Anniversary Night Songs

Soha Hesham , Tuesday 9 Aug 2022

Ghali Shukri
Ghali Shukri


Ghali Shukri, Mawawel Al-Laila Al-Kabira (Anniversary Night Songs), Cairo: General Organisation of Culture Palaces, 2022. pp220

The only novel by the celebrated historian and literary critic Ghali Shukri, Mawaweel Al-Laila Al-Kabeera was recently reprinted by the General Organisation of Culture Palaces, where publishing is directed by poet and playwright Gerges Shukri. Its first edition appeared with Dar Al-Taliaa in Beirut in 1985.

Written in the 1980s, the novel reflects Shukri’s vision of historical events that took place in Cairo, Beirut and other Arab cities through the 1950s and 1960s. He therefore references the names of Egyptian political leaders throughout the modern era: Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Mohamed Ali Pasha, Saad Zaghloul and many others of historic and political figures in the Egyptian history.

Anniversary Night Songs is the story of a student at the Faculty of Law who also works as a journalist, her beat being courts and lawsuits. She chances upon a “top secret” file that seems connected with Egyptian public affairs, and in the framework of a thriller, through her experience, Shukri finds a way to recount the challenges of the times. In the process he tackles such historical events as the 1919 Revolution, the 1952 Revolution, the 1967 war, and the social, political and cultural transformations of these times going back and forth, making extensive use of the court records found by his heroine as well as the classified file.

In an added gesture of homage to womanhood, Shukri dedicates his only novel to his daughter Nahed.

Ghali Shukri (1935-1998) was a celebrated scholar well-known for his literary criticism. He earned his PhD at the Sorbonne in Paris, with a thesis entitled The Rise and Fall in Modern Egyptian Thought, supervised by the French Arabist Jacques Burke. Shukri was the editor-in-chief of Cairo magazine, and he received the State Prize in Literature in 1996.   

Among his publications were Salama Moussa and the Arab Crisis of Conscience (1962), Sheirena Al-Hadith Ela Ayin? (Our Modern Poetry, Where To?, 1968), Egypt, Portrait of a President, 1971-1981: The Counter-Revolution in Egypt, Sadat’s Road to Jerusalem (1981), Al-Aqbat fi Watan Motaghayer (Copts in a Changing Nation, 1991), Burj Babel: Al-Naqd wal Hadatha Al-Sharida (The Tower of Babel: Criticism and Stray Modernity ,1993), Al-Hulm Al-Yabani (The Japanese Dream, 1994), and Youm Tawil fi Haya Qassira (A Long Day in a Short Life, 1999).

Mariam Abdel-Aziz, Honak Haytho Yantahi Al-Nahr (There, Where the River Ends), Cairo: Al-Kotob Khan Publishing House, 2022, pp191

This is the first novel by Mariam Abdel-Aziz, who published a book of short stories, Min Maqam Rahat Al-Arwah (From the Place of Resting Souls) in 2016. This novel is set in the Egyptian city of Rashid, one of two points at which the Nile flows into the Mediterranean. There Salma is facing one of the most miserable and critical situations in her life. After the death of her father, she is surprised by the appearance of strange men claiming that they are her uncles, though she has never seen them in her life.

Salma then goes on a complex journey through the brutality of Cairo and the many challenges of living there – aggressive neighbours, failed attempts at professional or emotional fulfilment – to Alexandria and back to Rashid. Bearing a picture her father gave her, she embarks on a journey of discovery only to end up embroiled in an illegal immigration operation that has always been closer to her than she realised.

Osama Allam, Tariq Motasei Li Shakhs Wahid: Hekayat Min 12 Madina Agiba (A Wide Road for a Lonely Person: Stories from 12 Curious Cities), Cairo: Al-Shorouk Publishing House, 2022, pp190