|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
||Established in 1996
|| Tuesday, June 6, 2023
|Egypt dissidents revive rich prison writing tradition|
In this file photo taken on May 23, 2015, Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah gestures from behind the defendant's cage during his trial for insulting the judiciary alongside 25 other defendants including ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was recently sentenced to death, in the capital Cairo. Egyptian dissidents have been reviving the rich prison writing tradition. The country has a long history of political prisoners turning to writing to capture their experiences in confinement. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP.
by Farid Farid
CAIRO.- Having spent the better part of a decade behind bars, Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah is reaching beyond his cell with a new book.
Egypt has a long history of political prisoners turning to writing to capture their experiences in confinement.
An icon of the 2011 revolt that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak, Abdel Fattah wrote prolifically over the years, becoming one of the best-known voices of the protest movement.
His writings have now been anthologised into a book published this week, titled: "You Have Not Yet Been Defeated".
With a foreword by Canadian author Naomi Klein, the title of the nearly 450-page book released by a British publisher is a nod to Abdel Fattah's continued public engagement, even while in solitary confinement.
"He has different voices with his writing, from the technical to the passionate and poetic," his mother, veteran activist Laila Soueif, told AFP.
"The form of expression may differ but at its fundamental core, his writing is attached to justice," she added.
On Monday, Abdel Fattah was brought before a security court yet again on charges of "broadcasting false news" for a tweet.
He was last arrested in September 2019, having been released just months earlier on probation, in the wake of rare protests calling for the removal of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Soueif said her son, 39, had been excited about the publication of his work, despite knowing that he cannot celebrate his latest literary achievement.
"For me his letters from jail were just letters mimicking our conversations. We've always talked about everything together, from science fiction to capitalism," the award-winning mathematics professor said.
'Understanding Egypt through its prisons'
"You can't understand Egypt without understanding what's happening in its prisons," said Elliott Colla, an Arabic literature professor at Georgetown University.
He noted that jail conditions have worsened compared to decades ago under the reign of Gamal Abdel Nasser, based on his reading of prominent writers such as Sonallah Ibrahim and Gamal al-Ghitani.
"As scary as Nasser's prisons were, people felt like they could organise solidarity openly with prisoners in terms of book, food and clothing campaigns... That's a big difference between Sisi and Nasser," he said.
Colla has also translated the poems of another prominent activist, Ahmed Douma, 36, who has been in jail since 2013. He has spent six of those years in solitary confinement.
He published a book of poetry, "Curly", that was displayed at this year's Cairo International Book Fair in July but was quickly pulled for "security reasons".
Douma's brother Mohamed sent him a physical copy but does not know if prison authorities allowed him to receive it.
"We were happy because he was happy and was focused on it as a project. But he was quickly saddened because it got pulled from the Cairo book fair," he told AFP.
"From the start of his jail sentence, Ahmed would give his lawyers a poem here or there each time he'd see them in court for trial."
Douma asked the lawyers to collate the poems to be published in a book, his brother added.
'Smiling behind glass'
Mohamed Douma said his brother was eligible for conditional release earlier this month after serving half of his sentence.
The family was informed that they would have to pay a fine of six million Egyptian pounds ($380,000) for the prison authority to consider his release.
But for the jailed activist, who has contracted Covid-19 twice since the start of the pandemic, his joyful spirit has not been dampened.
"During court sessions, we're the only ones smiling and laughing to each other from behind the thick glass and everyone else is crying. We're very similar in personality," his brother recounted.
In one of his poems composed in solitary confinement, Ahmed Douma writes: "There's no time for depression, no opportunity for sadness, the flood is raging."
Colla situates Abdel Fattah's and Douma's words within the tradition of Egyptian writers coming of age in jail.
"Prison literature is not a minor genre in modern Arabic literature. In fact, you can say in some places (in the Arab world) it's the dominant genre of the best literary production," he said.
Soueif says she hopes her son's book "will give a complete picture of Alaa".
© Agence France-Presse
October 22, 2021
Vienna museums resort to OnlyFans for cultural naked truth
Grammy, Oscar-winning artists featured in online O Museum Fundraiser on Oct. 24
Iconic Faith Ringgold painting acquired by National Gallery of Art
Asia Week New York zooms in on The Luxurious Garden
Wifredo Lam's breakthrough masterpiece La Réunion will highlight Christie's sale
Chrysler Museum receives gifts of art from local collectors that enhance diversity in the permanent collection
Vikings were in the Americas exactly 1,000 years ago
The return of the Shadowman
Unseen for 40 years: Matisse from the Steins' collection leads Bonhams sale
Curators squeezed out by high dino bones price tag
Sotheby's to offer The Carlton Rochell Collection of Company School Paintings
One of the very first coins to have been struck in 1652 in what is now the U.S. is discovered in a vintage sweet tin
Sister Parish rises again, in a pop-up
At 90, a composer is still sending out blasts
Leslie Bricusse, prolific songwriter for stage and screen, dies at 90
Ronaldo wearing 'wrong' shirt at Dubai's Madame Tussauds
Morphy's to auction rare coin-ops, early mechanical music machines, Nov. 4-6
Martin Margiela is back
Two New York orchestras return with acts of renewal
The 'TikTok necklace' sparks a Vivienne Westwood renaissance
Mia Wasikowska channels female directors on 'Bergman Island'
Fine Jewelry and Luxury Accessories auction presents timeless classics and fresh-to-market showstoppers
Egypt dissidents revive rich prison writing tradition
Canadian wins prestigious Chopin piano competition
MASH Gallery and St. Jude Children's Hospital Display Water as the Way, at the newest exhibition SACRED WATERS
What Is Islamic Art?
CUTE ART IPHONE CASES
How to Support the Arts When You Don't Have a Lot of Money
How to Preserve Special Moments for a Lifetime of Memories
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.