The essential Tawfiq al-Hakim : plays, fiction, autobiography

The essential Tawfiq al-Hakim : plays, fiction, autobiography

Author: Ḥakīm, Tawfīq.

Publisher: American University in Cairo Press, c2008

ISBN: 9789774161513 (hbk.)

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Introductionp. 1PlaysThe Sultan's Dilemmap. 5The Tree Climberp. 87The Donkey Marketp. 165The Song of Deathp. 183Novel: from Diary of a Country Prosecutorp. 201Short StoriesMiracles for Salep. 211Satan Triumphsp. 217Azrael the Barberp. 221Autobiography: from The Prison of Lifep. 225
Tawfiq al-Hakim was the undisputed pioneer of dramatic writing in Arabic. Born in Alexandria, Egypt, he studied law in Paris and spent time with writers there. In 1928 he was appointed an attorney to the public prosecutor in the provinces of Egypt, and his experiences there inspired his novel The Maze of Justice. He resigned from government service and devoted himself completely to writing. Among his works widely read in Europe, particularly in France, are The Return of the Spring (1933) and The Tree Climber (1962), considered his masterwork. 020 Al-I Ahmad, Jalal Life Dates:1923-1969 Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1923, Jalal Al-i Ahmad is considered to be one of Iran's major modern prose writers, distinguished in both fiction and nonfiction. His first works of fiction began to appear in 1945. His seminal work, Mudir-i Madrasah (The School Principal) (1958) is social criticism as much as a novel-a blend that has led to many of Al-i Ahmad's works, especially his later ones, being banned. His political affiliations changed markedly during his life. The son of a Shi'ah cleric, he eventually came to have a strong belief in Islamic government and the importance of Shi'ah Islam in Iranian life, but earlier in his life he was active in the Tudeh (Communist) party and a strong supporter of Muhammad Musaddiq. Unquestionably, though, he was a nationalist with a strong dislike of Western culture and its pervasive intrusion in Iran. These feelings are particularly evident in his best-known nonfiction work in both Iran and the West, Gharbzadigi (Struck by the West). Originally published in serialized form in 1962, only a part appeared before it was banned. The first uncensored edition was published in 1978. Yet Al-i Ahmad was not solely an angry voice. Cynicism and disillusionment mingled with humor is part of his prose. His last novel, Nafrin-i Zamin (Cursing of the Land), was published in 1968 shortly before he died of a heart attack.
The importance of Tawfiq al-Hakim (1898 to 1989) 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 now 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. Contents: Introduction by Denys Johnson-Davies, The Sultan's Dilemma (full-length play), The Tree Climber (full-length play), The Donkey Market (one-act play), The Song of Death (one-act play), Diary of a Country Prosecutor (extract from the novel), Miracles for Sale (short story), The Prison of Life (extract from the autobiography), Azrael the Barber (short story), Satan Triumphs (short story).