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12 - 18 October 2000
Issue No. 503
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BOOKS: a monthly supplement of Al-Ahram Weekly

At a glance

A shorthand guide to the month compiled by Mahmoud El-Wardani


The boy Pharaoh

Tutankhamun. The Eternal Splendor of the Boy Pharaoh, T G H James, Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2000. pp319

Perhaps the second most important milestone in the history of Egyptology -- after the discovery of the Rosetta stone by the French Expedition -- was Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhmun in 1922. Unlike other royal tombs which were plundered by grave robbers throughout the millennia, this tomb survived intact.

In this new book T G H James gives a description and explanation of the masterpieces recovered from the tomb which are photographed by Araldo de Luca. In his introductory chapter, James outlines the historical and religious contexts during Tutankhmun's reign. Similarly, he analyses the background and research carried out by Carter and Lord Carnarvon that led to the discovery of the tomb in the 20th century. The most striking aspect of this beautiful book is of course the photographs of the magnificent artefacts recovered from the tomb.

Above a photograph of an unfinished head of Nefertiti with details marked out in red and black

Rasa'il Moscow [ Moscow Letters], Madkour Thabit and Galal El-Geme'i eds., Cairo: National Centre for Cinema, 2000, pp254

All the letters collected in this book were posted from Moscow by two Egyptian film-makers, and all were addressed to the same film critic. When Sayed Issa travelled to Moscow to earn a PhD in film in the late 1960s, he began writing letters home to the film critic Samir Farid, a personal friend. And when film-maker Mohamed Kamel El-Qalyoubi subsequently went to Moscow on the same mission, he too wrote to Farid. These letters, therefore, written by two of Egypt's most important film-makers to a well-known film critic, constitute a mine of information and insight, examining not only the art of film in Egypt, but also the disillusion and upheavals of the later 1960s and the country's connections with the late USSR. Madkour Thabit's indispensible introduction to the book illuminates the New Cinema movement in Egypt, providing a backdrop for the book's epistolary drama, and Galal El-Geme'i, as well as annotating the text, interviews El-Qalyoubi on his achievement.

Al-Din wal Sira' Al-Igtima'i fi Misr [Religion and Social Conflict in Egypt], Abdalla Shalabi, Cairo: Al-Ahali, 2000, pp229

The author of this book combines the insight and understanding of an insider with some singularly well-documented and objective analysis, registering, over a period of 15 years (1970-85), the dynamics of Political Islam in Egypt and analysing the rise of religious fundamentalism as a global phenomenon now besetting, in different ways, the USA, Israel, Lebanon and Iran, among other countries. Taking the events of 15 May 1971 as his starting point, the author explains the circumstances under which late President Sadat consolidated power. It was Sadat, the author points out, who released those fundamentalists who were then in political detention, allowing them to practice their activities in public and thus bringing them into conflict with the left-wing groups that were Sadat's main opponents. In his study, the author documents these events, interviews the fundamentalist leaders (frequently in prison) and analyses the framework within which fundamentalism thrives.

 Dor Al-Hamiya Al-Uthmaniya fi Tarikh Misr [The Role of the Ottoman Protectorate in Egyptian History], Afaf Mos'ad El-Abd, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organization (History of the Egyptians series), 2000, pp307

The Ottomans ruled Egypt from 1517, when the Ottoman Sultan Selim defeated first the Mameluke Sultan Al-Ghouri in Damascus and then Sultan Tumanbay, then last of the Mamelukes, in Egypt. Ottoman rule effectively ended, in all but name, with the arrival of the French under Bonaparte in Egypt in 1798. Thus, the Ottomans ruled a wide-ranging Muslim empire for several hundred years, Ottoman protectorates playing a vital part in the history of that time. In this well-researched study, the author relies on official documents and historical texts to elucidate the conditions under which the rulers of the Ottoman protectorate in Egypt could themselves gain influence and power within the larger imperial system, looking particularly at how the local military took control of the country, killing the Ottoman vali (governor), Ibrahim Pasha, in 1609. The story of their sudden rise and equally abrupt fall makes for a stirring historical tale.

Memoires sur l'expedition d'Egypt [Memoirs of the Expedition to Egypt], Joseph-Marie Moiret, Kamilia Sobhi trans., Cairo: Supreme Council for Culture (a National Translation Project publication), 2000, pp98

Here are one French officer's impressions of Egypt, providing a unique insight into the famous French expedition to Egypt in 1798 under Napoleon Bonaparte. Unearthed when the family archives were offered up for sale in Argentina, where the officer's grandchildren had settled, they were bought by a French publishing house, and now they have been made available in a fine Arabic translation by the Supreme Council for Culture's valuable National Translation Project. The French officer participated in every battle, and he later wandered far and wide in Cairo, even beginning a love affair with a Mameluke slavegirl. As the reader will discover from these pages, the expedition was scarcely more enjoyable for the French than it was for the Egyptians, however -- there having been many difficulties for the invading army to overcome. Readers will be transported inside the brutal workings of imperialism by this book, but they will also have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of this seminal event in Franco-Egyptian history.

 Al-Ta'lim wa Sina'at Al-Qahr [Education and the Manufacture of Oppression], Tal'at Abdel-Hamid, Cairo: Mirette, 2000, pp181

This book, part of the author's PhD thesis, discusses the conditions under which individual behaviour submits to social control. Focusing on methods of social control in a number of secondary schools within the Cairo governorate, the author looks at the ways in which such control is reproduced and reinforced through the education system. Female students were less willing to speak to this male researcher about their experience, it seems, and thus the author has concentrated his attention on boys' schools, where students were in general more outspoken. Social control the author identifies with oppression, and though he does not specifically denigrate the need for certain norms of behaviour to be taught and reproduced, his perspective is in large part a critical one.

Al-Sira' Al-Dini Al-Almani Dakhil Al-Gaish Al-Israili [Religious-Secular Conflict within the Israeli Army), Mohamed Abou-Ghodier, Cairo: Cairo University Eastern Studies Centre, 2000, pp167

In his introduction to this book, Professor Mohamed Khalifa Hassan of the Centre of Middle Eastern Studies, Cairo University, points to the range of religious-secular conflict in Israel, where it operates both in civil society and in the ranks of the military. Since the increasingly significant role played by extremist and fundamentalist Jews in the Israeli army will no doubt impinge on the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Professor Hassan underlines the necessity of documenting the history of religious-secular relations in Israel since that state was established in 1948. This task the book accomplishes perfectly, recounting the main developments in the history of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel up until 1995, the year in which a fundamentalist Israeli shot the Israeli prime minister. The book's final, and perhaps also most important chapter concentrates on the ways in which the religious-secular conflict is played out within the army itself -- a fascinating read.

Magazines and Periodicals

Al-Hilal, monthly magazine, October 2000, Cairo: Al-Hilal Publishing House

The latest issue of this prestigious Cairo monthly devotes many pages to the history of the party press in Egypt, though, with the exception of one or two interesting articles, it does not provide a really comprehensive view of the issue. Examples of the better pieces, however, include Mahmoud Khalil on "Progress and the Wager of the Future," Mahmoud El-Maraghi on the "Journalism of Missed Opportunities," Abdel-Aal El-Baqouri on his experience as editor of Al-Ahali, the newspaper of the Tagammu Party, and Gamal Badawi on his experience editing Al-Wafd. Aside from these linked articles, the issue also contains Abdel-Rahman Shaker and Safinaz Kazim on the October War, Hussein Ahmed Amin on freedom of expression, Ibrahim Fathi on the literary representation of student demonstrations and Ibrahim Awadin's response to an article published in a previous issue by Mamdouh Abdel-Razik on his grandfather Sheikh Ali Abdel-Raziq's book, "Islam and the Origins of Government."

Rowaq Arabi, occasional publication, issue no.19, Cairo: Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies

A number of academics and writers have pooled their expertise to produce this issue of this indispensible human-rights magazine. Aside from a special section devoted to the controversy surrounding the publication in Cairo of Syrian novelist Haydar Haydar's A Banquet for Seaweed, to which Ahmed Bahaa Shaaban, Farida El-Naqqash and Tal'at Radwan, among others, have contributed, the magazine has much to offer by way of human-rights related essays, ranging from reviews of episodes in Arab-Islamic history to analysis of current social and political trends. Far from being vapidly polemical, the magazine examines the issues it has chosen to deal with in depth and with competence.

  Al-Osour Al-Jadida, monthly magazine, issue no.13, September 2000, Cairo: Sinai Publishing House

Entitled, "America: the pleasures of despotism," the main section of this issue of this Cairo magazine is devoted to an array of articles, mostly translated from the English, dealing with American intervention in world affairs and touching on issues of globalisation and the New World Order. Elsewhere, the issue offers interesting articles on the imperial use made of Egyptian obelisks to Hiroshima. The highlight of this issue, however, is Tal'at El-Shayib's excellent translation of an essay by Arthur Herman on "the myth of violence and murder from Europe to America," which is a very illuminating read.

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