Al-Ahram Weekly Online
20 - 26 December 2001
Issue No.565
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Rediscovering Mahfouz

THE BUZZ and hype surrounding Egypt's Nobel laureate on the occasion of his 90th birthday continued this week. Critic Hussein Eid, whose Naguib Mahfouz Riwaya Maghoula wa Tagruba Farida (Naguib Mahfouz an Unknown Novel and a Unique Experience) published by Al-Dar Al-Misriyya Al-Lubnaniyya just hit the newsstands, has uncovered an unpublished novel by Mahfouz. Mahfouz reportedly was unsatisfied with Ma Waraa Al- 'Ishq (Beyond Desire), a 52-chapter novel set, unusually for the writer, in the Upper Egyptian town of Minya, and has refused to allow its publication since he completed it in 1980. Instead, he offered it to director Ali Badrakhan to turn into a film, a project that remains unrealised. It was through Badrakhan that Eid obtained a copy of the novel. Eid's study followed the echoes of Ma Waraa Al-'Ishq in Mahfouz's later writings and his hypothesis is that the novelist reworked the novel as short story, Ahl Al-Hawa.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the publishing house Le Roche is planning to translate Mahfouz's latest collection Dreams of Convalescence with an introduction by Mohamed Salmawy.

Diva's museum

AFTER year's of stalling and postponement Arabic song's diva is finally getting a museum in her name. Mrs Suzanne Mubarak is due to inaugurate the Umm Kulthoum Museum on 27 December. The museum will offer all sorts of information concerning the late singer's life and work. Umm Kulthoum's family has also donated over 120 items of personal belongings, including dresses, shoes, jewellery and her trademark dark glasses, for display at the museum. It will also include an exhibition of rare photographs of the singer as well as important personal documents. The most exciting part of the museum could very well be the listening hall where recordings of all her songs will be available.

The inauguration will begin with an evening of Umm Kulthoum songs at the Manesterlli Palace recalling the singer's memorable Thursday night concerts.

Opera goes south

THE CAIRO Opera House is organising a one day celebration in Minya on 23 December. Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni explained that the day-long event is part of a programme aimed at spreading art and culture in various Egyptian provinces. The Minya event will be held at Minya University's 3,000 capacity Main Hall.

The programme attempts to appeal to a variety of tastes. It is scheduled to begin with a show on 100 year's of Cairo, followed by a symposium by Osama El-Baz, adviser to President Mubarak, on contemporary Arab and international affairs. The Cairo Opera Company will present selections from the operas Aida, La Traviatta, Rigoletto and Carmen. Yehia Ghannam and his band will present a selection of jazz music while Iman Mustafa will sing 60s pop classics. Finally, Inas Abdel- Dayem will present selections on the flute.

Youthful films

A FOUR day Festival of Youth Films was organised last week in Cairo by the Goethe Institute, the Swiss Cultural Centre and the Higher Institute for Cinema. Directed by Eid Abdel-Latif, the festival featured graduation projects of film students from Egypt, German, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia, mostly short feature films and documentaries.

The festival's sole prize went to Osama Attia's graduation project Aswat, a 21-minute feature based on Soliman Fayyad's novel of the same title.

Whitbread shortlist

THE SHORTLIST for the prestigious British book prize, the Whitbread, has been released.

Novelist Ian McEwan, whose hopes have recently been dashed after losing the Booker Prize to Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang, is in the running for this year's Whitbread for best novel with Atonement.

Among the well-known names on the shortlists are Monty Python's Terry Jones, nominated in the children's category for The Lady And The Squire, and poet Wendy Cope, nominated for her collection If I Don't Know. Nominations for debut novels include Burning Worm by Carl Tighe. Anthony Bailey's much-praised imagining of the life of the painter Vermeer, A View of Delft, is tipped for the biography prize, against Geoffrey Wall's life of Flaubert and Diana Souhami's Selkirk's Island, which tells the story of the real Robinson Crusoe

The Whitbread prizes are awarded in six categories: best novel, best first novel, best poetry collection, best biography, best children's book and the book of the year, chosen from all five categories. The prize fund has been increased to 50,000 this year, more than double the Booker. Category winners each get 5,000 and the overall winner 30,000.

The Whitbread Prizes, open only to writers based in the UK and Ireland, will be announced in January.

Critical resurgence

THE GENERAL Egyptian Book Organisation's monthly critical review, Fusoul (Chapters), the publication of which was discontinued some time ago, is due to reappear in January. Under the direction of Hoda Wasfi, a new team of editors are currently in the process of putting together the first issue, which revolves, in accordance with the tradition of Fusoul, around a single topic: rules of the (literary) game. The issue will bring together young and old contributors, incorporating two new departments into the format of the review -- "Two readings of a text" and "Portrait of the issue."

Chahine encore

DIRECTOR Youssef Chahine is preparing a new film script rumoured to be based on his personal relationship vis-à-vis America over 75 years. Controversial as ever, Chahine's latest project is obviously prompted by the post 11-September events and what he deems blatant injustices towards Islam. Chahine has reportedly condemned Western media's indiscriminate use of the term "terrorist", especially in relation to Muslims.

Media and Islam

MINISTERS of Culture from various states of the Islamic world are due to meet in Doha, Qatar from 29 to 31 December. The main topics under discussion relate to the image of Islam in the West and the media's distortion of that image.

Compiled by Amina Elbendary

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