Translated Stories to Mark the Passing of Said al-Kafrawi, 1942-2020

Last Saturday, November 14, Egyptian short-story writer Said al-Kafrawi passed away at 81:

Al-Kafrawi steady in his commitment to the short story. As Egyptian poet, novelist, critic, and short-story writer Youssef Rakha wrote of him:

The news was announced in a one-line statement on al-Kafrawi’s Facebook page.

Al-Kafrawi, a friend and colleague of Naguib Mahfouz’s, wrote many stories set in the countryside of his childhood. In 1970, near the end of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s presidency, al-Kafrawi was arrested over the publication of a short story of his. Mahfouz reputedly used this experience in shaping the character Ismail Sheikh in his 1975 novel Karnak Cafe.

Samir Grees wrote of this, in Qantara:

Said al-Kafrawi, the short story writer, also went regularly to the meetings in Café Riche. “In winter we would only meet on Fridays, but in summer we met every day,” he recalls. Al-Kafrawi remembers the warmth with which Mahfouz greeted him after he was released from prison. Mahfouz listened very attentively when al-Kafrawi talked about his time as a political prisoner under Gamal Abdel Nasser. In 1974, four years after Nasser’s death, Mahfouz published his novel Karnak Café, which deals with atrocities committed by the police state under Nasser. When Mahfouz saw the young storyteller again in Café Riche, he said to him: “Said, you are one of the characters in this novel.”

Denys Johnson-Davies, who translated a selection of al-Kafrawi’s work into English, said in his memoir that al-Kafrawi wrote with “panache” about village life, such that his stories could not be collapsed into depictions of a “primitive way of life.”

A few translations:

A Plait for Maryam,” translated by Mona Zaki (available online)

The Naked,” translated by Sally Gomaa (available online)

“Provisions of Sand,” translated by , in Sardines and Oranges: Short Stories from North Africa, edited by Peter Clark. Unfortunately, a BBC Radio recording of the translation is no longer available.

“A Boat on the Water,” translated by Denys Johnson-Davies, in Under the Naked Sky: Short Stories from the Arab World, ed. Johnson-Davies

Hill of Gypsies and Other Stories, ed. and translated by Denys Johnson-Davies