al-Shidyāq, Aḥmad Fāris (c.1805–1887) By Junge, Christian
Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq was a Lebanese writer and journalist and one of the most provocative figures of the Nahḍa (‘awakening’), an intellectual current in the long nineteenth century for the renewal of Arab culture. With a life on the move, religious conversions and public controversies, he appears as an idiosyncratic, uncompromising critic of Arab and Western societies and cultures alike. His deep knowledge of the Arabic language made him both a skilful moderniser and a passionate defender of the classical Arabic language. His masterpiece al-Sāq ʿalā l-sāq (Leg Over Leg), published in 1855 in Paris, is a dazzling experimental work that conveys an unprecedented critique of his age. In Istanbul, al-Shidyāq founded in 1861 al-Jawāʾib (The Traversing News), the first independent newspaper in the Arabic language, which made him into an influential yet controversial public intellectual.