Several Egyptian writers are known to the English-speaking world: Tuha Husain, Taufiq al-Hakim, Najib Mahfuz, and Yusuf Idris enjoy a popularity that extends beyond Cairo or Beirut to the international book markets of London, New York, and Los Angeles. Yet the present study marks the first time that the contemporary writer, Yahya Haqqi, whose literary reputation among his countrymen is second to none, has been analyzed in a full-length monograph available to English readers who are not specialists in contemporary Arabic literature, yet are eager to learn more about it.
Haqqi’s oeuvre is eclectic, encompassing short stories, essays, literary criticism, and a novel. All facets of his literary output are systematically studied, with careful attention to the biographical aspects of his varied career which illumine the shape of particular writings as well as the overall tone of his production. What emerges is the Weltanschauung of an Egyptian intellectual struggling to come to terms with a society in transition. Haqqi’s hopes, anxieties, and prescriptions coalesce in an exquisite prose which sets him apart from his contemporaries. Beyond exploring the thematic issues raised by Haqqi, both directly and implicitly, the present study analyzes the quality of craftsmanship that is at once the most elusive and most satisfactory dimension of Haqqi’s work. The intellectual and the adlib, the Egyptian patriot and the sensitive universalist merge and reinforce one another in the fascinating complexity of this major yet comparatively unknown Arab writer.