If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English

If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English

Shortlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Shortlisted for the 2022 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Winner of the Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize, a lush experimental novel about love as a weapon of empire.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, an Egyptian American woman and a man from the village of Shobrakheit meet at a café in Cairo. He was a photographer of the revolution, but now finds himself unemployed and addicted to cocaine, living in a rooftop shack. She is a nostalgic daughter of immigrants “returning” to a country she’s never been to before, teaching English and living in a light-filled flat with balconies on all sides. They fall in love and he moves in. But soon their desire―for one another, for the selves they want to become through the other―takes a violent turn that neither of them expected.

Play Sample

If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English
Written by: Noor Naga
Narrated by: Amin El Gamal and Noor Naga
Published by: Recorded Books

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About the Audiobook

“Propulsive and philosophical. . . . The novel brims with sparkling prose. Naga’s sentences are precise and rich with bold, complex observations. . . . [An] exhilarating debut.”

―Nadia Owusu, New York Times Book Review


―Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Library Journal, starred review

“Naga impresses with her snappy prose . . . and has a gift for exploring varied perspectives. . . . This smart story is distinguished by its surprising empathy.”

Publishers Weekly

“A fascinating novel about class and abuse. . . . [Noor]Naga’s writing in the book’s first two parts is gripping, but the final section, metafictional and darkly funny, is an absolute master class. She deals with important issues with a gimlet eye and a rare sensitivity―it would be a massive understatement to call this novel a must-read. In a word: brilliant.”

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A masterclass in complex characters and incisive writing. . . . [If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English] does justice to the intricacy it explores. It is wholly captivating and will challenge you in ways you don’t see coming.”

―Manal Ahmed, F(r)iction

“Sharp, switched-on, and self-interrogating, If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English masterfully continues, long after the last page is read, to provoke uncomfortable yet essential questions about what we demand from literature that represents otherness. . . . Inventive and brilliant.”

―Dana Hansen, Chicago Review of Books

“At once romantic, complex, and ultimately tragic.”