28 Harf (28 Letters) by Ahmed Helmy, Cairo: Shorouk, 2012. 158pp.
Unlike most book signings in Egypt, a large crowd of eager fans turned up to see the actor, and now writer, Ahmed Helmy at Shorouk bookshop in Zamalek.
Helmy was there to discuss his new book, 28 Letters, which includes articles he wrote for Al-Shorouk and Al-Dostour Egyptian daily newspapers.
Helmy said that he choose the name 28 Letters, referring to the Arabic alphabet, because he wanted a more general title than a title drawn from the name of one of the articles, and more importantly, he chose it because one can make all the words in the world via these 28 letters: one can speak of love, hate, peace and war through the same 28 letters.
It was simple
A considerable number of the audience who gathered in the bookshop wanted to know why and how Helmy wrote the book.
“It was simple, I felt that that I had something to write, there were many feelings about Egypt and the Egyptians that I wanted to express like anyone else. Some people express themselves by painting, others stand in the street and scream out their feelings, I chose to write,” Helmy explained.
The first article Helmy wrote was about a football match between Egypt and Algeria in 2009. He is known for his lack of interest in football, but explained that, “Writing this article led me to discover what national sentiments lay behind being a fan of your national football team."
“When I started to write I had no idea if my writing would be good or bad, so I asked some of my friends who write and they told me that this was a good start that I could build on. However, my publisher had to fix many punctuation mistakes,” he added.
Helmy dedicated the book to his late father, and included an article titled Cabinet 5 in which he thanked him for helping him throughout his life, and tells of his struggle as an ordinary guy who came to Cairo to find work.
“This article is related to my father, it summarises our relationship, it’s about the gap between my dreams and what I have, and it’s about the life of most Egyptians who struggle and wish for a better future,” Helmy said.
The famous actor finished his speech by telling his audience that he was unsure if he would write again or not.