A shorthand guide to recent publications compiled by Mahmoud El-Wardani
Al-Kotob: Wujhat Nazar, issue no.60, December 2003, Cairo: Egyptian Company for Arab and International Publication
The latest issue of Wujhat Nazar opens with an editorial by the editor-in-chief, Salama Ahmed Salama, discussing American demands for the implementation of democracy, as defined by American practice, particularly in what US President George W Bush has called "rogue" Arab states. Among other politically oriented pieces in the same issue, Asaad Halim translates an article that originally appeared in the New York Review of Books and proposes a single state for both Israelis and Palestinians, while Ahmed Mahmoud translates a London Review of Books article that makes the same proposal. Mahmoud Abdel-Fadil discusses the career of Mahadhir Mohamed, former prime minister of Malaysia, a physician who, according to Abdel-Fadil, "dressed his country's wounds". Elsewhere, Mohamed El-Sammak discusses the West, Islam and the "culture of hatred" between them, and Nabil Aly discusses the economics of knowledge. Reviews include Ibrahim Farghali on Marie-Thérèse Abdel-Messih's new book Al-Tamthil Al-Thaqafi Bayna Al-Mar'i wal-Maktoub (Cultural Representation Between the Visual and the Oral) and Khairi Shalabi on the memoirs of Latin-American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Tiba, occasional magazine, issue no.3, December 2003, Cairo: Centre for New Woman Studies
This issue of the gender-studies monthly focusses on discourses that have contributed to the prevalent images and social roles of women and men. The opening article, by Nola Darwish, for example, outlines relevant elements in the media, education, religion and literature. Subsequent articles deal with specific discourses and their respective perils: Nadia El-Khouli looks at gender discrimination in Arabic and French children's books, for example, while Omayma Abu Bakr examines the connections between the historical subjugation of women and present-day religious fundamentalist discourse. Salwa Mohamed Farag looks at women in popular proverbs and Mona Fouad Attiya at images of women in advertising. In addition, the issue includes readings, reviews and extracts from books on a range of woman-related topics from the classical Arab heritage to biologically based theories of women.
Rhadopis of Nubia, Naguib Mahfouz, trans. Anthony Calderbank, Cairo and New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2003. pp187;
Thebes at War, Naguib Mahfouz, trans. Humphrey Davies, Cairo and New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2003. pp211;
Khufu’s Wisdom, Naguib Mahfouz, trans. Raymond Stock, Cairo and New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2003. pp199
The appearance of three elegant hardback volumes containing Naguib Mahfouz’s three “ancient Egyptian” novels — Rhadobis (Rhadopis of Nubia), Kifah Tiba (Thebes at War) and Abath Al-Aqdar (Khufu’s Wisdom) — marks an exciting development in the history of contemporary Arabic literature in English.
Among the Nobel laureate’s earliest works, these three novels form the basis of a monumental project on Ancient Egypt Mahfouz was later to abandon in favour of social documentation, then epic and, finally, prior to the so called, ongoing “dream period”, a series of intellectual experiments.
Yet despite having a nearly abstract setting, the novels display all of those qualities that were to make Mahfouz’s subsequent books so popular: compelling dialogue, credible three-dimensional characters who have an inner as well as an outer life and a tightly constructed, relevant plot.
For many of Mahfouz’s non-Arabic speaking readers, these three books remain unexplored territory. Now that they are available, however, their importance to understanding Mahfouz’s corpus, no less than their immense appeal in themselves, is something for which readers and scholars of Mahfouz will be grateful to the American University in Cairo Press for many years to come.
Sutour, monthly magazine, issue no.85, December 2003, Cairo: Sutour Publications
Entitled "The Intellectual", the central section of the most recent issue of Sutour includes an article by Karim Abdel-Salam exploring various images of intellectuals, including that of exile and "clown", as well as a translation of an article by Edward Said on the intellectual, and a further article by Hazem Ahmed Hosni on intellectual betrayal. Two articles by Azzazi Ali Azzazi and Akram El-Qassas discuss Egyptian writer Sonallah Ibrahim's recent refusal of an important award for the novel, while an essay by Ahmed Mohamed Saleh looks at intellectuals and the fear of technology. Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid examines links between culture and development, while Ezzat El-Qamhawi argues that individual intellectuals have had habits of mind that far more deserve to be condemned than do any actions on the part of the establishment. The special issue concludes with articles by Samar Shishkely on moral solidarity among world intellectuals and Yehia Wagdi on the intellectual according to civil servants, workers and students.
Fusoul, occasional journal of literary criticism, issue no.62, summer-spring 2003, Cairo: General Organisation for Cultural Palaces
The culture of the image forms the basis for the latest issue of Egypt's thoroughbred periodical of literary criticism and includes the proceedings of a seminar organised by the review, to which Adel El-Siwi, Shakir Abdel-Hamid, Ezzeddin Naguib, Maged Mustafa and Mohamed El-Abd all contributed. Elsewhere in the same issue, Egyptian novelist Edwar El-Kharrat writes on his experiences of the plastic arts, Hassan Soliman provides further time-honoured meditations, Ashraf Mansour discusses the cost that the culture of the image exerts on other forms of expression and Hassan Hanafi describes the dichotomy between the world of things and the world of images. The journal's newly instituted department, "A Text and Two Readings", in this issue features Salma Mubarak and Diaa Hassan on Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine, as well as the latter's comments on the two writers' observations. Other highlights include Ahmed El-Nawi Badry on Ibrahim Al-Kawni, Mahmoud El-Dab' on the "Generation of the Nineties" in Arabic literature and Talaat Radwan on intellectuals Gamaleddin Al-Afghani and Lotfi El-Sayed.
Al-Hilal, monthly magazine, issue no.12, December 2003, Cairo: Dar Al-Hilal
This issue of the prestigious Cairo monthly opens with two studies of Naguib Mahfouz on the occasion of his 92nd birthday: Maher El-Battouti on the secret connection between Mahfouz and Van Gogh and Maher Shafiq Farid on Naguib Mahfouz in Western literary criticism. Elsewhere, Mustafa Soueif uses the recent simultaneous broadcast of a football match on four television channels as the basis for a discussion of quantity vs quality in present-day life, while Galal Amin asks what Washington wants from the Arabs, a question also discussed by Mohamed Youssef Adsi. Wadie Flastin and Sonallah Ibrahim resume their reminiscences in this issue, while Abdel-Moneim El-Geme'i provides a portrait of Egyptian singer Mohamed Abdel-Wahab with reference to his connection to both composer Sayed Darwish and poet Ahmed Shawqi. Mustafa Nabil looks at the roles played by assassins in three contemporary works of fiction. In addition to this medley of articles and reviews, the issue also features a portrait of the late "spontaneous sculptor" Abdel-Samie by his son, also a sculptor, Amr Abdel-Samie.
Amkena, occasional book on the culture of place, issue
no.5, October 2003, Alexandria: Amkena Publications
Two principal themes form the basis of most of the articles in this issue of Amkena: the idea of the hero and the image of the father. The first theme features contributions by Adel Esmat on small-town heroes, by Mohamed Abdel-Salam on "the hero and the kingdom of darkness", by Mohab Nasr on a private experience of heroism and by Rehab Sadek on children's heroes. The second theme features texts by Tawfik El-Hakim, Youssef Abdel-Hamid, Tarek El-Tayeb and others. Highlights of the present issue also include interviews by Alaa Khaled with filmmaker Dawoud Abdel-Sayed and with Sayed El-Dawi, a reciter of the traditional Egyptian oral epic Al-Hilaleyya. There is also a photo essay on Palestine by Randa Shaath. Three writers conclude the issue with articles on their respective family homes: Ibrahim Farghali, Abdel-Aziz El-Seba'i and Salwa Rashad.
Alif, journal of comparative poetics, issue no.23, 2003. Cairo: American University in Cairo, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Literature and the Sacred is the theme of the essays making up the latest issue of this trilingual journal, with a range of writers discussing the connections between the two across a range of historical and geographical contexts. Said Tawfik, for example, discusses the unity and divorce of the beautiful and the sacred in religion and art, while Anwar Mohamed Ibrahim explores the dialectic of faith and denial in Dostoyevsky. The issue demonstrates how widely the topic can be interpreted, including a stimulating contribution on Al-Imam Al-Shafie as an example of the institution of the sacred, a new reading of Naguib Mahfouz's novel Children of Al-Gabalawi, and pieces from Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid and Karen Campbell.
Shakhsiyat Tarikhiya min Suqrat ila Rasputin (Historical Figures from Socrates to Rasputin), Ali Adham, Cairo: General Organisation for Cultural Palaces (Memory of Writing Series), 2003. pp279
The series of publications to which this book belongs aims to republish important books that have been out of print for decades. The present volume, by the late historian and critic Ali Adham, is one such book, and it demonstrates Adham's well-known breadth of knowledge. The book includes comprehensive and contextualised commentaries on 22 historical figures, starting with Socrates and ending with Gandhi, with Cervantes, Rousseau, Napoleon Bonaparte and Lincoln in between. Eminently readable, Adham's text is also remarkably informative, combining the qualities of a thriller with the precision and lucidity of a scholarly work of history.
Uyoun Al-Akhbar (Essential Chronicles), Abu Mohamed Abdallah Ibn Muslim Ibn Qutaiba Al-Dainouri, Cairo: General Organisation for Cultural Palaces (Zakhair Series), 2003. 4 volumes: pp344; 376; 301; 309
The author of this four-volume tome, which contains 10 shorter books on topics including the Sultan, War, Food and Brotherhood, died in the 279th year of the Hijra. His encyclopaedic intention was to gather as much knowledge as he had access to about the topics in question, and he goes about this with vitality, wit and an admirable mastery of literary technique. In the Book of Brotherhood, for example, Ibn Qutaiba discusses not only love and the just distribution of affection, but also the morality of neighbourliness, visiting and hosting, the conventions of mild repudiation and the horrors of unjustified blame, as well as proper gifts, congratulations and condolences. A copy of this book should grace every private library, and one can only be thankful that it is now available at an affordable price.
Khamsoun Aman Ala Wafat Al-Sheikh Abdel-Wahid Yehya (Fifty Years Since the Death of Sheikh Abdel-Wahid Yehya), ed. Sayed Hussein Nasr, Cairo: Dar Idris, 2003. pp144
This is a memorial volume published 50 years after the death of Sheikh Abdel-Wahid Yehya, a prominent French scholar who graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris, converted to Islam, and emigrated to Egypt in 1931, where he spent the last two decades of his life. Sheikh Abdel-Wahid wrote several important books of theology, philosophy and comparative religion, and this book demonstrates his achievements by reproducing some of his articles alongside a biography, a bibliography of his works, and extracts from a work by Sheikh Abdel-Halim Mahmoud on Sheikh Abdel-Wahid. The book also includes an account of the history of the Sufi movement in modern times and the role played in it by Sheikh Abdel-Wahid.
Marfa' Al-Dhakira (Memory Harbour), Ahmed Abu Zeid et al, Kuwait: Ministry of Information (Al-Arabi Book, issue no.54), 2003. pp304
In this year-ending issue of the monthly book published by the well-known Kuwaiti magazine Al-Arabi, the reader encounters as many selections of material previously published in the magazine's autobiographical "Memory Harbour" department as space allows. Typically of the magazine, writers come from all over the Arab world, and their contributions represent a similarly extended range of historical moments. In a brief introduction Al-Arabi's Editor-in-Chief Soliman Al-Askari describes the department in question as "an attempt at resuscitating" the art of confessional writing. From Edwar El-Kharrat on his life-long struggle with literary experimentation and Tharwat Okasha on Nubian artefacts to Abdel-Qader El-Qutt on liberal thought, Tayib Taizini on childhood, Abdel-Hadi Al-Tazi on reading Al-Arabi as a young man in Morocco and Suhail Edris on the defeat of 1948.
Jalal Al-Mulouk: Nusous Habashiya Qadima (The Glory of Kings: Old Ethiopian Texts), trans. Magdi Abdel-Raziq Soliman, Cairo: Supreme Council for Culture, 2003. pp249
The Ethiopians are God's chosen people: this is this book's principal point, and the kings of the title are Ethiopian monarchs, who, according to the myth with which the book starts, are descended from Soloman, son of David and King of Israel, and the Queen of Ethiopia. Translated directly from a German edition of the Ethiopian version of a lost demotic text, this book is a notable contribution that will benefit not only scholars of the history of Ethiopia and the origins of the Ethiopian church, but also anyone with even the vaguest interest in Jewish-Christian relations and the birth of Christianity in this part of the world.
Al-Mas'ala Al-Hamajiya (The Barbarian Issue), Gamil Attiya Ibrahim, Cairo: Miret for Publication and Information, 2003. pp237
This is Gamil Attiya Ibrahim's 12th work of fiction, a novel that tackles the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law head on, taking as its background the peace negotiations over the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina and subsequent world events. The characters move from the world of reality -- the massacres in Kosovo and Palestine and the siege of Iraq -- to a world of imagination and madness, one that enables Ibrahim to explore aspects of the psyche and use literary techniques that have seldom figured in his work. In doing so, Ibrahim manages to create a mosaic of questions that leave the reader on the verge of understanding, which is never quite attained. A resident of Switzerland for many years, Ibrahim was a founding member of the Egyptian literary movement "Gallery 68" in the 1960s. His best-known works include Al-Hidad la Yaliq bil-Asdiqaa (Mourning Does Not Become Our Friends), Al-Nuzoul Ila Al-Bahr (Going Down to the Sea) and the 1952 Trilogy.