Brief Enquiries

Can Literature Connect Worlds, Ms Fathy?

By Lilo Berg

With her students she first reads a novel about the fall of the Wall in Germany and then the history of a young woman who joins the Arab Spring in Cairo. “Both books are about suppression and the longing for freedom,” says the Egyptian Germanist Hebatallah Fathy, “and that appeals to people in all cultures.”

Hebatallah Fathy
Hebatallah Fathy (Photo: Humboldt Foundation / Nikolaus Brade)

The professor for Modern German Literature at Cairo University aroused a great deal of interest in the East German citizens’ movement with her comparison of novels. Now, as a visiting professor at LMU Munich, Hebatallah Fathy would like to enrich German teaching here, too. In addition to Goethe, Schiller and Fontane, she suggests reading some authors with foreign roots living in Germany. “For example, the extremely eloquent writer of Turkish origin, Feridun Zaimoğlu, or Abbas Khider who so magnificently describes his flight from Iraq and arrival in Germany.”

Hebatallah Fathy has built bridges to Arab culture for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a diplomat brought up in Berlin, she studied German in Cairo, took her doctorate in Münster and has worked on research in Germany at various times ever since. In Munich she is currently developing modern formats for teaching literature abroad. And by the by, she has started a German-language literary competition for refugees. “They are wonderful texts,” says Fathy, “they bring worlds together.” 

published in Humboldt Kosmos 108/2018

Dr Hebatallah Fathy is a visiting professor at LMU Munich. From 2009 to 2010, she was a Georg Forster Research Fellow at the University of Giessen.