read The Pistachio Seller through to the end to see how the characters grow and inter-relate with each other and society. Does Wafaa get her man? Read it to see if she does and learn more about the Islamic culture and have fun doing it.

by Rhonda Esakov
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bassiouney offers an in-depth exploration of a culture struggling with tradition and modernization, changing expectations for women, and the challenge of foreign influences. The protagonist is a well educated young woman determined to remain faithful to her own traditional ideals, while her love interest is a spoiled, selfish young man whose British upbringing has divorced him from his Egyptian identity. How these two different perspectives are reconciled is the crux of the story.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Basyouni on November 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I liked this novels so much. The characters are so lively and I learned so much about the Arab world. it is funny as well Mark
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