Egypt Literature

The war of June 1967 also marked a turning point in the country’s cultural life: discouragement led to a re-examination of one’s own history and an estrangement from reality. In fiction the story, with its brevity, has become the most suitable form for the new needs, while the novel loses the primacy it had in previous years. Alongside well-known authors such as Naǧīb Maḥfūẓ (n.1912), ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Šarqāwī (n.1920), Yūsuf Idrīs (n.1927), who totally changed their themes hitherto taken from the social sphere and politician, a new generation of writers is affirmed: Ibrāhīm Aṣlān (b.1939), Yaḥyā al-Ṭāhir ‘Abd Allāh (b.1942), Muḥammad al-Busāṭī (b.1937), Ǧamāl al-Ġīṭānī (b.1945), Aḥmad Hāšim al-Šarīf (b.1940) and Maǧīd al-Ṭubiyyā (b.1938).

On the content level, the attention is generally concentrated on a real world dominated by violence and on a dream world in which events alternate without logic in an attempt to represent the subconscious and its anxieties through symbolic images.

In the seventies the novel once again became the most widespread narrative genre, also because it was considered the most suitable and effective tool for denouncing the corruption and disorder prevailing in the country. In recent years, however, the control of political power over intellectuals becomes increasingly tighter, so that while Yūsuf al-Sibā’ī aligns himself more and more with official positions (so much so that he was killed on February 18, 1978 by two Palestinian extremists), Maḥfūẓ, Yaḥyā al-Ṭāhir, Maǧīd al-Ṭubiyyā, Šarīf Ḥitāta (b.1923), Idwārd al-H̱arrāṭ (b.1926), Fatḥī Ġānim (b.1924) and Badr al-Dīb (b.1926) try to keep their works in the wake of denunciation and protest. At the same time there is a tendency to seek inspiration in one’s own historical and narrative tradition, such as for example. ago Ǧamāl al-Ġīṭānī.

The signing of the Camp David agreements (1978) and the consequent normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel introduces new problems into Egyptian literature. The Israeli presence on the streets of Cairo and the difficult relations with other Arab countries determine in the intellectuals, once again, dissatisfaction and discouragement so that pessimism continues to be the dominant note in the works of both established writers and new recruits, among which we remember ‘Abd al-Ḥakīm Qāsim (b. 1935).

Even the theater is going through a period of crisis determined both by censorship and by the increasing diffusion of television shows; however, theatrical works of various contents continue to be presented: comedies inspired by full faith in the future, farces, representations of a violent and anguished reality, reworking of themes and facts drawn from one’s past.

According to Beautypically, the best known authors are ‘Alī Sālim (b.1936),’ Abd al-Mun’im Sālim, Muṣṭafā Bahǧat Muṣṭafā, Rašād Rušdī (1912-1983). Folk tales are used in the composition of plays by Šawqī ‘Abd al-Ḥakīm and Naǧīb Surūr; the latter is also a poet, like Ṣalāẖ ‘Abd al-Ṣabūr (1931-1981) and’ Abd al-Raḥmān al-Šarqāwī. A. Faraǧ (b.1929), the most fruitful and most loved playwright of this period, uses classical Arabic in the desire that his work be received throughout the Arab world and rejects the increasingly frequent use of colloquial Arabic..

Poetry continues to hold a secondary position with respect to other literary expressions. One group, to which Rāmī (1892-1981) and Sāliḥ Ǧawdat belong, develops social and nationalistic themes permeated by a widespread optimism. Ṣalāḥ ‘Abd al-Ṣabūr and Aḥmad’ Abd al-Mu’ṭī Ḥiǧāzī (b.1935), supporters of a free poetry, represent in their compositions an irrational vision of the world through the exploration of the subconscious and the mystical aspects of human life.

The new generation, on the other hand, rejects the previous Arabic poetry, both classical and modern, in an attempt to construct a new language which in some cases becomes the fundamental element of the composition, while in others, as in Ḥusayn Ḥammūda (b.1955), to research linguistics is accompanied by a certain novelty of content: thus Amal Dunqul (b.1940), Muḥammad Ibrāhīm Abū Šāna (b.1947) and Muḥammad ‘Afīfī Maṭar (b.1935) support introspection, even if they sometimes face history and contemporary societies. Also in this context, a new impetus has taken the question concerning the use of the dialect to express universal themes; in this regard, mention should be made of Fu’ād Ḥaddād, Ṣalāḥ Ǧāhīn and ‘Abd al-Dāym al-Šāḏilī.

Egypt Literature