Yusuf Idris’ novel, “The Sinners”, revolves around the murder investigation of a newborn baby found in an Egyptian farming village. The author not only does a fantastic job leading the reader through the daunting task of finding the unknown mother who committed the crime, but he also weaves a story about Egyptian cotton farming life during the 1950’s, the town’s peoples beliefs about sin and the sinner, and how one tragic event can lead a community to lay aside their differences and come together.
This book is suitable for an Egyptian who has lived the life of a cotton farmer or for a person who has no real idea of Egypt or the many cultures that fill the country. Yusuf Idris paints a portrait for the mind that makes one feel like they are walking through the motions with each character. From the estate’s men, who range from an authority-driven town official to the migrant worker who is breaking his back to take a meager earning home to his family, and the Estate’s women, who range from the pious, sin-fearing, model wife of the chief clerk, to the woman marked by shame for a crime she tries to hide. The author spares no details in describing the differences between the Estate’s peasants and the Gharabwa . The social stigma that plagues the migrant workers and the way the peasants look down upon every detail of their way of life. The stigma of social class exists everywhere – even in a rural, Egyptian setting. Because of the alluring personality types, the never-ending drama of farm life, and the visionary scenarios that Idris so easily describes, the novel has a way of making the reader relate so well to the setting of the story.
In order to begin to understand the perplexity of the crime, and the intense way the characters react to it, the reader would need to understand the devout way of life and opinions of the Estate’s peasants. Idris makes sure to include the reactions of several characters upon discovering the crime, which are all in reaction to the...
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