The renowned Egyptian writer and novelist Yahia Haqqi was born in a modest area of Cairo in 1905 to a middle class family of Turkish roots. He was originally trained as a lawyer and served as a diplomat in his country’s missions in Turkey, Italy, France, and elsewhere, but it was not long before he realized that he was born to be a writer. He resigned his lucrative job to become a full time novelist.
Haqqi was a writer with great passion and imagination. He published his first novel in 1926 at the age of 20. For the next 60 years, he wrote a superb collection of novels and short stories that placed him at the forefront of modern Arab short story writers. His belief in the role of literature as a driving force of life and an enhancer of the values of society, was strikingly evident in his writings. Some of his greatest novels are Qandil Um Hashim (The Saint’s Lamp), Sah al-naum (Wake Up), Dimaa wa Teen (Blood and Mud) and Al-Bostaji (The Postman), which reflect social changes in Egypt since the first quarter of the 20th century. In these novels, as in all his other works, he maintained a richly poetic style and imagery without losing track of his heritage. He also wrote an autobiography entitled Kalliha ala Allah (Leave it to God) and some books of literary criticism.
Yahia Haqqi was a prominent figure in the cultural life of Egypt. He contributed significantly to the creation of art institutes, theatres, and folklore troupes in his country. His numerous awards, apart from King Faisal International Prize for Arabic Literature, include honorary doctoral degrees, the Egyptian State Prize for Literature, Egyptian Order of Merit, and French Order of Knight. His books were translated into different languages and his life and works are still the subject of extensive study both in the Arab world and the West. He died in Cairo in 1992.