Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Obituary: Farouk Shousha (1936-2016) Ailments of beautiful age

Ailments of beautiful age
Ailments of beautiful age

Last Friday, the literary community in Egypt and the Arab world lost Farouk Shousha (17 Feb 1936-14 Oct 2016) – poet, essayist and media figure, perhaps best-known as the guardian of the Arabic language and one of its most ferocious defenders.

For my generation Shousha was a cultural icon. I was born in 1967, the year Shousha started his popular radio program Lughatuna Al-Jamila, “Our Beautiful language”. He became integral component of my generation’s cultural awareness and development. Omsiya Thaqafiya, “A Cultural Evening”, a television programme launched in 1977, which was discontinued only a few years ago, was a must-see show that improved the TV audience’s knowledge of Egyptian and Arab authors. 

In addition to his charismatic presence, Shousha’s deep and resonant reading voice, always full of emotion, was one of his most memorable skills. But whether on the radio or the television, his appearances reflected his conservative character, as a man of principles, born and raised in a village near Damietta. They also mirrored the strength and seriousness of the cultural milieu in the 1960s and 1970s.

In later years, Shousha waged continual campaigns against those intellectuals he felt were the reason behind corruption, cultural and political deterioration in Egypt.

His first collection of poems, Ila Musafira, “To a [Female] Traveller”, was published in 1966. He was to publish another 13 collections, the last of which, Al-Jamila Tanzi ila An-Nahr, or “The beauty goes down to the river”, appeared in 2002.

In 1997, Shosha published a poetic autobiography entitled ‘Adhabat Al-‘Umr Al-Jamil, “Ailments of Beautiful Age”, in which he recounted his life as a child and a teen, moving onto successful poems he wrote and literary debates of the 1950s and the 1990s.

In 2016, Shosha was awarded the State Nile Award, the country’s highest honour.

In 2006, I had the good fortune to meet with Shousha, appropriately at the Arabic Language Association in Zamalek, of which he had just been appointed secretary general. He was incredibly hospitable, generous with time and words. For two hours he spoke with passion about his love of poetry and with admirable humility about his life and work. By the end of the interview, he was feeling unusually proud of my language and heritage. The result of our meeting is reprinted below in full. 

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