Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi, renowned Egyptian poet, has died at 77:
According to reports from multiple news sources, El-Abnoudi, legend of colloquial poetry, has died. As a poet, writer, activist, and public legend, El-Abnoudi was well-loved across Egypt. As Mona Anis wrote in 2008:
If the poet Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi gives you an appointment for an interview in a public place, you are well advised to think twice. The likelihood of holding his attention for more than few minutes, much as you both might try, is almost next to none. Such an interview, however, is a good opportunity to get first-hand experience of El-Abnoudi’s popularity and of his immediately recognisable public persona.
El-Abnoudi told Anis that he was proud of his movie-star-like popularity:
“I have elevated the status of poetry and poets among the poor and among the fellaheen who weargalabiyyas,” he says. “In the past, they used to think a poet was a poor wanderer telling folk tales to the accompaniment of his rababh. I grew up as a poor peasant myself, tending sheep, drawing water, fishing in the Nile and tilling the land, while all the time listening to the songs people chant while working. I know how to give voice to their sorrows and their joys in a way that goes straight to their hearts.”
Born in the village of Abnoud in Upper Egypt, and originally called Abdel-Rahman Mahmoud Ahmed Abdel-Wahab, the self-renamed “El-Abnoudi” was a poet, a writer, and a researcher into popular literary forms.
El-Abnoudi’s Death on the Asphalt was listed as one of “Africa’s Great Books of the 20th Century” by a panel of judges at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, although not much of his work is available in translation.
Poems by El-Abnoudi in translation:
The Prisoners’ Laughter, translated by Aisha El-Awady and Ahdaf Soueif
The Usual Sorrows, translated by Ahmed Aboul Enein
Al Midan, translated by Samia Mehrez’s “Translating the Revolution” class
Ebb and Tide, translated by Mona Anis
Writing, transltaed by Mona Anis
Interviews and profiles:
Mona Anis in 2008: “An Upper Egyptian Odyssey”
Youssef Rakha interviews al-Abnoudi: “Our Revolution”