Egyptian short story master Said Al Kafrawi dies aged 81

The writer from Egypt's golden age of literature was a regular at Naguib Mahfouz's literary salons

One of Egypt’s greatest short story writers has died. Said Al Kafrawi passed away on Saturday, November 14, aged 81.

The news was announced in a simple and poignant post on Al Kafrawi's personal Facebook page: “The great writer Said Al Kafrawi has passed away to Allah's mercy.”

No cause of death has been given.

Colleagues and fans took to social media to pay tribute to a writer hailing from Egypt's golden age of literature.

Saudi author and poet Ahmed Boqari described Al Kafrawi as a "giant of the Egyptian short story."

Novelist Abdul Maqsud Abdul Karim also mourned his colleague. "The departure of the Egyptian writer and dear friend Said Al Kafrawi is sad news, due to his spirit of love and peace," he said

Fellow Egyptian writer Ashraf Aboul-Yazid Dali paid his own eloquent tribute.

Hailing Al Kafrawi as a writer "whose stories awoke us," Dali described his friend's life as one "nested above the branches of a tree with a smile like birds who love the spontaneity of life. May God have mercy on him, and provide consolation for his loving companions.”

He inspired Naguib Mahfouz

Born in the Egyptian city of El Mahalla El Kubra, Al Kafrawi couldn't help but be steeped in literature and culture, considering the company he kept.

Counting prominent Egyptian intellectuals and writers Gaber Asfour and Mohamed Mansi Qandil among his friends, Al Kafrawi was a regular at Naguib Mahfouz's legendary literary salons in Cairo's Cafe Riche.

That inspiration went both ways.

After recalling his 1970 arrest for a controversial short story published in an Egyptian newspaper, Mahfouz used Al Kafrawi's experience to form the character  Ismail Al Shaykh for his 1975 acclaimed novel Karnak Cafe.

While Al Kafrawi began writing short stories in 1960s, his debut collection Madinat Al Mowt Al Jameela ('The Beautiful City of Death') was published in 1985. He went on to publish eight more anthologies with separate short stories published translated into English, French, German and Danish.

He wrote about the little people

With stories rooted in every day Egyptian life, Al Kafrawi's writings are defined by detail, atmosphere and the surreal.

His often used characters from Egypt’s lower classes, such as poor children, village dwellers, farmers and struggling families, to explore grand themes such love, death and integrity in a multifaceted Egyptian society.

In 1998, the American University in Cairo Press published an English anthology of Al Kafrawi's short stories called The Hill of Gypsies and Other Stories.

It is a great literary introduction to an author who grew up with Egyptian literary heroes and went on to become one in his own right.