Naguib Mahfouz’s new covers spark controversy in Egypt | Ahmed Jamal

Cairo – The controversy surrounding Diwan Publishing’s presentation of a new edition of the works of the late Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz has not stopped since its unveiling, leading to the announcement of covers for new books that were released a few days was printed ago. defend.

The new covers are characterized by a modernist character, designed by a number of young artists in collaboration with the “40 Independent” studio, unlike previous editions presented by the “Nahdat Misr” library designed by the plastic artist Gamal Kotb, who inspired was accompanied by designs by the author’s stories and the characters of his novels, or “Dar Al-Shorouk”, published by it. The artist Helmy El-Tuni, who added oil to it, corresponds to the spirit of literature presented by Naguib Mahfouz, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The criticisms made by some of the cover designers and many writers and authors came on the grounds that the modern covers do not express the essence of the ideas contained in Mahfouz’s novels and do not match the distributed texts, and there are said that it reduces the cultural and societal value of the Nobel author, and did not take into account the developments taking place worldwide in the designs of the covers.

The “Diwan” Foundation recently lifted the veil on a part of Naguib Mahfouz’s works, not his complete works, and the novels “The Thief and the Dogs”, “The Morning and Evening Talks”, “Gossip on the Nile,” “The Heart of the Night,” and “The Dome of the Dome.” It is expected that it will proceed with the announcement of the rest of the works after the completion of its review by the technical committee that constituted it.

Naguib Mahfouz’s project

There is a difference between the original and the imitation

The Egyptian “Diwan” acquired the publication rights to Naguib Mahfouz’s works at the end of last year under a contract with his heirs, and subsequently launched what is known as the “Naguib Mahfouz Project” aimed at to bring back his world and characters. to life, a slogan he tries to use to confirm that he is presenting his works in line with the current era and its developments.

The debate that has been raging on social networking sites has raised many questions, among which are cover designs affecting written content negatively or positively? What are the visual criteria that ensure that readers are attracted to books? Does it match the varied moods of a large part of the audience? Does the cover diminish or enhance the value of fiction and creative works in general?

Plastic artist and cover designer Amr El Kafrawy says that the nature of designs depends on the type of creative work. The covers of historical books and critical studies differ from novels and stories, and the philosophy of designs differs from literary content to another according to the nature of the work, and there are classical works in line with a traditional form of covers and others Experimental have a special form, and in the end it is important that the cover expresses the content.

In a statement to Al-Arab, he added that the designs of the covers cannot be a motive to buy the works of Naguib Mahfouz or other great writers. Unknown to the reader when he visits the library.

Al-Kafrawi expressed a supportive position to many intellectuals who criticized the new covers of Naguib Mahfouz, and considered that these types of covers “are not suitable for a writer of the stature of a writer who received the Nobel Prize not, and that the great novelists around the world have a particular image of their covers that is predominantly of an austere character, which is something they adhere to. It has major publishing houses with new editions of well-known novelists.”

The covers of “Diwan” written in the Mamluk Thuluth script and the expressive images underneath, according to Al-Kafrawi, may be appropriate to display in one of the art exhibitions, but their presence on the chest of the covers of Naguib Mahfouz causes a crisis among the intellectuals with their firm conviction of the necessity to respect the author’s value and symbolism in the general cultural conscience.

Rely on youth

The covers presented to the public caused a divide between intellectuals in Egypt, and the publishing house that defended them

The publishing house’s recruitment of a group of young people to design the covers of Mahfouz has sparked controversy, as a number of them have no previous experience in the field of cover design, although this seems acceptable in the case of novels or books by far the most prominent authors of the last century.

Sharp criticism has been directed at the failure of the Egyptian publishing house “Diwan” to form a technical committee of senior designers to establish general frameworks for the design process, in a way that preserves a set of cultural constants that Mahfouz under a wide group of the public.

“Diwan” Publishing House defended its position and responded to the accusations made against him through a message on the social network site Facebook, in which it confirmed that it paves the way for the expansion of the influence of the world writer to new generations, and opening new windows for every original and distinctive creativity.

The first initiative was to present a new and distinctive creative conception of his books together with the creative writer Youssef Sabry to create an interior and exterior design for a number of Mahfouz’s novels.

Diwan defines Sabri as a multidisciplinary visual artist who works with fashion and jewelery designers, publishers, design agencies and photographers. Trained at art schools in London, his work aims to “transcend the cultural characteristics of time and place.”

The Egyptian publishing house said that Maryam Al-Ruwaini, who designed the covers of the novels “The Morning and Evening Talks” and “Echoes of Autobiography”, is a painter who graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Helwan University five years ago. graduated, and uses traditional and digital techniques in her artwork.

“Diwan” finished designing the covers of 12 books within the first phase, in which the artist Mohamed Mustafa participated, whom I knew as the owner of “a unique style that borrows a lot from real life and was trained by the Egyptian artist Hamed Saeed, one of the pioneers of the contemporary art scene.”

Many cover designers in Egypt are convinced that the cover is the “threshold of the text” or the “threshold of the first visual reception” through which the reader enters the text. , but it performs an important service in satisfying the taste of the reader. also.

Two ways to design

Designs that paid attention to the form, but some of them were not successful in expressing the nature of the subject of the novel
Designs that paid attention to the form, but some of them were not successful in expressing the nature of the subject of the novel

The designer of the covers, the artist Hussein Jubail, said in an interview with “Al-Arab” that taking care of the cover and presenting it in a way that suits the author and the content is an indispensable service to satisfy the reader, and the designs of Naguib Mahfouz’s new covers are mostly good, but some of them were not successful in expressing the nature of the subject of the novel, What is the latest problem for a number of recipients don’t press

He points out that there are two general ways of designing covers, the first depends on reading the title of the novel or the book without reading the texts completely, and in that case the problem of it being in line with the text comes out, which is common in the current period, appears.

This is due to the fact that publishers are suffering from a crisis in the marketing of texts with the low reading rate in Egypt in general, and they print small numbers of copies with the help of non-professional designers because their prices are low compared to their peers experienced in book cover design.

The second method, which Jubail prefers, is related to reading the text before starting the design, although it does not express a literal reading of everything mentioned in the book or the novel. The most important thing is that the author’s idea reaches the designer who performs the process of “honest translation of the text” on the cover.

The famous designer maintains a self-belief that Diwan’s crisis came because she assigned the design task to young names after giants in the design of covers, such as Jamal Kotb and Helmy Al-Tuni, who worked not only as cover designers, but writers and intellectuals were. of the first degree.

This comparison leads to the injustice of those who come to them. Anyone who enters on his feet will face a problem in the lack of acceptance by a segment of the educated, and may condemn himself to moral suicide in the first stage of reception, when the eye gets used to seeing a particular design before it is changed.

Leave a Comment