Yusuf Idris Criticism - Essay

Catherine Cobham (essay date 1975)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 4410 words.)

Roger Allen (essay date 1978)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 12322 words.)

Mona Mikhail (essay date 1979)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 8445 words.)

Roger Allen (essay date winter 1981)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 4907 words.)

P. M. Kurpershoek (essay date 1981)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 7405 words.)

Dalya Cohen (essay date 1984)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1903 words.)

Sasson Somekh (essay date 1985)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 4348 words.)

Issa J. Boullata (review date winter 1989)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 608 words.)

Roger Allen (review date spring 1989)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 774 words.)

Abu al-Ma‘ati Abu al-Naja (essay date 1989)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 3817 words.)

Saad Elkhadem (essay date winter 1990)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1815 words.)

Mona N. Mikhail (essay date 1990)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 5237 words.)

John M. Crofoot (essay date April 1992)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1049 words.)

Sasson Somekh (essay date 1993)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 3063 words.)

Rasheed El-Enany (essay date 1997)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 12589 words.)

Renate Wise (essay date 1998)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 6315 words.)

M. Akif Kirecci (essay date winter 2001)

(Short Story Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 6155 words.)

Ramzi Salti (essay date spring 2001)

(Short Story Criticism)

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 entire section is 7103 words.)