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
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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
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 Topographical Study
Neil D. MacKenzie
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This comprehensive study, first published by the AUC Press in 1992 examines the structure of the Ayyubid administration in Cairo and the associated military, religious, and commercial milieux. It goes on to survey in detail the changes in the general layout of Cairo–in defenses, governmental and private buildings, water resources, religious institutions and cemetery areas, and markets and commercial establishments. Click here to download the free PDF....read more
Free e-book208 pp.
Its Foundation and Early Urban Development
Wladyslaw B. Kubiak
Its Foundation and Early Urban DevelopmentWladyslaw B. Kubiak
Al-Fustat, the original Arab capital of Egypt, was founded in A.D. 642 (A.H.21) around the Roman–Byzantine fortified town of Babylon in what is now Old Cairo. Early records and modern archaeological excavations of the site of al-Fustat have been of great interest to scholars investigating the life and development of medieval Arab cities as well as to those studying the organization and growth of early Arab Egypt. In this comprehensive study, first published by the AUC Press in 1987, Dr. Kubiak synthesizes the evidence from both medieval documentary and narrative sources and twentieth century archaeology to present a detailed history of al-Fustat. In it he traces and examines the geography of the site; the pre-Islamic settlements; the foundation and early development of the city and its demographic and territorial evolution; and the topography of the city and its architecture. Click here to download the free PDF....read more
Free e-book186 pp.
Doria Shafik, Egyptian Feminist
A Woman Apart
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Cynthia Nelson brings to life a bold and gifted Egyptian of the mid-twentieth century who helped define what it means to be a modern Arab woman. Doria Shafik (1908-1975), an Egyptian feminist, poet, publisher, and political activist, participated in one of her country’s most explosive periods of social and political transformation. During the ’40s she burst onto the public stage in Egypt, openly challenging every social, cultural, and legal barrier that she viewed as oppressive to the full equality of women. As the founder of the Daughters of the Nile Union in 1948, she catalyzed a movement that fought for suffrage and set up programs to combat illiteracy, provide economic opportunities for lower-class urban women, and raise the consciousness of middle-class university students. She also founded and edited two prominent women’s journals, wrote books in both French and Arabic, lectured throughout the world, married, and raised two children. For a decade, she ignited the imagination of the press, where she was variously described as the “perfumed leader,” a “danger to the Muslim nation,” a “traitor to the revolution,” and the “only man in Egypt.” Then, in 1957, following her hunger strike in protest against the populist regime of Gamal Abdul Nasser, she was placed under house arrest. Within months her magazines folded, her name was officially banned from the press, and she entered a long period of seclusion that ended with her suicide in 1975. With the cooperation of Shafik’s daughters, who made available her three impressionistic, unpublished, and sometimes contradictory memoirs, Nelson has uncovered Shafik’s story and brings the life and achievements of this remarkable woman to a Western audience....read more
14 b/w illus.
This book is only available for purchase from Egypt