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Writers who left us in 2015: Egyptian pens that won't dry

This year Egypt lost some of its most influential writers, all of whom contributed to shaping the Egyptian consciousness in the second half of the 20th century with both their masterpieces and their controversial views

Mohammed Saad , Saturday 26 Dec 2015
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Egypt lost some of its most iconic and renowned writers and poets in 2015, including vernacular poet Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi and prominent novelist Gamal El-Ghitani, who Egyptians deemed the guardian of the Egyptian memory.

Here is a list of the writers who left us in 2015, arranged chronologically:

Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi, 21 April 2015

El-Abnoudi passed away at the age of 76 after a long struggle with illness. One of Egypt's greatest vernacular poets, El-Abnoudi was born in 1939 in the village of Abnoud in Upper Egypt's Qena governorate. He moved to Cairo in his early twenties during the late 1950s to pursue his dreams in the art world.

El-Abnoudi's most well-known poetry works include the five-volume Sirat Bani Hilal (The Biography of Bani Hilal)Al-Mashrou' w al-Mamnou' (The Allowed and the Prohibited), Samt Al-Jaras (The Silence of the Bell), and Zahma (Crowdedness).

He also wrote song lyrics for some of the most famous Egyptian and Arab singers in the second half of the 20th century, such as Abdel-Halim Hafez, Mohamed Rushdie, Najat El-Saghira , Shadia, Sabah and Mohamed Mounir.

Fouad Qandil, 3 June 2015

Born in Benha, eastern Egypt in 1944, Fouad Qandil is one of the most well-known Egyptian novelists and a figure from the 1960s literary generation in Egypt, who are to this day collectively considered the pillar of Egyptian literary life. Qandil left behind a legacy of 18 novels, 12 short story collections and 12 critical studies.

He won numerous literary prizes including the Naguib Mahfouz Prize for best novel, the State Excellency Award in 2004, the State Appreciation Award in 2010, and the prize of late Sudanese novelist Tayeb Saleh in 2011.

Ibtihal Salem, 15 August 2015

Novelist Ibtihal Salem graduated from the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Arts at Ain Shams University in 1974.

The famous novelist was also a prominent translator from French into Arabic.

The Sky Does Not Rain Lovers, A Little Box in the Heart and Blue Windows were among her many novels.

Ali Salem, 22 September 2015

Egyptian playwright and political commentator Ali Salem died at the age of 79. Salem is best known for the comic plays he wrote for Egyptian TV, where he gained a wide reputation among Egyptians.

One of his best and most popular plays is Madraset El-Moshaghebeen (The School of Trouble Makers). Salem was also known for his controversial political stances, especially on Israel, with which he approved cooperation and visited in 1994, sparking a debate which did not end even with his death. 

He authored 15 books and 27 plays, and wrote columns in many Egyptian and Arab Newspapers.

Gamal El-Ghitani, 18 October 2015

One of Egypt's most acclaimed writers, El-Ghitani had for a mentor literary giant Naguib Mahfouz. El-Ghitani died at the age of 70 after slipping into a coma for two month at a military hospital in Cairo.

El-Ghitani is best known for his iconic novel Al-Zayni Barakat, which addressed the tyranny of the security apparatus of the Mamluk era. The text was an allegory of the repression of Nasser's era, especially in the 1960s.

El-Ghitani was born in Upper Egypt on 9 May 1945 to a poor family who later moved to the Gamaliya neighbourhood in Cairo. In the mid 1960s, he developed a strong passion for old Islamic texts written by historians from the 16thcentury. These texts not only enriched his knowledge of Islamic Cairo where he lived, but also gave him a very rich linguistic source which would later influence his style of writing.

This allowed him a unique literary language and style, with a form and pattern for his novels that differ from the form of Western literature. 

Khalil Kalfat, 9 November 2015

Renowned Egyptian writer, translator and prominent leftist activist Khalil Kalfat died at the age of 72.

He was well-known for his smooth, eloquent translations into Arabic as well as his leftist political activism, which led to multiple imprisonments. 

Kalfat was born in Aswan in Nubia on 9 April 1941. He became a well-known literary critic, writer of short stories, and a translator who translated works on a multitude of subjects into Arabic, including works by Jorge Luis Borges, Alexis de Tocqueville and Machado de Assis.

Edwar El-Kharrat 1 December 2015

This year neared its end with the death of novelist Edwar El-Kharrat at a Cairo hospital where he was admitted for severe pneumonia. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's, which had rendered him close to unconsciousness for the last three years of his life. El-Kharrat was 89 when he died.

El-Kharrat was considered one of the founders of the modern Arabic novel and short story as well as a pioneer of Arabic literature. He was also a prominent critic and translator.

He published over 50 books including novels and poetry, and is best known for his novel Rama wal Tinin (Rama and the Dragon) and his short story collection Hitan Aliya (High Walls). He was also one of the theorists of modern Arabic literature.

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