Love—who can count its varieties, measure its force, uncover the masks it wears, or predict how it binds and divides? In this spare novel, master storyteller Naguib Mahfouz gives us some of his most memorable characters, widely familiar to Egyptians from the film version of the book: Sitt Ain, with her large house, her garden, her cats, and her familiar umbrella, strong and active, mother of the neighborhood; her son Izzat, so different from her, emotional and unsure of his way; and the friends of his childhood, Sayyida, Hamdoun, and Badriya, all their lives entangled and shaped over many years by the encounter of commitment, ambition, treachery, and above all love. This is a story in and of twentieth-century Egypt, which can be read on more than one level. The neighborhood and the motifs may be familiar, but they combine to tell a new and intriguing tale, with an unexpected outcome.
Naguib Mahfouz (1911–2006) was born in the crowded Cairo district of Gamaliya. He wrote nearly 40 novel-length works, plus hundreds of short stories and numerous screenplays. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.
Kay Heikkinen is a translator and academic who holds a PhD from Harvard University. She was previously Ibn Rushd Lecturer of Arabic at the University of Chicago. Among other books, she has translated Radwa Ashour’s The Woman From Tantoura and Huzama Habayeb's Velvet, for which she was awarded the 2020 Saif-Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
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