Diary of a Country Prosecutor
New introduction by Richard Littler
About the Book
Who shot Kamar al-Dawla Alwan? What does the beautiful peasant girl Rim have to do with it? And is mysterious Sheikh Asfur as mad as he seems?
1920s Cairo. A young and ambitious prosecutor is dispatched from the bustling city to a provincial village to investigate a serious crime. Armed with his European education, the prosecutor is confident that he will dispense justice in this rural outpost. But as he becomes engrossed in village life, he finds himself increasingly befuddled by an alien legal system and the clueless bureaucrats who enforce it. As he teases out the facts of the case, one thing becomes clear: justice is never as simple as it seems.
First published in 1937, Diary of a Country Prosecutor takes aim at a self-interested ruling class and the hapless public servants at their disposal. Both a comedy of errors and a trenchant social satire, this classic by one of the Arab world’s leading dramatists has lost none of its bite.
About the Author
Tawfik al-Hakim (1898–1987) was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He studied law in Paris before returning to Egypt, where he worked for a time as a Public Prosecutor in a small provincial town. A prolific writer, Al-Hakim wrote many plays, several volumes of short stories and essays, three novels and a memoir. His first novel, The Return of the Spirit (1933), captured the Arab mood of national awakening and won its author immediate acclaim. Diary of a Country Prosecutor, first published as Maze of Justice, was his second novel. Known as the father of modern Arab theatre, al-Hakim was an innovative playwright. Experimental plays such as The Tree Climber (1962) – a product of the Theatre of the Absurd – influenced a generation of Arab dramatists. His writing explores philosophical and religious issues and deal with social questions, such as the position of women, the individual’s quest for freedom within society, and the pursuit of happiness in a world scarred by war, disease and poverty. He died in Cairo on 26 July 1987.
‘A satirical tale of country life under a repressive and far-away Cairo legal system.’ Literary Review
‘The model of a twentieth-century Arab public intellectual … Al-Hakim led the literary renaissance that sought to give shape to the social and political awakening following the 1919 Egyptian uprising against British rule.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Touching and yet savagely funny.’ The Bookseller
‘A sophisticated mix of irony and objectivity, coldness and compassion.’ Voice Literary Supplement