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Engrossing, lushly and gorgeously written saga of an Italian Jewish family set amidst the turbulence of 1950s Cairo, a glorious place and time and centre of a whirlwind of energy.


“An extraordinary book about a rich Jewish family who fled from Egypt. La casa sul Nilo is Lessico famigliare by Natalia Ginzburg with a more daring and original vein” – André Aciman.


Only the ones who lived in Cairo before the Egyptian diaspora know what kind of Eldorado that city was. Denise Pardo does. She was born there, between the desert and the Nile’s fresh waters, in the immense and dusty capital city, constantly illuminated by a tireless sun, home to a thousand languages and a diverse, multinational society. Her family, a family of Sephardic Jews of Italian origin, arrived in Cairo in the midst of Europe’s troublesome vicissitudes during the first half of the twentieth century. Like many others, they found their promised land. A fascinating,cosmopolitan enclave, full of style and culture, where even in uptown, luxury could not tame the noise and the energy of a place unique in the world. “In Cairo, we lived like this” Denise remembers “between drama and comedy, comfort and atrocity, injustice and irony. We were savvy, a little profane, blasé”.Denise and her family would never have imagined they would have to escape from that world. At least until Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power after overthrowing the monarchy in 1952, changing the rules of civil coexistence in a few years. Thus, everything, at first imperceptibly, and then with increasingly greater evidence, becomes gloomy and insidious as religious intolerance becomes dogma. So Denise fled with her family to Rome in 1961. They found themselves in Italy, the country of their documents but not their hearts: a strange land where there is only one religion, one language, and seemingly only one way to see things. “We didn’t fit anywhere, we didn’t belong to anything because in Italy everything was delineated, circumscribed, closed, and overflowing while we were used to the fluidity of combination and transversality”. Will it ever be a homeland for those who have set up their roots not in a country but in the world?Written with uncommon elegance and poise, La casa sul Nilo is a moving, sweeping and captivating family saga that tells about a lost time, identity, and sense of belonging. In retracing the story of her family and its interesting, flawed-but-likable members, Denise Pardo truly retraces a time, a fascinating, multi-faced, and full of stimuli period in history as perhaps it will never exist again, but will be eternal in memory and literature.

Denise Pardo was born in Cairo in 1954. She lives in Italy since 1961 where she works as a journalist. La casa sul Nilo is her first novel.