Over at The Arabist, Industry Arabic has translated one of the absurd recent characterizations of an “activist” from Youm 7. Herein, the effeminate “male activist” reputedly is not a poetry-lover (although he likes to curse and use obscene expressions), but the manned-up “female activist” likes the “lewd poetry” of Fouad Haggag and Naguib Sorour:
I’m not sure whether any of Haggag’s poetry or theatre has been translated into English. Naguib Sorour (1932-1978) however, made international headlines in 2001, twenty-three years after the poet’s death. That’s when his son Shohdy posted Surour’s controversial poem “Koss Ummiyyat” (1969) online.
The poem — a long, dark satire in colloquial Arabic– was technically banned in Egypt but had been widely circulated via tapes and hand-copied manuscripts in the decades after its composition.
About a year after Shohdy Sorour posted the poem, Egyptian authorities apparently noticed it, and Shohdy was arrested in November 2001, charged with “possessing ‘immoral booklets and prints'” according to Wired. He was only held for a few days, but Shohdy’s case proceeded. He was sentenced to a year in jail and, as he waited on his appeal, Shohdy relocated to Russia. In his absence, the appeals court confirmed the verdict of one year in prison.
Surour’s work remains in an ambiguous space in Egypt — alternately celebrated and shunned by the establishment. In any case, you should explore Surour’s poetry, and — if you find you like it — goodness only knows what that says about you.
Parts of Naguib Sorour’s Koss Ummiyyat:
From Sorour’s “Drink Delirium,” trans. Mona Anis and Nur Elmesseiri:
A few lines from Lana Younis’s translation of Surour’s Protocols of the Wise Men of Riche:
Which begins “Read nothing be a lumberjack…”
This kind of narrow mindset underpins why there are so problems and deep impasse in Egypt today. Sad.
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