Yusuf Idris 1927-1991
(Transliterated as Yūsef Idrīs, Youssef Idris, and Yûsuf Idrîs) Egyptian short-story writer, novelist, playwright, travel writer, editor, essayist, and critic.
The following entry presents criticism on Idris's short fiction from 1975 through 2001.
Regarded as one of the best short-story writers in contemporary Egyptian literature, Idris is lauded for his stories and novellas that portray the changing values of Egyptian society during the twentieth century. Critics note that he was one of the few Arabic authors to realistically address issues of homosexuality, sexual impotence, poverty, sexual and cultural mores, and the dangers of religious fundamentalism.
Idris was born in Bairum, Sharqiva Province, in Egypt, on May 19, 1927. He was educated at Cairo University, where he received an M.D. in 1952. Soon after graduation, he became a medical inspector in the Department of Health, a position that involved working with the urban poor. His concern for the poor and disenfranchised became a recurring theme in his work. While in college, he began to write stories. In 1954, he published his first collection of short stories, Arkhas layālī (The Cheapest Nights and Other Stories). The volume was hailed as a major literary contribution to Egyptian short fiction. He worked as a physician and a psychiatrist for over a decade, but gave up his medical practice in the mid-1960s to focus on his literary career. His interest in science is reflected in his fiction and journalism. In 1967 Idris was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his collection of short stories Qissat hubb (City of Love and Ashes). He later became politically active, and his leftist political views resulted in several arrests and brief imprisonments. In the mid-1970s he began focusing on journalistic work for the newspapers Al-Jumhūriyya and Al-Ahrām. Later though, Idris redirected his attention to short fiction as well as critical essays. He died in August 1991.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Idris was a prolific short fiction writer whose work focuses on such themes as love, repression, poverty, alienation, and the concept of masculinity. Sex is a central theme in his work, particularly the various sexual mores in the villages and in urban areas. Several stories explore the inherent iniquity in sexual relationships between men and women from different sociopolitical backgrounds. For example, Qā'al-Madīna (1959; City Dregs) chronicles the story of ‘Abd Allah, a judge, who confronts his servant and lover, Shuhrat, when he discovers his expensive watch missing. Although he had once felt guilty because of his powerful position and her vulnerable one, her theft now frees him from any emotional and sexual connections to her; however, he also becomes aware of how illogical and hypocritical his own values are. In “Akbar al-Kabā‘ir” (“The Greatest Sin of All”), as Shaykh Sadiq becomes increasingly devout, he neglects his farm and wife. She eventually seeks comfort in the arms of a young, poor man named Muhammad. Idris also touched on the theme of homosexuality in a few of his stories—a subject taboo in Egyptian literature. “Abū al-Rijāl” (“A Leader of Men”) depicts the shocking realization of Sultan, a married, powerful, masculine man, that he has been repressing his homosexuality during his entire life. When he pressures one of his young male servants to have sex with him—and take the dominant role in the sexual encounter—his façade as a strong, virile leader has completely overturned.
Many of Idris's stories reflect his concern with such issues as Egypt's soaring birth population, the denial of civil liberties in a repressive society, the growth of religious fanaticism, and the devastating poverty and hopelessness in urban areas. In “Arkhas Layālī” (“The Cheapest Nights”), a middle-class man walks disoriented through the streets of a busy village. Annoyed by the mass of poor children teeming around him, he wonders why there are so many children and speculates with satisfaction that many of them will die of crime or starvation. Finding his way home, he crawls into bed and has sexual relations with his wife. Nine months later, he is congratulated on the birth of his child. In “Al-Mahfaza” (“The Wallet”), Sami, a young boy, is resentful of his family's poverty when he can't afford to go to the movies with his friends. One night, he sneaks into his parents' room while they are sleeping to steal money from his father's wallet. When he finds the wallet empty, he is overcome by shame and resolves to find a job to help his family with expenses. Other stories reflect the changing political and social situation in Egypt as well as the relationship between the individual and society. In “Alif al-Ahrār,” a man obsesses about his loss of individuality in a job that demands conformity. When he refuses to use his typewriter in an act of defiance, he is fired and told that he is expendable.
Idris is viewed as one of Egypt's finest short-story writers. His prolific output of short stories, particularly in the mid-1950s, was welcomed as a new direction in Egyptian fiction. Critics point to his rejection of the romantic tendencies of Arabic literature at the time in favor of a realistic portrayal of Egyptian society—especially the poorer and disadvantaged classes—as innovative and authentic. Idris utilized colloquial language in his dialogue to mixed reviews among Arab commentators: some critics derided it as lazy and inferior; others saw it as an authentic reflection of the changing Egyptian culture. His incorporation of political and cultural themes have led some critics to view his stories as shrewd reflections of the state of Egypt as it struggled to become an independent modern nation. Reviewers have praised his fantastic tales for their adept utilization of fable and myth. He is deemed a pioneering writer based on treatment of such sensitive topics as homosexuality, sexual impotence, and the danger of religious fundamentalism. Several critics have discussed Idris's stories within the development of the Egyptian short story genre and have traced his development as a short fiction writer. Moreover, critics often compare Idris's short stories to the short fiction of the Egyptian Nobel writer Naguib Mahfouz. Idris is viewed as a gifted and important short-story writer who made a valuable and influential contribution to Arabic literature.
Arkhas layālī [The Cheapest Nights and Other Stories] 1954
Jumbūriyyat Farahāt [Farahat's Republic] 1956
A-Laysa kadhālik? [Is That So?] 1957
Hādithat sharaf 1958
Al-Harqām (novella) 1959
Qā'al-Madīna [City Dregs] (novella) 1959
Akher al-Dunya [The End of the World] 1961
Al-'Askarī al-aswad [The Black Soldier; also translated as The Black Policeman] 1962
Al-'Ayb [Sin; also translated as Shame] (novella) 1962
Lughat al-āy āy 1965
Qissat hubb [City of Love and Ashes] 1967
Al-Mukhattatīn [The Striped Ones] 1969
Al-Naddāha [The Siren] 1969
Al-Baydā' [The White Woman] 1970
Mashuq al-Hams [Ground Whispers] 1970
Al-Mu'allafāt al-kā milah 1971
Bayt min lahm [House of Flesh] 1971
In the Eye of the Beholder: Tales from Egyptian Life from the Writings of Idrīs 1978
Anā Sulṭān qānūn al-Wujūd [I am the Lord of the Law of Existence] 1980...
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SOURCE: Cobham, Catherine. “Sex and Society in Yusuf Idris: ‘Qā'al-Madīna’.” Journal of Arabic Literature 6 (1975): 78-88.
[In the following essay, Cobham examines the theme of sex in Qā'al-Madīna, contending that Idris “discusses sex because it is such an important part of the differences in culture between different social groups, not for the sake of his own erotic fantasies.”]
Yūsuf Idrīs shows his most shrewd understanding of Egyptian society and its changing values through his stories of sexual relationships and his exploration of the nature of love, need, desire, repression, frustration, and masculinity and femininity themselves within these relationships. In his tales of village life, like “Hādithat Sharaf”,1 he demonstrates with lucid simplicity the workings of the process by which the community forces its members to conform to accepted standards of behaviour. Sex is the touchstone of social intercourse, and the attitude of a community to sexual relationships is most expressive of its culture; in the village masculinity and femininity are prized but, to appearances at least, they must be put to their designated uses in work and marriage. In a city the sexual code is more complex, and it is more difficult to confine the subject of sex within narrative patterns, but in Qā'al-Madīna2 (and also in “al-Naddāha”3 and...
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SOURCE: Allen, Roger. Introduction to In the Eye of the Beholder: Tales of Egyptian Life from the Writings of Yusuf Idris, edited by Roger Allen, pp. vii-xxxix. Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1978.
[In the following essay, Allen traces Idris's development as a short fiction writer and assesses his contribution to modern Arabic fiction.]
Yūsuf Idrīs is one of the most famous Egyptian writers of the latter half of this century, and his fame transcends national boundaries within the Arab world itself. He has written short stories, novels and novellas, and plays; to each of these genres he has made important contributions. Through his writings he has urged fellow authors to experiment with both form and content, and he has produced innovative works of his own. On the political and cultural planes, he has been in a real sense a member of the avant-garde and on several occasions this has brought him into conflict with the authorities in Egypt. It is then a famous and complex personality whose works are represented in this collection.
Idrīs was born in May, 1927, and spent his early childhood in the village of Al-Bayrūm in Sharqiyya province which is part of the Nile Delta. He received his secondary education in the town of Zagāzīg (to the Northeast of Cairo) and then studied medicine in Cairo, graduating from the Qasr al-Aynī hospital in 1951. Soon after his graduation, he...
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SOURCE: Mikhail, Mona. “Love and Sex: A Study of the Short Fiction of Naguib Mahfouz and Yusuf Idris.” In Images of Arab Women: Fact and Fiction, pp. 91-111. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, Inc., 1979.
[In the following essay, Mikhail finds parallels in the portrayal of sex and love in the short stories of Idris and Naguib Mahfouz.]
The short stories of Naguib Mahfouz and Yusuf Idris, and indeed a great many stories of other Egyptian writers, do not present any systematic love ethic by which they can be characterized or measured. They tend to embody perhaps more of a romantic yearning for absolutes than a traditional notion of love. The romantic treatment of love has been, as it were, exhausted by such writers as Ihsan‘Abd Al-Quddus and others whose versions have been interpreted by all the means of mass media, radio, television, and cinema.
A large portion of Idris' early stories deal with love in its initial stages. He seems more preoccupied by the phenomenon of the loss of innocence in his characters—boys and girls, men and women—than by the actual love encounters themselves. As in the early Hemingway stories, there is an attempt to control the destructive forces of life. Stories like “Al-Gharab” (The Stranger) trace the initiation to maturity of a young boy thrown into the snares of a gang of thieves and the wily arms of a fickle woman. On a lighter note, in...
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SOURCE: Allen, Roger. “The Artistry of Yūsuf Idrīs.” World Literature Today 55, no. 1 (winter 1981): 43-7.
[In the following essay, Allen maintains that Idris's short fiction effectively conveys his social and political concerns, especially his focus on the urban poor.]
Yūsuf Idrīs's first published work, a collection of short stories entitled Arkhas Layālī (The Cheapest Nights), appeared in 1954. He is perhaps the most prominent of a number of younger Egyptian writers whose vitality and forcefulness at that time reflected their sense of identification with the course of events in their country during the 1950s, and particularly the Revolution of 1952. On the broader political plane 1954 was also the year in which Jamāl ‘Abd al-Nāsir (Gamal Abdul Nasser) became the de facto ruler of the country. The years that followed were heady ones indeed for both Egypt and its younger generation of intellectuals and writers. Agricultural reform laws were introduced which radically altered the power structure of rural society, while on the international level Egypt signed an arms agreement with Czechoslovakia, obtained financial and technological aid from the Soviet Union to build the High Dam at Aswān (after the United States had refused to do so) and nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, in the process witnessing the acute embarrassment of Britain and France at the withdrawal of their...
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SOURCE: Kurpershoek, P. M. Introduction to The Short Stories of Yusuf Idris, pp. 1-18. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981.1
[In the following essay, Kurpershoek traces the development of the short story genre in Egypt and locates Idris's place within that tradition.]
Ever since his first collection of short stories appeared in 1954, Yūsuf Idrīs has been generally recognised as the genre's leading representative among the artists who rose to prominence with the 1952 Revolution.2 Therefore it is all the more astonishing that his production in this field by no means received the earnest attention from Egyptian critics which, by their unanimous judgement, it deserved;3 and what they wrote on this subject pales into insignificance beside the amount of criticism devoted to his theatrical works.4
In showing comparatively little interest in the short story (uqṣūṣa, qiṣṣa qaṣīra), while acknowledging Idrīs' mastery of it, the arbiters of literary taste perhaps reflected the widespread opinion that its very shortness and ‘journalistic’ character make it doubtful whether it quite belongs to the realm of serious literature.5 That there was, and probably still is, a tendency among the Egyptian reading public to judge the merits of one's writings by the criterion of length may be gathered from the fact that Idrīs himself thought it...
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SOURCE: Cohen, Dalya. “‘The Journey’ by Yusuf Idris.” Journal of Arabic Literature 15 (1984): 135-38.
[In the following essay, Cohen offers a psychoanalytical interpretation of “The Journey.”]
“The Journey” is a short story which is included in Yūsuf Idrīs's tenth collection called House of Flesh (Cairo, 1971). The story is written in the form of a monologue and in the technique of the stream of consciousness.
It starts with a confession of love to a man. In the beginning it is not clear who the speaker is and the reader is tempted to think that it is a woman addressing her lover. Only later, as the monologue unfolds, the reader discovers that it is rather a son talking to his father. The son tells his father about a secret journey that they are going to undertake. He carefully dresses his father, then sneaks him into the elevator and right into his car. Thereafter they take off. The presence of the father in the car fills the son with ecstasy. He reveals all his feelings towards his father and lapses by flashing back into scenes from his childhood. Strangely enough, wherever they arrive people stare at them in terror and complain of a terrible smell. They point to the father and scream of a corpse. The son is so happy he smells nothing. Then, little by little, he becomes aware of the stench. At first he ignores it and...
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SOURCE: Somekh, Sasson. “The Function of Sound in the Stories of Yusuf Idris.” Journal of Arabic Literature 16 (1985): 95-104.
[In the following essay, Somekh considers acoustic and rhythmic elements of Idris's short stories.]
During the last three decades, Yūsuf Idrīs (b. 1927) has established himself as a major figure in Arabic literature. He is first and foremost a writer of short stories, of which he has published twelve volumes between the years 1954-81.1 The bulk of his work undoubtedly constitutes a landmark in modern Egyptian fiction; and the influence of his art is very much in evidence in the writings of younger Arab storytellers.
Regrettably, his works were for many years beyond the reach of readers who have no command of Arabic. It is therefore gratifying that in 1978 two volumes of his stories were published in English translation.2 Furthermore, a scholarly work dealing with several aspects of his life and art appeared in English in 1981.3
Idrīs' mastery of storytelling is manifest in many ways, not the least of which is his handling of the language. Admittedly, critics with a partiality for classical stylistic norms often complain that Idrīs' language is “lax” or “untidy”.4 Others regret the excessive use of the dialect in his dialogue, as well...
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SOURCE: Boullata, Issa J. Review of A Leader of Men, by Yusuf Idris. The International Fiction Review 16, no. 1 (winter 1989): 82-3.
[In the following review, Boullata provides a reading of the story “Abû al-Rijâl.”]
Youssef Idris, born in Egypt in 1927, is one of the most prominent Arab writers today. Originally a medical doctor, he has dedicated himself to literature and written some thirty books in various genres, including short stories, novels, plays, and essays.
One of his recent stories, published in the Egyptian magazine October (November 1, 1987, pp. 40-45), is entitled “Abû al-Rijâl.” It is reprinted in Arabic in this book [A Leader of Men] with an excellent English translation.
The story is not primarily constructed as a plot of events but rather as an exploration of a main character's inner depths. The tensions that sustain its continuity and keep the reader riveted till the end derive as much from Idris's masterful narrative art as from his choice of an unusual subject matter. In fact the subject matter is normally regarded in the Arab world as one about which feelings, thoughts, and words ought to be repressed. Idris brings them out into the open in this story as he deals with a married, virile, and macho man who, in his early fifties, discovers his latent homosexuality and is made to face up to it in the story....
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SOURCE: Allen, Roger. Review of A Leader of Men, by Yusuf Idris. World Literature Today 63, no. 2 (spring 1989): 360-61.
[In the following review, Allen asserts that the publication of an English translation of A Leader of Men “is of great benefit to students of modern Arabic and especially Egyptian fiction.”]
It was in the 1950s and 1960s that the Egyptian author Yusuf Idris established his reputation as a short-story writer of genius (see WLT [World Literature Today] 55:1, pp. 43-47). His ability to encapsulate realistic “slices of life” and more symbolic and nightmarish visions within the tight strictures of the genre, his profound psychological insights into a variety of human dilemmas, and perhaps above all his intuitive and often wayward use of numerous levels of language in creating his fleeting yet memorable world—these qualities were combined into short stories which made up a large number of collections and were to prove a significant factor in raising the Arabic short story to new levels of artistry (see WLT 60:2, pp. 199-206 on this general topic). Although other Arab writers have also made notable contributions to this fictional genre, Idris's talent has given him a particularly important place not only within the Arab world but also on a much-larger plane.
Three collections of Idris's stories are available in English: The...
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SOURCE: al-Naja, Abu al-Ma‘ati Abu. “The Short Story Collection, Vision at Fault.” In Critical Perspectives on Yusuf Idris, edited by Roger Allen, pp. 97-104. Colorado Springs: Three Continents Press, 1994.
[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1989, al-Naja considers the main thematic concerns of Vision at Fault.]
Even if we overlook the explanations that Yusuf Idris has proffered in a number of newspaper statements regarding the reasons for his preference for writing journalistic articles in recent years, the reader of this latest collection finds himself—perhaps unintentionally—posing himself a question as he considers the stories included: Is there a connection between the current small output of this story writer and the kind of experiments which he now considers worthy of being couched in short story form? Expressed differently, has short story writing, as far as Yusuf Idris is concerned, turned into a kind of quest for a rare pearl, however much time and effort may be involved?
Everybody realizes that the writer's career—any writer's—may take a number of different directions. It may take the form of an exploration of new positions on the larger map of society, the mind, or life in general; it may happen as the natural result of a growth in experience and knowledge and everything that that implies by way of a change in the mode of...
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SOURCE: Elkhadem, Saad. “Youssef Idris and His Gay Leader of Men.” The International Fiction Review 17, no. 1 (winter 1990): 25-8.
[In the following essay, Elkhadem views Idris's treatment of homosexuality in “Abû al-Rijâl” as pioneering.]
Most Arabists and literary historians agree that Youssef (Yûsuf) Idrîs (b. 1927) is one of the most accomplished, if not the most accomplished, short-story writer in Arabic literature today. Although he has written six novels and seven plays, Idrîs's mastery is most evident in the shorter forms. His first collection of short stories, Arkhas Layâlî (The Cheapest Nights), which was published in 1954, established him as one of the leading “realist” writers in Egypt. “Arkhas Layâlî,” the title story, which appeared earlier in the Cairene newspaper al-Misrî,1 and which deals with the sad and depressing life of the downtrodden fellahin, was immediately recognized as a pioneering work. This instant acknowledgment encouraged Y. Idrîs, who has a medical degree from the University of Cairo, to dedicate most of his time and energy to creative writing. Beside his belletristic works, Mr. Idrîs has published a great number of essays on literary and social topics; when collected and republished, his non-belletristic writings occupy seven volumes.2
While contributing regularly to...
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SOURCE: Mikhail, Mona N. “Egyptian Tales of the Fantastic: Theme and Technique in the Stories of Yūsuf Idrīs.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 27 (1990): 191-98.
[In the following essay, Mikhail offers a thematic and stylistic examination of Idris's short fiction.]
When Naguib Mahfouz was awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature, he immediately paid tribute not only to the generations of great Arab writers that came before him, but was quick to point out that several of his contemporaries were well-deserving candidates. He cited amongst others his countrymen Yahia Haqqi and Yūsuf Idrīs as two of the most important innovators in the realm of Arabic literature.
Yūsuf Idrīs, one of Egypt's most talented writers, has been writing novels, plays, and short stories, as well as contributing editorials on varying social and political subjects for leading daily and weekly papers and magazines in the Arab world, for over four decades. He has been showered with honors and literary prizes throughout his career, receiving last year the coveted Saddam Hussein Literary Prize. A physician by training, he early on abandoned that career to devote himself to writing. After an extended phase of writing novels and collections of stories in the vein of social realism, Idrīs successfully experimented with the theater of the absurd and, as we shall see in the ensuing stories,...
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SOURCE: Crofoot, John M. “Rhythms of the Body, Rhythms of the Text: Three Short Stories by Yusuf Idris.” The Turkish Studies Association Bulletin 16, no. 1 (April 1992): 34-6.
[In the following essay, Crofoot argues that by examining the rhythm of three Idris stories—“Summer's Night,” “Daood,” and “Sunset March”—illustrates “how consciousness or a sense of self depends on the interplay of the body and discourse.”]
This paper is part of a larger work in progress on narrative rhythm and community formation in works by Ahmet Mithat, Yusuf Idris, Kateb Yacine and Muhammad Barrada. Each of the stories in the present discussion explores the formation of a community through process involving rhythm. “Summer's Night” treats transformations in a group of adolescent boys; “Daood” deals with the parallels between feline and human reproductive cycles; and “Sunset March” presents a performance in which a juice vendor becomes an artist. Examination of rhythm in these stories shows how consciousness or a sense of self depends on the interplay of the body and discourse.
The analytical method of the study concentrates on alternations of register, voice and setting as keys to narrative rhythm. Bakhtin discusses alternation in the terms of dialogism, i.e., the intermingling of social classes, linguistic registers and literary genres in a single work. Genette outlines a...
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SOURCE: Somekh, Sasson. “Structure of Silence: A Reading in Yûsuf Idrîs's ‘Bayt min Lahm’ (‘House of Flesh’).” Writer, Culture, Text: Studies in Modern Arabic Literature (1993): 56-61.
[In the following essay, Somekh explores how silence plays a key structural role in “House of Flesh.”]
In an article published previously,1 I attempted to demonstrate some of the ways in which rhythm and sound (such as onomatopoeia) are functionally employed in the short stories of the Egyptian writer Yûsuf Idrîs (1927-1992).2 My contention was that these elements, besides representing voices, human or otherwise, serve as distinct structural devices in many of his stories. The present paper further elaborates on some of these “acoustic” devices, although in this case the absence of sound rather than sound itself is discussed. One of Idrîs's stories in particular illustrates how words and phrases denoting “silence” play a major structural role in it.
The story in question is “Bayt min Lahm” (“House of Flesh”).3 This short story is interesting because rather than being typical it constitutes one of its author's most original works. Indeed, it was translated into several languages,4 and critics in Egypt and elsewhere have repeatedly commented on it. However, most of these comments pay scant attention...
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SOURCE: El-Enany, Rasheed. “The Western Encounter in the Works of Yusuf Idris.” Research in African Literatures, 28, no. 3 (fall 1997): 33-55.
[In the following essay, El-Enany examines the East-West theme in two Idris stories, “Madame Vienna” and New York 80 in order to discuss his “preoccupation with this theme at various stages in his career.”]
The theme of the Arab in Europe, with all its cultural implications, is one that has found expression in Arabic fiction from a relatively early period in the evolution of the genre. The earliest mature attempts at treating the subject were those made by Tawfiq al-Hakim and Yahya Haqqi in ‘Usfur min al-sharq (1938; trans. as A Bird from the East) and Qindil 'Umm Hashim (1944; trans. as 'Umm Hashim's Lamp), respectively. Since the appearance of these two Egyptian works, which more or less established the theme in Arabic fiction, fresh approaches to it by later Egyptian and other Arab writers have not ceased.1 To this theme Yusuf Idris has made two major contributions in the form of two long short stories separated by a time gap of some twenty years. The first is “Al-Sayyida Vienna” (“Madame Vienna”),2 first published in 1959, and the second is New York 80, published in 1981.3 I shall attempt here to describe Idris's attitude to the cultural encounter as it emanates...
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SOURCE: Wise, Renate. “Subverting Holy Scriptures: The Short Stories of Yûsuf Idrîs.” In The Postcolonial Crescent: Islam's Impact on Contemporary Literature, edited by John C. Hawley, pp. 140-54. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.
[In the following essay, Wise investigates the Islamic influence on Idris's short fiction.]
Since the seventh century Arabic literature has been greatly influenced if not dominated by Islam. While literary critics have elaborated amply on the impact of Islam on medieval Arabic literature,1 they have for the most part ignored the Islamic influence on modern Arabic literature. Instead, when analyzing this literature, critics are quick to point to the influence of Western literature: “Modern Arabic literature took shape as a result of increasing contacts with Europe and, as a result, has been highly influenced by Western literary models and concepts” (Somekh 4). This proves true also for the short stories of the prominent Egyptian author Yûsuf Idrîs (1927-1991). The influence of Western writers, especially the Russians Chekhov, Gorky, and Dostoyevsky, and of Western concepts on Idrîs's short stories has been illustrated by several critics.2 An assessment of the influence of religious scriptures on, and their exploitation by, these stories warrants an exploration of terra incognita.3 And it is a...
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SOURCE: Kirecci, M. Akif. “Political Criticism in the Short Stories of Yusuf Idris: ‘Innocence’ and ‘19502’.” The Massachusetts Review 42, no. 4 (winter 2001): 672-88.
[In the following essay, Kirecci contends that “Innocence” and “19502” “strongly reflect the author's perception of Egyptian political life.”]
This article analyzes two short stories by Yusuf Idris (1927-1991), commonly regarded as Egypt's master of this genre. These two stories, “Innocence” (“Bara'ah”) and “19502,” not only vividly represent the relationship between literature and politics, but also are fine examples of Idris' artistic style. Indeed, his literary works as a whole reflect Egypt's culminating experiences and struggles along the path to becoming an independent modern nation. I thus argue that an intellectual can assert his political views via literature as effectively as by engaging in politics itself—if not more so.
In “Bara'ah,” Idris visualizes the visit of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat to Israel. The message is clear: he does not favor the idea of such a visit, nor does he approve of the peace initiative. Instead, he apparently tries to warn al-Sadat of the consequences of the course he has chosen. The assassination scene is the most interesting aspect of the story as the vision was later realized in October 6, 1981, with the actual murder of the president...
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SOURCE: Salti, Ramzi. “A Different Leader of Men: Yusuf Idris Against Arab Concepts of Male Homosexuality.” World Literature Today 75, no. 2 (spring 2001): 247-56.
[In the following essay, Salti elucidates the sociopolitical implications of Idris's depiction of homosexuality in A Leader of Men.]
When Yusuf Idris (1927-91) published his controversial story “Abu al-rijal” (Eng. “A Leader of Men”) in the Egyptian magazine October in 1987, it was immediately hailed by scholars as the first and only work in modern Arabic literature to probe “so deeply in the mind and soul of a latent homosexual” (Elkhadem, 1988, 1). Consequently, many critics praised the story for daring to broach a subject that “is normally regarded in the Arab world as one about which feelings, thoughts, and words ought to be repressed” (Boullata, 83), one that is “regarded by the great majority in Islamic Egypt as repugnant and distasteful” (Elkhadem, 1). Even those scholars who did not perceive the work as a significant contribution to Arabic short fiction tended to emphasize that the story was nevertheless noteworthy “for both its theme and technique” (Allen, 360).
Although critics seem unanimous in praising Idris for daring to broach the sensitive and controversial topic of homosexuality, few have attempted to engage the subject as it may relate to notions of gay liberation and...
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al-Mousa, Nedal. “A Social Psychological Interpretation of Yusuf Idris’s ‘Snobbism’.”1Arabic and Middle Eastern Literatures 2, no. 2 (July 1999): 173-75.
Provides a social psychological perspective on “Snobbism.”
Roger, Allen, ed. Critical Perspectives on Yusuf Idris. Colorado Springs: Three Continents Press, 1994, 180 p.
Collection of critical essays.
Cohen-Mor, Dalya. Yusuf Idris: Changing Visions. Potomac, Md.: Sheba Press, 1992, 188 p.
Examines the central themes of Idris's short fiction.
Mikhail, Mona N. Studies in the Short Fiction of Mahfouz and Idris. New York: New York University Press, 1992, 168 p.
Analysis of the short fiction of Idris and Naguib Mahfouz.
Somekh, S. “Language and Theme in the Short Stories of Yusuf Idris.” Journal of Arabic Literature 6 (1975): 89-100.
Offers a thematic and stylistic analysis of Idris's short fiction.
Additional coverage of Idris's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: African Writers; Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, Ed. 3; Literature Resource Center; Reference Guide to Short Fiction, Eds. 2, 3; Reference...
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