Friday Films: ‘The Open Door,’ Based on a Novel by Latifa Zayyat

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:

This week’s film is The Open Door, based on the 1960 novel by pioneering author-activist Latifa al-Zayyat. The Arab Writers Union listed this coming-of-age novel as one of the Top 105 books of the 20th century. Al-Zayyat was a political prisoner in 1949 and again in 1981, but then won Egypt’s highest state-sponsored literary prize a few months before her death in 1996. She was also co-winner of the inaugural Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for The Open Door.

It’s set during al-Zayyat’s first political awakening, in the decade post-WWII, during the last fight against British colonial rule, and it centers aorund Layla and her brother Mahmud. In a retrospective on Al-Jadid, al-Zayyat’s debut novel was remembered by critic Farida al-Naqash as “an expression of a new wave in the Arabic novel, one that combines poetic realism with committed literature.”

You can read an excerpt, trans. Marilyn Booth, online.

The novel was adapted into a 1964 film by Henry Barakat starring megastar Faten Hamama.

Previous Friday films:

The Mountain, based on a novel by Fathi Ghanem

Miramarbased on a novel by Naguib Mahfouz

A Touch of Fear, based on a novella by Tharwat Abaza

The Impossible, based on a novel by Mostafa Mahmoud

The Sixth Daybased on a novel by Andrée Chedid

The Land, based on a novel by Abdel Rahman Al-Sharqawi, translated as Egyptian Earth

Al-Harambased on a novel by Yusuf Idris

I’m Free, based on a novel by Ihsan Abdel Quddous

A Beginning and an End, based on the novel by Naguib Mahfouz

For Bread Alone, based on the novel by Mohamed Choukri

Gate of the Sun, based on the novel by Elias Khoury

The Dupesbased on Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun

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

The Lamp of Umm Hashem, inspired by a novella by Yahia Haqqi