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One Face of the Hero: Reading Yahyā Haqqī’s Qindīl Umm Hāshimas Modern Myth

In: Journal of Arabic Literature
Author:
Gregory J. BellPrinceton University

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Abstract

Yahyā Haqqī’s 1944 novella, Qindīl Umm Hāshim (The Lamp of Umm Hashim), tells the story of a young Egyptian, Ismail, who travels to England to study ophthalmology and returns to Egypt to practice medicine. The often fraught relationship between Egypt and the West is reflected in the difficulties Ismail faces, first in England and then in Egypt after his return. This paper argues that Qindīl Umm Hāshim is a modern myth which follows the universal “monomythic” pattern identified by Joseph Campbell. By reading the story as a myth, the paper provides insight into the meaning and structure of Haqqī’s novella. Why Haqqī chose to draw upon the genre of myth is discussed, as is his use and disruption of the monomythic pattern and the ways in which this allows him to comment upon Egypt’s relationship with the West.

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