The author, Sherif Hetata, was first detained after completing his medical studies in the mid-forties and being involved in post-war Egypt's volatile politics. He escaped from prison in 1950 and moved to Paris, where he lived for a year. Returning to Egypt in stealth, he was finally apprehended and sentenced to ten years in prison. Two of them were spent laboring in a stone quarry in iron chains. After his release in 1966, he worked for the United Nations and subsequently the Ministry of Health, where he met and married feminist and writer Nawal El Saadawi.
He quit his work in 1980 to devote his time to writing. The Eye with an Iron Lid, his previous novel, was first published in English in 1982.