Naguib Mahfouz is the only Arab writer to win a Nobel Prize for literature. He is considered to be one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature to work on the concept of existentialism. He was born in a conservative religious family on Dec 11th, 1911 in Gamaleyya quarters of Cairo and died on Aug 3rd, 2006. His writing career span is 70 years. During this long illustrious career, he published 34 novels, over 350 short stories, five plays and dozens of movie scripts. His childhood visits to museums made history a major part of his theme in his books. He graduated as a philosopher in 1934. A year later, he launched his writing career and worked as a journalist at El-Risala and also wrote for El Hilal and Al-Haram. Salama Moussa, an intellectual, had a big influence on his thoughts on science and socialism.
Naguib Mahfouz’s supremacy and excellence landed him the Noble Prize in literature in 1988. The art of novel writing and short stories gave him international recognition. His works highlighted the fundamental things in life. For example, nature of time and love, society and norms, knowledge and faith are written and expressed to prick our thoughts and consciousness on an unusual scale.
The Cairo Trilogy is supposed to be his best work depicting the lives of three generations of different families in Cairo from World War 1 to 1952 military coup of Egypt. His other works include Tharthara Fawq Al Nil (Chatter on the Nile-1966); Later a film was made based on this book criticizing the decay of Egyptian society under the President Nasser. The Children of Gebelawi (Children of our Alley-1959) is also one of his great works. It was banned in Egypt for its bold and controversial views and thoughts on blasphemy in portraying of God and the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The thief and the Dogs-(1961) is another popular book of a Marxist thief out of prison to seek revenge. Naguib in his writing has politics as his focal point and his books on existentialism talk about mankind drifting away from God.
Tawfiq Al Hakim
Tawfiq Al Hakim was the founder and pioneer of Arabic novel and drama and a leading personality in modern Arabic Literature. He was born in Alexandria on Oct 9th, 1888 and died on July 26th, 1987. His family was rich. He did law but followed his passion of writing. He wrote to fame with his work Ahl a Kahf (the People of the Cave-1933). It was a study of the human struggle based on the story of Seven Sleepers. He was respected and loved for his contribution to Arabic Literature through his drama, his prose was intermixed with colloquial Arabic.
Yawmiyat naib fi al-aryafa (the Maze of Justice 1957) is of high quality in pun and satire on Egyptian officialdom. El Aydi El, Namah (soft Hands) introduced him as a playwright to talk of contemporary interests. He wrote over 400 plays. He is recognized as a pioneer in modern Arabic Literature. His works are a masterpiece in style which combines symbolism, reality, and imagination. His selection of setting dialogue and narration are very highly appreciated. He was never afraid to experiment with different levels of dramatic language.
By birth, Yusus Idris was an Egyptian (born May 1927) and like many progressive and revolutionaries breathed his last in Europe. He was a playwright and novelist. His stories pivoted around ordinary villagers and were very close to reality. He reached fame by breaking away from traditional ways of writing with his unique style of combining colloquial dialect with conventional Arabic literature. Politically, he was a leftist and a strong supporter of President Nasser but later got disenchanted and distanced himself from President Nasser and got imprisoned for opposing the President.
He was a practicing doctor when he took to writing. Arkhas Layali (the Cheapest Night) was his first collection of stories that was published and sold in 1954. Further volumes followed in three years time in which A-Laysa Kadhalik (isn’t that so) was very popular. His style and expression changed in the sixties. He created a unique Egyptian dramatic form, mixing colloquial language with conventional classical. He wrote plays “Al Lahzat al Haraiya (the Critical Moment), Al-Farafir (the Farfoors or the Flip Flop) and Al-Mukhatatin (the Striped Ones).
Ihsan Abdul Qudous
Ihsan Abdulm Quddous was born on Jan. 11 1919 and died on Jan. 12 1990. He was an Egyptian writer, novelist and journalist. He started writing short stories and classical poems at a very tender age of 11. He graduated from law school and in his trainee period he became an editor of a weekly magazine, “Rose al Yousaf,” run by his mother. He quit his law career. He gained fame as a journalist. He joined as an editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar newspaper. He was imprisoned for opposing the government and exposing the government’s role in providing the troops with defective arms in the Palestinian War. His second jail term was also for exposing the government’s machinations through his article, “al Jamiyya al Sir- Riyya-al-Latitahtum Misr.”
A conservative, yet he focused on the misery and sacrifice of the Egyptian women. He wrote more than 60 novels and collection of short stories. He tried to reform the Egyptian society through his writings. Many of his novels were dramatized, used as radio series scripts, television mini- series adaptations and film adaptations. His fame crossed International borders and his works were translated in several foreign languages, like English, German, French, Ukraine and Chinese.
He was honored with many awards. He received the “Order of Merit” from President Nasser and after his death; he was honored with Order of the Republic of the First Class. His most famous works include “My Blood, My Tears, My Smile”, which got him the first award for novel writing. Two years later, he received the best screenplay award for his novel, “The Bullet is still in my Pocket”.