Remembering Humphrey Davies, 1947-2021

A digital memorial for translator and independent scholar Humphrey Davies.

If you would like to add a reminiscence, video, or photo, email info@arablit.

Rana Issa: ‘What Distinguished Humphrey Davies: Irreverent and Faithful Acts of Transcreation

“For us readers of Arabic that are thirsty for a more inclusive canon that has room for queers, peers, poors, boors, mamas and other sisters, Humphrey’s translations have been central in planting the idea that such a canon does exist and that our search will yield some exciting results, as his search so far has done.” (Read in full.)

Sam Wilder: ‘Thanks for Caring About the Weird Paths of Others’

“He had a funny reserve, while being one of the warmest and best people I’ve been lucky to know. Thank you for being so interested, and thank you for the tea, the beers, the walks, the food, and for caring about the weird paths of others.” (Read in full.)

Suneela Mubayi: Uncle Humph, Do Stay a While Longer

“It was this innate sense of ẓarf, or refined wit, that made Uncle Humph not just the most delightful of interlocutors but also the finest of translators, and would have made him at home in any majlis of the finest udabaʾ.” (Read in full at Rusted Radishes.)

Aziz Mohammed: ‘He Took Great Pleasure in the Process

“Regrettably I have never met Humphrey, but he left a great mark on me during the long video chats and correspondences we had. I was in awe that such a giant was meticulously working with me on his translation of my first novel, taking notes and reviewing and editing each line, word, and letter down to the smallest detail, over and over again.” (Read in full.)

Samia Mehrez: Humphrey Davies and the Center for Translation Studies at AUC’

“Humphrey accompanied me every step of the way until the closure of the center in July 2021 and his own untimely passing only a few months after the center had been shut down, thereby marking the end of our adventure together; the end of an époque.” (Read in full.)

Raph Cormack: ‘Humphrey’s Cairo

But he will always be there, in Cairo. When I finally make it back I will still see him, with his eyebrow ever so slightly raised, telling a century-old piece of gossip he has just discovered or recounting some neat piece of wordplay.” (Read in full.)

Short memories:

Humphrey loved a good puzzle, a maze of clues, a treasure hunt and the Field Guide was of these things. How thankful I am to have had the honour to collaborate with the brilliant, precise, and witty Humphrey Davies! It was a privilege. – Lesley Lababidi


I met Humphrey Davies only twice, a kind, hospitable man. As for his work, well it was masterful!  It’s no wonder he was a prize-winning translator. He translated only what interested him, and he chose brilliantly. What a loss to the literary world! – Bridget Smith (Australia)


His translations and interviews:

Celebrating Humphrey: 10 Translations, 11 Interviews

Talks and readings:

Humphrey speaking at the 10th anniversary of the Center for Translation Studies.

Speaking with Rana Issa about Elias Khoury

Humphrey represented a different approach, one that I hold dear to my heart.  In the books that he selected from tradition, and those that he liked to reference, Humphrey presented another Arabic that was whimsical and witty, modest and inviting, and altogether unlike what we were taught to respect. He was drawn to irreverent works and welcomed the colloquial register as a legitimate writing style (see for example his great book on Egyptian dialects with the late Madiha Doss), texts that had something of the carnivalesque in the subversive intelligence they presented.

Rana Issa

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