Volume 2

Essays by Tawfīq al-Hakim: The Revolt of the Young: The Gap Between Generations

The Revolt of the Young: Essays by Tawfīq al-Hakim
The Gap Between Generations
A Book Review by Michael Malek Najjar
Translated from Arabic by Mona Radwan
Foreword by Roger Allen
Syracuse University Press, 2015.
 Arab StagesVolume 1, Number 2 (Spring 2015)
 ©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Published in Arabic just three years prior to his death, Tawfīq al-Hakim’s Thawrat Elshabaab, or The Revolt of the Young is an older man’s meditation on the gap between generations. Al-Hakim (1898-1987) was arguably Egypt’s greatest playwright, novelist, and short story writer of the twentieth century and is credited with creating the first Modernist Egyptian drama with his play The People of the Cave in 1933. He subsequently continued on to write other influential Egyptian dramas like The Deal (1958), The Tree Climber (1963), and Bank of Anxiety (1968). He wrote for what he called “theatre of the mind,” or a theatre that transforms actors into ideas, dressed in symbols, acting in a poetic atmosphere. According to the foreword by Roger Allen, al-Hakim “was not only a major literary figure for some sixty years of the twentieth century—an era of enormous change in Egypt and the Arab-speaking world—but also a public intellectual, addressing himself to the pressing issues of the day in a wide variety of genres.” Al-Hakim’s role as author, government minister, and social critic working beside and within autocratic governments in Egypt, uniquely positioned him as a social critic.

The Revolt of the Young is a collection of essays including titles such as “The Link between the Generations, The Clash of Generations”, and The Case of the Twenty-First Century. In these brief chapters al-Hakim focuses on the conflict he sees that has arisen between the older and younger generations. For al-Hakim, the young lead revolutions, challenge previous generations, rebel against anything stable and fixed, and desire ideas like world unity. Speaking from the position of an older man observing the world around him, al-Hakim seeks an understanding of this new generation and their desires, all the while lamenting what he perceives as the lack of respect youth have toward the generation that preceded them. “The willfulness of youth, the confusion of ideas, the weakening of values, the convulsion of world events, and the speed of social development,” al-Hakim laments, “have all made the new generation grow up with no respect for the old well-established and stable systems, ideas, values, and figures.”

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