Cold White Sun

Publishing House: Dar Al-Adab

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 318

Kafa Al-Zou’bi‘s “Cold White Sun” introduces readers to the poignant story of a young intellectual man in Jordan, grappling with poverty and estrangement from his traditional society. As a teacher in Amman, he faces financial constraints, leading him to rent a dismal, windowless chamber in an impoverished neighborhood. This space, lacking light and air, becomes a crucible for his personal turmoil and reflections.

The room has a dark history, once the home of an elderly lottery ticket seller whose demise went unnoticed until the pungent odor of decay alerted neighbors. This tragedy paints a grim picture of loneliness and neglect, mirroring the protagonist’s internal battles and existential inquiries.

Despite being a contender for the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2019, the novel faced resistance in its home country. In early 2018, Jordan’s Media Commission prohibited its distribution, demanding existing copies be re-exported, with reasons for censorship left unspecified.

The novel’s narrative structure is intriguing, incorporating parts of a diary from the room’s previous occupant. These entries delve into philosophical musings about existence, eternity, and the suppression of intellectual thought in the Arab world. Literary critic Walid Abu Bakr likens the novel to a blend of ancient myths, drawing parallels with Enkidu from the Epic of Gilgamesh and the myth of Sisyphus, juxtaposing heroic and absurd conceptions of eternity.

In Banipal Issue 66, a magazine dedicated to modern Arab literature, Al-Zou’bi takes center stage. The issue features an essay on her literary influences, a translated excerpt from “Cold White Sun,” and a review of the novel. Notably, as of 2019, this excerpt remains the only piece of Al-Zou’bi’s work available in English, emphasizing the novel’s unique presence in translated Arabic literature.

Read More About Kafa Al-Zou’bi

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