Volume 2

Science Fiction in the Arab World: Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Voyage to Tomorrow

Science Fiction in the Arab World:
Tawfiq al-Hakim’s
Voyage to Tomorrow (Rihlatun ilal-ghad)
by Bhargav Rani
 Arab StagesVolume 1, Number 2 (Spring 2015)
 ©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Tawfiq al-Hakim, a pioneering figure of modern Arabic literature, wrote the full-length play, Rihlatun ilal-ghad, or Voyage to Tomorrow, in 1957, at a time when he was already well-established as the leading playwright of the Arab world. Although the play rarely finds itself central to discussions and scholarly estimations of al-Hakim’s literary genius and legacy, often marginalized by his more popular and nuanced works like The People of the Cave and The Tree Climber, it gains significance when appraised within a completely different context. Tawfiq al-Hakim is also recognized as an influential proponent of modern Arabic science fiction, and Voyage to Tomorrow is regarded as possibly the first science-fiction play from the Arab world. While it might be technically untenable to append the label of science fiction to any work predating the nineteenth century, maybe even the twentieth, the time when it congealed into a distinctive genre in the West with the initial explorations of Jules Verne followed by the landmark contributions of H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell, there have been many significant works since antiquity that have engaged with some of the prominent themes of science fiction, particularly its play with time and space. However, against the backdrop of the literary proliferation of Euro-American science fiction over the course of the twentieth century and the scholarly obsession that it nurtured, the role and contribution of the Middle East has been largely ignored and understudied.

The Ancient History of Science Fiction in the Arab World

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