A Break through Established Structures

New writing techniques in Egypt

By Hossam El Kholy

Translated by Mona Khattab

Since 1995 Egypt’s literary scene has been overflowing with several excellent narrative voices in the short story as well as the novel genres; a scene that is very rich but messy at the same time. From a bird’s eye view, the nature and type of this scene appears to be teeming with trends that cover the entire spectrum of narrative types. These include modern and post-modern; a kind of writing that celebrates the body and pushes for broader horizons and adopting social causes; and employing realistic forms while embedding some new techniques such as multiple narrative voices and celebrating colloquialism and the languages of the marginalized.

Since the onset of these new writing trends, some traditional writers belonging to earlier generations considered them to be “a phenomenon that should be welcomed because the numbers of writers and novelists belonging to these new trends are increasing. They are young writers with a fair representation of women. Thanks to them, the creative literary scene in Egypt is revitalized after suffering under the creative, intellectual and cultural decline resulting from the impact of global capitalism and the free market on the country.”


There are several phenomena that require the attention of literary and cultural historians, as well as those interested in following the history and development of literary genres. A phenomenon such as what has been termed modern writing is an integral part of the broader cultural, social and cognitive contexts. Literary historians and critics agree that writings by a number of writers are representative of a large sector of new writing, also known as post second millennium writing. These writers are: Tarek Imam, AlTahir Sharkawy, Hani Abdel Murid, Mohamed Abdul Nabi, Talal Faisal, Muhammad Salah Al-Azab, Ahmed Abdel Latif, Noha Mahmoud, Ahmed Shafi, Mohammed Al-Fakharani, Ehab Abdel-Hamid, Hadra Girgis, and others.

In an important interview in an Arabic newspaper with writer and novelist Tarek Imam, he pointed out the circumstances in which this trend has emerged. He said that since the 1990s, a new kind of writing was born which tried to differ from that of the great Naguib Mahfouz or the domineering experience of the 1960s generation. This era which lasted over 20 years created a number of different and promising experiences through what can be called “an open workshop,” whether in its view of reality or its view of the art of the novel itself.