Traces of Enayat

Traces of Enayat
في أثر عنايات الزيات
(Fi athar Inayat al Zayyat)

Written by

(إيمان مرسال)

Published by


An investigation into the life of an Egyptian female writer who committed suicide in 1963

In the early 1990s, Iman Mersal stumbled upon al-Hubb wa-l-samt (Love and Silence), the only novel by Enayat Zayyat published in 1967 and since forgotten. Mersal knew nothing of the author, except that she had died before it was published. Twenty years later, still haunted by the book, she embarked on an investigation that spanned several years, to discover who Enayat Zayyat was and to understand what led this young woman from a bourgeois family to take her own life at the age of 27. Step by step, she accesses layers of truth, always in a fragmented way, sometimes contradictory, composing a puzzle that she knows from the start will remain incomplete. Her quest is both historical and intellectual, poetic and intimate, and also an invitation to today’s Egypt to look at itself in the mirror of its recent past, in the 1950s and 1960s, which are the object of a nostalgic cult that this book, far from nourishing, peels back like an onion and dissects layer by layer.

Approximate number of pages: 240 p.

Foreign rights: contact the author‘s agent


Reasons to publish this book

Enayat Zayyat’s tragic destiny will fascinate anyone interested in women’s writing, Arab women’s quest for freedom, and/or the cultural history of modern Egypt. Herself a leading Egyptian poet and an academic as well, Iman Mersal does not try to bring back her unfortunate predecessor to life as in a conventional biography. Rather, she lets the reader accompany her in her investigation and makes him/her share her doubts and anxieties, her enthusiasm and anger about the status of women and women’s writing and about her own place in a country where she no longer resides permanently.


  • French


    by Richard Jacquemond

    published as

    Sur les traces d’Enayat Zayyat in France in 2021 by Actes Sud / Sindbad
  • English


    by Robin Moger

    published as

    Traces of Enayat in the United Kingdom in 2023 by And Other Stories

Prizes and awards


En enquêtant sur une autrice égyptienne qui s’est donné la mort en 1963, la poétesse Iman Mersal soulève délicatement les voiles de la mémoire et des mythes de l’histoire nationale (in French) by Le Temps, August 2021

Une quête et un récit atypiques, mais aussi une invitation à revisiter la nostalgie égyptienne des années 1950-1960 (in French) by Orient XXI, July 2021

Du Caire à Enayat Zayyat : archéologie d’un rêve brisé (in French) by L’Orient le Jour, June 2021

Ce livre de la poétesse Iman Mersal est un récit étrange et dense, qui suit avec minutie et inventivité la piste d’une romancière oblitérée par l’histoire de la littérature arabe moderne, Enayat Zayyat (in French) by En attendant Nadeau, May 2021

In the footsteps of Enayat Al-Zayyat by Al Ahram, March 2021

Reviewed by Richard Jacquemond