Al-Haidari: Damanhouri is an enlightening writer who used his literature for social reform

A book that investigates the literary heritage of the Saudi “Son of Culture and the Father of the Novel.”

> How would you describe Hamed Damanhouri’s literary standing?
– The Saudi writer Hamid Hussein Damanhouri (1922 – 1965) is multi-talented; He loaned poetry, wrote the story, treated the article, and excelled in the novel, in which he was known more than any other literary genre in which he was produced, and he has two famous novels. They are the price of sacrifice (1959), and the days have passed (1963). Hence, Hamed Damanhouri is a comprehensive writer who was not limited in his giving to one sex, but the diversity of his giving despite his short life, which did not exceed 45 years.
> How were the publishing conditions created for Damanhouri and the literary generation in the forties of the last century?
– If we look at the date of birth of Hamid Damanhouri, which is 1922, and connect his name with his peers of writers who were born in this year, before or shortly after, such as Ahmed Muhammad Jamal, Abdul Aziz Al-Rifai, Hassan bin Abdullah Al-Qurashi, and others, we find that This generation opened up to a literary renaissance characterized by comprehensive production in poetry and prose, with a number of publications beginning to publish and spread. in the foreground; “Umm Al-Qura” newspaper, “Sawt Al-Hejaz” newspaper, and “Al-Manhal” magazine. Hence, this generation found the paths in front of it paved through the previous generation; The generation of Muhammad Surur al-Sabban, Ahmed bin Ibrahim al-Ghazawi, Muhammad Hassan Awwad, Abd al-Quddus al-Ansari, Hamad al-Jasser, and others, and they found encouragement and publication outlets legitimate, so they began writing at an early age, although they faced the problem of stopping newspapers during World War II in the period (1939 – 1945), but this pause may have contributed to the formation of their culture through extensive reading and knowledge, and following up on the events of the war, all of which are significant tributaries…
> What are the artistic features of the literature in which Damanhouri and his contemporary literary generation excelled?
A prominent feature of the literature of Gil Hamed Damanhouri; Diversity and comprehensiveness in written production, a stage that we can call the stage of experimentation and adventure; Because a number of them did not find the most suitable field in which to innovate. Therefore, his writing was not limited to one literary genre, but he tried to touch most literary genres, so here is Abdul Aziz Al-Rifai writing poetry, articles, and stories sometimes, and here is Ahmed Muhammad Jamal issuing a collection of poetry at an early age, writing the article, and here he is Hassan Al-Qurashi writes poetry, stories and articles, and from here it was not surprising that Hamid Damanhouri tried his pen in more than one field, influenced by his generation, and responding to the press’s call to provide it with any material suitable for publication.
> How did Damanhouri’s stay in Egypt affect his literary development?
– It is clear from Hamed Damanhouri’s career that he was an amateur writing at an early age in his life, and perhaps one of the most important factors that contributed to that, besides his talent, was his stay in Egypt for university studies for 5 years in the period (1939-1946) approximately; He studied at Dar Al Uloom in Cairo, obtained a diploma from it, and then obtained a university degree from the Faculty of Arts at Alexandria University. This residence in two of the most important Arab cultural cities formed important aspects of Hamed Damanhouri’s culture in two tracks; The methodological path represented by university studies, and the free cultural path represented by the acquisition and reading of books, meeting writers and intellectuals, attending literary seminars, cultural discussions, theatrical performances, book fairs, and others. This rich cultural atmosphere was an effective fuel that contributed to the formation of Hamed Damanhouri’s ambitious spirit, wishing to raise the level of the country. Educational and cultural, which appeared directly in his articles, and indirectly in his two novels.
> What are the main reasons that prompted you to reprint the book again through the Literary and Cultural Club of Makkah Al-Mukarramah? What are the main differences between the first and second editions?
The most prominent reasons; Copies have run out, and the most prominent additions in this new edition are finding 3 poems by Hamed Damanhouri, and adding them to his poetry, bringing the number of poems to 9 instead of 6 in the first edition, and the added poems are; Wish, temptation, and pipe dreams. Among the additions; Updating the bibliographic list, supplementing it with new materials, correcting some typographical errors, and adding some information to his biography.
As for the choice of Makkah Club specifically to issue this new edition, because Hamed Damanhouri is from the people of Makkah Al-Mukarramah, and most of the events of his novel “The Price of Sacrifice” are in Makkah; Therefore, the club greatly welcomed the reprint of the book, and I find it an opportunity to thank the president of the club, A. Dr.. Hamed Al-Rubaie, and his colleagues on the Board of Directors.
> You described Damanhouri in the title of the book as “the father of the novel and the son of culture.” What do you mean by this title?
– This book acquires its title from two angles that formed the character of Hamed Damanhouri; The first is his continuous cultural work for more than a quarter of a century, occupying important positions in the cultural aspect, and the second is his great novelist fame, the importance of his works in the novel construction in the Kingdom, and being the actual beginning of the artistic novel.
> In the introduction to your book, a description of Hamid Damanhouri’s literature was mentioned, as “some of it is known, and some of it is almost unknown,” so what do you mean?
Hamid Damanhouri’s semi-unknown literature is his collection production for the first time in this book, and it is his poetic production, articles, and in the short story. As for his well-known literature, it is the novel, from which he gained wide fame, especially his novel “The Price of Sacrifice,” which was translated into a number of living languages ​​such as; English, Russian, and Chinese, which received great critical attention; Because it is the most important turning point in the Saudi novel, and it dates the beginning of the artistic novel in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That is why Hamed Damanhouri has been described by some critics as the father of the novel.
> What is the beginning of Hamed Damanhouri’s writings in the press before writing? What is the share of poetry in his life?
– Looking at Hamed Damanhouri’s production, we note that he was culturally prepared upon his return from scholarship, as evidenced by the fact that we began reading his production in 1947. The year in which he returned home, and one of the oldest texts in our hands is his poem “Fajr” which he delivered before King Faisal, may God have mercy on him. God, when he was a representative of his father in the Hijaz, in the ceremony that was held in the Jarol neighborhood in Makkah Al-Mukarramah on Safar 9 of the year 1366 AH (1947), and its beginning…
The morning loomed, with its light in its hands
And his flowers overwhelmed him
Until he says…
This is the Hijaz and in its wings is passion
He cries out to you, and in your hands is his banner

> Did Damanhouri leave a poetic heritage?
– Damanhouri is a very underrated poet, and all I could find of his poetry are only 9 poems, and the dates he composed are old, representing the beginnings of his literature, and most of them were previously published in local newspapers, and then republished by some of the authors of the anthology books, specifically Saleh Jamal Hariri in his book “Inspired by the Saudi Missions” ». In my books, Hariri and Al-Sassi, they go back to before 1950, that is, 15 years before his death.
> Is there a reason – in your opinion – for his abandonment of poetry?
Perhaps one of the reasons for his abandonment of poetry is his tendency to narrate more than poetry, especially since his first novel, The Price of Sacrifice, published in 1959 CE, was very well received in literary and critical circles.
> What about his article art? Are you available when you collect a large number of them?
– Hamed Damanhouri was devoted to the art of the article, and practiced writing it since 1947, until the year he died, which was 1965. The Saudi newspaper Al-Bilad published his first article in 1947, entitled “The Rise of Cosmic Poetry in Arabic Literature”, then another article entitled “ The first said” in the same year, and a third article entitled “The Lost Scholastic Composition” in the following year, which is “1948.” These early articles were written by him between the ages of 26 and 27 only, and he may have had previous attempts that we did not find, or were published during his university studies in Egypt.
The first note that can be mentioned in the context of looking at these three articles; The first was that he was a prisoner of reading it in the heritage books, and from here he relied on the book of songs in its ideas, and perhaps the article was in its origin the nucleus of a research he presented at the university. As for the other two articles, his biblical personality seemed clear, as he put forward new ideas that he built through his observations and educational work, and his originality appeared in them. It appears that the echo caused by the two articles encouraged him to diversify publishing outlets, so he moved with his pen to Al-Manhal magazine, where he published a research consisting of 3 episodes on colloquial proverbs and their relationship to the Arabic language in 1959, then returned to the heritage again by writing some articles in Al-Manhal magazine. Of which; The poet Al-Amir, and Al-Araji is the poet of spinning. He did not forget his educational concern, so he wrote a few articles in the Saudi newspaper Al-Bilad. Of which; The slandered school teacher, and the teacher’s message in the era of the atom.
This stage, which extends from 1947 to 1953, and has a duration of 7 years, can be called the “experimentation and education” stage, and it is characterized by an attempt to establish existence and practice writing alongside his colleagues and peers, with a keenness to diversify the topics between heritage and contemporary.
> How many articles did he published in that period?
The Makkah Al-Mukarramah Cultural and Literary Club issued this year (2022) the second edition of the book “The Son of Culture and the Father of the Novel… Hamed Damanhouri… His articles, poetry and stories” with increases from the first edition issued by the Literary Club in Riyadh in 2010. The author of the book is the researcher Dr. Abd Allah bin Abdul Rahman Al-Haidari, Professor of Literature and Criticism at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University and former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Literary Club in Riyadh. The book represents an opportunity to read the history of the Saudi novel, and shed light on Hamed Damanhouri (1922-1965), who is considered the first Saudi novelist, and his novel “The Price of Sacrifice,” which he published in 1959 and published by Dar Al-Fikr in Riyadh, was considered the first Saudi novel. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Al-Haidari explains the importance of Hamed Damanhouri in Saudi literature, what is the difference between the two editions, Damanhouri’s leadership and the reason for calling him “the son of culture and the father of the novel”, which is meant by Hamed Damanhouri’s well-known literature, his unknown literature, and the most prominent contents of his article writings.

The number of articles is 35 articles arranged in the book according to their seniority in publication, the first of which is his article “The Rise of Cosmology in Arabic Literature” published in the Saudi newspaper Al-Bilad 1947, at the age of 26, and the last of which is his article “The Small World” published in 1972, that is, after his death. His articles have been published in a number of Saudi newspapers and magazines. These are Al-Manhal magazine, Al-Maarifa magazine, Al-Bilad Saudi newspaper, Al-Yamamah newspaper, and Al-Nadwa newspaper. Al-Yamamah newspaper has the lion’s share of it, as it published 16 articles in 1963 and 1964. Most of it is in its fixed corner “others’ experiences”.
> According to the writer’s monitoring of the historical context, we notice that Hamid Damanhouri has a period of hiatus from writing… Was he not regular in it?
– Yes, Hamed Damanhouri stopped writing journalism for 4 years (1954-1957). In these years, we did not find published article texts for him, and the main reason, in my opinion, was his immersion in work when, in 1953, he was appointed Director-General of Culture at the Ministry of Education in the year that was announced. In it, about the establishment of the ministry, and then as an undersecretary for cultural affairs until his death, and it appears that the Ministry of Education at the beginning of its inception was burdened with many burdens, intense work, field visits, and non-stop meetings. In the ministry, he returned to his beloved writing, starting in 1959, when he published his novel “The Price of Sacrifice” on episodes in the Hira newspaper, and published it in a book in the same year, then wrote a series of articles. Of which; The future generation, and our newspapers are required to form the Saudi personality, and culture for all, and the other half faces life, radio and its cultural role. He was pleased to take a weekly section titled “From the Experiences of Others,” and published 10 episodes in 1963 and 1964.
> Can Hamid Damanhouri be classified as an enlightening writer?
– Looking at his articles, we note his desire for enlightenment, education and change through his transfer of the experiences of developed nations and criticism of some behaviors in his society.
When we study the period characterized by his prolific production, which witnessed the birth of his second novel, “The Days Passed” in 1963, we can call it the stage of “enlightenment”; Because Hamed Damanhouri, in his literary presentation at the level of novel and essay writing, was seeking social change and reform, and his ideas were imbued with patriotic enthusiasm for the advancement of the homeland and citizens in education, behavior and culture. Benefiting from the successful achievements at the world level and transferring them to our country, whether in industry and progress, or in behavior, such as paying attention to time, taking care of cleanliness, and applying and respecting the system. In the foreground; Cultural and intellectual maturity, his practical association with the press, supervisor of Al-Maarifa magazine, and a member of the Al-Yamamah Press Foundation, the insistence of newspapers and magazines on him to write, and the great success of his novel “The Price of Sacrifice.”