“Tales of a lifetime”…between witness to the era and self-contradiction

Gradual attention was given to the book by the late Egyptian artist Samir Sabry, “Tales of the Whole Life”, whose first edition was published in 2020 by the Lebanese Egyptian House. At first, some, interested in art, or not, doubted that the book could be a frank memoir of the great artist, who was known for his love of diplomacy and the courtesy of friends. But the following events that occurred, whether for Samir Sabri, who circulated the news of his illness, or to other stars of his generation, with their sudden departure, gave the book its importance, which became increasing with time.
Samir Sabry’s artistic activity extends since 1964, starting with his work on the Egyptian radio piece by piece, passing through his participation in starring films, and sometimes even producing them, films such as: “Hell under water”, “Alam Eyal Eyal”, “Al-Tabout and Al-Nubout”. , and “Tears of Her Majesty”, and “Be kind to parents”, among others. This is in addition to the dance and singing troupe that he formed to perform performances at parties and private weddings. We cannot forget his two distinguished and famous programs, which he considers to be the beginning of the talk shows in the Arab world: “This Evening” and “The International Club”. The last work of the late was his participation in the movie “Happened in 2 Talaat Harb”, directed by Magdy Ahmed Ali, and this book is in our hands, without calculating his solutions always as a guest on satellite programs until his departure on May 20, after suffering with the disease.
Undoubtedly, the approach of death played a role in increasing the demand for reading the tales that the artist associated with his whole life. On the other hand, these stories did not skimp on giving pleasure, as well as exposing some secrets about the lives of the great stars that the artist mentions. Recently, the book has become one of the highest-read on the “Abjad” application for e-books, and even pirates have had their share of this success, as the milled versions of the tales have found their place on the sidewalks. As if this flock to the book, whether legitimate or not, was a kind of slow acknowledgment of the end of a prosperous era of Egyptian art, which lasted about fifty years, and here are its symbols leaving one after one, or “extincting”, according to Sabri himself, in one of the His dialogues, when he talked about the departure of his colleagues. Not to mention that there is no longer a foothold for the neighborhoods of that generation in the film and television industry, which has become constantly declining in our time, and suffers from severe suffocation due to the restrictions imposed on freedom of expression in Egypt, without ignoring the dominance of the trend with its stars and the dominance of the works of one season that It achieves a huge audience the hour it airs and is then abandoned by viewers and its stars.

As segments of the Egyptian public lose their enjoyment of current artworks, they find themselves compelled to relive the tales of artists of past eras, who somehow ended up with tragic endings.

lightness of stories

Samir Sabry holds his honorary award during the closing ceremony of the 19th Cairo International Film Festival for Children in Giza, south of Cairo (3/13/2009/AFP)


The story is spending time, it is entertainment, it is a means of escaping from the narrowness of the present, to the alleged paradise of the past. There are two submissions to the first edition of the book, one by Mofeed Fawzy, and the other by Zahi Hawass. The two focus on the same idea, reminding the reader of Samir Sabry’s culture, his multiple talents, and his extended giving, whether in the cinema or on television, as they confirm the state of injustice that Sabri believed to be. incident on him. He says, for example, in his television interview with Lamis El Hadidy about his honor at the Cairo Film Festival: “But unfortunately, no film festival has honored me as a cinema.” By that, he meant that he was not honored as an actor, or that he was honored as a broadcaster, and as a program presenter, and not as a movie star.
When Sabri receives the thread of conversation in his tales from Fawzi and Hawass, he tries to go back to the beginning, to Alexandria: “I don’t know whether it was fate or luck, or both, they painted my life and fulfilled my wishes…”. He talks about his early life in a family consisting of a father, an army officer, and a mother who describes her beauty as similar to Laila Mourad, and his education by belonging to the Victoria School, “which was the most prestigious and most expensive college in Egypt, in the Middle East, and perhaps in Africa too!”.
Sabri’s review of his culture and of the languages ​​he was fluent in throughout the book, he also decided to reduce the story to his personal life to the fullest extent. If the beginnings are necessary, he only wants them to pass quickly on the story of the separation of the father and mother, and to emphasize that it may have been the beginning of goodness instead of talking about its psychological impact, or asking, for example, how it relates to the life of loneliness that accompanies him, and I judged him that He spends his last moments in a Cairo hotel, so that the staff find out if his death occurs, and his body is not left forgotten in his home. However, due to the parents’ divorce, Samir accompanied his father to Cairo, while the mother stayed in Alexandria. In Cairo, his artistic career will definitely begin.

The writing includes a second, not new, personal account of his only son, who is supposed to live in England. A story he used to repeat in different ways every time, when asked about it in his television interviews. His facial muscles always contracted, his mood changed, and he answered him very succinctly. With each story, the boy had a different name, sometimes it was Hassan, and once it was Tariq, or Jalal. Despite the known generosity of the great artist, whether in his stories, or in his reception of his guests, Sabri was very stingy in what he called his personal life; “I will not go into the details of my story and my private life, as I said before, my family and my life are always a red line…”.
The irony is that this keen concern for the privacy of personal life was not a position adopted by the great artist, if he deals with the secrets of the lives of his colleagues, from other artists.

The All-Knowing Narrator

Samir Sabri between Samiha Ayoub andNadia Lotfy in a cinema in Cairo (3/3/2001/AFP)


With the exception of this personal part of the narration, Sabri is busy recalling the stories of others, often from the angle of his intersections with them, other times from what he has heard said about them, dedicating a chapter to each artist, politician, or media maker. As if his book is a diwan in which the symbols of that era gather, the “soft powers” of Egypt, according to his favorite expression.
With each portrait, Samir Sabry’s location changes from the story. It begins, for example, with Abdel Halim Hafez, who owes him thanks to his discovery, and who accompanied him throughout his artistic career, and testified to his struggles with other stars, such as his cold war with Umm Kulthum, his struggles with some composers, and his relationship with Farid al-Atrash outside the framework of competition, as he tells. All this prompts Sabri to play the role of lawyer for Halim, especially with regard to his controversial story with Soad Hosni, at the expense of revealing details that the public may not accept about Cinderella’s personal life.
In Umm Kulthum’s portrait, for example, he talks about his personal relationship first with her, then plays the role of the investigator in the story of her undeclared marriage to the Alexandrian composer, Mahmoud al-Sharif, after her death. All these stories remain in a secret safe that Samir Sabry tried to forcefully open for the sake of his journalistic curiosity, before he was forced to retreat, and he ends this chapter by saying: “I greatly respected people who considered any love relationship with Umm Kulthum a red line, and I learned from this that any relationship Between me and any woman is a red line, the secret in her remains in my heart…”.

There are chapters that we can say are propaganda, specifically those devoted to praising Arab political officials. There are other, more gentle and humane chapters, such as his story about Shadia and her transformations and sorrows, his story about Sabah and her grief in her personal relationships, and his story about Tahia Karioka and the impact of her crisis with her ex-husband Fayez Halawa on her financial situation. There are certainly other stories in which he played the role of the ambassador, or the honorable host, of world stars, such as the story that he brought together between Warda and Charles Aznavour, and the song they sang together, or the story of his reception of Dalida in Egypt after her global success, and her going to Shubra to visit her first childhood home. , a visit during which Dalida did not stop crying, but he also plays with her the role of a magician who turns her tears into a smile, when he creates for her a scene of “a quarrel” full of authentic Egyptian insults, as Dalida used to hear from her family’s apartment in Shubra, and she did not find anything like her living in her apartment. In Paris.

aims justify means
Perhaps this philosophy that focuses on others and neglects the self (perhaps not to be shed by the spotlight, and is also required to tell) dates back to the beginning of his artistic work on the radio, and his continuation for years in receiving the stars of society and interviewing them in his programs on television. In his work, Samir Sabry did not recognize any red lines, and one of his personal hobbies was to take his questions to the stars to areas they did not want to talk about. He did something like this, for example, with Faten Hamama, and she had asked him not to ask her about her relationship with Omar Sharif after their separation, and Sabri promised her that, but he broke the promise and surprised her by asking during the recording. There is also the incident of placing microphones under the table on which Tawfiq al-Hakim was sitting, at a cultural event, and recording a dialogue with him in agreement with state officials, without knowing that al-Hakim, in order to have an exclusive dialogue with him!
However, what he mentioned of very personal secrets in the portrait of the star Sherihan, for example, raises a question about the limits of his adoption of the famous Machiavellian logic “the end justifies the means”. It is hard to overlook his lack of equality between himself and the stars, who considered his entire personal life a no-man’s-land, though he belonged to an artistic generation that lived his life in the open, more completely naked in front of the press than in secret. Samir Sabry was an exception in his excessive, confusing, and confusing secrecy. Oddly enough, he did not use this vast culture, his study of philosophy, and his knowledge of world literature, as he had boasted all his life, to neutralize the rumors that accompanied him and touched his emotional preferences. Away from Sabri’s tendencies, was he not able to take advantage of this large popular base that he achieved over the years of his artistic activity to talk about other tastes in life, to defend freedom, and to confront hatred, vilification, and the pursuit of moral judgments that Egyptian art suffered, and is still suffering, Because of the dominance of narrow-minded authoritarian discourses.
Samir Sabri was light in everything he brought, he loved joy, belonged to it, and sought to spread it, this was his most original philosophical position in his life. That is also his right which we can never take away from him, not in his life, and especially not now. And if he narrates something in the “tales of a lifetime,” and if he testifies to something, it is neither less nor more than his love for art and joy, and his desire to share it with others as much as he can. He used to say about himself that he is a performer of songs, not a singer, and one of his most famous songs that Shadia sang with him was saying: “Sugar is sweet, the world is sugar… Stay up with the love of the world more… one night, and I will enjoy one night for you… Live this world as beautiful as sugar.” “.

(Cairo)