When Ibrahim Essa completed The Assassination of the Big Man in 1999, no-one wanted to publish it. As far as the Egyptian media was concerned, Essa was persona non grata: he wasn’t allowed to write, and the State had closed Al-Dustour, the newspaper of which he was Editor-in-chief, and forbidden him from any kind of publishing. Essa didn’t care. He printed his novel from his own pocket, making an agreement with a company to distribute it.
Essa waited a week, then another, but the novel was not distributed, and it couldn’t be found anywhere. He found out that State Security officials had visited the distribution company, and had seized his book. So he asked for a copy of the seizure mandate. He was told that this sort of documentation didn’t exist… The novel had been forbidden, seized: and that was that.
So he asked the distributor to send back the 3,000 copies of the novel that had been printed so that he could distribute them himself. He was told, however, that not a single copy of the novel was left. Forty-eight hours later, the director of the distribution company asked him to accept the proceeds from the sales of his novel.
It turned out that the distributor was determined to peddle the story that The Assassination of the Big Man had supposedly ‘sold out’ (that it vanished entirely, without trace) in just three hours, which is why Essa considers this his bestselling book!