The End of Sleep

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“The End of Sleep” is a hilarious, boisterous, madcap romp through that part of Cairo that tourists don’t get to see, and it’s the best romp I’ve been on in a long, long time.

Rowan Somerville introduces his readers to Fin, an Irish, whiskey-doused journalist who has just been sacked from the staff of a two-bit rag aimed at English speaking expatriates. In desperation he turns to his one time friend Farouk who continues to madden him with his Egyptian view of life and all its happenings.

Is it a book about foreigners trying to or refusing to acclimatise themselves in an alien culture? I don’t really know. Perhaps.

Disaster befalls the pair when Farouk is abducted and Fin gets fed to the crocodiles in the Nile. However he escapes, and hatches the maddest plot to rescue his infuriating friend. The plot involves a search for the perfect kebab, reference to three Russian sisters who share two sets of false teeth between themselves; along the way there is intrigue and subterfuge by means of a phone call from a phone box outside the Iranian Embassy to the American Embassy in the certain hope that the line is tapped; an undercover American thug is persuaded to eat the flesh of a deceased and diseased dog to induce projectile vomiting, and all this to rescue the man who is an unfailing source of irritation and frustration.

Is it a book about friendship? I don’t really know. Perhaps.

Fin is also in search of a story, the most interesting, intriguing and exciting story ever that will revive his fortunes as a journalist, a story that only Farouk knows. The problem, or one of them, is that Farouk’s take on life is not the neat, linear account that Fin needs. Fin wants the storyteller to begin at A and proceed to Z stopping at all the other letters in the correct order. But who says A must be followed by B? Who made up that rule? Farouk has little concept of it and shoots off in all directions at once. Fin is fit to explode.

Will the story Fin is looking for be nothing more that something that once slipped out of a camel’s backside on the wings of a particularly pungent fart? Who knows? Who cares?

Rowan Somerville writes a brilliantly entertaining book and puts into perspective the agony of trying to fathom the ways of another culture. Farouk and Fin have become two of my best friends.

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