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Pauls Toutonghi: Into Egypt

Pete Springer/OPB

The Portland writer Pauls Toutonghi jumps right into the kitchen in the first chapter of his new novel Evel Knievel Days:

Egyptian cooking is folk magic. Not magic in the sense of dematerializing doves or sawing beautiful ladies in half. But magic in the deeper sense of the thing—in the raw joy of what magic once was, hundreds of years ago, thousands of years ago: a surprise, a shock, an astonishment. A lesson about the invisible. A lesson about belief.

And as the beginning promises, there is plenty of metaphorical magic in the book. It centers on Khosi Saqr, a young man born in Butte to a anxious white mother and a deadbeat Egyptian father. Khosi has problems of his own, including an unrequited love for a childhood friend and a serious case of OCD. (In case you’re wondering, the title of the novel comes from a real event: the yearly celebration of Butte, Montana’s favorite daredevil son.)

Toutonghi takes us from Butte’s high country to Cairo’s teeming streets, a trip not unlike one he recently took himself.

Soon after the recent revolution, Toutonghi and his own Egyptian-born father traveled to Cairo. It was the first time his father had been back in 65 years.

Toutonghi will join us to talk about both trips, Evel Knievel, and the wonders of mulukhiyya.

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