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
Contesting Antiquity in Egypt
Archaeologies, Museums, and the Struggle for Identities from World War I to Nasser
Donald Malcolm Reid
Archaeologies, Museums, and the Struggle for Identities from World War I to NasserDonald Malcolm Reid
The sensational discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun’s tomb, close on the heels of Britain’s declaration of Egyptian independence, accelerated the growth in Egypt of both Egyptology as a formal discipline and of ‘pharaonism’—popular interest in ancient Egypt—as an inspiration in the struggle for full independence. Emphasizing the three decades from 1922 until Nasser’s revolution in 1952, this compelling follow-up to Whose Pharaohs? looks at the ways in which Egypt developed its own archaeologies—Islamic, Coptic, and Greco-Roman, as well as the more dominant ancient Egyptian. Each of these four archaeologies had given birth to, and grown up around, a major antiquities museum in Egypt. Later, Cairo, Alexandria, and Ain Shams universities joined in shaping these fields. Contesting Antiquity in Egypt brings all four disciplines, as well as the closely related history of tourism, together in a single engaging framework.
Throughout this semi-colonial era, the British fought a prolonged rearguard action to retain control of the country while the French continued to dominate the Antiquities Service, as they had since 1858. Traditional accounts highlight the role of European and American archaeologists in discovering and interpreting Egypt’s long past. Donald Reid redresses the balance by also paying close attention to the lives and careers of often-neglected Egyptian specialists. He draws attention not only to the contests between westerners and Egyptians over the control of antiquities, but also to passionate debates among Egyptians themselves over pharaonism in relation to Islam and Arabism during a critical period of nascent nationalism.
Drawing on rich archival and published sources, extensive interviews, and material objects ranging from statues and murals to photographs and postage stamps, this comprehensive study by one of the leading scholars in the field will make fascinating reading for scholars and students of Middle East history, archaeology, politics, and museum and heritage studies, as well as for the interested lay reader.
To read an excerpt, click here.
For the Table of Contents, click here....read more
3 September 2019
92 integrated b/w illus., 1 map, 7 tables
Doria Shafik, Egyptian Feminist
A Woman Apart
A Woman ApartCynthia Nelson
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
The City VictoriousMax Rodenbeck
After 5,000 years of continuous habitation, Cairo remains the greatest metropolis in its quarter of the globe. The seat of pharaohs and sultans, the prize of conquerors from Alexander to Napoleon, the city has never stopped reinventing itself. ‘The Victorious’ is what the Arabs called Cairo, and the indomitable spirit of the place still merits the name. Max Rodenbeck’s richly textured biography combines a sweeping timescale with a keen eye for telling detail. It traces the life of Cairo from birth—the ancient Egyptians believed Creation itself took place there—through the heights of medieval splendor, and on to the present day. Modern Cairo is a place of stark contrasts. Skyscrapers abut ancient tombs and genteel colonial mansions. Pulled between the cultural poles of Paris and Mecca, the city’s population struggles under a double load as they cope with the burden of an incomparably rich past as well as the challenges of the future. Cairo: The City Victorious is a cultural excavation of one of the world’s great cities. Fusing the excitement of travel with the stimulation of history, it is an epic, resonant work....read more
Caliph of Cairo
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996–1021
Paul E. Walker
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996–1021Paul E. Walker
One night in the year 411/1021, the powerful ruler of the Fatimid empire, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, rode out of the southern gates of Cairo and was never seen again. Was the caliph murdered, or could he have decided to abandon his royal life, wandering off to live alone and anonymous? Whatever the truth, the fact was that al-Hakim had literally vanished into the desert. Yet al-Hakim, though shrouded in mystery, has never been forgotten. To the Druze, he was (and is) God, and his disappearance merely indicated his reversion to non-human form. For Ismailis, al-Hakim was the sixteenth imam, descended from the Prophet, and infallible. Jews and Christians, by contrast, long remembered him as their persecutor, who ordered the destruction of many of their synagogues and churches. Using all the tools of modern scholarship, Paul Walker offers the most balanced and engaging biography yet to be published of this endlessly fascinating individual. To some, al-Hakim was God incarnate, to others an infallible imam, to still others he was a capricious tyrant. This book examines myth and fact, document and opinion, to present the most complete and detailed history yet written of the life and times of one of the medieval Islamic world’s most controversial figures....read more
15 December 2012