Literary Criticism
English edition  
September  2016
272 pp.
15X23 cm
ISBN 9789774167614
For sale worldwide


Committed to Disillusion

Activist Writers in Egypt from the 1950s to the 1980s David DiMeo

The first systematic and detailed examination of twentieth-century activist Egyptian writing

Can a writer help to bring about a more just society? This question was at the heart of the movement of al-adab al-multazim, or committed literature, which claimed to dominate Arab writing in the mid-twentieth century. By the 1960s, however, leading Egyptian writers had retreated into disillusionment, producing agonized works that challenged the key assumptions of socially engaged writing. Rather than a rejection of the idea, however, these works offered reinterpretation of committed writing that helped set the stage for activist writers of the present. David DiMeo focuses on the work of three leading writers whose socially committed fiction was adapted to the disenchantment and discontent of the late twentieth century: Naguib Mahfouz, Yusuf Idris, and Sonallah Ibrahim. Despite their disappointments with the direction of Egyptian society in the decades following the 1952 revolution, they kept the spirit of committed literature alive through a deeply introspective examination of the relationship between the writer, the public, and political power. Reaching back to the roots of this literary movement, DiMeo examines the development of committed literature from its European antecedents to its peak of influence in the 1950s, and contrasts the committed works with those of disillusionment that followed. Committed to Disillusion is vital reading for scholars and students of Arabic literature and the modern history and politics of the Middle East.
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David DiMeo is an assistant professor and coordinator of the Arabic program at Western Kentucky University. He is the author, with Inas Hassan, of The Travels of Ibn Battuta: A Guided Reader (AUC Press, 2016).

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"DiMeo not only delivers useful stand-alone analyses of both major and less-studied works by Mahfouz, Idris, and Ibrahim, but also offers a persuasive framework for the history of committed literature in Egypt, exploring how artists have grappled with the realization that political art is often powerless to bring about political change. As this book’s heartbreaking conclusion points out, the same question has reverberated through the literature produced amid the Arab Uprisings and the waves of euphoria and disillusion that have followed."—Margaret Litvin, author of Hamlet's Arab Journey: Shakespeare's Prince and Nasser's Ghost

"Dimeo is a masterful literary critic. Based on detailed examination of scores of the three writers’ works, he shows how their shifts in subject matter and style mirror their reaction to the changing world around them."—Sally Bland, The Jordan Times

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Also available by this author

The Travels of Ibn Battuta ISBN 9789774167157
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