Taha Hussein's 'The Future of Culture in Egypt' republished

Ahram Online, Wednesday 25 Sep 2013

Taha Hussein argued in his 1938 volume that Egypt was a never an Arab, but a Western country. The contentious book is now republished by the Supreme Council of Culture

Taha Hussein
Taha Hussein

Mostaqbal Al-Thaqafa fi Misr (The Future of Culture in Egypt), by: Taha Hussein, SCC: Cairo. 2013

Egypt’s Supreme Council for Culture (SCC) rereleased the celebrated volume Mostaqbal Al-Thaqafa fi Misr (The Future of Culture in Egypt) by late Egyptian writer Taha Hussein (1889 – 1973), the dean of Arabic literature and one of the 20th century most influential writers in Egypt and the Arab world. The new edition is forwarded by Egyptian critic and ex-minister of culture Gaber Asfour.

First released in 1938, the thin volume sparked considerable controversy.

Taha Hussein postulates in his book that Egyptians, whose ideals and traditions are different from those of other Arabs, were never, actually, Arab. The author, divorcing the Egyptian rationale from the Oriental one, declares Egypt a Western country.

The book also reveals Hussein's vision of Egyptian culture, and the necessity to maintain it forever commensurate with its glorious past. The author asserts the university's essential role in this respect. Assuming the place of cultural source, he suggests, the university would become the chief contributor to civilisation.

Taha Hussein (14 Nov 1889 – 28 Oct 1973) was a pioneer of modern Arabic literature. He authored dozens of works – ranging between criticism, literature and translations – among which the most controversial were On Pre-Islamic Poetry and Al-Ayyam (The Days)Despite having lost his eyesight at age three because of ill-treatment, Hussein obtained his PhD in 1914 on the poetry of Abul Alaa Al-Maari, becoming professor of Arabic Literature, and later minister of education.

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