10 - 16 June 1999
Issue No. 433
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Two Moroccan writers set out from Fez and arrived in Paris. But they took two different paths, and speak two different languages
Le Maroc explained
L'Auberge des pauvres, (The Inn of the Poor), Tahar Ben Jelloun, Auberge des pauvres, 1999. pp294
A summer to be reckoned with
Mithl Seif lan Yatakarar: Mahkiyyat (Like a Summer Never to be Repeated: Narratives), Mohamed Berrada, Casablanca: Dar Al-Fenac, 1999. pp235
Better than more
Al-Tanwir Al-Za'if (False Enlightenment), Galal Amin, Cairo: Iqraa' series, Dar Al-Maaref, February 1999. pp151
The canary sings to himself
Dhalik Al-Janib Al-Akhar (That Other Side), Hassan Soliman, Cairo: General Organisation for Culture Palaces, Aswat Adabiya Series, May 1999. pp195
How very high society
The Egyptian Upper Class Between Revolutions: 1919-1952, Magda Baraka, St Antony's Middle East Monographs Series, Ithaca Press, 1998. pp328
A movable feast
The Cambridge History of Egypt (2 Vols.), Vol.1 , edited by Carl F. Petry, Cambridge University Press, 1998. pp645
Terms of conversion
Islam in Britain: 1558-1685, Nabil Matar, Cambridge University Press. 1998. pp297
The movement of the waters
As he approaches his eighth decade, José Sarney can look back on a varied and distinguished career. He is best known outside his native Brazil as the first president to lead the country following the overthrow of the military junta in 1985. A lawyer by training, his true vocation however is literature. Unlike those politicians who turn to writing late in life as a distraction or a recreation, Sarney has been making stories since his earliest years. With his novel, O Dono do Mar (The Master of the Sea), his fame as an artist seems set to spread beyond Latin America. A best-seller in the original Portuguese, the work has now been translated into Arabic. Injy El-Kashef spoke to the author while he was in Cairo to launch the book, which she reviews here
God is here, and the devil with him
Sayed Al-Bihar (O Dono do Mar, The Master of the Sea), José Sarney, Beirut: Dar Al-Farabi, 1999, pp323
At a glance:
Illustrations courtesy of International Commitee of the Red Cross
"Folk drawings and tales", Cairo, 1996
At a glanceReviewed by Mahmoud El-Wardani
* Manamat Am Ahmed Assamak (Am Ahmed the Fisherman's Dreams), Khairi Shalabi, Cairo: Al-Hilal, pp179
The dreams of the realistically portrayed protagonist are told and analysed, and their fulfilment is measured against reality, to form the central thrust of Shalabi's latest novel. A prolific writer of short stories, poetry, novels, criticism and travelogues, Shalabi has here to a great extent managed to overcome the problem of wordiness from which his earlier work suffered.
* Al-Yahoud fi Misr Al-Mamloukiya (Jews in Mameluke Egypt), Mahasin Mohamed El-Waqqad, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organisation, 1999, pp471
El-Waqqad's historical study of the social, economic and political position of the Jews in Mameluke Egypt is based, among other sources, on the Geneiza documents. The author examines the relation between Egypt's Jews and the ruling class, the positions they occupied in the government, the titles conferred upon them by the state, and so on. He also devotes chapters to the professions in which Egyptian Jews were prominent, such as medicine, administration and finance.
* Shahadati lil-Agyal (My Testimony to the Coming Generations), Helmi El-Said, Cairo: Dar Al-Mostaqbal, pp471
Helmi El-Said was a member of the Free Officers led by future President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and subsequently occupied a number of important posts in the state apparatus. Perhaps the most important part of his memoirs is that dealing with the period that began in May 1971 when he resigned from his post as minister of electricity along with many other officials. Disagreeing with many of Sadat's policies, the group came to be known in the media as marakiz al-quwa (centres of power). They were to pay the price for their stand in prison. Although this is El-Said's first book, it is a good read, mainly because the style is straightforward and the narrative honest, sticking to those events that El-Said himself experienced at first hand.
* Hatha Al-Sabbah Al-Gamil (This Beautiful Morning), Mohamed Abul-Ma'ati Abul-Naga, Cairo: General Organisation for Cultural Palaces, 1999, pp122
Abul-Ma'ati Abul-Naga is one of the many short story writers of the present generation who have sought to shake off the overpowering influence cast of the Egyptian short story writer par excellence, Youssef Idris. In addition to many collections, Abul-Naga has published a novel, Al-Awda min Al-Manfa (The Return from Exile), which has acquired a certain degree of fame, and deals with the life of Abdallah Al-Nadim, the poet of the Urabi Revolution. This, his latest collection, appears after a long period of silence. It is a serious work, and one which would pass the strictest classical requirements of narrative structure and mastery of language. Certainly, in this collection of seven short stories, Abul-Naga has gone beyond the fashionable "experimentation for experimentation's sake" that has come to plague much of Egypt's current literary production.
* Khajal Al-Yaquot (The Shyness of Rubies), Amal Moussa, Cairo: Sharquiat, 1999, pp108
Amal Moussa is a young Tunisian poet who writes poetry in prose, the most popular genre among young writers at this time. Her first collection of poems, Untha Al-Maa (Water Woman), was published in Tunisia a few years ago; for this, her second collection, she has chosen an Egyptian publisher. The poems comprising the collection are grouped under two titles: Min Daftar Tifla Ashiqa (From the Notebook of a Child in Love) and Ahwal Al-Khaliqa (States of Creation). In both, the writer strives to invent, or discover, new modes of expression.
* Al-Hilal, Cairo: Dar Al-Hilal, June 1999
Established in 1892, this monthly review remains not only the oldest Egyptian cultural magazine, but also one of the Arab world's most well-respected literary periodicals. It has published in its pages almost every name of consequence in the fields of fiction, poetry and non-fiction throughout the 20th century. This month, the regular features live up to their reputation of being up-to-date and in-depth. An accurate transcription of a debate with French writer Jean Lacouture, who spent some time in Egypt last month, occupies the Al-Hilal Seminar section. The seminar was attended by, among others, writers Kamel Zoheiri and Mohamed Oda and film critic Mustafa Darwish. In the recently established Takwin (Genesis) column, literature professor Abdel-Wahab El-Messiri, author of the phenomenal Encyclopedia of Jews and Judaism, discusses his formative years, while writer Safinaz Kazim gives an interesting overview of the beautifully poignant lyrical poetry of the Lebanese Cairo-resident and pioneer of women's liberation, May Ziyada.
* Complete Poetry, Mohamed Al-Qeissi, Beirut: Arab Institution for Studies and Publishing, 1999.
These three volumes, which bring together 20 collections of poetry, are the fruit of Al-Qeissi's 30-year journey with poetry. In his introduction, the author raises the overwhelming historical question which inevitably faces all serious writers, namely, Why do I write? The attempt to answer this question, however, gives rise here to a plethora of other, intimately related questions: Do I write to convince myself that life is worth living? Does writing make me feel closer to my dream, to my mother, to Palestine? Or am I merely playing memory games?
* Sourat Al-Yahoud fi Al-Adab Al-Injelizi (The Image of Jews in English Literature), Ramsis Awad, Cairo: Dar Al-Hilal, 1999, pp216
Ramsis Awad, professor of English literature, is a renowned and prolific author. Over the 40 years of his career as an academic and a writer, he has produced dozens of studies and translations. In this, his latest essay, he examines the image of the Jew in English literature, in relation to a strong tradition of anti-Semitism, from Shakespeare till the 18th century. The book includes a chapter focusing on the major dramatists of the Elizabethan period, and a chapter on English Jewish dramatists.
* Mawsouat Al-Ghina' Al-Masri fi Al-Qarn Al-'ishrin (Encyclopedia of Egyptian Song in the 20th Century), Mohamed Qabil, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organisation, pp343
In the introduction to his Encyclopedia of Egyptian Song, Qabil discusses how the history and development of the genre -- from the muwashah to the dore, and from the dramatic song to the national and political song -- was inevitably influenced by Egyptian history in its widest sense. Spanning the period from 1890 to 1990, the encyclopedia features entries on all the most important songwriters, musicians and distributors. Although it merely scrapes the surface of its subject, the dearth of material in the field makes this nonetheless a very important addition to the Arabic library.
* Al-Kutub: Wughaat Nazar (Books: Viewpoints), Cairo: Egyptian Company for Arab and International Publications, Issue no. 5, June 1999, pp82
With the fifth issue of this periodical it becomes evident that writer Mohamed Hassanein Heikal's contribution has established itself as the staple of its diet. This month he had no intention of writing, he tells us, but his commitment to publisher Ibrahim El-Mo'alem, editors Gamil Mattar and Salama Ahmed Salama, and graphics designer Helmi El-Touni, "an inescapable quadrilateral", prompted him to publish his most recent travel memoirs. The occasional reference to William J. Bennett's critique of the Clinton years, The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals, gives these entertaining and informative diaries just the slightest hint of the book review. Other highlights include a critical assessment of businessman Osman Ahmed Osman's career by economist Galal Amin, based on Osman's autobiography Safahat min Tagribaty (Pages from my Experience), and a fresh look at singer Umm Kulthoum by Bassaam Hagar, who reviews Selim Turkia's book on the legend's contribution to Egyptian music and society. But it is Kamel Zoheiri's investigation into the life and work of artist Tahiya Halim, taking as its starting point Sobhi El-Sharouni's book Tahiya Halim, Mythical Realism, and illustrated by some beautiful reproductions of Halim's pictures, that constitutes this issue's most agreeable surprise.