A struggling journalist named Seif is introduced to a former exile with an encyclopedic knowledge of Egypt’s obscure, magical places. Together, as explorer and guide, they step into the fragmented, elusive world the Arab Spring left behind.
... has been compared to the work of Carmen Maria Machado and Kathryn Davis, writers who also create worlds whose rules are shrouded in mystery. But whereas Davis triggers uncertainty at almost every turn, Kheir lulls us into a false sense of understanding before dropping a sentence that calls into question all our previous assumptions...The rules quickly change, and we must reorganize the narrative in our minds to make it all hold together ... Connecting the fragmentary and seemingly contradictory details of the novel’s architecture makes for a thrilling read. It would take many passes to join every last piece of the puzzle, but as any puzzler knows, part of the fun comes from those small epiphanies that get us a tiny step closer to illumination ... If ultimately our quest for the answers proves futile, that may be an answer all its own. Bahr rails constantly against fighting one’s fate ... may not offer solutions, but it at least identifies some darkly hilarious problems with the status quo ... While the novel’s darkness can’t be denied, black humor cuts through the narrative at every turn ... Enough bizarre elements have been thrown in to please almost everyone, even if some readers won’t find them all as funny as I did. The absurd touches elevate the novel, forcing us to reconsider the mundane elements of our reality—roofs, flowers, bread—we take for granted ... You don’t need to have been drenched by Alexandria whitewater as its lajab drowns out your thoughts to be mesmerized by Slipping. One of Egypt’s most accomplished novelists operates at the height of his powers, and he’s more than capable of raising the dead. We can only hope other translations of Kheir’s work come our way, preferably arriving on our shelves while we’re still more alive than not.
... remarkable ... The allegorical quality of the story-telling doesn’t paper over or undercut the novel’s dark and difficult subject matter. Slipping is very much a book about trauma, pain, and guilt, a book about torture at the hands of Egyptian police or losing a loved one to the dangerous swell of Egypt’s 2011 revolution. The story of Seif’s relationship with Alya is the centrepiece of this arc. While I’m not keen on narratives that kill the female character in service of the male protagonist’s anguish and guilt, Alya is such a memorable individual – magical in her own right – and Kheir’s prose is so damn good that it never felt gratuitous. Slipping is a remarkable piece of writing, a book filled with magic and wonder and tragedy and pain. It’s also Kheir’s fourth novel, and I can only hope there are plans to translate his previous works and anything else this incredible writer puts to paper.
... haunting ... Each lyrical vignette conceals as much as it reveals. Then, one by one, the threads are woven together into a tapestry of grief and indifferenc ... Kheir’s masterful storytelling not only encourages, but almost necessitates, rereading. Seif’s journey takes him around Egypt, but his sorrows are not so easy to leave behind. He keeps his innermost thoughts to himself, hiding his weaknesses. And yet, even if Seif were to share his troubles, those around him prove just as vulnerable as he. The closer he gets to the truth of things, the more it becomes apparent that there is no truth, and that there is no one to prevent him from slipping further into unreality.