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The Luck of the Weissensteiners
Christoph Fischer

Men God Forgot

Men God Forgot - Albert Cossery,  H.E. Men God Forgot, is not the best of Cossery's writing, but it is definitely worth the time. This, rather short, collection of five stories follows Cossery's signature path - it is the voice of the forgotten masses, the voice of misery. As in his other works, Cossery masterfully leads the reader to a window, a window which opens to the forgotten streets, the slums of Cairo, invisible from the European quarters. The time these stories were written has a lot to do with the setting - a divided Egypt where the European city offers all modern conveniences, and the native quarters, where misery prevails. Here, Cossery lends his voice to the masses who spend their days in oppression, hungry, and irrelevant. In the mean time, the European city prospers, meticulously clean and brilliant, and Cossery compares it to "Strange harlot's body". As Cossery compares the city's advancement: "The city chased it without respite. Accursed countryside, which went off to vomit its distress at the edges of the poorer quarters. For there, where the misery lies too thick, the city halted its triumphal march. It only took the good lands. All that made life sweet and comfortable belonged to it. Pure air, drinkable water, electric lights, all belonged to it. It had only scorned a little debris. And in this debris wilted the life of a whole people." His stories are all set in these parts, the outskirts of civilization, the dark outskirts with their traditional ways, devoid of advancement. There, the multitude of people suffers and struggles, while despair thrives. Cossery lends a unique, socially conscious voice to these masses. But his voice is not against advancement, even though he writes: "This is how civilisation makes itself felt, as lights which it scatters around to blind the people." His voice addresses the social injustice in general, it addresses corrupt officials, violent policemen, the disparity between the privileged minority and the rest.
His stories remain relevant today, because much of the world has not changed, because many still suffer from oppression, many still survive in the slums of world-cities. We can find his characters everywhere - the homeless at a subway stop or the single mother on welfare. Be it in the slums of Rio de Janeiro or downtown Chicago, social injustice still thrives, while civilization's lights blind the people.