Arab libraries are distinguished by a rich collection of works by giants of Arabic literature in various literary genres. These Arab writers have made significant contributions to the world of literature and culture, and their legacy continues to leave an indelible mark across generations. Some of them include Naguib Mahfouz, Abbas Mahmoud Al-Aqqad, Mustafa Amine, Mikhail Naima, Gibran Khalil Gibran, and many others.
However, questions arise about the place of these literary giants in the hearts and minds of the current generation of youth and whether they are interested in reading their works and benefiting from them. Through surveying the opinions of young people, a clearer understanding can be gained on this subject.
Left Their Mark
The Saudi journalist Ahed Afendi announced that she has discovered that books written by the first generation of celebrities still inspire and enrich her life. She mentioned that she shares inspirational quotes from these books on social media platforms, using them as sources of motivation. She also revealed that she summarizes the key ideas from the books she reads in a few lines and shares these summaries for the benefit of her audience.
She explained that she takes pride in reading the works of Gibran Khalil Gibran and appreciates his poetry that touches the heart and reflects reality. She also praised the books of Abbas Mahmoud Al-Aqqad, which contributed to the development of the Arabic language and enriched the literary world. She never forgets the novels of Naguib Mahfouz, the first Arab author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, many of which have been adapted into films and TV series.
She emphasized that she reads a variety of books covering topics such as self-improvement, child-rearing, practical life, and economics. She spoke highly of the book “101 Business Ideas,” which she recently read and found helpful in changing her approach to work. She also enjoyed reading “Transforming Smart Thinking into Wise Advice” by the author Antonio Vays.
She pointed out that her love for reading stems from the necessity of expanding her knowledge as a content creator and making the most of the diversity of information. She highlighted that reading enables individuals to explore new worlds and develop themselves. She concluded by stating that valuable books from Arabic literature remain important even in the present time, and it is crucial to raise awareness about their significance and pass on their value to the new generations. She expressed concern about the lack of awareness of Arabic literature in the current generation.
For the Arab writer, it’s a priority
Taqwa Ali, a Bahraini filmmaker, director, and writer, discusses her relationship with literature and reading: “I was a child who grew up in the 1990s, and my first connection with literature was through short stories in print. The reason for this was my mother, who loved books and reading and filled my mind with books and stories. Over time, my love for literature grew, and my openness to various forms of literature expanded. I read Russian and German literature and enjoyed Gothic, dramatic, and detective fiction. However, Arab literature always remains the closest to me because it addresses issues and experiences that resonate with my reality and beliefs. I believe that history repeats itself, which keeps me continually interested in Arab literature because it serves as a mirror reflecting our experiences and emotions.”
Taqwa adds: “The language spoken by Arab writers has the greatest impact on my heart and thoughts. It has the power to either extinguish or ignite the flames of my ideas. This reflects the unique strength and attraction of Arab literature for me.”
Regarding how she benefits from the content of Arab books, she says: “When I read works by great Arab writers, I find myself familiar with the details of their thoughts, culture, and the spirit they convey. They offer me a diverse range of ideas, whether it’s about love and enjoying life or challenging old ideas and rigid beliefs. They inspire intellectual and spiritual competition within me as a reader and as a person. For example, when I read the works of Adunis, I find myself exploring philosophy from different perspectives, delving into existentialism, the chaos of life, its absurdity, and its depth. I read life through its contradictions, enriching my knowledge and keeping me enthusiastic about continuing to read and enjoy Arab literature.”
Amine Hrashani, the Tunisian law student, believes that reading the works of great writers serves as nourishment for the mind and soul, as well as a method for gaining knowledge and embracing the values deeply rooted in his society. Amine points out that his readings of the works of great writers have had a profound impact on him, providing him with the opportunity to enjoy contemplation, reflection, and the utilization of his intellectual capabilities. He adds that his readings of literary pioneers such as Tawfiq al-Hakim, Naguib Mahfouz, Taha Hussein, and Mikhail Naima have encouraged him to engage in deep thinking and to harness his intellectual potential, contributing to the broadening of his cultural horizons.
On the other hand, Amine acknowledges the significant influence of Gibran Khalil Gibran’s writings on his thinking, particularly when he read Gibran’s book “The Broken Wings” and later “The Prophet,” which brims with profound human values. From Gibran’s writings, Amine learned the concepts of love, tolerance, and coexistence with others regardless of their cultural or ethnic differences. He also drew inspiration from Gibran’s romanticism and his deep connection to nature.
Furthermore, these writers have left a profound impact on Amine Hrashani’s development as a writer and linguist. Through them, he discovered the poetry and eloquence of the Arabic language, admiring their distinctive writing styles characterized by conciseness and clarity.
The Secretary believes that the production of first-generation writers still holds global and Arab value, as most of their works delve into universal themes relating to humanity in general. For instance, Gibran Khalil Gibran transcended the boundaries of time and place, inspiring and captivating people worldwide, addressing human issues and problems wherever they may be. Similarly, Mikhail Naima, diaspora poets, Mustafa Lutfi al-Manfaluti, George Zeidan, Abbas Mahmoud al-Aqqad, Mahmoud Timor, and Yusuf al-Sibai conveyed various aspects of humanity and its issues through their literary works.
These writers have adopted topics that deal with the youth and women, consistently writing about concepts of freedom and estrangement. They have been actively combating ignorance, outdated traditions, social closure, and fanaticism. It is worth noting that these issues are still relevant in our social and cultural reality today, highlighting that the legacy of these writers still carries an important message in our societies.
The traditional works are an endless source
Mohamed Magdi, a recent mechanical engineering graduate from Egypt, expresses his experience in the world of reading as follows: “After completing my studies and joining one of the industrial organizations, I witnessed my entry into the world of reading with all its enchantment and allure, becoming an integral part of my daily life.”
Magdi continues: “Unfortunately, I didn’t delve into ancient Arabic literature as I should have, settling for a few works by Gibran Khalil Gibran and Mikhail Naimy, believing they might be dry and unexciting. However, in the end, I received advice from a psychologist about the importance of reading a specific novel by Naguib Mahfouz. This novel focuses on psychological conflicts and emotional turmoil in its main character, encouraging a deeper understanding of others’ emotions and the development of emotional communication.”
Magdi adds: “I began reading Naguib Mahfouz’s works, and from the very first pages, I was filled with admiration and astonishment. I found myself pausing at every word, captivated by the beauty of expressions, precision of description, and the overall literary craftsmanship.”
He concludes: “When you read Gibran Khalil Gibran’s works, you feel warmth and delicacy, but it’s a different experience with Naguib Mahfouz. Each of them has their unique style; while Gibran’s writings are characterized by sweetness and elegance, Mahfouz’s writings stand out with strength and sophistication. Therefore, heritage works remain a rich and ever-renewing source, offering concepts and insights beneficial to various fields.”