Albert Cossery, Now

To celebrate the recent rerelease of two of Albert Cossery’s novels, we present a pair of essays:

No Dignity, No Doubt: a review of Proud Beggars, by Matt Pearce

Dignity encompasses multitudes as well as a variety of fatal contradictions, and much of them parade through Albert Cossery’s 1955 novel Proud Beggars, reissued by NYRB Classics. The novel is set in pre-revolution Egypt — that is, before the 1952 officers’ coup — and in it, many of Egypt’s same social infirmities are on display: economic inequality, unresponsive government, and repressive police.

and

Revolutionary Laughter: a review of The Colors of Infamy, by Michael McCanne

The Colors of Infamy is the final literary attack on the Egypt that Albert Cossery, the French-Egyptian author who wrote about his birth country as an exile, philosopher and nihilist, left behind, an Egypt sagging under almost forty years of corruption and authoritarian rule. In it, he identifies social outcasts and disaffected youth as true revolutionary subjects, presaging the uprisings to come.

Revolutionary Laughter

Beyond Cossery's stylish ironies, we glimpse a country seething in poverty and malfeasance and, like the concrete buildings his narratives are usually set in, perpetually on the verge of collapse. In fact, it is seems as if only the totality of this corruption is keeping the country together, an adhesive of turpitude permeating every social fabric.