A Child From the Village
was written previous to Qutb’s studies in America – a fewyears before he turned his energies exclusively to Islamist ideology. But this book is no preambleto such. Instead, the reader finds gentle and often saccharine reflections of a boy’s village life inthe Asyut Province of Upper Egypt. The book is Qutb’s coming of age memoir. Qutb describes,in fluid prose, rural Egyptian life around the time of the 1919 revolution.He leaves behind, by way of enlightenment, an intense trepidation of the supernatural,which haunts the villagers to the point of blaming sickness and unexplained phenomena on thedeeds of disgruntled
(demons or sprites). Stillborn children, sudden deaths,abrupt madness, impotence and the likes thereof, are all attributed to the mischievous andmalevolent little demons of the night.We learn of Qutb’s keen childhood interest in reading. Qutb describes the avuncular bookseller who comes to the village once a year; and how the young Qutb spends all his pocketmoney on books normally unavailable in rural communities – books on numerology,enchantment, history, Sherlock Holmes, explorations of rhetoric in the Qur’an,
The OneThousand and One Nights
and medicine… books that at that time were only available to thevenerable scholars at the far-off al-Azhar in Cairo.The boy Qutb is acknowledged by the villagers as a nascent effendi (a well-educated, andrespected man who moves upward in society). And too, Qutb’s father spends money he doesn’thave, in order to provide education and amenities for his intellectually gifted son. Their congé atthe end is rather moving. Qutb leaves his village a proud young man, ready to pursue higher education in the far away and revered Cairo.