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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Commemorating Khairy Shalaby's life in historical Cairo

Khairy Shalaby's insights into the lives of the marginalised as well as his knowledge of the city helped him reach out to society from both directions

Marwa Mohie, Tuesday 4 Oct 2011
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In one of the oldest houses in Egypt and in the heart of the Fatimid Cairo, Khairy Shalaby's life was celebrated among intellectuals and friends. Al-Seheimy house was the location of a celebration organised by the General Egyptian Book Organisation and the General Authority for Cultural Palaces that took place on Sunday, one week after the departure of the renowned novelist after 73 years of life full of creativity and knowledge.

The evening featured a short documentary, showing Shalaby speaking critically of trying to write about the hardships of the workers without living their everyday life, and comparing the internet to a 'meal without calories'.

The second part of the event was a discussion titled, "New approaches to reading Khairy Shalaby's creativity," with critic Hussein Hamouda, Ramadan Bastawisy, and historian Sayed Ashmawy, and led by poet Mohamed Badawy.

Badawy started the discussion by sharing an insight into reading Shalaby, for there's no real difference between Shalaby the writer and Shalaby the man who lived a rural village life. To Sayed Ashmawy, Shalaby was an inspiration for him to seek out the history of the marginalised, rarely known as a field of research among historians.

It's unfair to consider Shalaby only as a voice to the marginalised, as stressed by Ramadan Bastawisi, since Shalaby was able to capture life in the city as well as the village, recording many of the issues suffered by people throughout society.

The last part of the evening was a set of testimonials by intellectuals who were close to Shalaby, including novelist Mahmoud El-Wardani, poet Fares Khedr and critic Mohamed El-Sayed Eid, led by poet Shabaan Youssef.

The touching memories of close friends registered Shalaby's humble yet proud upbringing, his wide knowledge and passion for Egyptian rural life and popular culture. "He lived exactly as he wished, smiling and writing, now that he's dead, I cannot weep for him, for he would not have allowed it," was El-Wardani's closing remark of the evening.  

 

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