Interview with longlisted author Rasha Adly


When did you begin writing The Last Days of the Pasha and where did the inspiration for it come from?

I began writing it roughly in the middle of 2018. I was inspired to write it by a portrait in the Louvre museum of someone called Hasan al-Barbari. His appearance intrigued me and after investigating, I discovered that he was the guard of the giraffe gifted to Charles the Tenth, King of France, by Mohammed Ali Pasha. Hasan al-Barbari worked at the French consulate in Egypt. After this, I found out that the story of the giraffe is a thrilling and important one, but many Egyptians don’t know anything about it, despite the fact that several films outside Egypt have been made about it, and books and academic studies have covered it. However, everything is from a Western point of view, so I wanted to record the story from another angle, while of course basing it on firm factual information. I started doing intense research, since the information I had was meagre. What drew me the most to write the book was that the events take place during the rule of Mohammed Ali Pasha, and for some time I had been wanting to write about the character of the Pasha from a different viewpoint and perspective; and this is what I managed to do in my novel The Last Days of the Pasha.  

Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?

It took about a year and a half to write. I wrote it where I was living at the time, in Cairo.

How have readers and critics received it

The story of the novel and the events which take place are important and exciting, and they are backed up by many historical facts, making readers think and ask important questions, so their reactions to it have been encouraging and inspiring. In one article, a critic used an expression I like to describe it. He said: “it is an encyclopedic novel”. I believe that its nomination for the Prize will increase its chances of having readers and literary critics. 

What is your next project after this novel?

It is a novel whose events take place over a century. Over the course of time, we discover that these events intersect and overlap in a noticeable and bizarre way. Each character is an extension of another in a previous time period, as though life and everything in it repeats itself.