Hakawy el A’ahawy

13 01 2010

I was sitting at a coffee shop waiting for my girl to finish her tutorial lessons on a nice sunny day. I was sitting alone, unprepared, without a book to read or headphones to listen to my music, so I decided to listen to the sound of birds which was magically loud and clear that day. But the crowd was loud too, for I was sitting among other people who happen to not notice the beauty of the birds or the sun among other things they didn’t notice. I wasn’t eavesdropping! But through the tweaking birds and the loud guests I had to hear some things.

Unfortunately, everything that I heard bugged me! school_books

I was sitting with my back to a wall, facing a Cairo side street. To my right was a simple, or rather a poor man in his fourty’s wearing a worn out Jalabia and Shebsheb (slippers). I’m not going to talk much about him, for he was sitting alone and didn’t talk much except to order tea or ask for more lit coal for his Shisha.
To my front were sitting two middle aged men and on a third chair sat a pile of different books.

The pile of books drew my attention. They were of different types and colors. My week eyesight wasn’t of much help with the titles but I managed to pick up some author names. Anis Mansour and Naguib Mahfouz were among other unknown authors; at least they were unknown to me. From some words I managed to read off the titles, the books were a collection of novels, poetry, and political books. And to my left sat two other middle aged men who we’ll come to later.

At first I thought one of the two men sitting around the table with the books was a book seller but it turned out in the end that they were not.
From the accent of one of them I realized he wasn’t from the city, Upper Egypt was my best guess. The other was a middle class city man in a cheap suit and a white shirt with a dirty collar.

Their voice was fading up as the argument heated. From the conversation I deduced that the man with the accent was a books editor or worked in a publish house. The other one in the cheap suite was what seemed to be a "wannabe" writer or author (I have a reason to call him a "wannabe")

The editor guy was talking about his work and the processes that followed him, how he edits articles, books, and novels. How he’d take hand written work and type it on the computer then edit it and spell check it till it’s ready for print. Then the publish house’s work on the cover and cover material. That all didn’t bother me, for all that was work that someone had to do.

What bothered me was how invaluable he made it all sound! How he spread to the other guy his list of "price". I know this is his job and that it’s what he did for a living, but the way he argued his price with the wannabe and the way he held the pack of valuable books in his hand feeling the covers of the books like he was selling cloth fabric! The way he treated it like it had no value for him other than it got him more money! Really great people spent months or maybe years to write these books on paper for people to benefit from, for people to be enlightened. Did Naguib Mahfouz write his books and argue about how much it would cost to publish them?

Even if it was a venue of profit for the editor, what about that wannabe? He’s a wannabe who’s not even good at being a wannabe, whether he was looking for rich or fame, he didn’t want to pay enough for it. He didn’t value his on work! Even if for other people who would publish his work it didn’t mean anything but a commission for the middle man, he should take pride in it an honor it! Did Anis Mansour allow his books to be published in a cheap cover because a good cover would be taken out of his share? I could only think of Tawfik El-Hakim who would do that, but we all know he was cheap; it had nothing to do with not valuing his work!

That day when i went home, i was so disgusted, yes, disgusted! Some may say it’s a strong word, but that’s how i felt. It’s normal for someone like me who keeps his books in a drawer to keep them away from the dust, and reads them so carefully without totally wide opening the pages to keep the book unbroken from the side and as good as new. I ran into my room, opened my, book drawer and gently carried a bunch of then in my arms. Dug my nose close to smell the papers. Admired the looks of them and thought how crazy i am in love with good old books. Treating them as my children or even more as other people’s children who made an honest effort to put them in my hands and now i have to look after them…

As for the two men sitting on my left, I’m too disgusted to talk about them now, but believe me, you don’t want to hear about them either…

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