Yusuf Idris

Yusuf Idris
Native name يوسف إدريس
Born (1927-05-19) 19 May 1927
Died August 1, 1991(1991-08-01) (aged 64)
Nationality Egyptian

Yusuf Idris, also Yusif Idris (Arabic: يوسف إدريس) (May 19, 1927 August 1, 1991) was an Egyptian writer of plays, short stories, and novels. Idris was born in Faqous. He originally trained to be a doctor, studying at the University of Cairo. He sought to put the foundations of a modern Egyptian theatre based on popular traditions and folklore, his main success in this quest was his most famous work, a play called "Al-Farafeer" depicting two main characters: the Master and the "Farfour" [=poor layman]. For some time he was a regular writer in the famous daily newspaper Al-Ahram. It is known that he was nominated several times to win the Nobel prize for literature.

From the English edition of The Cheapest Nights: "While a medical student his work against Farouk’s regime and the British led to his imprisonment and suspension from College. After graduation, he worked at Kasr el Eini, the largest government hospital in Egypt. He supported Nasser’s rise to power but became disillusioned in 1954 at the time when his first collection of stories The Cheapest Nights was published . . Yusuf Idris’ stories are powerful and immediate reflections of the experiences of his own rebellious life. His continuing contact with the struggling poor enables him to portray characters sensitively and imaginatively."

Idris won the 1997 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his novel City of Love and Ashes.

Idris' daughter Basma Idris is also a published writer.

Bibliography (English)

  • Idris, Yusuf: The Cheapest Nights and Other Stories 1978, Peter Owen, London, (First UK edition), ISBN 0-7206-0518-0 (in the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works)
  • Idris, Yusuf: The Sinners 1984, U.S.A., (First English Language Edition.) (many reprints) ISBN 0-89410-393-8
  • Idris, Yusuf: Rings of Burnished Brass 1992, American University in Cairo Press, ISBN 977-424-248-3 (translator: Catherine Cobham)
  • Idris, Yusuf: City of Love and Ashes 1999, American University in Cairo Press, ISBN 977-424-501-6

Main Works

Short Stories

  • The Cheapest Nights. أرخص ليالى
  • Isn't it ? أليس كذلك ؟
  • Dregs of the city. قاع المدينة
  • The Hero. البطل
  • An incident of Honour. حادثة شرف
  • The End of the world. آخر الدنيا
  • Tha Language of Oh Oh. لغة الآى آى
  • The summons. النداهة
  • A House of Flesh. بيت من لحم
  • I am Sultan of the law of existence. أنا سلطان قانون الوجود
  • The Freak


  • The Cotton King & Farahat's republic. Two Plays ملك القطن و جمهورية فرحات
  • The Critical Moment.اللحظة الحرجة
  • Al-Farafir. الفرافير
  • Earthly Comedy. المهزلة الأرضية
  • The striped Ones. المخططين
  • The Third Sex. الجنس الثالث
  • Towards an Arabic Drama نحو مسرح عربى
  • The Harlequin البهلوان

Novels and Novellas

  • Farahat's Republic & A Love story. [Two novellas] جمهورية فرحات و قصة حب
  • The Sin. الحرام
  • The Disgrace. العيب
  • Men and Bulls, The Black Soldier, Mrs. Vienna. [Novellas] رجال وثيران- العسكرى الأسود- السيدة فيينا
  • The White. البيضاء

Other writings

  • Not very frankly speaking. بصراحة غير مطلقة
  • Discovery of a continent. إكتشاف قارة
  • The Will. الإرادة
  • Diary of Dr. yusuf Idris. مفكرة الدكتور يوسف إدريس
  • The '60s Gabarty. جبرتى الستينات

Staged reading at The Segal Center, NY in 2017 The Flipflaps (Al Farafir)(1964) Written by Yusuf Idris Translated by Trevor LeGassick Directed by NJ Agwuna

Yusuf Idris (Egypt), Issam Mahfouz (Lebanon) and Sa’dallah Wannous (Syria) are some of the Arab world’s most renowned playwrights, but are relatively unknown to the Western world. Their complex and nuanced plays address the timeless issues of power and politics in ways that deeply resonate with our own situation. This event is curated by Joy Sarah Arab (Producer) in collaboration with Marvin Carlson; dramaturgy by Salma S. Zohdi.

Evening readings followed by a discussion with Joy Sarah Arab, Marvin Carlson, Kareem Fahmy (Director/Playwright), Philip Himberg (Sundance Institute Theatre Program), Christian Parker (Columbia University), Edward Ziter (Tisch School of the Arts, NYU), and Salma S. Zohdi. Discussion moderated by Frank Hentschker.

Known as Yusuf Idris’s foremost absurdist work, The Flipflaps (Al Farafir) was written during a time of great change and challenge in Egypt and caused a literary uproar for two weeks in 1964 before it was banned. The Flipflaps is a two-person dialogue between a master and a slave. The slave, Flipflap, imparts Idris’s social, political, moral, and metaphysical ideas through allusions and symbols. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSF4uc55Qk8

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