Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Since his student years in Paris, between 1925 and 1928, Tawfiq al-Hakim traveled in Europe on various occasions, and when The Tree Climber was published, he referred to the influence the Theater of the Absurd had exerted on him, particularly after a lengthy stay in France in 1959 and 1960. Among those he cited as important predecessors in this sense were Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco. Nevertheless, al-Hakim preferred to designate his particular conception as irrationalist, and he has maintained, though not to the satisfaction of some critics, that his ideas in this regard should be considered a distinct formulation in their own right. Although it may be contended perhaps that during various stages of al-Hakim’s career, Western drama has provided inspiration for certain works, it should also be noted that his own efforts have manifested distinctive features which have set forth some of the themes and techniques that were recast in The Tree Climber. His early work Shahrazad (pb. 1934; partial English translation, 1944) supplied the author’s own ending to a work which represented in effect a continuation of the Arabian Nights. Some of al-Hakim’s other plays have employed jinn and other fabled beings to achieve unusual, seemingly magical resolutions of problems which were handled in an ironic mode.

In somewhat flippant sketches, such as Himari qala li (pb. 1945; short plays, one translated as The Donkey...

(The entire section is 423 words.)