Shafīq Maqār

egyptian writer
Shafīq Maqār header image 1

Overview

Timeline
1962
Languages
Arabic, English, Dutch, Japanese and Persian



Works of Fiction and Non-Fiction in Book Form

Most Widely Held by Libraries Worldwide


‘Black Magic,’ a novel & ‘The Problem with the Nightmare,’ a novella

Black Magic

The action takes place in a make-belief sort of existence wherein everyone tries to survive as best they can in a topsy-turvy world precariously teetering on the outer edge of disaster by pretending to be a toiling ‘citizen’ in a really functioning society. In the midst of this, a disillusioned middle-aged individual from a defunct class that used to run the country is busily performing the statutory survival moves under the watchful eye of a crude imitation of a ruling regime that too is playacting in the same make belief.  In the wake of an imitation revolution, the regime, with the full-hearted collaboration of its victims, has set out, in the name of righting the wrongs of the past, to remake a whole populace into a glutinous mass of loyal co-citizens and followers of the leader/saviour.

A chance encounter with one of the ‘citizen creatures’ of the lower classes that are being used as the justification for the masquerade, sets the ‘hero’ on a course to disaster. The piece of human flotsam of a wrecked society gone mad on a poisoned draught of make-belief socialism poured down its throat, catapults the middle-aged middle class unheroic hero into an unexpected encounter with the unreal. The ‘low-life’ companion brings into his hitherto neat sedate world a strangely askew world of such things as females who give birth to serpents in broad daylight in bustling city squares while trying to mesmerize him into jumping from his office window and of one-eyed people who jump into the insides of others to squat there and regurgitate contentedly.

The vertiginous slide into this demented existence brings into the hero’s life a redheaded female who latches onto him like a mischievous spirit from the beyond. Under her hand, he openly degenerates into the anti-social type he discovers he had always wanted to be. With every bone in his body broken as a result of a lunatic jump from a speeding taxi, on his back in plaster in a hospital bed, he spends his waking hours planning and executing outrageous acts of social mayhem he had always wanted to perpetrate. In his sleep, in the quiet of the night, he is visited by the redheaded or by her cohorts of weird creatures who engage in all sorts of lunatic activities that at, one night, go as far as constructing a gallows in next to his hospital bed.

Sucked into the vortex, he progressively drops every line that connected him to his erstwhile existence, even to his only real friend, his teen-age daughter, his sister and his wife. Completely cut off and cast adrift, with the prospect of a padded cell staring him in the face, he is left climbing a fifth floor window sill to make a final escape in a leap in the air with the hope of catching up with the redhead who, floating away, beckons and, as she senses his fear, hurls at him, over her shoulder, the parting shot: ‘You won’t know till you jump.’


The Problem with the Nightmare

This novella is a reading of the non-heroic predicament from a different angle. The protagonist is nightly visited by the nightmare, an old acquaintance that, in childhood, had nightly visited his father in the shape of a huge ape that was trying to force open the iron bars of the bedroom window to get into the room.

While his wife suffers greatly because of his nightly experience with the nightmare and is embarrassed by what the neighbours might think because of the loud noises he makes before she shakes him awake, to him, this get together with

His nightly visitor is the high point of his day. When, in his last encounter, he senses that the nightmare intended to forsake him, he realizes that life was at and end. His father had died when the ape stopped trying to come into the room.

‘Sanitized’ by excision, the twin works were published in Cairo, in 1986 and were translated into Japanese and published in Tokyo by Daisan Shokan, 1994. The complete ‘unsanitized’ texts have been translated into English by the author. According to World Catalogue, the work is held, in Arabic, by 32 libraries worldwide. Call Number: PJ7846 A646 S53 1986.Located: LSF- click “Place Requests” for delivery to any Yale library.


The Killing of Egypt, from Nasser to Sadat

The work is a socio-political investigation of Egypt’s plight under the dictatorship spawned by the 1952 military coup d’état that later on, under the guidance of profiteering ‘academic’ advisers, tried to masquerade as a socialist revolution.

The core theme of ‘The Killing of Egypt’ derives from the central question of whose fief or privately owned Ezba Egypt was,’ a question fired at his colleagues by Gamal Salem, in one of his famous outbursts, at his fellow saviours of Egypt.

Originally, this was the title that was in mind for the work. The problem is that the country, because Farouk’s imbecility and infantile acts of corruption and mismanagement reduced it to where it fell like an overripe plum into the lap of a group of army officers who no doubt sincerely believed that they were saving it but who, as their actions and decisions showed, were not capable, when Egypt’s hard luck dropped her into their laps, of dealing with the highly complex problems that beset her at an extremely dangerous juncture of history. The result, as the title suggests, has been the killing of a country that, in her far distant past, before it was reduced to what she now has become had led men’s escape from the caves of barbarism.

It was with the aim of finding out the validity or otherwise of this view of situation that the work was written. It was not written as a chewing of the cud of coagulated miseries, but, as the dedication to the memory of Naguib Sorour said, as an act of love. Naguib was, of all my ‘nakbaنكبـة (calamity) generation, the poet who, because he loved the most, felt the ‘nakba’ like no one else has. ‘Nakba’ is not used here in the misappropriated sense in which it was pressed into the regime’s service by its own media, as a lyricism for the crushing defeat that laid bare the posturing and the braggadocio, the real ‘nakba’ has been the defeat suffered by Egypt herself at the hands of the would-be saviours. This is exactly what the ‘Killing of Egypt’ is as researched in the book in such tragic queries as: ‘Whose Ezba Egypt;’ ‘Being Present in the Age;’ ‘The Making of a Revolutionary Government;’ ‘Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire;’ ‘Hazards of the Ruler’s Oneness;’ and ‘Who Dunnit?’ At the end, as said on the last page, only those peoples that are capable of surviving, that wish to survive, and are prepared to rise to the challenges, survive. Those that do not, are but dross that is soon blown away by the winds of history and are no more  The work’s creative counterparts, are the novels: ‘Black Magic,’ ‘Talk,’ and ‘Ezbet Eryan’ and the short stories. Every single work, whether novel or short story was a plunge into some hellhole of the ‘nakba.’ 1 edition  of ‘The Killing of Egypt’ was published in London, 1989 and is held by 26 libraries worldwide. Call Number: DT107.827 M37X 1989. Located: SML, Stacks, LC Classification


‘A Political Reading of the Bible’

The research, an endeavour by a believer, was not undertaken as an invitation to atheism or as religious polemic to denigrate or idolize anyone’s beliefs. That the material researched is replete with political intent is the result of the fact that the system of belief and the politics appear to be inseparable one from the other.  This seminal research was written as a try at finding out whether it was the political intent and worldly ambitions or the search for God that motivated the writing of the material that went into the making of the OT. 3 editions published, 1987 in London, and 1991 in Cyprus. Translated into Persian and held by 26 libraries worldwide Call Number: BS476M2631991. Located: SML, Near East Collection.


‘The Gorbachev Phenomenon’

A work of political analysis that explored the Gorbachev revolution, predicted the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union and tried to chart out its potential consequences on the international arena. Published in London, 1990 and held by 16 libraries worldwide. Call Number: DK288M367X1990. Located: LSF- click “Place Requests” for delivery to any Yale library.


Christianity and the Old Testament

Researching the Religious Roots of the Middle East Conflict

1 edition published in London, 1992 and held by 15 libraries worldwide. Call Number: DS149 M362 1992.  Located: SML, Near East Collection


‘Talk’

A novel. From Egypt’s searing experience with totalitarianism, ‘Talk’ delves into the nightmare world of Saint-Just’s dictum that ‘the art of governance breeds none but monsters.’ As the state, through an unholy alliance between the appartchiks and their victims, is transformed into the kept mistress of the ‘leader,’ the monsters at the top tend to breed, down below, all sorts of little monsters vermin and reptiles. An anti-hero of this breed tries to compete with the state’s ‘specialists’ in the hazardous and rewarding art of murder with impunity and gets entangled in a mesh of intrigue, lust and greed and killing. 2 editions published since 1987 in Beirut According to World Catalogue, the work has been translated into Dutch as ‘Het spreken’ – Roman over het lot dat mondige burgers in dictatoriale regimes staat te wachten,” and is held by 15 libraries worldwide. It is the subject of a dissertation submitted to the University of Rome.


‘Magic in the Bible’

Explores the role in the biblical construct’s storytelling of the ancients’ belief in magic as a means of liaising with the powers of the beyond. The work’s springboard is that religion and magic were born as identical twins that the sophistication of the human mind turned into adversaries. 1 edition published in London 1990 and held by 15 libraries worldwide. Call Number: BM585 M37 1990. Located: SML, Stacks, LC Classification.


‘Sex in the Bible’

Explores the heavily camouflaged sexual content of the biblical construct’s storytelling. While the title and the very theme may shock, the study of man’s attempts at putting together coherent belief systems that concretized his imaginings of what God must be indicates that the genitalia and their reproductive functions played a major role in inspiring him with the imaginings.  Published in Damascus, 1997 and held by 10 libraries worldwide. Call Number: BS680 S5 M264 1998. Located: SML, Near East Collection.


Studies in Contemporary European Literature’

Literary Studies on Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Arthur Adamov, Albert Camus and D. H. Lawrence. 1 edition published in Baghdad, 1972.The book raised a few eyebrows with its title that, at the time, spoke of a ‘European Literature.


Works of Fiction Published in Serialized Form


‘Ezbet Eryan – Farm of the Naked’

A Novel, serialized in the week-end edition of al-Arab’, London, 1979/1980.

The work is a parody that was meant to be as a ‘spoof’ on George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ that harkened back to the allegorical technique of the 14th-century classic ‘Kalilah wa Demnah’ In both cases, the debt owed to the two older works, though intellectually considerable, is limited to certain specifics.

The debt owed to ‘Kalilah wa Demnah’ كليلة ودمنة is the literary stratagem of making non human creatures talk in order for them to figure as living characters in an allegorical cautionary work or ‘fable.’

The debt owed to Orwell has to do with the literary stratagem of making a crowd of talking animals rise in ‘revolution’ and take over a farm under the banner of the search for social justice and the righting of social and political wrongs.

Thereafter, there was a parting of the ways with Orwell, as each went his own way, ‘singing of his own Laila’ as it were. Orwell’s Laila, of course, is none other than the beautiful ‘Albion,’ England, which he wanted to alert to the then looming danger of the competing totalitarianisms of Right and Left whose savage fight to the death he had witnessed at first hand on the killing fields of the Spanish Civil War.

The ‘Laila’,’ of ‘Ezbet Eryan,’ by contrast, is Egypt ‘Mother of the World,’ the name of endearment her children know her by, for whom and about whom every word and line of the author’s work has been written. Egypt, in this parody, is the ‘Ezba’ عزبـة (private farm, fief) which has been taken over, raped and defiled, not by the pigs of Orwell’s vision, but by something much more sinister and cynically obscene: those who were supposed to guard her. Unable to do, they turned upon her and made her the enemy.

The novel as a parody of the country’s situation, tells of what the author sees as a crude throwback in modern garb to the sort of oriental despotism wherein the ruler became God and those he rules become his worshippers or bear the unthinkable consequences. In the process, the ‘Ezbah’ is plundered, enslaved and debased by those who profess to protect her from external aggression and to be bringing to its docile herds a fairy tale formula of ‘social justice’ that turns out to be an extremely vicious parody unblushingly labelled as ‘Socialism.’


‘Tales for the Children of the Days to Come’

A nightmare vision of the days to come serialized in ‘al-Dustur’ weekly London.


Works of Literary Study and Translation in Book Form


‘Arthur Schopenhauer’s views on ‘The Art of Literature’

A translation of a study by Billy Saunders with introduction and annotations on the works and authors mentioned in the text, commissioned and Published in Cairo, 1962, by the National Printing and Publishing House.


‘Cinque Pièces de l’avant garde par Eugene Ionesco’

A translation with introduction on the Theatre of the Absurd, commissioned and published in Cairo, 1966, by the National Printing and Publishing House


‘Cinque Pièces de l’avant garde par Arthur Adamov’

A translation with introduction on Adamov’s  theatre, commissioned and Published in Cairo, 1967 by ‘al–Masrah’المسرح (‘The Theatre’) periodical.


‘A Little Poetry’

Translations from French poetry of the 19th & 20th centuries with introduction and studies on the poets and their literary movements, from the Romantics, to the Parnassians, the Dandies, the Symbolists and the Surrealists. Commissioned and published in Cairo, 1969, by The National Printing and Publishing House.


‘Land of the Lost’

Translations of short stories from Russian, English, French, German and American literatures, commissioned and published in Cairo, 1970, by ‘World Fiction Series’


D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Sons and Lovers,’

Commissioned and published in Cairo, 1970, by ‘al-Helal House.


Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Three Penny Novel’

Commissioned and published in Cairo, 1971, by ‘al-Helal House.’


‘Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage and Her Sons’

Commissioned and published in Cairo, 1972, by ‘al-Helal House.’


Non-Fiction Serialized in Periodicals


‘The I.Q. Controversy’

A series of articles researching the issue, serialized in ‘Al-Arab’ week-end edition, London, 1979

‘Science Pressed into the Service of Racism.’

‘Intelligence and Stupidity in the Test Tube?’

‘Massaging the Racial Ego.’

‘Geniuses of the World Unite Against the Lesser Humans!’

‘Intelligence: Heredity or Environment?’

From Meritocracy to a World Ruled by ‘Super Humans’?


On Freedom’

A series of talks broadcast by the BBC 1979/1980 and serialized in London)

Freedom: an End and a Means.’

The Creeping Death of Freedom, Affliction of the Age.’

Le Couteau’ of Ionesco’s ‘Professor’ and Plato’s Bowie Knife.’

Idealism and the Gates of Hell.’

Uncle Hobbs and Mother Ogress.’

Joseph Conrad: on the Evil at the Roots of Creation.


Why do Writers Write?’

A series of talks broadcast by the BBC, and serialized in ‘al-Arab,’ London, 1979.

The Writer as Champion of Life.’

The Writer and Reality.’

The Writer and the Ambition of Changing the World.’

Aldous Huxley and the Uses of Writing’.

‘George Orwell, the Writer vs. Totalitarianism.

Arthur Rimbaud: the Function of Poetry.’

The Thirties Generation between the Two Totalitarianisms.’

‘Henry Miller, the One and the Many in Society.’

Charles Dickens the Writer who did Change his World.’

Bernard Shaw, a Sympathetic Revolutionary who Foretold his Obsolescence.’


Most Recent Work

(In English)


‘Egyptology’s Three-Ring Circus and Egypt’s Civilization Firsts,’

Research into:

a) Some of the fallacies and oversights in Egyptology’s record of Egypt’s achievement, and

b) Egypt’s Civilization Firsts the Egyptologists did not see.

The two-volume work is now in the stage of final editing.


‘A Socio-Political Reading of the Bible,’

A reassessment, expanded research and rewriting in two volumes, 20 years on, of the 1987 ‘Political Interpretation of the Bible.’


Saīdi,’

An autobiographical novel.


Book Projects

(In English)


The Egyptian Origins of the Biblical Construct’s God,

In search of the ancient Egyptian roots of belief in the One God.
Re- research and rewriting of

Magic in the Bible’

‘Christianity and the Old Testament’

‘Sex in the Bible’

‘The Edge of Tomorrow’


January 29th, 2010 | Read | No Comments


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