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.
Edward William Lane, 1801–1876
The Life of the Pioneering Egyptologist and Orientalist
The Life of the Pioneering Egyptologist and OrientalistJason Thompson
Few Western scholars of the Middle East have exerted such profound influence as Edward William Lane. Lane’s Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), which has never gone out of print, remains as a highly authoritative study of Middle Eastern society. His annotated translation of the Arabian Nights (1839–41) retains a devoted readership. Lane’s recently recovered and published Description of Egypt (2000) shows that he was a pioneering Egyptologist as well as orientalist. The capstone of his career, the definitive Arabic-English Lexicon (1863–93), is an indispensable reference tool. Yet, despite his extraordinary influence, little was known about Lane and virtually nothing about how he did his work. Now, in the first full-length biography, Lane’s life and accomplishments are examined in full, including his crucial years of field work in Egypt, revealing the life of a great Victorian scholar and presenting a fascinating episode in east–west encounter, interaction, and representation....read more
15 May 2010
City of MemoryMichael Haag
In the decades before Nasser’s seizure of power and the Suez crisis, Alexandria was a magnet for the wealthy, the gifted, and the glamorous from around the world. The whole city looked seaward, its port one of the busiest in the Mediterranean, its spirit ecumenical, its life luxuriant and sensual. Alexandria was barely an Egyptian city, and the Egyptians who live there now inhabit the gently crumbling remains of a foreign world, whose palatial villas, Venetian apartments, art-nouveau cafes, Moorish hotels, and cinemas conceived in thirties deco, are haunted by a departed cast. “I lived a great, extravagant, and colorful life in wartime Alexandria,” recalled Lawrence Durrell, whose Alexandria Quartet is one of the greatest protraits of a city in modern literature. Michael Haag, who has lived in Alexandria, and has known Durrell and others who lived there during its cosmopolitan heyday, has retraced their footsteps to present an absorbing account of the places and the people of this most remarkable of cities. ‘’Michael Haag mixes memory and biography, politics and cultural studies in clear and seamless prose.’’—The New York Review of Books...read more
80 b/w illus.
A History of Egypt
From Earliest Times to the Present
From Earliest Times to the PresentJason Thompson
This cohesive account of Egypt’s millennia-long past offers readers a sure guide through the sometimes labyrinthine corridors of Egypt’s past, from the mysterious predynastic kingdoms to the nation-state of the twenty-first century. The author addresses central scholarly issues such as how Egyptian history can be treated as a whole and how the west has shaped prevailing images of it, both through direct contact and through the lens of western scholarship. Drawing on current historical scholarship as well as his own research, Jason Thompson has written a remarkable work of synthesis and concision, offering students, travelers, and general readers alike an engaging one-volume narrative of the extraordinarily long course of human history by the Nile. This updated paperback edition contains new material on the 25 January Revolution and the fall of the Mubarak regime....read more
80 b/w illus.