An old caricature of Taha Hussein in an Egyptian newspaper (Photo: Ayman Barayez)
Commemorating the 40th death anniversary of Egyptian thinker and novelist Taha Hussein, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has unveiled for the first time a rare collection of original documents and photographs pertaining to the great writer at the historical Al-Sennary House in Al-Sayeda Zeinab neighbourhood.
The collection includes a telegraph to Taha Hussein – the dean of Arabic literature and one of the 20th century's most influential writers in Egypt and the Arab world – dispatched by the late Hassan El-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, to congratulate Hussein on the marriage of his daughter Amina.
Telegraph to Taha Hussein from Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan El-Banna
Rare family photographs showing Hussein with his wife, Suzan, and his children, Mo'nes and Amina, are displayed alongside official ones where Hussein is seen with a variety of public personalities including King Farouk I, American writer Helen Keller, late president Nasser and dancer Tahia Carioca.
Taha Hussein with Helen Keller
The rare collection includes the original copies of Taha Hussein's personal documents – his passport and identification card – as well as handwritten correspondence composed by the writer to his friends and signed papers sent to the university head, including his resignation letter.
Also exhibited are original copies of French and Egyptian newspapers with articles about Hussein, the pioneer of modern Arabic literature.
A review of Taha Hussein's famous book 'The future of culture in Egypt'; Hussein appears in the picture, his daughter Amina reading for him at his study
Taha Hussein (14 Nov 1889 – 28 Oct 1973) 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.
A handwritten poem by one of Taha Hussein's students in praise of him
Taha Hussein at his study, in his villa on Al-Haram street
Taha Hussein in Rome, 1950