The Men Who Swallowed the Sun

Hamdi Abu Golayyel
Translated by Humphrey Davies


Joint winner of the 2022 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

This gritty tale of two men’s ill-conceived quest for a better life via the deserts of the Middle East and the cities of Europe is pure storytelling

Two Bedouin men from Egypt’s Western Desert seek to escape poverty through different routes. One—the intellectual, terminally self-doubting, and avowedly autobiographical Hamdi—gets no further than southern Libya’s fly-blown oasis of Sabha, while his cousin—the dashing, irrepressible Phantom Raider—makes it to the fleshpots of Milan.

The backdrop of this darkly comic and unsentimental story of illegal immigration is a brutal Europe and Muammar Gaddafi’s rickety, rhetoric-propped Great State of the Masses, where “the Leader” fantasizes of welding Libyan and Egyptian Bedouin into a new self-serving political force, the Saad-Shin.

Compelling and visceral, with a seductive, muscular irony, The Men Who Swallowed the Sun is an unforgettable novel of two men and their fellow migrants and the extreme marginalization that drives them.


"Stealing, drug-dealing, and the epic of Egyptian migration . . . A funny, furious, breathless tale." —BULAQ

“Two Bedouin men seek better lives as illegal immigrants in Libya and Italy.” —The New York Times

"This is a pacy, clever, enjoyable book, rich in storytelling and adroitly threaded with social commentary."—The Irish Times


"Abu Golayyel represents a unique experience in Arab literature, an experience inspired by the spirit of the desert and which presents Arab Bedouin life in an atypical manner. His work makes the reader cling to his or her Arab heritage and refuse to abandon it to modernity or Salafism."—The Arab Weekly

"A great read"—Mona Zaki, Banipal on 'Thieves in Retirement'

"Masterful"—Library Journal on 'Thieves in Retirement'

"A sophisticated storytelling experiment. . . and a guarded but deeply felt celebration of writing"—The National on 'A Dog with No Tail'

“A clever and complex meditation . . . full of swift sarcasm . . . an exploration of Abu Golayyel’s Bedouin identity”—Ursula Lindsey, Egypt Independent on 'A Dog with No Tail'

“A darkly funny social satire”—Bidoun on 'A Dog with No Tail'



Hamdi Abu Golayyel

Hamdi Abu Golayyel, born in Fayoum, Egypt, in 1967, is a writer and a journalist. He is the author of numerous short story collections and novels, including Thieves in Retirement and A Dog with No Tail, which was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2008. He is editor-in-chief of the Popular Studies series, which specializes in folklore research, and writes for Arabic news outlets, such as al-Ittihad and al-Safir.

Humphrey Davies (1947–2021) translated some thirty book-length works from Arabic, including The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany, and was a two-time winner of the Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.

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  • January 3rd 2022
  • $18.95 / £11.99 / LE250
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781649030948

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