Discovering Egyptian Authors: Yasser Abdel Latif

Egyptian poet, short-story writer, screenwriter, and novelist Yasser Abdel Latif was born in 1969. 

The writer published his first story in Rose al-Yusuf at age 20 and graduated from Cairo University in 1994 (with a concentration in philosophy), issuing his first collection of poetry a year later: ناس و أحجار. In a 2010 interview with Youssef Rakha, Abdel Latif said:

I started writing at a very early age and I don’t know of any motives behind it. I was 15 at most and there was no theoretical background at all in the process. I wrote short stories which only two of my friends read. At university the practise developed. It was a chance to find out about new books, and at the Faculty of Arts I met with a group of student writers from different departments like [Egyptian poet] Ahmad Yamani from Arabic, [poet] Mohammad Metwalli from English, Hoda Hussein from French and Sayed Mahmoud from History[.]

He went on to write poems, short stories, and a novel  قانون الوراثة (Law of Inheritance, 2002) which won the 2005 Sawiris Prize and is currently being translated. He told Rakha:

I wrote “Qanoun al wiratha” with a view to completing a “major work” by coming at autobiography from oblique angles; in it I realised all my narrative convictions up until that time, the end of the 1990s. I finished it in 2000 and published it in 2002, and I believe I accomplished in it exactly what I intended.

He also said about the book, in a later interview, “The structure of this novel is built on the relation between four different moments in the life of three generations from the same family. Those moments are linked together and separate in the same time.”

Abdel Latif was a resident of the prestigious Iowa Writing Program (IWP) in 2009, which is also when his second collection of poetry, جوله ليلة , was released by Dar Merit. He also has written a number of TV scripts, about which he said during an IWP chat: “the translation and writing for the screen i do it to gain bread, as you cannot live from literature in my country.”

He also said, during that chat, that he admires the work of Egyptian author “Mohamed Makhzangi who is one of the best short story writers in the arabic world.”

Abdel Latif’s most recent book, يونس في احشاء الحوت  (Jonah in the Belly of the Whale) was published by Kotob Khan Books in 2011; Abdel Latif has also taught creative writing at the Kotob Khan Bookshop. The book of short stories has not (yet) been translated.

The anonymous QISASUKHRA has lately translated two of Abdel Latif’s stories: “Country Train” (2012) and the just-published”Sorting Shelves” (2011).

Abdel Latif’s poetry has also appeared on PEN‘s website.