Friday Films: ‘The Lamp of Umm Hashem,’ Inspired by a Novella by Yahia Haqqi

Every Friday, ArabLit suggests a new classic film-book combination — for you to watch and read — until we run out of steam about 20 weeks in:

E752c5576436c3a79377a7d3086b2ae8_123584675_147This week it’s a novella by Yahia Haqqi (1905-1992), The Lamp of Umm Hashem (1943). The Lamp is perhaps Haqqi’s best-known work. It’s been translated twice, once by M.M. Badawi and once by Denys Johnson-Davies, in a collection with other short stories by Haqqi, published by AUC Press.

Haqqi, began as a short-story writer, but also wrote academic studies, an autobiography, and translated a number of works, including Stephen Zweig’s The Chess Player and Edith Saunders’ The Stray Father. 

The book and 1968 film both tell the story of a young man who’s sent to England to study medicine, who then comes back to practice in an Egypt where his new learning jars against traditional beliefs.

The film, directed by Kamal Attiya and starring Samira Ahmed, was apparently not beloved equally by all. According to an obituary of Attiya that ran in Al-Ahram WeeklyAttiya complained, “I made so many sophisticated movies, but people can only remember Qandil Umm Hashem.”

Watch the film: 

Yahia Haqqi’s short stories:

Reviewed by M.A. Orthofer

Previous Friday films:

The Dupesbased on Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Son

Diary of a Country Prosecutor, based on a novel by Tawfiq al-Hakim

Adrift on the Nile, based on a novel by Naguib Mahfouz

A Nightingale’s Prayerbased on a novel by Taha Hussein.

 Kit Katbased on the novel The Heron by Ibrahim Aslan, available in translation by Elliott Colla.

The Egyptian Citizen, based on Yusuf al-Qa’id’s award-winning novel War in the Land of Egypt