Who was Ihsan Abdel Quddous? Google Doodle celebrates Egyptian writer

Quddous explored taboo themes in his journalism and fictional writing

Google Doodle of Ihsan Abdel Quddous. Photo: Google
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Wednesday's Google Doodle celebrates Egyptian writer Ihsan Abdel Quddous, one year after the first English translation of his popular novel I Do Not Sleep was released.

The novel is written as a letter, the confession of Nadia Lutfi, 21, as she narrates the story of her life. She returns home from boarding school at 16 to find her father, who had raised and doted on her after separating from her mother, had secretly remarried. Nadia dedicates herself to separating the two no matter the cost, employing shrewd and calculated methods to do so.

I Do Not Sleep was adapted into a movie in 1957, titled Sleepless in English, starring actors Faten Hamamah, Omar Sharif and Hind Rostom. It was one of Egypt's first films in colour, receiving widespread success across the Arab world and, despite its controversial themes, is considered a classic.

The novel was more than a story of revenge and seduction. It challenges patriarchal norms and explores the complexities of the human condition through a strong female character. An unusual theme to explore in Egypt in the 1950s.

However, this was part of the foresight of Quddous, whose name is also spelt Kouddous, and talent as a novelist and journalist. Not only was he attuned to writing stories that spoke to imperative issues in society, especially ones directly affecting women, but he wrote them in a direct style free of the extravagant, detail-oriented manner in which Arabic novels were written at the time.

“It is shocking that Ihsan Abdel Quddous is still largely unknown outside of the Arab world,” writes Jonathan Smolin, the translator of the novel, in the introduction.

“Ihsan employed simple vocabulary and sentence structure in a way that appealed to the widest possible readership — especially young people — but not to literary critics.”

Born in Cairo, Egypt, on January 1, 1919, Quddous was an avid reader from a young age and began writing short stories at 11. Despite graduating from law school, he was drawn to the world of journalism after working at a magazine founded by his mother. In his career as a reporter, Quddous covered an array of current events as well as opinion pieces where he expressed his thoughts on social issues through conversational narrative techniques.

Despite being jailed several times for the strong political opinions expressed in his work, Quddous continued to write.

Quddous, who died in 1990 of a stroke, wrote more than 60 novels and short stories exploring many taboo themes such as politics, class, corruption, social behaviour, spirituality, religion and love.

Many of his fictional works were turned into films, leaving a profound and influential mark on Egyptian and Arab cinema and pop culture.

Scroll through our gallery below to see other regional Google Doodles from the past

Updated: January 04, 2023, 6:39 AM