Adel Kamel and the ‘Magnificent Conman of Cairo’

Egyptian author Adel Kamel — a lawyer, long-forgotten novelist, and long-time member of the Harafish — was born in Cairo on February 27, 1916:

The author in 1934, courtesy of his family.

Much like Egyptian novelist and playwright Tawfiq al-Hakim, Adel Kamel’s father insisted that he study the law. And Kamel did study — and practice — law. But, much like al-Hakim, Kamel spent far more of his energy on literature. Still, as far as we know, he wrote literary works for only a few years: between 1938 and 1942.

Shortly after Adel Kamel’s satiric 1942 novel Malim al-Akbar was rejected by the Arabic Language Academy, he gave up on publishing. But he never lost his interest in literature and philosophy, and he continued to run with Naguib Mahfouz and the others in the iconic “Harafish” group until he left Egypt in 1992. In 1993, a year after Adel Kamel moved to Texas to be with his daughters, Mahfouz wrote a tribute to him.

This tribute forms the foreword of the 2020 English edition of Kamel’s satiric novel, which has become The Magnificent Conman of Cairo in Walid Almusharaf’s translation.

To celebrate the translation of this long-forgotten, now-remembered classic, a few views on the book and on its author, as well as an excerpt from the novel:

ArabLit: Waleed Almusharraf on Kamel’s Characters: ‘Despicable and Lovable with No Contradiction’

ArabLit: With His Daughters: Family Photos and Memories

ArabLit: Publisher Seif Salmawy on Rediscovering Adel Kamel

Al Jazeera: Egyptian classic rediscovered in English

Hoopoe Fiction: Read an excerpt from the first chapter of The Magnificent Conman

The novel is available from AUC Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.Com, Amazon.Uk, and is best bought at your local bookshop.


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