Egyptian Childhood : The Autobiography of Taha Hussein (1933) PDF book

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The Autobiography of Taha Hussein (1932) PDF book


Autobiography of An Egyptian hero who fought ignorance and superstitions and refused to surrender though he was blind and poor and most Muslim people were against him

Introduction by the translator: E. H. Paxton

DR. TAHA HUSSEIN was born at Maghaghah in the province of Minia, Upper Egypt, in the year 1889. An Egyptian Childhood is an account of his early life up to the age of thirteen, when he went to Al-Azhar, together with a valuable description of Egyptian provincial life and the customs and beliefs of the country folk in Egypt. The autobiography ceases just after he has come to Cairo to study at Al-Azhar. He remained there for ten years and acquired a thorough knowledge of Arabic literature under the guidance of Shaikh Sayyid Aly al-Marsafi, But from 1908 he began to study at the newly founded Egyptian University, where he was initiated into modern Western methods of literary criticism and rapidly threw off the prejudices and cramped outlook of the Azhar.



The European professors at the Egyptian University, Nallino, Littman, and Santillana, were the men whose helpful influence Dr. Taha Hussein acknowledges with gratitude. He graduated in 1914, and during the years of the Great War studied at the Sorbonne, where he obtained his Doctorate. In 191 9 on his return to Egypt, he was appointed Professor of Ancient History in the old Egyptian University, and on its reconstitution, he was appointed Professor of Arabic Literature. Among the more noteworthy of his writings are the following: Dhikra Abi-l-Ala (Memory of Abu-VAla al Mu'arry) 1914 ; Etude analytique et critique de la Vhilosophie Sociale d'Ibn Khaldun 1917 ; Hadith alArba V (Wednes- day Talks) 1925-6 ; Qadat al Fikr (Leaders of Thought) 1925 ; Fi'sh-shi'r al-gahily (A Critical Study of Pre-Islamic Poetry) 1926 ; Fi'l-Adab al-Gahily (On Pre-Islamic Literature) 1927. As a leader of the Modern School, he has aroused a considerable amount of opposition from the conservative elements in the country, but the attacks of conservatives have only enhanced his popularity with the liberals and made him the idol of the students.


During the storm which was aroused in Egypt by his book on Pre-Islamic Poetry he was described by a popular English daily as " The Martin Luther of Egypt ". The comparison is hardly fair, since he does not claim to be a religious reformer. However, he has shown Luther's dauntless courage in the face of persecution and like Luther has survived it. To crown, his achievements this year (193 1) he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts, is the first Egyptian to attain that post. We may well ask with his small daughter in An Egyptian Childhood how he has attained this high position.


We read of him in 1902 as a poor blind student at Al-Azhar just up from the country, yet twenty-five years later he is one of the most honored and respected men in Egypt with a reputation that extends far beyond the bounds of his native land. He will not admit, however, that this phenomenal rise from obscurity to fame is entirely due to his own brilliant genius, and refers the reader together with his daughter to " the Guardian Angel " who " has brought him happiness in the place of misery and hope out of despair ". Indeed, blindness, while it undoubtedly sharpens the intellect and makes the unimpaired senses keener, often begets inferiority- complex, which is probably a worse affliction and a greater handicap than mere physical blindness. It is the removal of this stumbling- block that Dr. Taha owes to his wife, who is of course " the Guardian Angel ". And why not — for who but an angel could perform such a service?




Author: Taha Hussein
translated by E. H. Paxton

Publication Date: 1933

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