In 1968 Egyptian novelist and political exile Waguih Ghali committed suicide in the London flat of his editor, friend, and sometime lover, Diana Athill. Ghali left behind six notebooks of diaries that for decades were largely inaccessible to the public. The Diaries of Waguih Ghali: An Egyptian in the Swinging Sixties, in two volumes, is the first publication of its kind of the journals, casting fascinating light on a likable and highly enigmatic literary personality. Waguih Ghali (1930?–69), author of the acclaimed novel Beer in the Snooker Club, was a libertine, sponger, and manic depressive, but also an extraordinary writer, a pacifist, and a savvy political commentator. Covering the last four years of his life, Ghali’s Diaries offer an exciting glimpse into London’s swinging sixties. Volume 1 tells of Ghali’s life in Rheydt, West Germany, providing unique insights from the perspective of an Egyptian immigrant on postwar Germany and shedding light on Ghali’s own writing and personality when he was at the peak of his depression. This volume also includes his reminiscences of his childhood in Alexandria and Cairo, drawing in bittersweet nostalgia a picture of a bygone era in Egypt, while in the background loom what would become milestone events in his adopted countries in subsequent decades: the Treblinka trials and the gains of the National Democratic Party in Germany and the rise of the Labour Party in Britain. Including an interview conducted by Deborah Starr with celebrated literary editor Diana Athill OBE, the Diaries bring together those most familiar with Ghali’s life and work, and offer a fresh take on a distinctive author and a vibrant decade.
In this interview Hawas explains what Waguih Ghali’s writing means for her and how she got involved in editing the diaries of this enigmatic and fascinating Egyptian writer, pacifist, and savvy political commentator.