8 - 14 July 1999
Issue No. 437
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
July was always a month rich in revolution. Two recent books shed new light on key actors in the making of modern Egypt
The missing bust
Awraq Youssef Seddiq (The Papers of Youssef Seddiq), ed. Abdel-Azim Ramadan, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organisation, 1999. pp308
The limits of allegiance
Shahadati lil-Ajyal (My Testimony to the Coming Generations), Helmi El-Said, Cairo: Dar Al-Mustaqbal Al-Arabi, 1999. pp271
Playing the British at their own game
Fayed -- The Unauthorised Biography, Tom Bower. Macmillan, 1998. pp496
Discrepancies of doctrine
Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity, Otto F A Meinardus, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1999. pp344 + 24 b/w photographs
From Ottomans to Officers
The Cambridge History of Egypt (2 vols.), volume 2, Modern Egypt from 1517 to the End of the Twentieth Century, ed. M W Daly, Cambridge University Press, 1998. pp464
Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics and Religious Transformation in Egypt, Gregory Starrett, Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1998. pp308
Zaman al-nisaa wal zhakira al-badila (Women's Time and Alternative Memory), eds. Hoda El-Sadda, Somaya Ramadan and Omayma Abu Bakr, Cairo: Dar Al-Kutub, 1998. pp382
The illusion of the journey
Travellers in Egypt, eds. Paul Starkey and Janet Starkey, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 1998. pp318
Soon to appear, Stokely Carmichael's memoirs are themselves a part of history. Al-Ahram Weekly previews the manuscript and talks to the co-author
Rendezvous with history
Michael Thelwell helped Stokely Carmichael write his death-bed memoirs. Visiting Cairo recently, Gamal Nkrumah sounded him out on the political legacy of the Black Power movement
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
* Tahawulat A'isha (A'isha's Transformations), Abdel-Wahab El-Bayyati, Beirut: Dar Al-Kunouz Al-Adabiya, 1999. pp109
Iraqi poet Abdel-Wahab El-Bayyati has written numerous poems about his beloved A'isha, and has even dedicated to her an entire collection, Marathi A'isha (A'isha's Elegies). In this, his most recent book, he tells the story of A'isha -- or rather, of all the A'ishas he has known: the A'isha who was his neighbour when he was a child growing up in an Iraqi village; the A'isha he met in Vienna; the A'ishas he met in Russia, the Baltics, Yugoslavia, Cairo, London, Morocco, Spain and India. In every city he lived in, whether in self-exile or political exile, there was an A'isha -- one who acquired transcendent, symbolic stature: goddess, beloved, homeland, mother -- all synonyms for a woman, at once unattainable and within reach. Not only does this volume tell in prose the story of how El-Bayyati met each A'isha and why he fell in love with them and they with him, it also includes a section which collects together all El-Bayyati's A'isha poems.
* Qissas Bihagm Rahat Al-Yadd (Stories the Size of the Palm of the Hand), Yasunari Kawabata, tr. Kamel Youssef Hussein, Cairo: Dar Sharqiyat, 1999. pp250
Kamel Youssef Hussein has translated numerous Japanese novels and short story collections into Arabic. This, his most recent translation, is a collection of 70 short stories by the 1968 Nobel Prize-winner Yasunari Kawabata. As the title indicates, the stories, chosen from among the 168 tales Kawabata wrote during the 50 years between 1932 and 1972, when he committed suicide, are indeed the size of the palm of the hand: fragile blossoms, tiny birds that do not easily disclose themselves, sudden illuminations that surprise the reader, demanding that the story be read once again. These are meditative works, requiring a contemplative frame of mind, and with each rereading, something new, fresh and astonishing is revealed.
* Al-Wusoul illa'l-Bidaya fi'l-Fann wa fi'l-Haya (Arriving at the Beginning in Art and Life), Adli Rizkallah, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organisation, 1999. pp330
Autobiographies written by artists are rare. After all, their tools of self-expression are the paint brush and colours, not pen and ink. In this book, painter Adli Rizkallah tells the story of his life, his childhood in the small Upper Egyptian village near Assiut where he was born, his emigration to Cairo with his family, his graduation from the Faculty of Fine Arts. He offers an interesting portrait of the 1960s generation of writers and artists, many of whose then-budding members gathered in Riskallah's famous Agouza basement flat. He also recounts his years in Paris and his struggle to achieve recognition there, ending his narrative with his return to Cairo. This is an honest book, which details the author's childhood, youth and adulthood, discussing both successes and failures with the same enthusiasm. As such, it is certainly a welcome addition to the 1960s "dossier", a period in which there has of late been a considerable revival of interest.
* Al-Mantiq Al-Ishraqi 'ind Shihabeddin Al-Sahrawardi (The Illumination of Logic in Shihabeddin Al-Sahrawardi), Mahmoud Mohamed Ali, Cairo: Dar Misr Al-Arabiya, 1999. pp187
Al-Sahrawardi, who was born in the 6th century AH -- a period which boasts numerous Sufi aqtab (spiritual poles) -- occupies an important position in the history of Sufism. The first, introductory, chapter of this book discusses the life of Al-Sahrawardi which ended with his execution on charges of kufr (disbelief) and zandaqa (heresy), while the second provides an overview of his ideas about the relationship between logic and ma'rifa (non-scientific knowledge, to be distinguished from 'ilm). Chapter three discusses Sahrawardi's theory of logic and its relation to Aristotelian logic, while the following chapter is devoted to his critique of the latter. Sahrawardi's view that logic is a ladder leading to mystical illumination was to have a lasting influence on European thought, and his influence on modern logic is discussed in the fifth, and last, chapter of this book.
* Al-Kutub: Wugahit Nazar (Books: Viewpoints), a monthly review, Cairo: Egyptian Company for Arab and International Publications, July 1999
Gradually Wugahit Nazar, while remaining essentially a compendium of book reviews, seems to be extending the scope of its subject matter to include various other articles. This week journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal's contribution concerns Yugoslavia. In one extended piece, Heikal republishes a 1980 interview with Yugoslav president Tito, as well as a series of interviews with British diplomat David Owen, ex-minister of foreign affairs and one of the first UN negotiators to be sent to Yugoslavia at the outset of the crisis. Other highlights include an article by Rushdi Said concerning a crisis of energy resources in Ancient Egypt, and its relevance to industry and everyday life in modern times, as well as an astute review of Joel Beinin's The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry: Culture, Politics and the Formation of a Modern Diaspora, an explanation of how Napoleon employed the arts to gather support for his French Expedition to Egypt, as the beautifully illustrated Bonaparte: La Campagne d'Egypte shows in detail.
* Al-Hilal, a monthly magazine, Cairo: Dar Al-Hilal, July 1999
"Cinema and the creative legend" is the main title chosen for this issue of the prestigious monthly, in which critic Mustafa Darwish discusses Shakespeare and Picasso in reality and in the popular imagination. Sherif Awad, on the other hand, marvels at cinematic portrayals of the figure of Van Gogh -- a man in love with life who nonetheless led a tragic existence, while Ahmed Adel reminisces about the famous Mozart-Saghlieri dilemma. Issam Zakariya, on the other hand, explores Henry Miller's famous affair with Anais Nin, the subject of another successful film, Henry and June. Samir Farid talks about the increasingly prevalent interest in Egyptian singing legend Umm Kulthoum as a film topic. Besides the film section, the issue includes a travel piece by the editor, Mustafa Nabil, taking stock of his latest trip to Damascus. Critic Ibrahim Fathi assesses the Egyptian novel in the last 50 years, while writer Safinaz Kazim discusses the contribution of the late writer and politician Fathi Radwan. Professor Abdel-Wahab Elmessiri, too, resumes his memoirs in the recently established Takwin (Formative Influences).
* Ibdaa' (Creativity), a monthly magazine, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organisation, June 1999
This month Ibdaa' has chosen the title, "The origins of censorship", following the controversy surrounding the banning of a number of important books from the library and bookshop of the American University in Cairo. This is an issue which has solicited considerable controversy and debate, especially when such tall literary shadows as those of Gibran Khalil Gibran, Mohamed Shukri and Maxime Rodinson found themselves unpredictably -- and often preposterously -- implicated. The argument acquires an even more sinister aspect when one remembers that Naguib Mahfouz's famous novel, Awalad Haritna (The Sons of Al-Jabalawi), as well as one of poet Hassan Talib's collections, Ayat Jim (The Jim Verse), are still banned in Egypt. Other highlights of this edition include poems by Fatma Qandil, Mahmoud Nessim and Talib Hashimi, as well as short stories by Khalil Al-Ni'eimi, Reda Al-Bahhat and Nadia Al-Shirbini, while the visual arts section is devoted to Gibran's consistently striking illustrations -- one of the principal reasons his books have been censored -- which in their mystical simplicity are often reminiscent of William Blake.
* Adab wa Naqd (Literature and Criticism), a monthly magazine, Cairo: Progressive Nationalist Unionist Party Publication, June 1999
The editors of this leftist monthly have also been quick to respond to current debates over censorship, printing selections of Gibran Khalil Gibran's well-known landmark, The Prophet. Except for an extensive review taking stock of film-maker Youssef Chahine's latest offering, Al-Akhar (The Other), this issue's critical pages are almost exclusively devoted to poetry, with contributions from a whole array of critics and reviewers, discussing topics that range from the poetry of the downtrodden through recent developments in the works of the celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, to the "internal dynamics" of prose poetry -- a genre which is currently enjoying a great vogue in Egyptian and Arab literary circles. Typically, the literary texts published in this issue are subtly oppositional and technically rule-breaking. Contributors include Mohamed Al-Faqih Saleh and Yasser Abdel-Hafiz, as well as the recently deceased Colloquial Arabic poet Magdi El-Gabri.