In this volume of stories Yahya Hakki, who explored genres of creative writing new to the traditions of classical Arabic, demonstrates his ease with gentle humor and describes with typical sympathy individuals who somehow manage to scrape through life's hardships. The title story, "The Lamp of Umm Hashim", was the first of several works in Arabic to deal with coming to terms with divergent cultures.
Yahya Hakki (1905-92) started life as a lawyer and then served in different parts of the world as a diplomat. After resigning from the diplomatic service he devoted himself wholly to writing. Denys Johnson-Davies is the pioneer translator of modern Arabic literature, with more than 25 volumes of translation to his name, and is the author of Memories in Translation: A Life between the Lines of Arabic Literature (AUC Press, 2005). He lives in Cairo and Marrakesh.