Ihsan Abdel Kouddous, "A Nose and Three Eyes" (Hoopoe, 2024)


Written by iconic Egyptian novelist Ihsan Abdel Kouddous, this classic of love, desire, and family breakdown smashed through taboos when first published in Arabic and continues to captivate audiences today

It is 1950s Cairo and 16-year-old Amina is engaged to a much older man. Despite all the excitement of the wedding preparations, Amina is not looking forward to her nuptials. And it is not because of the age gap or because of the fact that she does not love, or even really know, her fiancé. No, it is because she is involved with another man.

This other man is Dr Hashim Abdel-Latif, and while he is Amina’s first love, she is certainly not his. Also many years her senior, Hashim is well-known in polite circles for his adventures with women. A Nose and Three Eyes tells the story of Amina’s love affair with Hashim, and that of two other young women: Nagwa and Rahhab.

A Nose and Three Eyes is a story of female desire and sexual awakening, of love and infatuation, and of exploitation and despair. It quietly critiques the strictures put upon women by conservative social norms and expectations, while a subtle undercurrent of political censure was carefully aimed at the then Nasser regime. As such, it was both deeply controversial and wildly popular when first published in the 1960s. Still a household name, this novel, and its author, have stood the test of time and remain relevant and highly readable today.

Ihsan Abdel Kouddous (Author, 1919–1990) is one of the most prolific and popular writers of Arabic fiction of the twentieth century. Born in Cairo, Egypt, Abdel Kouddous graduated from law school in 1942 but left his law practice to pursue a long and successful career in journalism. He was an editor at the daily Al-Akhbar and the weekly Rose al-Yusuf, and was editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram. The author of dozens of books, his controversial writings and political views landed him in jail more than once. A Nose and Three Eyes is his second book to be translated into English, and his first was I Do Not Sleep.

Hanan al-Shaykh (Foreword by) was born and raised in Beirut. She is the author of The Story of Zahra, Women of Sand and Myrrh, Beirut Blues, and Only in London, which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. She lives in London.

Jonathan Smolin (Translated by) is the Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor in Asian Studies at Dartmouth College in the US. He is the translator of several works of Arabic fiction, including Whitefly by Abdelilah Hamdouchi, A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me by Youssef Fadel, and I Do Not Sleep and A Nose and Three Eyes by Ihsan Abdel Kouddous and the author of The Politics of Melodrama: The Cultural and Political Lives of Ihsan Abdel Kouddous and Gamal Abdel Nasser (forthcoming Stanford University Press). He lives in Hanover, NH.

Tugrul Mende holds an M.A in Arabic Studies. He is based in Berlin as a project coordinator and independent researcher.

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Tugrul Mende

Tugrul Mende holds an M.A in Arabic Studies. He is based in Berlin as a project coordinator and independent researcher.

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