14 - 20 October 1999
Issue No. 451
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
The long journey
A Border Passage: From Cairo to America -- A Woman's Journey, Leila Ahmed, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. pp307
Tales of the desert fox
The Armies of Rommel, George Forty, London: Arms and Armour, 1999. pp254
A peace with no winners
Ya Salam (Peace!), Nagwa Barakat, Beirut: Dar Al-Adab, 1999. pp190
Rural migrant workers in Egypt
Rural Labor Movements in Egypt, 1961-1992, James Toth, Cairo: AUC Press, 1999. pp246
Secret and moral histories
Al-Qame' fil-Khitab Al-Rowa'i Al-Arabi (Repression in the Discourse of the Arabic Novel), Abdel-Rahman Abu Ouf. Cairo: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 1999. pp263
New guide for the virtual traveller
The Splendours of Archaeology, ed. Fabio Bourbon, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1999. pp352
When the sea changed its colour
Youghiyar Alouanah Al-Bahr ( The sea changes its colours), Nazik Al-Malaika, Cairo: Afaq Al-Kitaba (Writing Horizons) series of the Cultural Palaces Organisation, 1999. pp211
Next week, the Supreme Council for Culture will hold an international symposium to mark the passing of a century since the publication of Qasim Amin's The Liberation of Women. Here, Al-Ahram Weekly remembers Mai Ziyada, one of the most remarkable advocates of women's liberation in the Arab world
The mirror of Mai
Bahithat Al-Badia and Aisha Al-Taymouriya, Al-Anissa Mai (Mai Ziyada), edited and introduced by Safynaz Kazem, Cairo: Al-Hilal, 1999. pp372
Introducing Miss Mai
By Safynaz Kazem
At a glance
By Mahmoud El-Wardani
Magazines and Periodicals:
* Alif : Journal of Comparative Poetics, No. 19, Cairo: The American University in Cairo, 1999
* Dafatir Thaqafiya (Cultural Notebooks), No. 22, Ramallah: The Palestinian Ministry of Culture, August 1999
* Nizwa , No. 19, Oman: Oman Institution for Journalism, News, Publication and Advertising, Summer 1999
* Fusul (Seasons), quarterly issued by the General Egyptian Book Organisation
* Al-Romouz Al-Tashkiliya fil Sehr Al-Sha'bi (Plastic Symbols in Popular Magic), Soliman Mahmoud Hassan, Cairo: General Organisation for Cultural Palaces, 1999. pp.231
* Islam in the Balkans , H. T. Norris, trans. Abdel-Wahab Aloub, ed. Mohamed Khalifa Hassan, Cairo: Supreme Council for Culture, 1999. pp299
* Leonardo, Edmundo Solmi, trans. Taha Fawzi, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organisation, 1999. pp223
* St Mark and the Foundation of the Alexandrian Church, Samir Fawzi Girgis, trans. Nassim Megali, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organisation, 1999. pp159.
To see other book supplements go to the ARCHIVES index.
Illustrations courtesy of International Commitee of the Red Cross
"Folk drawings and tales", Cairo, 1996
Introducing Miss MaiBy Safynaz Kazem
A sense of gratitude overtakes me as I find myself writing an introduction to two of Miss Mai's most important works -- a total of more than 16 books. These, moreover, demonstrate her achievement as a trailblazer on the path of the modern biography, one who employs both the mind and the heart, combining objectivity and intimacy in a strikingly level-headed balancing act...
It is hoped that the new edition will enable the present reader, who will have had few if any encounters with this extraordinary pioneer, to perceive for himself her cultural and intellectual worth as a poet, rhetorician and a fundamental player in the modern intellectual renaissance. Mai was not only a triumphant practitioner of the art of essay-writing, but also a formidable researcher and an outstanding literary figure among both the male and female writers of her time.
Marie Elias Ziyada was born in Nazareth, Palestine on 11 February 1886, and died in Cairo on 19 October 1941, where she was buried in the Maronite Cemetery of Misr Al-Qadima... Before settling in Cairo in 1908, her father, Elias Ziyada, had migrated to Palestine from his native Lebanese village, Shatoul, where he eventually married a well-educated Palestinian, Nozha Mu'ammer. At the turn of the century, Egypt drew in intellectuals from all over the Arab world, who came with their cultural, literary and journalistic projects, seeking the open and tolerant environment that Egypt alone provided, and actively contributing to the intellectual national renaissance it led.
An unknown teacher at the start, Ziyada became, through his stay in Egypt, the owner of a successful newspaper, Al-Mahrousa. (Initially founded by Selim Al-Naqqash and Adib Ishaq, the newspaper passed into the hands of Idris Ragheb Pasha, who in turn made Elias Ziyada its proprietor, partly because Mai's job as the two Ragheb daughters' private French tutor had fostered closer ties between the two families.) The newspaper allowed the Ziyada family to forge wide-ranging relations with the Cairene intellectual milieu, and to improve their financial prospects. It was only natural that the bright young woman of the family should start publishing the poetry she was writing in French under a pen name, Isis Copia. Later, when she began to write in Arabic, she settled on the pen name by which she would henceforth be known, composed of the first and last letters of her Christian name [in Arabic], and preceded by the appellation "Miss"...
During her years at the Egyptian University (1911-1914), Mai studied Islamic philosophy and Arabic under a number of Azharite sheikhs. But it was Ahmed Lutfi El-Sayed (1872-1936) who led her through the intricate labyrinths of Arabic language and calligraphy. At this time, she also read the Qur'an and became well versed in Arabic rhetoric. Though she continued to write occasionally in French, these activities were to effect the switch from French to Arabic in her major works...
Among her literary activities, her Tuesday literary salon takes pride of place, so much so that its fame has outshone the more important aspects of her achievement. It remained active for approximately 20 years (1911-1931), during which time Mai's house, where it was held, was the pole to which the greatest writers and intellectuals of the age were drawn. Her copious letters to many of her writer friends and acquaintances became equally famous, and her extended pen friendship with the writer Jubran Khalil Jubran [author of The Prophet] gave rise to speculation that a love affair had blossomed. Her letters to Abbas Mahmoud El-Aqqad were also much discussed... Commentators, indeed, have often over-analysed Mai's letters, reaching unjustified conclusions -- the kind of imagined surmise that leads to lying, false testimony and injustice.
For we understand Mai only when we realise that poetry was the first literary genre she practised, and that it was poetry which established the original and fundamental traits she was never to abandon: romanticism, idealism, a profound moral sense, and a personal style that intentionally breaks down the barrier between reader and writer, with a passing humorous remark, an irony or witticism to enliven and add a sense of familiarity to a serious discourse.
Mai may well be considered a pioneer of the prose poem, even though she did not split her paragraphs into lines of poetry or write in a poetic format as such. Her book, Dhulumat wa Ashi'a (Darkness and Rays), published by Al-Hilal in 1933, bears testimony to her skill in poetic composition. Indeed, in a late record she compiled of her writings, she referred to this collection as a series of "poems in prose". Poetry was undoubtedly the genre she favoured above all others, and the one that most accurately constitutes her literary identity. She lived her entire life with a poet's emotions and mindset. She loved, made friends and lost them to the denotations and rhythms of poetry; this is why it is not easy, for many, to understand her or relate to the way she communicated with any rightness or precision.
In these two books, the reader will find that Mai's laments are as much for herself as for the two literary figures she tackles, not because of their common womanhood, but through literary identification based on their poetic identity... This is how Malak and Aisha lived and suffered; so, word for word, did Mai share their experience of that great national and human pain.
Extracted from the Introduction