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Bahaa Taher is a well-known Egyptian author who was born in 1935. He was raised and educated in Cairo and started publishing books in 1964. (Page 1 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") He attended the University of Cairo and successfully graduated in literature from the University of Cairo. Bahaa Taher was banned from writing in 1975 and was forced to leave Egypt; as a result he then traveled in Africa and Asia looking for work as a translator. (Page 4 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") Upon his return in 1991, Bahaa Taher wrote the famous novel Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery, translated in ten languages including in English by Barbara Romaine in 1996. This was Bahaa Taher's third novel. The novel took place in Upper Egypt because his parents were originally from Luxor. The novel was set during the 1967 Arab-Israeli. (Page 10 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") Taher wrote this novel to express his feelings towards the relationship between the Muslims and the Copts. He saw much conflict, and decided to change that around through the novel. I chose this book after being inspired by Bahaa Taher's speech at the School. Although I read this book before, I learned new things from reading it the second time and I also saw thing that didn't came to my attention before. Aunt Saffiya and the monastery written by Bahaa Taher reflects the unification between Muslims and Christians through the use of characters of both religions, traditions, and the theme.
The book shows how both religions could disagree with each other but at the same time they could keep very good relation. For example in the novel there is a strong relationship between the narrator's father and the priest of the monastery. The novel shows the real things that happen in Egypt between the two religions and also talks about how the high class treats the lower class. In his writing, Bahaa Taher expresses the ways in which he would like everyone to treat the other religion. He does portray many struggles in the novel between the Christians and the Muslims, but at the end of the novel the relationship between both religions became very strong.
Harabi is a boy who wanted to marry Saffiya, a beautiful young girl, but after many obstacles she married his uncle. When his uncle heard a rumor that Harabi wanted to kill his descendant to get revenge the narrator's father hid Harabi in the Monastery with Miqades Beshay. According to my research some people thought that the characters were stereotypical, however, I think that it may have been a choice by the author to write about them this way to show traditions. Miqades Beshay was not like the other monks, he was engaged with the village and knew everyone and everyone knew him. (Page 22 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") He also hated the Israelis for taking over Jerusalem. He was a good farmer and the one in charge of buying the monastery's weekly stuff. (Page 23 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") He also was called by some people "feebleminded". The narrator was the only boy in his family and he was also depended on greatly from his father. He was in charge of delivering the "important" gifts in Eid including the box of the monastery. (Page 3 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") The relationship between the narrator and his father was especially interesting since his father brought him along on many of the important events he had to attend to. Including events that may seem complicated events to bring a child along bringing such as bringing Harbi from the train station to the monastery and meetings with the outlaws. (Page 81 and 96 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") This shows his father's trust in him and feels necessary to include him in the happenings of their family and the village.
One of my favorite quotes in the book is the part when Harabi said this to his uncle the rich man who ruled of the village. "I am your son and your servant. If I have done anything wrong, its your to punish me. Kill me if you wish. I would not hurt the man who has been like a father to me" Harabi said this to ensure him that he could never betrayed him for anyone and not even his love Saffiya. Also Harabi said this to his uncle because his uncle heard rumors from the people of the village that Harabi wants to kill his descendent as revenge and that he wants to take Saffiya from him. This quote expresses the relationship between the two classes because also Harabi was raised in a lower class than his uncle.
The novel talks about a unity between the monastery and the village. The monks especially the Miqades Beshay help the villagers in farming advice and the monastery was protecting Harbi. (Page 23 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") The villagers also sent gifts to the monastery such as the goryaba in the Eid. Since the narrator's house was closest to the monastery they were considered neighbors. (Page 20 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery") Also the monastery send gifts like sugared dates produced by date palms only found in the monastery. (Page 19 "Aunt Saffiya and the Monastery"). Nowadays, in Egypt a problem started rising between Christians and Muslims when a church in Alexandria got blown up but as many witnesses say that in Tahreer square both Muslims and Christians were protecting each other.
Through his writing, Bahaa Taher was very much influential in shaping the country's attitude about this issue. The novel was also made into a movie and a T.V series, so the people would benefit from watching it if they did not get the chance to read the novel
To sum up this book tagught me a lot of things and made me relize some things that I never relized. Bahaa Taher was influenced by the problmes that were going around at that time. Those conflicts caused bahaa taher to write aunt saffiyaa and the monastery. Bahaa taher payed attention to the details of the relationships between the two religions and the details of the story making it a good novel. Published at the time of much controversy and chaos in Egypt, it allowed the people to think of what is going on in their county and what they have to do to stop it. I believe he really influenced a lot of people by this novel and made everyone think twice, and be more careful in their thoughts and actions. Several factors influenced him in the writing of the novel, but most importantly the people and the society in Egypt that allowed him to realize so much about his culture. He was changing Cairo, and the people as he became more famous and earned their respect as a famous Egyptian writer.