by GEORGES KETMAN
IF A FOREIGN intellectual passing through Cairo a few months ago had asked to meet representatives of the Cairene intelligentsia, he would have been introduced to persons who have now been divested of all importance by the Suez-Sinai campaign. He would have met Copts, Jews, or Lebanese from stocks rooted in Egypt for at least a century, or persons of mixed ancestry disparagingly called bazramites in Arabic slang. Olive-skinned, swarthy, or having that ivory pallor one finds only in the Orient, they spoke, for the most part, a perfect French learned from the Jesuit fathers of Faggalah, or an Oxford English acquired from British governesses.
They were always up to date on what was going on in the world, read Foreign Affairs and the polylingual Roman review Botteghe Oscure, had digested authors as dissimilar as Marx, Heidegger, and Stirner, and -- what is more unusual than one would suspect -- they had also read Hallaj and Djabarti. Some went abroad every year to renew their contacts with such illustrious Western figures as Jaspers, Abellio, or Papini. George Henein, Munir Hafez, Magdi Wahba, Lutfallah Soliman, and Ali el-Shalakani are writers of the kind we are referring to.
The talents of these latter-day St. Petersburghers were not limited to imitation. During the first years of the war, for instance, Georges Henein, a friend of André Breton, founded an Arabic journal, Al Tattawur, which combined Communism with surrealism. About the same time a movement no less surrealistic brought together all the best writers and artists to be found in Egypt, in a little paradise for intellectual refugees. It is true that, excepting Cossery and those named above, none of the talents that bloomed in this hothouse (of which the most exalted wrote incendiary poems and went to prison