Denys Johnson-Davies

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Denys Johnson-Davies (Arabic: دنيس جونسون ديڤيز) (also known as Abdul Wadud) was an eminent Arabic-to-English literary translator who translated, inter alia, several works by Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, Sudanese author Tayeb Salih, Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish and Syrian author Zakaria Tamer.[1]

Johnson-Davies, referred to as “the leading Arabic-English translator of our time” by Edward Said, translated more than twenty-five volumes of short stories, novels, plays, and poetry, and was the first to translate the work of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. He was also interested in Islamic studies and was co-translator of three volumes of Prophetic Hadith. He wrote a number of children’s books adapted from traditional Arabic sources, including a collection of his own short stories, Fate of a Prisoner, which was published in 1999.

Born in 1922 in Vancouver, Canada of English parentage, Johnson-Davies spent his childhood in Sudan, Egypt, Uganda, and Kenya, and then was sent to England at age 12. Johnson-Davies studied Oriental languages at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and lectured on translation and English literature at several universities across the Arab World. In 2006, he published his memoirs. In 2007, he was awarded the Sheikh Zayed Book Award "Culture Personality of the Year", valued at about $300,000.[2]

In his latter years he lived between Marrakesh and Cairo. Denys Johnson-Davies died in Egypt on 22 May 2017.[3]


  1. ^ Hassan, Abdalla (March 2006). "Spread the Word". Egypt Today. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  2. ^ Sheikh Zayed Book Award Archived 2011-09-25 at the Wayback Machine., official website.
  3. ^ "Denys Johnson-Davies, renowned Arabic to English literary translator dies at 94 - Arab - Books - Ahram Online". Retrieved 2017-05-23. 

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