Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Egyptian Childhood by Taha Hussein

An Egyptian Childhood, the first volume of Taha Hussein's autobiography, is full of the sounds and smells of rural Egypt. It documents Hussein's childhood and early education in a small village in Upper Egypt, as he learns not only to come to terms with his blindness but to excel in spite of it and win a place at the prestigious university of al-Azhar in Cairo.

Taha Hussein (1889-1973) had qualities of mind and character that enabled him to overcome the handicaps of blindness and humble birth and to pursue a distinguished career in Egyptian public life. He was at one time Minister of Education and - before all titles were abolished under the Republic - had been made a Bey and then a Pasha.

He was the most influential, however, through his voluminous, varied, and controversial writings, which earned him the unofficial title of "Dean of Arabic Letters". His autobiography, published in three volumes beginning in 1926, was quickly recognized as a masterpiece. It was the first modern Arabic literary work to gain international acclaim, and it has been translated into most of the major languages of the world.

This was a gift from a friend who knows I love anything and everything Egyptian!

The book was most obviously a translation. It had that rather stilted quality that most translations have which makes it more difficult to read as it interrupts the natural flow.

This one gets five stars. It was neither wonderful nor horrible. I was just completely neutral about it. I was quite glad that it was a very slim volume of just 85 pages, though. It was shocking to read about the neglect that the children suffered and the ignorance of the people in what one normally thinks of as a great nation. I suppose the days of the great nation were long over in the 1800s, and had perished with the pharaohs. It is still sad to see the depths to which a nation and people can sink.

Rating: ★★★★★


Post a Comment