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The Lamp of Umm Hashim

The Lamp of Umm Hashim: and other stories

Yahya Hakki
Translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 106
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  • Book Info
    The Lamp of Umm Hashim
    Book Description:

    Together with such figures as the scholar Taha Hussein, the playwright Tawfik al-Hakim, the short story writer Mahmoud Teymour and—of course—Naguib Mahfouz, Yahya Hakki belongs to that distinguished band of early writers who, midway through the last century, under the influence of Western literature, began to practice genres of creative writing that were new to the traditions of classical Arabic. In the first story in this volume, the very short ‘‘Story in the Form of a Petition,’’ Yahya Hakki demonstrates his ease with gentle humor, a form rare in Arabic writing. In the following two stories, ‘‘Mother of the Destitute’’ and ‘‘A Story from Prison,’’ he describes with typical sympathy individuals who, less privileged than others, somehow manage to scrape through life’s hardships. The latter story deals with the people of Upper Egypt, for whom the writer had a special understanding and affection. It is, however, for the title story (in fact, more of a novella) of this collection that the writer is best known. Recounting the difficulties faced by a young man who is sent to England to study medicine and who then returns to Egypt to pit his new ideals against tradition, ‘‘The Lamp of Umm Hashim’’ was the first of several works in Arabic to deal with the way in which an individual tries to come to terms with two divergent cultures.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-067-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Introduction
    (pp. vii-2)

    Yahya Hakki (1905–90) was one of that small group of outstanding talents that laid the foundations for a literary renaissance of Arabic literature in Egypt around the middle of the twentieth century. Other writers who participated in that renaissance included the scholar and man of letters Taha Hussein, the playwright Tewfik al-Hakim, the pioneer writer of the short story Mahmoud Teymour, and, of course, the novelist Naguib Mahfouz.

    Yahya Hakki’s works number several volumes of short stories and critical writings, including a short book about the Egyptian short story. He was also influential in the encouragement he gave to...

  4. Story in the Form of a Petition
    (pp. 3-8)
    Yahya Hakki

    We have heard that you have forwarded, are about to forward, or will forward—and true knowledge abides in God alone—to the various countries a detailed list of losses in lives and property sustained by our beloved Egypt by reason of the war. I am sure that the name of my dear, good-hearted, and unfortunate friend, Fahmi Tawakkul Saafan, is not cited in this list, for, overcome by shyness, he would have preferred to remain silent. Were it not for my love for him and the knowledge that he has been unfairly treated, I would not trouble you with...

  5. Mother of the Destitute
    (pp. 9-22)

    Praised be He whose dominion extends over all creatures and who knows no opposition to His rule. Here I have no wish but to recount the story of Ibrahim Abu Khalil as he made his way down the steps of life, like the leaves of spring, which, though lifted a little by the wind, contain even at their height their ineluctable descent until at last they are cushioned and trampled down into the earth. I was a witness to his descent of the last steps of the ladder, but I learned only later that he was an orphan and had...

  6. A Story from Prison
    (pp. 23-44)

    The fact that it was a duty many times repeated did away with any feelings the sergeant might have had as he shoved those under arrest into the cell. But with this particular man he was annoyed; with his mouth screwed up and his grip cruelly tight, he enjoyed cursing him and striking him on the back of the neck. It was not because his eyes had alighted on legs that were sore and chapped, or that his nose was assailed by a disgusting smell emanating from a dirty blue gallabiya patched in numerous places with pieces of darker colors,...

  7. The Lamp of Umm Hashim
    (pp. 45-88)

    My grandfather, Sheikh Ragab Abdullah, coming to Cairo as a young boy with the men and women of the family to obtain blessings from visiting the family of the Prophet, would be pushed forward as they approached the entrance to the Mosque of Sayyida Zaynab. The instinct to imitate the others made it unnecessary to push the boy; along with them, he would drop down and cover the marble doorstep with kisses, while the feet of those going in and out of the mosque almost knocked against his head. If their action was witnessed by one of the self-righteous men...

  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 89-89)