From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Copy of the Westcar Papyrus on display in the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin
Egyptian literature traces its beginnings to ancient Egypt and is some of the earliest
known literature. Indeed, the Egyptians were the first culture to develop literature as we
know it today, that is, the book.
1 1 Ancient Egyptian literature
2 2 Christian Egyptian literature
3 3 Islamic Egyptian literature
4 4 Modern Egyptian literature
5 5 Notable Egyptian writers
6 6 See also
7 7 References
Ancient Egyptian literature
Plates vi & vii of the Edwin Smith papyrus at the Rare Book Room, New York Academy
See also: Ancient Egyptian literature
The ancient Egyptians wrote works on papyrus as well as walls, tombs, pyramids,
obelisks and more. Perhaps the best known example of ancient Egyptian literature is the
Story of Sinuhe;
other well known works include the Westcar Papyrus and the Ebers
papyrus, as well as the famous Book of the Dead. While most literature in ancient Egypt
was so-called "Wisdom literature" (that is, literature meant for instruction rather than
entertainment), there also existed myths, stories and biographies solely for entertainment
purposes. The autobiography has been called the oldest form of Egyptian literature.
The Nile had a strong influence on the writings of the ancient Egyptians,
as did Greco-
Roman poets who came to Alexandria to be supported by the many patrons of the arts
who lived there, and to make use of the resources of the Library of Alexandria.
great thinkers from around the ancient world came to the city, including Callimachus of
Libya and Theocritus of Syracuse. Not all of the great writers of the period came from
outside of Egypt, however; one notable Egyptian poet was Apollonius of Rhodes.
Christian Egyptian literature
Alexandria became an important center in early Christianity during roughly the 1st to 4th
century CE. Coptic works were an important contribution to Christian literature of the
period and the Nag Hammadi library helped preserve a number of books that would
otherwise have been lost.
Islamic Egyptian literature
See also: Arabic literature and Islamic literature
By the eighth century Egypt had been conquered by the Muslim Arabs. Literature, and
especially libraries, thrived under the new Egypt brought about by the Muslim
Several important changes occurred during this time which affected
Egyptian writers. Papyrus was replaced by cloth paper, and calligraphy was introduced as
a writing system. Also, the focus of writing shifted almost entirely to Islam. The earliest
novel written in Egypt was Ibn al-Nafis' Theologus Autodidactus, the earliest example of
a science fiction and theological novel.
The concept of a "brief statement praising a
literary product", now known as a blurb, also dates back to medieval Egyptian literature
from the 14th century, and was known as taqriz in medieval Arabic literature.
Many tales of the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) can be traced to
medieval Egyptian storytelling traditions. These tales were probably in circulation before
they were collected and codified into a single collection. Medieval Egyptian folklore was
one of three distinct layers of storytelling which were incorporated into the Nights by the
15th century, the other two being ancient Indian and Persian folklore, and stories from
Writing first appeared in association with kingship on labels and tags for items found in
royal tombs It was primarily an occupation of the scribes, who worked out of the Per
Ankh institution or the House of Life. The latter comprised offices, libraries (called
House of Books), laboratories and observatories. Some of the best-known pieces of
ancient Egyptian literature, such as the Pyramid and Coffin Texts, were spoken from the
New Kingdom onward and is represented in Ramesside administrative documents, love
poetry and tales, as well as in Demotic and Coptic texts. During this period, the tradition
of writing had evolved into the tomb autobiography, such as those of Harkhufand Weni.
The genre known as Sebayt (Instructions) was developed to communicate teachings and
guidance from famous nobles; thelpuwer papyrus, a poem of lamentations describing
natural disasters and social upheaval, is a famous example.
The Story of Sinuhe, written in Middle Egyptian, might be the classic of Egyptian
literature. Also written at this time was the Westcar Papyrus, a set of stories told to Khufu
by his sons relating the marvels performed by priests. The Instruction of Amenemope is
considered a masterpiece of near-eastern literature. Towards the end of the New
Kingdom, the vernacular language was more often employed to write popular pieces like
the Story of Wenamun and the Instruction of Any. The former tells the story of a noble
who is robbed on his way to buy cedar from Lebanon and of his struggle to return to
Egypt. From about 700 BC, narrative stories and instructions, such as the popular
Instructions of Onchsheshonqy, as well as personal and business documents were written
in the demotic script and phase of Egyptian. Many stories written in demotic during the
Graeco-Roman period were set in previous historical eras, when Egypt was an
independent nation ruled by great pharaohs such as Ramesses II.
Modern Egyptian literature
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Arab world experienced al-Nahda,
a Renaissance-esque movement which touched nearly all areas of life, including
One of the most important figures from this time was Naguib Mahfouz, the
first Egyptian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1914 Muhammad Husayn Haykal
wrote Zaynab, considered the first modern Egyptian as well as Islamic novel.
To kick the bucket - to die. 'I heard the mafia boss had kicked the bucket'
2. After one's own heart - having the same ideas, preferences or behaviours as oneself.
'You like dunking rich tea biscuits too, a man after my own heart'
3. To add fuel to fire - to make a situation worse. 'First he dropped the pot plant, then
adding fuel to the fire he trod on it'
4. A little bird told me - information gained from someone who you are not going to
name. 'Let's just say I know about it because a little bird told me'.
5. Kettle of fish - A situation different or alternative to some other situation, but not nec.
unfavourable. 'Oh, you mean knitting a jumper, well that's a different kettle of fish
6. Can of worms - A complex, troublesome situation arising when a decision or action
produces considerable subsequent problems. 'If you promote him to captain of the
football team when he is not suitable, this could open a can of worms with the other
7. A few sandwiches short of a picnic - mad, not sane. 'He talks to himself, I think he's a
few sandwiches short of a picnic'.
8. Brownie point - Credit or praise for good work or a good deed. 'You'll get brownie
points with your girlfriend for buying her flowers'.
9. Bark up the wrong tree - to take the wrong approach to something or follow a false
lead. 'If you think you will get him to change his mind just by asking nicely you are
barking up the wrong tree'.
10. Bring home the bacon - to earn a living and make money for your family to live on.
'Women these days not only take care of the household but also bring home the bacon'.