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Yaḥyā Ḥaqqī as Critic and Nationalist

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 January 2009

Miriam Cooke
Duke University Durham, North Carolina


Yaḥy¯a Ḥaqqī's first article of literary criticism appeared at a time when the critic was still more or less exclusively concerned with explaining a text, or with justifying the rival merits of “ancient” as opposed to “modem” literature. In 1921 Mā.zinī and 'Aqqād had published their Ad-dīwān: kitāb fī an-naqd wa al-adab which constituted a significant step away from the traditional mold of literary criticism. The primary motivation of the madhhab jadīd seems to have been an attack, not always purely literary, on the neo-Classical trend as exemplified in the poetry of Shauqī, Hāfiz and Ismā'il Sabrī. The Diwan School, as it came to be called, required that the poet express his true feelings in an imaginative way without resorting to pure description or stereotyped imagery confined within traditional poetical forms.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1981

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1 “Sukhrīyat an-nāy” in Kaukab ash-Sharq, 02. 1927.Google Scholar

2 Abū Shādī and Shukrī had already discussed ideas of the English literary school before 1910.

3 Shi'r taqīldī or shi'r jāamid.

4 Aqqād and Māzinī mocked Egyptians who wrote of nightingales in poetry despite the fact that there are no nightingales in Egypt; they also censured the idealisation of spring –Egypt's most unpleasant season (Khutuwāt fi an-naqd [Cairo, n.d.,] p. 227).Google Scholar

5 Khutuwāt. p. 10.Google Scholar This is particularly true in the case of modem works like Beckett's End Game, where the playwright seems to be emphasising the importance of feeling the work rather than understanding it. Without the critic there is a grave danger that Communication will be lost; the critic forms a vital link (Itral-ahbāb [Cairo, 1971,] pp. 2630).Google Scholar

6 Khutuwāt, p. 65.Google Scholar

7 Fajr al-qissa al-misrīya (Cairo, 1975, p. 7);Google ScholarKhutuwāt. p.11;Google ScholarKaukab ash-Sharq, 02. 1927.Google Scholar

8 Cf., Hadīth al-arbi‘ā’, Vol. III (Cairo, 1925), (ed. used, 1976), pp. 158162.Google Scholar Taha Husain accuses contemporary writers of not being able to stand criticism or even comparison with others; cf, . also Mu‘adhdhabūnfī al-ard (Cairo, 1948), pp. 6667, where he writes again that he does not care if he pleases or offends.Google Scholar

9 Khutuwāt, p. 14.Google Scholar

10 Ihsān Hānim by ‘Īsā ‘Ubaid was the first collection of short stories to be published in Egypt (1921).Google Scholar

11 Khutuwāt, p. 14.Google Scholar

12 Ibid p. 287.

13 Ibid. p. 299.

14 Kaukab ash-Sharq, 02. 1927. Other faults are: incorrect titles for functions, occasional lack of cohesiveness between plot and subplot, heroes who have been poorly adapted into an Egyptian milieu (Introduction, “Sukhrīyat an-nāy,” 1964).Google Scholar

15 Khutuwāt, p. 110.Google Scholar

16 Fajr. p. 130.Google Scholar

17 Ibid., 131.

18 Ibid., 124–125

19 “In our world there is no single truth which may be taken as a fixed point of departure in the drawing of our horizon” (Fajr, p.126),Google Scholar and “It is only the stupidest people, in the sphere of art, who claim that they alone hold the truth. There is no final norm of truth. Variety, not unity, is the rule” (Unshūda Ii atbasāra [Cairo, 1972,], p. 56).Google Scholar

20 Fajr, p. 127.Google Scholar

21 Khutuwāt, p. 118.Google Scholar

22 “Would that there might appear among us a writer who would create new structures and free words from old usages, so that a renovating breeze should blow through his style and refresh the reader” (Ibid., p. 119).

23 Ibid., p. 203; Haqqī refers his readers to French literature which has often been used as a political tool in the struggle (Fajr, p. 24).Google Scholar

24 Shakespeare, Thackeray, Morrison, Carlisle, Scott, Stevenson, Dickens, Comeille, Moliére, La Fontaine, Baizac, Hugo, Dumas, Flaubert, Maupassant, Boccaccio, Dante, Oscar Wilde, Poe, Mark Twain (Ibid., p. 81).

25 Gogol, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Artzybashev (ibid., pp. 81–82).

26 Qindī1 Umm Hāshim (Cairo, 1975), p. 37.Google Scholar

27 Haqība fī yad musāfir (Cairo, 1969), p. 17.Google Scholar

28 Qindīl, p. 37.Google Scholar Muhammad Taimūr also admitted to borrowing from Maupassant when writing “Rabbīl li man khalaqta hādhā an-na“im” in Mā tarāhu al- 'uyūn Lāshīn acknowledged his debt to Chekhov when writing “Al-infijār”. At that time some might write collections entitled Borrowed Stories (qisas muqiabasa) (see Khuhuwāt, p. 15).Google Scholar

29 Ibid. p. 275.

30 Their contact with the sick is seen to help them to understand the human soul (ibid., p. 280).

31 Fajr, p. 82. For a comparison of Lāshīn with the best European short story writers, seeGoogle Scholaribid., p. 83.

32 Khutuwāt, p. 125.Google Scholar Muhammad Taimūr wrote a series of articles in Minbar against Rīhāni and all “low” comedians and ham actors, because they degraded drama– this criticism despite his own 'Abd as-Sattār Effendi (1918). In such plays, music and dance were the mainstay of the plot and dialogue, or at least served to make them acceptable. 'Aqqād said that Sayyid Darwīsh had filled the streets with his songs– he had introduced simple composition in music and songs. He established a link between the words and meanings, between verses and what Berque calls étars d'âme – he was the first realist in music (see Berque, J., Les Arabes d'hier à demain [Paris, 1969], p. 254).Google Scholar

33 In his second article of literary criticism (“Yuhkā anna” in Al-Batāgh, 15 04 1930)Google Scholar Haqqī discusses Lāshīn's second collection of short stories and, looking for progress, he finds it. Nassāj accuses Haqqī of not looking at Lāshīn's numerous stories published in magazines (often the same story would reappear under a different title, e.g., “Ali” was renamed “Yastahil” when it was published in Al-Hadīth [03 1969]).Google Scholar These stories he claims cannot be assessed as Haqqī had done for the date of their writing is uncertain (Sayyid H¯mid an-Nassāj, Datīt al-qisīa al-misrīya al-qasīra – suhuf wa majmū'at 1910–1961 [Cairo, 1972] p. 12). Haqqī does, however, show his familiarity with Lāshīn's stories that were published in magazines, and in his introduction to the 5964 edition of Sukhrīyar an-nāy he lists: “Al-umni baina jīlain”, “Firqat ansā at-tamtbīl] and “Al-isba' az-zā'ida”.Google Scholar

34 Fajr, p. 60.Google Scholar

35 Ibid., p. 49.

36 Ibid., pp. 28–29.

37 Ibid., p. 44.

38 Ibid., p. 60.

39 Ibid., p. 117.

40 Ibid., pp. 21–22.

41 Ibid., p. 22.

42 Ibid., pp. 61–62. “The short story appeared to be an attempt by the authors to enter the national political field, and so it began to reflect precisely the post-revolutionary society” (Sayyid Hāmid an-Nassāj, Tatawwur fann at-qissa al-qasīra fī Misr, 1910–1930 [Cairo, 1968], p. 388).Google Scholar

43 Fajr, p. 103;Google ScholarKhutuwāt, p. 241.Google Scholar

44 Fajr, p. 149.Google Scholar

45 Ibid. pp. 62, 200.

46 Ibid., p. 98; Khutuwāt, p. 111.Google ScholarHusain, Cf Taha, Khisām wa naqd (Beirut, 1963), p. 25.Google Scholar

47 Khutuwāt, pp. 200, 245.Google Scholar Such an idealistic approach to literature in Egypt was beset by problems; Lāhīn, for example, would only write when his stories met with acclaim (Introduction to Sukhrīyat an-nāy, 1964).Google Scholar

48 “The Egyptian author should now … describe complex mysterious emotions or he should present us with examples of emotionally charged situations, by means of which he could clearly demonstrate the good and the evil in the world, the beautiful and the ugly. He should show that man's soul is so complex that one emotion is not seen to be separable from another. He should describe the lowest levels of humanity, as also the highest, to show that man can be either an angel or a devil” (Fajr, p. 215).Google Scholar

49 Ibid., p. 62.

50 Khutuwāt, p. 226.Google Scholar

51 Fajr, p. 128.Google Scholar

52 Khutuwāt, pp. 130131.Google Scholar

53 Ibid. p. 169. Here he writes of Ihsān ‘Abd al-Qaddūs’ importance in recording the characteristics of his age.

54 Ibid. pp. 132–133.

55 “I beg the present generation not to be put off by its naïveté, but to handle it with the care and respect that they would display when coming across an old box which their grandmother had left behind, and when the box was opened her perfume is smelt and glimpses of her world are caught” (Fajr. p. 164).Google Scholar

56 Ibid., p. 124.

57 Ibid., p. 105.

58 Ibid., pp. 198, 241.

59 “Increase in observation is a positive sign, since it indicates that the nation is generally progressing” ('Abd ar-Rahmān ar-Rāfi'ī, Thaurar Sanat 1919 [Cairo, 1946], II, 193).Google Scholar

60 Khutuwāt, p. 80.Google Scholar

61 Haqqī deplores the tendency of young writers toward directly political literature, in which political pamphlets and government communiqués may be included in full. He claims not to read contemporary Russian literature because it is mostly propaganda (Unshūda, pp. 114118).Google Scholar

62 Khutuwāt, p. 91.Google Scholar

63 Itr, p. 37;Google ScholarFajr, pp. 8485;Google ScholarAt-Balāgh, 15 04 1930.Google Scholar

64 lntroduction to Sukhrīyat an-nāy, 1964;Google Scholarcf., Khutuwāt, p. 214.Google Scholar

65 Khutuwāt, p. 211.Google Scholar This was how Haqqī felt that the songwriter, Rāmī, had been annihilated in Umm Kulthūm (Ibid., p. 40). He criticises the use of saj' (Fajr, pp. 2223).Google Scholar

66 Haikal asserted that had he not loved Egypt he would not have written a word (Fajr, p.43) – when in Paris he would close his curtains, and in the darkened room he would imagine Egypt. Haqqī claims that Mutammad Taimūir's inclination to literature arose out of his love for EgyptGoogle Scholar (ibid., p. 65).

67 lntroduction to Sukhrīyat an-nāy. 1964.Google Scholar

68 Fajr, p. 201.Google Scholar

69 Khutuwāt, p. 8;Google Scholar'Itr, pp. 3137.Google Scholar

70 Taufīq al-Hakīm is introduced with a description of a baby entering the world without a tear. Unlike other babies, his eyes were wide open, contemplating people's faces – and, claims ī, he has not changed (“Taufiq al-Hakim between Fear and Hope” in Al-Hadīth, 02. 1934);Google Scholarcf, . also Mutammad Mahmūd Ghālī's obituary in Majalla, 04 1970.Google Scholar

71 “I was happy to add some comments which were designed to be of benefit to the writer, and to give him an unbiased idea of what an easy-going, modest reader thinks” (Khutuwāt, p.60).Google Scholar

72 Ibid., p. 100.

73 Khutuwā, pp. 165166.Google Scholar

74 Ibid., p. 181.

75 Fajr, p. 220.Google Scholar

76 Itr, p. 133.Google Scholar

77 Fajr, p. 154.Google Scholar

78 E.g., Lāshīn's “Mudhakirrāt Nūh” in Al-Balāgh. 15 04. 1930.Google Scholar He does, however, justify the use of the ancient theme of Cleopatra: if Cleopatra's reputation can be salvaged, Egyptians can oncea again feel honour and pride in themselves and in their past (Khutuwāt, p. 57).Google Scholar

79 Fajr, p. 121.Google Scholar

80 Khutuwāt, p. 46.Google Scholar

81 Structural criticism pertains to the internal consistency of the story, whereas functional criticism pertains to the psychological and social conditions surrounding the story, and the critic's perception of such conditions.

82 Kaukab ash-Sharq, 02 1927.Google Scholar

83 Unshuda, p. 51.Google Scholar

84 “…the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art” (Wimsatt, W. K. and Beardsley, M. C., “The Intentional Fallacy” in Lodge, D., ed., 20th Century Literary Criticism, [London, 1972,] p. 334).Google Scholar

85 Fajr, pp. 129130. He even suggests that al-Hakįm should have had one of his protagonists die for his country.Google Scholar

86 Al-Hadīth, 1934.Google Scholar

87 Fajr, p. 200.Google Scholar At the end of “The Turtle Flies” Haqqī has added his “intention”: the importance of the hero is that he was an early example of a working-class man trying to become a bourgeois (Qindīl, p.138).Google Scholar

88 Khutuwāt, p. 17.Google Scholar

89 'Itr, p. 158.Google Scholar

90 E.g., Khutuwāt, p. 85.Google Scholar

91 Ibid., p. 6.

92 Ibid., p.185.

93 Fajr, p. 146.Google Scholar

94 Ibid., p. 41.

95 Ibid., p. 88.

96 Introduction to Sukhrīyat an-nāy, 1961.Google Scholar

97 'Itr, p. 106; cf.Google Scholaribid., p. III.

98 Khutuwāt, p. 227.Google Scholar

99 ' Itr pp. 84122.Google Scholar

100 Khutuwāt, p. 76.Google Scholar

101 Ibid., p. 69.

102 A1-Hadīth, 1934;Google ScholarFajr, p. 124;Google Scholar 'Itr. p. 77.Google Scholar

103 Al-Hadīth, 1934.Google Scholar He also compared himself very unfavourably with the Greek Kosti Sajaradas (Khutuwāt, p. 183;Google ScholarKhallīha 'alā Allāh [Cairo, nd.], p. 220).Google Scholar

104 “The first we heard of 'īsā 'Ubaid was what Yahyā Haqqī had written in his book Fajr which was published in 1960. Before this he was almost completely unknown in the literary field” ('Abbās Khidr, Introduction to Ihsān Hānim, 1964).Google Scholar

105 Fajr, p. 76.Google Scholar This magazine was run by Ahmad Khairī Sa'īd and seems to have been a forerunner of Al-Fajr (1924–1925).Google Scholar

106 Fajr, pp. 8897.Google Scholar

107 'Itr, pp. 161186.Google Scholar

108 lnterview, Cairo, , 30 03. 1979.Google Scholar

109 'Itr on the cover.

110 Ibid., p. 69.

111 Ibid., p. 64

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