Maurice el-Milick was born in Tunis in 1899 to the lawyer Albert El-Milick. At some point in the 20th century they moved to Egypt and Maurice got a job as a Maths Professor. Throughout his twenties he published prolifically both works of mathematics and of literature. He even seems to have written a scientific study of the occult.
El-Milick later moved to France and kept on living in his rather eccentric way. Instead of writing books, this 1949 Life Magazine profile shows him making “surfaces”.
A few years ago I found a copy of a curious book that he had written called “Yes, Ladies! The Man is a Cad….”
It is a curious little pamphlet which seems to have been written first in Hebrew and then translated into French (presumably by El-Milick). It was broadcast on Egyptian radio in 1930, though I can’t tell which language it was in.
It is exactly the kind of thing that this blog likes. Firstly, it is a curious piece of inter-war Egyptian ephemera. Secondly, its print history is complicated and quite interesting. El-Milick was not able to publish it in a conventional way. He decided to go about self-publishing it. To get it printed by a “typographer” would have been prohibitively expensive. So, he typed the 64 page essay out on his typewriter and found a man who could make a “zincographic” copy called Kalfa. So he managed to find an affordable way to distribute his thoughts.
The result of this process was that the text is quite small on the folded A4 paper. El-Milick, though, even managed to make a virtue out of this fault and included an advert for a glasses shop in the back of the book. “If you are having trouble deciphering the letters in this book from a normal distance (45. cm), then you need glasses.”
Everything about this book ticked all my boxes before I had even read it. Then, when I actually started to read it, I was less thrilled. “I am,” he says on the first page “an anti-feminist.” This book is a satire attacking the dangerous new social movement that was sweeping Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s: “feminism”.
I have to admit that I cannot quite place the tone of this pamphlet. Obviously, it is supposed to be funny but is his anti-feminism all just an ironic gag or is that part serious. He does bring some (admittedly slightly weak) jokes to the feminist cause: Q: What’s stupider than an anti-feminist A: Two anti-feminists. I get the feeling, though, that he is genuinely baffled by this new beast called “feminism”. This is how he concludes:
Exciting as this little pamphlet is, it also helps to hold me back from a whistful romanticisation of inter-war Egypt (something that I slip into quite easily).