Cairo Paris Melbourne is three novels in one. The original Arabic language novel established Elsaoud's literary reputation. Set against the backdrop of Middle Eastern wars from 1967 to 2003, its Dickensian characters and acute social concerns assume new poignancy in light of today's Arab Spring.
Zoheir struggles to escape the poverty of the 'City of the Dead'. Ghosts torment his childhood. Family, friends and villains that populate his world are evoked brilliantly through his young eyes. He learns of love and brutality quickly. Entering adolescence he yearns for another place, where he can find his purpose. He secures a visa to Paris in a comic tour de force, cleverly exposing corruption in Cairo.
In France he is an immigrant worker, travelling with fellow Egyptians and reading Hamlet. He falls for the fascinating and destructive Caroline, holds a forged passport and is soon on the run from drug dealers in the Algerian quarter of Paris. Struggling with the chasm between East and West, fate leads him towards treachery, arrest and, eventually, Melbourne. Living above a café in Fitzroy, Zoheir descends into meaninglessness, yet finally finds an unexpected reason for living, one both redemptive and all consuming. -- [From the back cover]