Tawfiq al-Hakim Introduces Absurdism to the Arab Stage (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: Tawfiq al-Hakim, Egypt’s most distinguished modern author, was known for his experimentation with different dramatic styles, but he surprised the Arab world with his absurdist play The Tree Climber, which was extremely contrary to Islamic thinking.
Summary of Event
By 1961, Tawfiq al-Hakim had secured for himself the leading position in Egyptian letters. Although he had written several novels and important essays and incidental pieces, al-Hakim’s reputation rested principally on his work in drama. This circumstance would not be unusual in Western countries, where drama has always been considered a branch of literature; in the Middle East, however, there is no long tradition of writing for the theater. Indeed, in such great cities as Cairo, ancient capital of an ancient civilization, no theaters existed until the Napoleonic invasion (1798-1801), and the playhouse erected at that time was intended to provide entertainment for the invading troops. For most of the nineteenth century, the plays performed in Cairo were translations or adaptations of European dramas. In rural areas, several performance traditions had developed since medieval times. These included certain types of shadow puppet plays as well as singing, dancing, and comic skits. All these plays or dance plays were in the vernacular and were thus not considered worthy to be called literature.
During the first two decades of the...
(The entire section is 2317 words.)
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