Egypt and the Arab world lost Baha Taher, a great literary figure and an exceptional “phenomenon” in Arab literature. I intentionally use and stress the term “phenomenon.” Most students of Arab literature are quite familiar with the battles, scandals, gossip, back stabbings, and squabbles over literary prizes, where narcissism bares its fangs. Taher was absent from all of these battles and, perhaps because of his integrity, remained in the shadows without amassing the literary “popularity” others sought after. As Oussama Farouk in the Lebanese Al Modon newspaper said, Taher was devoted exclusively to his creativity, distanced himself from any disputes, disagreements, or conflicts relating to positions, benefits, and prizes, and carved with his virtuous nature a place in the hearts of his friends, students, and readers that is hard to fill. I distinguish literary squabbles and scandals from the literary and intellectual debates between old and new, heritage and modernity. In short, Taher’s integrity primed him as a phenomenon in the world of Arab letters.
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