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Synopsis

A delightful, deeply funny novel about the triumph of the perfect prankster — an elegant gentleman pickpocket in Cairo.

His eyes “shine with a glimmer of perpetual amusement”; his sartorial taste is impeccable; Ossama is “a thief, not a legitimated thief, such as a minister, banker, or real-estate developer; he is a modest thief.” He knows “that by dressing with the same elegance as the licensed robbers of the people, he could elude the mistrustful gaze of the police,” and so he glides lazily around the cafe´s of Cairo, seeking his prey. His country may be a disaster, but he’s a hedonist convinced that “nothing on this earth is tragic for an intelligent man.”

One fat victim (“everything about him oozed opulence and theft on a grand scale”) is relieved of his crocodile wallet. In it Ossama finds not just a gratifying amount of cash, but also a letter — a letter from the Ministry of Public Works, cutting off its ties to the fat man. A source of rich bribes heretofore, the fat man is now too hot to handle; he’s a fabulously wealthy real-estate developer, lately much in the news because one of his cheap buildings has just collapsed, killing 50 tenants. Ossama “by some divine decree has become the repository of a scandal” of epic proportions. And so he decides he must act. . . .

Among the books to be treasured by the utterly singular Albert Cossery, his last, hilarious novel, The Colors of Infamy, is a particular jewel.

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