Pioneer of Children's Literature
Egypt, People, 1/10/2002
Kamel Keilany is an eminent figure of modern Arabic Literature whose marvellous works, recorded by the literary history genuinely qualities him as "the pioneer of children's literature and the chairman of a writ-ers .
Childhood and Education
Kamel Keilany was born on Oct. 20,1897, in a popular quarter of Cairo, near Muqu'tam Mountain; and growing up in such ambience redolent of legends and songs, he was accustomed to an early solitude, which gave him the opportunity to read, assimilate and memorize more than 20 thousands of elite verses of Arabic poetry. Keilany also memorized the Holy Qu'ran at the Kuttab (the pre elementary religious schools which existed in Egypt and the Orient on the late 19th and early 20th to teach Children the Holy Qu'ran.
Keilany later joined the primary and secondary education to finally obtain the Baccalaureate Certificate. He immersed himself in studying English literature and memorizing English poetry; he likewise studied Fre-nch.
Keilany then joined the old Egyptian University where he distin-guished himself. There, he planned to study Arabic, English and French literatures, and decided at the same time to join the school of Dante Alighioni to study Italian literature; He was the schoolmate of prominent Egyptian men of letters such as Drs. Zaki Mubarak, Abdel-Wahab Azzam, Hassan Ibrahim and others.
Dominant of English and French languages, and being acquainted with Italian language, he was qualified to work as teacher of English and translation in a preparatory school.
Keilany then worked in the Ministry of waqfs (Islamic endowme-nts), to finally assume the post of "Secretary of the Higher waqfs Coun-cil in 1954.
Concurrently, he worked in the domains of Journalism and Art. He assumed the post of "President of Modern Actors' Club in 1918, then Edi-tor-in-chief of El-Ragaa (The Hope) found in 1922, to later become Secre-tary of Arabic Literature Society from 1922, to 1932.
Keilany: the Man of letters:
Keilany's literary talent sprouted and flowered nourished by: - The influence of his uncle who fostered him while young. He was a rich source of tales and a good narrator. He used to tell kam-el, the child, an abundance of bedtime stories, where by the child came to love reading stories.
The influence of a friend semi-illiterate and semi-philosopher who used to tell Keilany the story of Seif-Ibn-thi Yazan which had an impact on his writings.
The influence of his highly well-educated Greek governors who used to tell him the legendary Greek stories.
Keilany also used to listen to the popular poets chanting poems of heroism on their rebukes.
that was due to the glamour and splendour he found in foreign children's sto-ries hence his specific trend towards children's literature, he wrote his first story of the kind, "Sindibad, the Sailor" in 1927, to be followed by more than 200 titles, legendary, historic, geographic and universal.
He was a coeval of the intellectual renaissance on Egypt to which he contributed from the beginning, suffering very much consequently.
By the outbreak of the Egyptian Revolution, Keilany composed new enthusiastic poetry, giving proof of his sincere patriotism.
Keilany's Literary Works
He made his first attempt in writing during his primary education in 1908. But later he translated Andolusian literature and verified "Resalat El-Ghofran" or (Treatise on Forgiveness, written by the blind Arab poet Abu-al-Alaa AI-Maari). Some scholars assert that the Treatise on Forgive-ness influenced Dante in his composition of the Divine Comedy, and that many of its quatrains had a strong influence upon the poetry of Omar Khayyam. Keilany also explicated Ibn El-Roumi's poetical works, Regards in the Islamic History, masterpieces of western stories, criticism. He wrote on trips title "Memories of Brethren Countries". He published numerous books on different topics such as literature, Religion, morals, grammar, criticism, comedy, the Prophet Mohammed (God's blessing and peace upon him) and his companions. Keilany also composed poetry.
But he focused more on the pedagogics of children, he established a school for the literature of children's tales.
Keilany faced all sorts of handicaps, but he could pave the way for the establishment of children's literature; consequently he was honoured by the State and appreciated by writers and prominent figures of letters from Arab and Oriental Countries-honours and appreciation which he was very keen to spotlight on the first pages of his publications. A primary School on Old Cairo now bears the name of Kamel Keilany. Also there is the Kamel Kei-lany Prize sponsored by the supreme Council for Arts and Literature, is de-dicated for children's literature.
Keilany's Works and the "Reading for all Festival"
Keilany's literary works for children constituted an important part of the comprehensive National Program of "Reading for all Festival" under the auspices of Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, side by side with the works of a wide group of outstanding writers and men of letters.
Inaugurated in 1991, by the first lady, this festival joins the efforts of all organs in the country, official and non-official, especially those of In-formation and Culture Ministries; millions of different-aged children par-ticipated in these festivals.
It is worth mentioning in this respect that Mrs. Mubarak is very much concerned with the establishment of numerous Public and School Libraries under the auspices of Integrated Care Society to simplify books written by eminent authors and make them available, gratis or at low prices to people unable to afford them.
The innovated Festival, now, in its seventh year, tends to make for the foundation of open reading clubs on the shores and everywhere, including sectors for talented children, experimental workshops built on the idea of video-copied spontaneous creativeness of children without interference from the part of their Tutors. A film library for children is also planned for.
Fifteen new palaces of culture were opened, renovated and restored in different Egyptian governrates.
Kamel Keilany died on Jan. 10, 1959, leaving behind a valuable heri-tage of publications on Arabic Literature in general and children's literature in particular.
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