on 2 April 2008
I only picked this up in Waterstones because I thought I might have met the author once. On glancing through the first few pages, I was immediately hooked. i sat down with a skinny latte to try a bit more, and before i realised what i was doing, i had bought it. it is obviously a bit post modern, an Irishman in Cairo in search of a story. But it is uplifting and funny. My wife read it next and said it reminded her of a confederacy of dunces. i don't know about that (i've never read it) but it sounds like a compliment
on 30 April 2008
So here comes your man, some gorse popping, turf digging, poteen drinking Paddy from County Donegal, Ireland. And your man writes this book, which is terrific craic. A heady mix of Zorba the Greek set in Cairo, it could be a tale by The Mathnawi Rumi. A spiritual quest, a hilarious poem, I expect to see it on the silver screen with an all Egyptian supporting cast, starring Colin Farrell as Fin, and Nick Nolte as the American. Your man is a great new writer and you'll enjoy reading this. I highly recommend it.
on 3 April 2008
A really stunning debut. The language is exquisitely woven and the descriptions of Cairo are hypnotic. It manages to balance this lyricism with hilarious characterizations and laugh out loud dialogue. Primarily though, this a book about the search for self, and the search for authenticity- and the journey left me dazzled.
on 23 August 2008
A washed up and drunken Irish ex-journalist and once a senior reporter for the Cairo Herald, Fin has been living a hardscrabble life in Cairo, his only recent claim to journalistic fame an article on the best kebab shops in the heart of the city. Ironically though it is the sense of chaos and the harsh grit of this vast metropolis that makes Fin feel so at home and prepares him for may of the challenges he faces throughout this story.
Fin has a bit of an ego and fancies himself as a rebel, granting himself martial skill or at the very least the heroic stoicism of a journalist defending the truth. Yet when we first meet him, he's hung-over, recovering from a bar room brawl with an American who holds some kind of dubious office at the US embassy. Battling to overcome the urge for self-pity, it is a phone call to his Egyptian friend Farouk who ultimately shows Fin that Cairo is indeed an exotic plate of possibilities with deliverance perhaps waiting just around the corner and having lost his job, he's only too willing to cast about for something else or somebody onto whom he could project his dreams.
When Waled, Farouk's friendly taxi driver arrives at Fin's door, providing an invitation to partake in mint tea at his home in Mena Village - a chaotic row of houses and stables that circles the Giza Sphinx and the pyramid complex - Fin jumps at the chance, especially when Farouk offers to tell him a story which piques Fin journalistic nature. As they sit at a sidewalk café sipping mint tea, this exotic friend tells Fin of his friend Skinhead Said and how his cellar once collapsed. But even as a black cloud suddenly passes across the sun shading the day, Fin remains desperate to hear what Skinhead had actually found: "it didn't seem much to ask and it didn't have to be a burning bush of truth, just an impression of wise direction."
Even when people start looking at Farouk's shiny new car in a bad way, Fin still wants his story. But when Omar Balesh, local a thug, attacks suddenly attacks Farouk, Fin is frozen in a deluge of outrage and terror. Both men are abducted and assaulted by an unlikely and possibly insane person with a cavalier attitude to violence and a seething hatred of Farouk, accusing him of running over his baby daughter and breaking her leg.
A fast-paced and complex morality tale, author Rowan Somverville's intense and poetic writing style is full of kaleidoscopic images of Cairo and its surrounds. On the surface this is a city of filth of chaos and ruins, but in fact, teems with people, ebullient, enveloped in the past, yet built on the fragments and wreckage, and on the debris of other worlds, other religions and other dreams where "everything is either half built or half demolished."
When Fin eventually finds himself thrown into the Nile, surfacing wet and filthy, slipping around in debris and waste, his clothes suffused in a Nile slime of decomposed rubbish and polluted mud, he seems so far away from the teeming entropy of Cairo's ancient heart. It is only the unquestioning kindness of a driver of a rubbish cart in his one-button suit that pulls Fin back from the brink. Finding himself a part of the Cairo's nine thousand tons of debris, refuse garbage and waste, Fin eventually tumbles through the narrow alleys of Cairo with a type of self-enforced desperation, positive that someone other than Farouk had knocked over the little girl. A man with too few friends and no contacts on the local police force, all Fin can do is determine Farouk innocence and then hopefully convince Omar that his draconian punishments are misdirected.
The author's multi-faced descriptions seem to bleed into Fin's psyche even as he's simultaneously held fast then repelled and then eventually mesmerized by this vast metropolis. In a city that is corrupt, swarming with bent police, unprincipled newspaper editors, American thugs, and child-hurting hypocrites, Finn comes to realize how insignificant and flawed he actually is. In the end, this novel shows how history is woven out of tiny threads of life with part of Fin's journey being the recognition that he too will one day decay and crumble. Meanwhile, the noise of the city keeps bursting in Fin's head, the desperate urgency to find or do something to help Farouk as the great desert remains empty, vast and still, the remnants of history and memories of an ancient civilization forever embedded in it's mighty soul. Mike Leonard August 08.
on 6 August 2010
I agree with the other reviewer regarding the comparison to A Confederacy of Dunces, perhaps the greatest comic novel of all time. Certainly it is the classic comedy of modern times, a howlingly funny work of stunning inventiveness and effortless complexity which uses the picaresque style to convert and invert the quixotic for modern times. So too with The End of Sleep, a wildly funny picaresque stagger through an excellently realized Cairo. For a western writer to humanize arabic characters in so successful and real a way, without any trace of cliche, condescension (or that classic pitfall, orientalism) is in my view a literary achievement. But it is apparent from the onset that hidden in the riveting humour is a very writerly work: a work which pulls you into the story so much that you feel, in best panto style, that you should be shouting tense advice to the protagonist as he suffers indignities as numerous as his hangovers. Very funny, but not just funny; a work that also brings a great feeling of satisfaction at the craft. The writer has delivered with a high degree of competence and confidence here, more than can be said for his unfortunate protagonist ..
on 8 February 2014
I only picked this up in Warehouse because I thought I it might be a good read during my Holidays. On glancing through the first few pages i was left waiting for the novel to begin, I was immediately hooked, waiting for a beginning to the story. i sat down with a tea to try a bit more, and before i realised what i was doing I was half-way through the book before any viable piece of entertaining plot was uncovered. it is obviously a bit post modern, an Irishman in Cairo in search of a story. I knew exactly how Fin felt.