Taha Hussein (November 14, 1889—October 28, 1973 (nicknamed “Dean of Arabic Literature”) was one of the most influential 20th century Egyptian writers and intellectuals, and a figurehead for the modernist movement in the Arab World.
Taha Husein was born in the village of Izbet el Kilo in Minya Governorate in central Upper Egypt. He went to a kottab, and then was sent to Al-Azhar University, where he was educated in religion and Arabic literature. From his childhood days he was reluctant to engrave the traditional education in his heart. Hussein was the seventh of thirteen children, living in a lower-middle class family. He became blind at the age of three due to a faulty treatment by an unskilled practitioner and was dealt with a great deal of anguish throughout his entire life.
He met and married Suzanne Bresseau while attending the University of Montpellier in France. She was referred to as “sweet voice”. This name came from her ability to read to him as he was trying to improve his grasp of the French language. Suzanne became his wife, best friend, mother of his two children and mentor throughout his life. Taha Hussein’s children, his daughter Amina and her younger brother Moenis, both were important figures in Egypt. Amina, who died at the age of 70, was among the first Egyptian women to graduate from Cairo University. She and her brother, Moenis, translated his Adib (The Intellectual) into French. This was especially important to their father, who was an Egyptian who moved to France and learned the language. Even more importantly, the character of Adib is one of a young man who, like Taha Hussein, had to go experience the cultural shock of an Egyptian studying and living in France.