Yahya Haqqi

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Yahya Haqqi
Native name
Ibrahim tawakol
Born(1905-01-07)January 7, 1905
Cairo, Egypt
DiedDecember 9, 1992(1992-12-09) (aged 87)
Cairo, Egypt
OccupationNovelist, short story writer
Alma materCairo University
GenreNovels, Short stories, Fiction
Literary movementLiterary realism

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Yahya Haqqi (Arabic:يحيى حقي‎) (7 January 1905 – 9 December 1992) (or Yehia Hakki, Yehia Haqqi) was an Egyptian writer and novelist. Born to a middle-class family in Cairo, he was trained as a lawyer at the Cairo School of Law, graduating in 1925. Like many other Egyptian writers, such as Naguib Mahfouz and Yusuf Idris, he spent most of his life as a civil servant, supplementing his literary income; he eventually rose to become adviser to the National Library of Egypt.

In his literary career, he published four collections of short stories, one novel (Umm Hashem's Lamp), and many articles and other short stories besides. He was editor of the literary magazine Al-Majalla from 1961 to 1971, when that publication was banned in Egypt. He has experimented with the various literary norms: the short story, the novel, literary criticism, essays, meditations, and literary translation.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Haqqi was born on January 7, 1905 in the Cairo neighborhood of Zainab to a middle-class Turkish Muslim family. His ancestors had emigrated from Turkey to Greece, and one of the sons of that family, Ibrahim Haqqi (d. 1890), Yahya's grandfather, moved to Egypt in the early nineteenth century. Ibrahim Haqqi worked in Damietta for a period of time, and had three sons: Muhammad Ibrahim (Yahya's father), Mahmoud Taher, and Kamal. Muhammad Ibrahim's wife, Yahya's mother, was also of Turkish origin. Both of his parents enjoyed literature. Yahya Haqqi was the third son of six, and had two sisters. His oldest brother was Ibrahim, followed by Ismael. His younger siblings, in birth order, were Zachariah, Musa, Fatima, Hamza, and Miriam. Hamza and Miriam both died when they were only months old.

He graduated from the Faculty of Law and practiced as a lawyer in Alexandria. In 1929 he joined the diplomatic corps and served in Jeddah, Rome, Paris, and Ankara. In 1952 he was appointed ambassador to Libya. In 1953 he was appointed Director of the Arts Department and then a Literary Advisor to the Egyptian General Book Organization in 1958. In 1959, he resigned his post and became editor of one of a Cairo-based magazine. In 1970, he was appointed Member of the Supreme Council for Radio and Television.

Literary career[edit]

In his literary career, he published four collections of short stories, one novel, ("Good Morning", translated from Arabic by Miriam Cooke), a novella (Umm Hashem's Lamp, twice translated from Arabic, by M.M.Badawi and Denys Johnson-Davies), and many articles some of which involved literary criticism of writers works, and other short stories besides. Sabri Hafez regards Haqqi as a pioneer in the writing of short stories, and experimenter in both form and style.[2] Most literary critics commend Haqqi's style of writing and his language precision. He was editor of the literary magazine Al-Majalla from 1961 to 1971; this was a dangerous position, as the publication had been banned in Egypt by order of the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser. During that period and even before Haqqi championed budding Egyptian authors whose works he admired and believed in. In the 1960s also Haqqi took the very courageous step of retiring from writing short stories and novels, but he continued to write articles that critics described as artistic sketches.


His work at the Book Organization offered him an opportunity to read a lot. He is considered the father of short story and novel in Egypt. His first short story appeared in 1925, and he established himself as one of the greatest pioneers of contemporary short story writing in the Arab world.

His short stories convey attempts to express a certain philosophy on life, a certain stand or viewpoint and advocate human will which he considered the fountain-spring of all virtues. He believes that language is not merely a tool of expression or of conveying ideas but rather an integral part of the writing process in all literary norms. His study of law has had its impact on his writings which are characterized by objectivity.

Haqqi also translated world famous literary works such as "The Chess Player" aka The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig, Baltagul (The Hatchet) by Mihail Sadoveanu, and "The Prodigal Father" by Edith Saunders, he also participated in translating the famous Russian Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.


In 1968, he won first prize for his novel "The Postman" in which he portrays means of inculcating Egyptian values and principles. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Al Minya University, Egypt.



  • "The Dawn of the Egyptian Novel"
  • "Antar and Juliet"
  • "Steps in Criticism"
  • "A Song of Simplicity"

a number of essays included in his "Complete Works".

Literary works[edit]

His novel "Qandeel Om Hashem" (Om Hashem's Lantern) 1943, had its positive impact on the course of the Arabic novel for it was a precious work in both language and technique. In it he reviews the customs prevailing in the Egyptian countryside and the means of rectifying them through education so as to attain progress.

  • "Om Al'awagiz" (The Mother of the Helpless)
  • "Dima' Wa Teen" (Blood and Mud)
  • "Antar and Juliet"
  • "Sah El Nome: (Wake-up)
  • "I htigag" (Protest)
  • "Aqrab Affandi" (Mr. Scorpion)
  • "Tanawa'at Al Asbab" (Means Vary)
  • "Qessa Fi Ard'hal "(A Story in a Petition)
  • "Iflass Khatibah" (The Bankruptcy of a Matchmaker)
  • "Al Firash Al Shaghir" (The Small Bed)
  • "Al Bostagi" (The Postman).
  • The lamp of Umm Hashim


His book "Khaleeha Ala Allah" (Depend on God) is the most truthful autobiography and the most expressive of the development in the different stages of the author's life.



  1. ^ Tarek Heggy (2003). Culture, Civilization, and Humanity. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 0-7146-5554-6.
  2. ^ Sabry Hafez, ‘The Modern Arabic Short Story’ in Modern Arabic Literature, ed. M. M. Badawi, (Cambridge, 1992), p. 304


  • Hafez, Sabry; Catherine Cobham, eds. (1988). A Reader of Modern Arabic Short Stories (in Arabic and English). London: Saqi Books. pp. 147–148. ISBN 0-86356-087-3.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Brugman, J. (1984). An Introduction to the History of Modern Arabic. Brill Publishers. pp. 263–268. ISBN 90-04-07172-5.
  • Hafez, Sabry (1922). 'The Modern Arabic Short Story' in Modern Arabic Literature, ed. M.M.Badawi. Cambridge University Press. pp. 320–305.