Nobody has done more for modern Arabic literature in translation than Denys Johnson-Davies, described by the late Edward Said as “the leading Arabic–English translator of our time.” With more than twenty-five volumes of translated Arabic novels, short stories, plays, and poetry to his name, and a career spanning some sixty years, he has brought the works of a host of writers from across the Arab world to an ever-widening English readership. Here he tells the story of a life in translation, and gives intimate glimpses of many of the Arab writers who are becoming increasingly known in the west. In the 1940s, while teaching at Cairo University, he came to know such iconic figures as Yahya Hakki, Tewfik al-Hakim, Yusuf Idris, and of course Naguib Mahfouz. Later when he lived in Beirut, that other great literary center of the Arab world, he spent time with such poets as Tawfic Sayigh, Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, and Boland al-Haydari. He was already a close friend of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra from his college days at Cambridge, and later of another well-known Palestinian writer, Ghassan Kanafani. In the 1960s he started an influential Arabic literary magazine, Aswat, which published the leading avant-garde writers of the time, and in 1967 he put together the first representative volume of short stories from the Arab world. Then he really put Arabic writing on the international literary map with the establishment of the Heinemann Arab Authors series. Since then he has continued to select and translate the best of Arabic fiction, most recently the classic novella by Yahya Hakki, The Lamp of Umm Hashim (AUC Press 2004). He has also translated three books of Islamic Hadith (with Ezzeddin Ibrahim) and other books of Islamic thought, and has written a large number of children’s books of Middle Eastern history and folktales.
Memories in Translation
A Life between the Lines of Arabic Literature
15 March 2006
25 b/w photographs
For sale worldwide
Also available by this author
Modern Writing from the United Arab EmiratesSelected and translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
Here, for the first time, is a volume of short stories from this commercially and culturally vital and vibrant center of the Arab world. Life before oil in this region was harsh, and many of the stories in this collection—by both men and women from all corners of the country—tell of those times and the almost unbelievable changes that have come about in the space of two generations. Some tell of the struggles faced in the early days, while others bring the immediate past and the present together, revealing that the past, with all its difficulties and dangers, nonetheless possesses a certain nostalgia. Contributors: Abdul Hamid Ahmed, Roda al-Baluchi, Hareb al-Dhaheri, Nasser Al-Dhaheri, Maryam Jumaa Faraj, Jumaa al-Fairuz, Nasser Jubran, Saleh Karama, Lamees Faris al-Marzuqi, Mohamed al-Mazroui, Ebtisam Abdullah Al-Mu’alla, Ibrahim Mubarak, Mohamed al-Murr, Sheikha al-Nakhy, Mariam Al Saedi, Omniyat Salem, Salma Matar Seif, Ali Abdul Aziz al-Sharhan, Muhsin Soleiman, ‘A’ishaa al-Za‘aby....read more
1 March 2009
Great Egyptian WritersEdited by Denys Johnson-Davies
The importance of Tawfiq al-Hakim (1898–1987) to the emergence of a modern Arabic literature is second only to that of Naguib Mahfouz. If the latter put the novel among the genres of writing that are an accepted part of literary production in the Arab world today, Tawfiq al-Hakim is recognized as the undisputed creator of a literature of the theater. In this volume, Tawfiq al-Hakim’s fame as a playwright is given prominence. Of the more than seventy plays he wrote, The Sultan’s Dilemma, dealing with a historical subject in an appealingly light-hearted manner, is perhaps the best known; it appears in the extended edition of Norton’s World Masterpieces and was broadcast on the old Home Service of the BBC. The other full-length play included here, The Tree Climber, is one that reveals al-Hakim’s openness to outside influences—in this case, the absurdist mode of writing. Of the two one-act plays in this collection, The Donkey Market shows his deftness at turning a traditional folk tale into a hilarious stage comedy. Tawfiq al-Hakim produced several of the earliest examples of the novel in Arabic; included in this volume is an extract from his best known work in that genre, the delightful Diary of a Country Prosecutor, in which he draws on his own experience as a public prosecutor in the Egyptian countryside. Three of the many short stories he published are also included, as well as an extract from The Prison of Life, an autobiography in which Tawfiq al-Hakim writes with commendable frankness about himself....read more
15 March 2013
Naguib Mahfouz, the first and only writer of Arabic to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature, wrote prolifically from the 1930s until shortly before his death in 2006, in a variety of genres: novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, a regular weekly newspaper column, and in later life his intensely brief and evocative Dreams. His Cairo Trilogy achieved the status of a world classic, and the Swedish Academy of Letters in awarding him the 1988 Nobel prize for literature noted that Mahfouz “through works rich in nuance—now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous—has formed an Arabic narrative art that applies to all mankind.” Here Denys Johnson-Davies, described by Edward Said as “the leading Arabic–English translator of our time,” makes an essential selection of short stories and extracts from novels and other writings, to present a cross-section through time of the very best of the work of Egypt’s Nobel literature laureate....read more
1 May 2016
Coptic Identity and Ayyubid Politics in Egypt, 1218–1250
Kurt J. Werthmuller
Using the life and writings of Cyril III Ibn Laqlaq, 75th patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, along with a variety of Christian and Muslim chroniclers, this study explores the identity and context of the Christian community of Egypt and its relations with the leadership of the Ayyubid dynasty in the early thirteenth century. Kurt Werthmuller introduces new scholarship that illuminates the varied relationships between medieval Christians of Egypt and their Muslim neighbors. Demonstrating that the Coptic community was neither passive nor static, the author discusses the active role played by the Copts in the formation and evolution of their own identity within the wider political and societal context of this period. In particular, he examines the boundaries between Copts and the wider Egyptian society in the Ayyubid period in three “in-between spaces”: patriarchal authority, religious conversion, and monasticism....read more
1 July 2010
8 color illus.
Description of Egypt
Notes and Views in Egypt and Nubia
Edward William Lane Edited and with an introduction Jason Thompson
Notes and Views in Egypt and NubiaEdward William Lane
Edited and with an introduction Jason Thompson
The launching of this hitherto unpublished book by the great nineteenth-century British traveler Edward William Lane (1801–76), a name known to almost everyone in all the many fields of Middle East studies, is a major publishing event. Lane was the author of a number of highly influential works: An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), his translation of The Thousand and One Nights (1839–41), Selections from the Kur-an (1843), and the Arabic–English Lexicon (1863–93). Yet one of his greatest works was never published: after years of labor and despite an enthusiastic reception by the publishing firm of John Murray in 1831, publication of his first book, Description of Egypt, was delayed and eventually dropped, mainly for financial reasons. The manuscript was sold to the British Library by Lane’s widow in 1891, and has only now been salvaged for publication by Dr. Jason Thompson, nearly 170 years after its completion. This enormously important book, which takes the form of a journey through Egypt from north to south, with descriptions of all the ancient monuments and contemporary life that Lane explored along the way, will be of immense interest to both ancient and modern historians of Egypt, and will become an essential companion to his Manners and Customs....read more
1 October 2000
158 b/w illus.
American Travelers on the Nile
Early U.S. Visitors to Egypt, 1774–1839
Early U.S. Visitors to Egypt, 1774–1839Andrew Oliver
The Treaty of Ghent signed in 1814, ending the War of 1812, allowed Americans once again to travel abroad. Medical students went to Paris, artists to Rome, academics to Göttingen, and tourists to all European capitals. More intrepid Americans ventured to Athens, to Constantinople, and even to Egypt. Beginning with two eighteenth-century travelers, this book then turns to the 25-year period after 1815 that saw young men from East Coast cities, among them graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, traveling to the lands of the Bible and of the Greek and Latin authors they had first known as teenagers. Naval officers off ships of the Mediterranean squadron visited Cairo to see the pyramids. Two groups went on business, one importing steam-powered rice and cotton mills from New York, the other exporting giraffes from the Kalahari Desert for wild animal shows in New York. Drawing on unpublished letters and diaries together with previously neglected newspaper accounts, as well as a handful of published accounts, this book offers a new look at the early American experience in Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean world. More than thirty illustrations complement the stories told by the travelers themselves....read more
27 March 2015
34 color illus.
El Alamein and the Struggle for North Africa
International Perspectives from the Twenty-first Century
Edited by Jill Edwards
International Perspectives from the Twenty-first CenturyEdited by Jill Edwards
This new collection of studies presents fresh insights into a war fought over unusually difficult terrain and with exceptional supply demands. From the ongoing Italian geomorphic study of the Alamein arena to individual memories of non-combatant Alexandrians, from the Free French to the seasoned colonial forces of Australia, India, New Zealand, and South Africa, and from vital naval engagements and the siege of Malta to the study of Rommel’s leadership and the Churchill–Montgomery duo, this book presents the reader with a detailed yet broad reassessment of the complexities of the war in North Africa between 1941 and 1943, its technology, philosophy, military doctrine, strategy, tactics, logistics, and the associated local and international politics. Writing from the perspectives of some of the many nations whose armies were involved in the conflict, fifteen historians bring to their work the precision of their national historical archival sources in clear and spritely narratives....read more
15 March 2013
55 b/w illus.