Sanua published the first issue of his Abou Naddara series in Alexandria, on 25 March 1878 with the title Abū Naẓẓāra Zarqāʾ. The two months of its publishing were also the last ones during which Sanua was able to work as a satirical journalist in his home country. The major part of Sanua’s publications was therefore issued in Paris during the thirty-two years of his active life as a writer.
Sanua produced twelve experimental newspaper series in the period between 1878 and 1885. Starting from 1885, the structure, name, and layout of the Abou Naddara series became more stable. There are different reasons for shifts in titles and layouts during the initial seven years.
Firstly, Sanua himself had to become acquainted with the new techniques of lithography which he was able to explore in Parisian printing shops. In the first newspaper produced in exile, which Sanua presented as a personal travelogue –Riḥlat Abī Naẓẓāra Zarqā min Miṣr al-Qāhira ilā Bārīs al-Fākhira-, he introduced simple caricatures and drawings. These illustrations became more sophisticated in the second newspaper series of the year 1879 called Abū Naẓẓāra Zarqā. Sanua, most probably starting from that moment, hired a professional drawing artist.
Secondly, Sanua did not stick to the layout and title of his journals because he had to outwit the khedivial press censorship. Especially during the year 1880, under Riyāḍ’s Prime Ministry, it was extremely difficult for Sanua to have the magazines smuggled to Egypt. Sanua recorded that his readers faced severe punishment whenever they were caught with his subversive, satirical writings. Therefore, Abū Naẓẓāra (the man with the glasses) suddenly appeared as Abū Ṣuffāra (the flute player) and afterward, only five weeks later, turned into Abū Zammāra (the clarinet player). By the end of the same year, Sanua self-ironically recognized his talent as a transforming artist and newly introduced his alter-ego character as a charmer (al-Ḥāwī). After this phase of extreme changeability, in April 1881, Abou Naddara got its French header which –apart from minor variations– was kept until 1910.
The Egyptian journalist in exile also experimented with style and literary genres before his articles were shaped more and more according to the standards of the French satirical press. At the same time as his caricatures became more elaborate, Sanua started to introduce descriptive French translations to the texts linked to the drawings. Already his first “album” -the collected thirty numbers of his travelogue- was published with the addition of an epilogue that included a list of the illustrations, each with a short explanation in French. However, apart from these short translations of the drawings, Sanua’s journals became completely bilingual at the same time as the title Abou Naddara and the layout were settled in 1885. One great exception to this are the two issues of The Egyptian Patriot –written in English– which Sanua designed in 1883, to make the British occupiers aware of the danger emanating from the Egyptian intellectuals’ opposition to their politics.
Starting from 1885, Sanua usually published an album by the end of each year and added two additional covers, one in French and one in Arabic. The biggest of these kinds of collections is the one that brings together the newspapers published from 1901 until 1906. The albums, as well as the bilingual journals, can be read from both sides. The French reader can read from the left to the right and the Arabic reader the other way round. This is the reason why all journals and albums have two cover pages and no back.
In 1888, Sanua started an additional monthly journal with the name at-Tawwaddud, translated into French with Sympathisons (let us corroborate), which was intended to make people in Egypt gain more insight into European politics. Already during the foundational year, the cover displayed a summary of the Arabic content in French which became more extensive over time. Unfortunately, the originals of the four collected volumes of L’Attawadod published between 1894 and 1897 vanished. No reprints were made of these journals and the only way to access the texts is by consulting the microfilms in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. This is the reason why they cannot be found in this collection.
Another newspaper was established by Sanua in 1899. It was published bilingually (Arabic and French) right from the beginning and included in the yearly album together with the issues of L’Attawadod and Abou Naddara. Its title was L’Almonsef (L’Equitable) and its proclaimed aim was to judge the enemies and the friends of the Eastern people righteously. As much as the texts and drawings of L’Attawadod, the content of this new journal was not meant to be satirical.
Sanua started one last, entirely French magazine called L’Univers Musulman in 1907. This journal was printed on pink pages and photographs were added to the drawn lithographs. The opening poem solemnly proclaims the goal of the publication in a prayer-like format. The journal aimed to explain Islamic culture to its French readership. Christians and Muslims were encouraged to collaborate in an understanding, peaceful and constructive way.