Yusuf Idris’ novel, “The Sinners”, revolves around the murder investigation of a newborn baby found in an Egyptian farming village. The author not only does a fantastic job leading the reader through the daunting task of finding the unknown mother who committed the crime, but he also weaves a story about Egyptian cotton farming life during the 1950’s, the town’s peoples beliefs about sin and the sinner, and how one tragic event can lead a community to lay aside their differences and come together.
This book is suitable for an Egyptian who has lived the life of a cotton farmer or for a person who has no real idea of Egypt or the many cultures that fill the country. Yusuf Idris paints a portrait for the mind that makes one feel like they are walking through the motions with each character. From the estate’s men, who range from an authority-driven town official to the migrant worker who is breaking his back to take a meager earning home to his family, and the Estate’s women, who range from the pious, sin-fearing, model wife of the chief clerk, to the woman marked by shame for a crime she tries to hide.Order now
The author spares no details in describing the differences between the Estate’s peasants and the Gharabwa . The social stigma that plagues the migrant workers and the way the peasants look down upon every detail of their way of life. The stigma of social class exists everywhere – even in a rural, Egyptian setting. Because of the alluring personality types, the never-ending drama of farm life, and the visionary scenarios that Idris so easily describes, the novel has a way of making the reader relate so well to the setting of the story.
In order to begin to understand the perplexity of the crime, and the intense way the characters react to it, the reader would need to understand the devout way of life and opinions of the Estate’s peasants. Idris makes sure to include the reactions of several characters upon discovering the crime, which are all in reaction to the sin behind the crime. The issue of sin in the Egyptian village is extremely taboo, and even though it is made known that most of the characters have sinned themselves in one way or another.
The sin deals directly with the source of the sin, the sinner, therefore when the baby is found dead, the first issue is that the child must be bastard, and that the mother who killed it must be punished for her SIN (“crime” is synonymous with sin in this time and belief system). The abolition of the sin and the sinner is the driving force behind the never-ending search for the source of the crime, and the sin especially.
The author makes sure to end the novel on a positive note, leaving the reader with a sense of peace and better understanding that even in the strictest of circumstances, compassion is not blind. In the midst of trying to cut off their noses to spite their faces, they hope and pray not to be amongst the culprit; let it dare not be one of them. But when the details of the crime come to light, the author makes sure to show that no matter how against the sin the peasants were, their emotions could not be shielded from the heartbreaking scene of the dying woman who killed her child.
He displays the fact that humans from every walk of life are not immune to empathy, and that in the end, we are all more alike than we are different. In conclusion, “The Sinners” by Yusif Idris is not merely a murder mystery. From page one to the end, the author engages the reader in a tale of life an Egyptian cotton farming community, the beliefs that are the backbone of their existence, and how an unspoken tragedy can set aside unshakable differences, and bring people together when they need each other most.