I don’t know what he did with them; he did not bring them. I did see the titles. Mona Farid spoke about her father from her home in Texas in a discussion edited here for length. But my dad, maybe every other year. He also read about Buddhism, about Zen, about Hinduism. But he never became a part of the literature communities in Houston. But we talked mostly about his spiritual convictions, not literature. And he didn’t continue after that, to write? Adel Kamel and his wife. MF: Oh yes. He just read a lot, like all the time. Maybe literature or art did not define his happiness because he went beyond. So it wasn’t a problem for him. Some of them I remember distinctly. But he really was very much into intellectual engagement: new things, new ideas. With his daughter Sonia in Alexandria in 1958. He opened my horizons, and I feel I’m much richer because of that. But I guess he never really left that passion. MF: I’m sure Naguib Mahfouz would know better. Did your father talk much about Naguib Mahfouz or his other literary friends? It was like he had two personalities: at home, he never shared any of that with us. And you’re right, he was very witty. He had an encompassing view of the traditional religions. On, Malik min Shoair, too. My mother came every year and stayed a couple of months. At college in 1934. He didn’t talk to us about those weekly meetings. Mona Farid: He was a very intellectual person, very forward thinking, sometimes too forward in his ideas. He woke up, had breakfast, took a walk, and then read, and took a nap, and then the family things. Did your father visit you before he moved there in 1992? MF: We were in a French school, and we had to read in French. From his literary persona, I’d assume he was witty? Was your mother at all involved in his literary life? She was Catholic, and we were with her and her family and her friends more than with his friends. He originally decided he wanted to only be a writer, but eventually decided I guess he couldn’t make a good living at it, and he went into the law. Well, they’re two different things. Portrait of Adel Kamel, 1935. Her spoken Arabic was terrible, because in her household they only spoke French. So it was two type different types of backgrounds. Naguib Mahfouz said he stopped publishing after 1940s. She hardly read Arabic until she got married, and then she started reading. So you all ended up in the US, you and your sister Sonia in Houston. MF: No. My father is Egyptian Coptic orthodox by birth, and my mother is Lebanese Armenian descent, and she came when he married her. Kamel with his three daughters. It’s a shame, because it’s not something he shared with us at all. He did not really mash into the traditional Coptic orthodox conservative life. Through Naguib Mahfouz and the other “Harafish,” he met some people from the art world, I guess, and we had a feeling that we probably didn’t know my dad half as much as his friends did. Thanks also to Sonia Kamel Kotb for sharing family photos:
Could you describe your father? I don’t know. Do you have a favorite? MF: Yes. I can imagine what the topics were, but we weren’t privy to them. Adel Kamel (1916-2005) in Family Photos and Memories
Adel Kamel had three daughters: Mona, Sonia, and Nadia. One is more spiritual, and one is more sarcastic. Maybe he entrusted a friend, or two. One of them owned a farm somewhere, and he took us one time, but he would go with his friends to that farm. Did she read his books? Did you talk about books with your father? And he was very fluent in French and English. There has been some speculation that your father left behind unpublished works. Also:
ArabLit: Translator Waleed Almusharraf, On Kamel’s Characters: ‘Despicable and Lovable with No Contradiction’
ArabLit: Publisher Seif Salmawy on Rediscovering Adel Kamel
Al Jazeera: Egyptian classic rediscovered in English
Hoopoe Fiction: Read an excerpt from the first chapter of The Magnificent Conman
The novel is available from AUC Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.Com, Amazon.Uk, and is best bought at your local bookshop. MF: He used to come almost every year. At this point in his life, all that he wanted was family. They probably went away to replenish their muses. But you and your sisters did? MF: 1992. I didn’t read too much from his library. At his daughter Sonia’s graduation in 1971. Or I don’t know. He respected people’s beliefs, but he went past that. MF: We’ve asked him, but all he did was read and read, and he was missing the life in Egypt so terribly. He never said anything, but I could just see it. MF: No. What year was it when your parents came to the US? He might have understood something. He read a lot, he was a man of very few words, he didn’t talk a lot, and his friends were paramount in his life, his literary friends. MF: Maybe this was where the disconnect originated. MF: Malim al-Akbar. My mother is completely different person from my dad. MF: They left Egypt, my mom and dad, because all three of us were here in the States.