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The Tree Climber: a play in two acts

Tawfiq al-Hakim, translated from the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies
ISBN: 978-0-89410-204-2
ISBN: 978-0-89410-205-9
1985/88 pages/LC: 82-74256


In The Tree Climber, a detective, a lizard, a time-traveling dervish, and a magic tree all help to turn the quiet life of a married couple upside down.

"Tawfiq al-Hakim’s plays deal with themes of universal rather than local application: the role of the artist in society, the predicament of man in the face of forces he neither controls nor understands, the use and abuse of power.... In [The Tree Climber] the retired Bahadair Effendi and his wife, each immured in a self-created world, are universal characters. Only the dervish is a product of the East and represents the hidden forces (within ourselves?), the realization ... that the irrational and the ‘absurd’ are an inevitable part of existence. Like the dervish, Tawfiq al-Hakim’s final comment on life is an amused chuckle rather than a fist raised in angry defiance against the heavens."—from the translator’s note by Denys Johnson-Davies


Tawfiq al-Hakim (1898-1987) published some sixty volumes of novels, plays, short stories, and essays during his long and fruitful career. After studying law in Cairo, he spent several years in Paris, where he became interested in the theater. He combined writing and legal work for several years after his return to Cairo, but ultimately dedicated himself to literature. Al-Hakim’s novels are read widely today, and he continues to be acknowledged as the leading playwright of the Arab world.

The late Denys Johnson-Davies published more than twenty-five volumes of stories, novels, plays, and poetry translated from modern Arabic literature. He lives in Cairo.