Monday, April 2, 2007

My Project Partner

My project partner is Hosam. He is currently living here and is an International Egyptian Graduate Student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is working on his Masters degree in Education. I have been able to discuss with him Egyptian culture and specifically, a novel he picked out called the Harafish (see post below). We were also able to branch out and talk about Chinese literature a little bit as well. Our class was lucky to have him and his wife visit recently.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Here are some excerpts from our various conversations over email:

From Hosam:
About the Chinese literature. I think china has one
of the best and strongest literature in all the world,
I just wonder what do you like more in Chinese literature. In other
words, which kind of Chinese literature arts do you like most, and why?

Hello Hosam,
We have recently looked at the
philosophies of Confucius and Lao Tzu. These two men lived around the same
time but had distinctly different philosophies. I think that I like the
idea of "balance" or "yin yang" which is found in a lot of Chinese literature.
Have you read a lot of Chinese literature? How does it compare to Egyptian

Hello Emily
You said “I think that I like the idea of "balance"”. Can I ask what the meaning of “Balance” in Chinese literature before answer your question about comparing this with the Egyptian literature. I am sorry; I did not read a lot in Chinese literature. About the Egyptian Literature. The Egyptian literature started from 7000 years ago. In this sense there were the ancient Egyptian, the people who build
the pyramids and the sphinx. I think you may be interesting in looking at this website.

It is very simple one, and provides you
with a lot of short stories, proverbs and more come from ancient
Egyptian literature. Then, we can start to talk about the modern Egyptian
Literature if you are interested.

Dear Hosam,
Well, I think that "balance" in the
Chinese literature means "harmony".
I think that if one strives to balance their life, they
are trying to find a "middle path"- a path in which everything is done
in moderation. There are no extremes. I enjoyed the website a lot, especially the story of The Egyptian Cinderella. It is actually very different from the
American version. Have you read a lot of ancient Egyptian literature?
How do its themes compare to the themes of modern literature?
I will have my teacher contact you about
your visit.

Dear Emily
I am happy that you liked the
website about the literature in Ancient Egyptian. There are
many differences between ancient Egyptian literature and modern
Egyptian literature. I will try to summarize these differences in one point:
The ancient Egyptian believe in nature. You can notice this in
their proverbs in the same website. Their teaching,
art, and science come from their observing to the nature. On the
other hand, the modern literature now in Egypt has a lot of themes
and ideas. However, from my reading, I can say that it focused more on
the society. We have kind of believe that the literature should be
connected to the society and come from it.
One of the most famous literature writers in the
modern age is Naguib Mahfouz. He had The Nobel Prize in Literature 1988.You can check these websites

As ever,

It seems like a lot of ancient literature,
not just Egyptian literature, focused on nature. I think
that this is because nature was
more of a mystery in the past. It was seen as a live
force...I am so impressed with Naguib Mahfouz. He accomplished so much
in his lifetime - 34 novels, many of which have
been made into movies. I read that ChitChat on the Nile is one of his
most famous novels- Have you ever read it? Naguib seemed like a very
sensible person-supporting a peace treaty with Israel. Is there
a piece of literature of his that is your favorite? My teacher said
that we should discuss a
specific piece of literature - anything in mind?

Dear Emily
I really like your way of analyzing the websites. That is great.
Yes, I read this novel “ChitcChat on the Nile”. I think it is social
philosophical novel. I am also agree with you that many literatures focused on the nature as a main source for them. I wonder if you know more Egyptian writers?
Have a good night

I actually am not familiar with any other
authors. In
fact, we have never read any Egyptian literature in school.
Who else do you recommend?
- Emily


I began the Harafish and I noticed that Naguib Mahfouz is
excellent at describing things and using imagery to portray a setting.
So far,
book has been stressing the importance of faith, living a
decent life and issues that common people have to deal with. It says in
the beginning, that harafish means "the common people in a
positive sense,
those in menial jobs, casual workers and the unemployed and
The majority of people in the world fit this description so
sense that someone would want to write about it.
- Emily

. . .

I really liked the saying, "Deeds are judged by the intentions behind
them" I believe this to be true. I noticed also that this
culture in the book seems to be much more conservative than the American
culture. Do you agree? Have a good springbreak!
- Emily

Hello Emily
I am also like this sentence "Deeds are judged by the intentions
behind them". This is not only sentence, but this one of the values that
we teach inside the schools. I can just add that you should be sure
about these intentions before you judge on them.
Can you explain more what do you mean by "conservative"? and
what do you feel about it?
I hope you also have a great spring break

By conservative I meant more strict and more rigid. For example,
it seems to me that when the characters in the book have morals, they
will do anything to stand by these morals. It seems to me that
drinking, violence, drugs, corruption ,adultery etc. are more
prevalent in the American society. However, I could easily be mistaken.
Please correct me if I am wrong.
- Emily

Thanks for your clarification.
In my society (Egyptian Society), we do, have some strict traditions.
For example,
You have to help your neighbor and support him/her
We also have something called “Arabic values”. It is similar to what
you talked about in your e-mail. For example, you have to be brave,
honest, helpful, and effective.
On the other hand, every one is free to do whatever he/she wants as
well as he/she does not harm the others and not against this “Arabic
I hope my answer is clear for youIf not, feel free to ask
Keep on your reading

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