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Tawfiq al-Hakim
Articles, Short Plays, Volume 8

Secrets of a Suicide

Secrets of a Suicide
By Tawfiq al-Hakim
Translated by Maha Swelem
Arab Stages, Volume 8 (Spring, 2018) 
©2018 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Translator’s Notes: 

One could not state that choosing an Egyptian play to translate was the big challenge. The bigger challenge was to choose only one out of such a huge collection of works by Egyptian playwrights. When browsing and reading different works by different authors, I decided upon choosing a play that belonged to what was called, “the golden age in theatre” during the 1950s and 60s in Egypt. But by reading more plays and also, researching the history of theatre in Egypt, I felt that there were periods that were not discussed or analyzed enough by scholars, one of which was the 1920s and 30s era in Egypt. As an Egyptian, I always wanted to shed light upon the Egyptian society during that specific time period. Hence, came the choice of Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Ser al-Muntaherah (Secrets of a Suicide) for two main reasons: First, to focus on the middle class in the Egyptian society in the late 1920s and second, to show, through this play, the extent of Western influence on intellectuals and writers together with the educated Egyptian upper middle class portrayed in the play. Al-Hakim’s play reflected these ideas clearly and portrayed the struggles that this class faced during the second and third decades of the twentieth century. But it is important to note that the culture of the upper middle class in the 20’s and 30’s was the product of a number of historical and cultural events that started to emerge since the early nineteenth century.

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