Rebellion in a World of Totalitarianism Sharīf Ḥatātah's Novel "The Eye with an Iron Lid"

G Elimelekh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Political freedom in the Arab world and rebellion against it underpin the novel al-ʿAyn dhāt al-jafn al-maʿdanī (The Eye with an Iron Lid, 1980) by Egyptian author Sharīf Ḥatātah (1923– ). This novel set in 1940s Egypt, a decade of national and social ferment, harshly criticizes British colonialism and the Egyptian governments of the time. The narrative depicts the struggle of the Egyptian national movement as well as the brutal denial of political and individual freedoms that led to the July 1952 revolution. The novel is profoundly autobiographical, and Ḥatātah’s life story as a doctor, writer and political activist depicted in his al-Nawāfidh al-maftūḥah (The Open Windows, 2006) contributesvaluable background. A wide-ranging analysis of the author and his novel embraces comparative literature, especially within the Arabic prison literature genre, recent critical studies, the existentialphilosophy of Albert Camus and the psychological elements of fear of death, loneliness and persecution. At its root the article spotlights the adage, the people’s fear of the leadership and the leadership’s fear of the people, that drives so much of contemporary Middle Eastern conflict and oppression.Keywords: Sharīf Ḥatātah, The Eye with an Iron Lid, Arabic prison literature, Egyptian literature, ModernEgyptian history, totalitarianism
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179–197
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Arabic and Islamic Studies
StatePublished - 2015


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