Entertaining the soul: Ancient satirical texts

El-Zakhaer series has recently published a popular edition of Sidi Ali Bin Sodon el-Beshbeghawi’s book Nuzhat al-Nufus wa Mudhik al-Abuus (‘Entertainment for the Soul and Laughter for the Dismal,’ General Authority for Culture Palaces, 2010). The book includes a study and feature by Arabist Arnoud Vrojilik.

Bin Sodon el-Beshbeghawi (1407-1464AD), a renowned Egyptian satirical author of the Mamluk era, worked as a mosque imam in Cairo at the beginning of his life, but his sense of humor and his witty sarcasm led him to become a theatrical performer. Soon he became a performer at the Khayal el-Zel (Shadow Puppet) theater–which represented the fetal stage of the development of theater in Egypt.

At Khayal el-Zel, actors would stand behind a curtain upon which light was directed, allowing the audience to see the actors’ shadows and hear their voices.

However, el-Beshbeghawi was sent to exile in Levant, where he died in 1464AD, leaving as his legacy Nuzhat al-Nufus wa Mudhik al-Abuus, a book of poetry that includes a compilation of poems, zajal (colloquial poetry) and aphorisms. The book is divided into two parts, the first titled “About Serious Matters,” and the second “About Comic Matters.”

Book: Nuzhat al-Nufus wa Mudhik al-Abuus (‘Entertainment for the Soul and Laughter for the Dismal’)

Author: Sidi Ali Bin Sodon el-Beshbeghawi

Feature by: Arnoud Vrojilik

Publisher: The General Authority for Culture Palaces, el-Zakhaer Series, Cairo, 2010

178 large-size pages

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