Edward El Kharrat

(1926- )

Edward el Kharrat was born to a Coptic Christian family in Alexandria on March 16.1926. His father was from Akhmeem in Upper Egypt and his mother from al-Turranah west of the Nile Delta.

He studied law at the university in Alexandria and graduated in 1946. He had already begun to write short stories, but gave up writing until 1955.

While he was a student his father died, and Kharrat, as the family’s breadwinner, worked at the British Navy Storehouse in al-Qabari in Alexandria, then as a translator and editor at the al-Baseera newspaper in Alexandria. He then worked as a clerk at the al-Ahli Bank in Alexandria until 1948.

In 1946, he joined a left-wing nationalist revolutionary movement in Alexandria. He was arrested on May 15.1948 and spent two years at the Abu Qir and al-Tour detention centers, till his release in 1950.

From then and until 1955, Kharrat worked at the Egyptian Private Insurance Company in Alexandria, after which he moved to Cairo and took up a job as a translator at the Romanian embassy until 1959. Among the fifteen or so translations he has produced of the world"s classics is an Arabic version of Tolstoy"s War and Peace.

In 1959, he took up a job with the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO), then worked for the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association (until 1983). He edited several political and cultural publications for both organisations, the most prominent of which were the Afro-Asian Poetry and Afro-Asian Essays. He also became deputy secretary-general of both organisations.

He edited and helped publish Lotus, the magazine of African and Arabic literature, and a pioneering new publication called Gallery 68.

Edward el Kharrat has translated seventeen books from English and French into Arabic, on fiction, philosophy, politics and sociology. He has also translated ten long plays and twelve short plays for Egypt’s Second Broadcasting Service, as well as writing many programs for radio. A large number of his studies, articles, translations and interviews have been published in Egyptian, Arab and European magazines.

He was at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, as a visiting scholar in 1979. He gave several lectures on modern Egyptian literature at London University’s School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) and at many other academic and non-academic institutions.

He gave a series of lectures at the Arab World Institute in Paris in October and November 1996 on “Modernist Tendencies in the Art of Arab Fiction”, which was published as Voices of Modernity in Fiction by Dar al-Adaab in
Beirut in 1999.

In 1986, he represented
Egypt at the 65th meeting of the International PEN in Hamburg. In 1988, he chaired the jury of the Mediterranean Film Festival in Bastia, Corsica, and the jury of the International Film Festival of Carthage in 2002.

Several of is novels have been translated from Arabic: City of Saffron into English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish and Greek; Bobello into French, Italian, Catalan, German, Polish and English; Girls of Alexandria into Italian, English and French. A French translation of his short story collection Dance of Yearning was published in 1997.

City of Saffron was chosen by the British writer Doris Lessing as Book of the Year in 1990.

Edward el Kharrat has received numerous awards: he won the State Prize for Fiction in 1973, the Franco-Arab Friendship Prize in France in 1991, the Owais Award for Fiction in 1994/1995, the Cavafis Award Greek Studies in 1998, and the
Naguib Mahfouz Award for Fiction of the American University of Cairo in 1999. In 2000, he was awarded Egypt’s State Merit Award for Literature.

Read Arabic Short Stories.