Jaafar Ibrahim Sayyed al-Rawi, the main character in this most recently translated Mahfouz novel, is guided by his motto, “let life be filled with holy madness to the last breath.” He narrates his life story to a friend during one long night in a café in old Cairo. Through a series of bad decisions, he has lost everything: his family, his position in society, and his fortune. A man driven by his passions, he married a beautiful Bedouin nomad for love, and as a consequence pays a punishingly high price. From a life of comfort with a promising future guaranteed by his wealthy grandfather, he descends to the spartan life of a pauper, after being disinherited. Jaafar faces his tribulations with surprising stoicism and hope, sustained by his strong convictions, his spirituality, his sense of mission, and his deep desire to bring social justice to his people.
In The Search a young man, hoping to escape a sordid background and an impoverished future, sets out to find the father he has never known. But in the course of his quest he becomes entangled with two women and is enticed into murder. The significance of the novel lies mainly in its symbolic nature and in its possible readings: is the young man searching for his roots, for religious belief, for national traditions, or for political identity?
Naguib Mahfouz, famed for his uncanny power to depict the real world, is equally ingenious at capturing the surreal, the otherworldly, and the supernatural. The ghostly side of Mahfouz’s fiction, though less well known than his other works, nonetheless remains a haunting presence. This collection of stories sifted from his later writings brings these restless spirits out of the Mahfouzian shadows together for the first time in English: A murdered man finds himself in the first level of what he mistakes for Paradise—where he faces, along with historical figures such as Akhenaten, Woodrow Wilson, and Gamal Abd al-Nasser, a strange system of earthly probation that may (or may not) get him to the fabled Seventh Heaven. A teenager is warned not to go near the allegedly haunted wood in his neighborhood, only to be drawn into the secret, enchanted life he finds within it. An honest perfume seller is accosted on a night out by angry skeletons, who threaten to march upon his alley as an avenging army if the sinners there do not change their ways. Satan speaks to us directly—to confess that there is still, despite the flood of evil in our times, an honorable man in the land. These and the other startling stories in The Seventh Heaven make a vivid contribution to the translated works of Egypt’s—and the Arab world’s—greatest modern author.
A thriller in form, a political and ethical analysis in substance. A professional thief and would-be killer, Said is an Egyptian Robin Hood whose thefts are motivated by powerful egalitarian principles, as well as by bitterness. His burning desire for revenge against those who betrayed him to the police carries him to the heights and depths of Cairo society during the early years of the 1952 Revolution.
These twenty stories represent nearly thirty years of Mahfouz’s career. Selected and translated by the distinguished scholar Denys Johnson-Davies, they have all the celebrated and distinctive characters and qualities found in Mahfouz’s novels: the denizens of the narrow alleyways of Cairo; dark ruminations on death; experiments with the supernatural; and witty excursions into Cairene middle-class life.
With a writing career spanning some seventy years, Naguib Mahfouz is one of the most recognized writers in the world. His study of philosophy at what is now Cairo University greatly influenced his works, as did his wide readings and his work in the government and in the Cinema Organization. The Wisdom of Naguib Mahfouz, like the earlier Life’s Wisdom, is a unique collection of quotations selected from the great author’s works, offering philosophical insights on themes such as childhood, youth, love, marriage, war, freedom, death, the supernatural, the afterlife, the soul, immortality, and many other subjects that take us through life’s journey.
The forces of law and order disturb a district’s too-perfect peace at the dawn of Egyptian civilization. A wise and popular pharaoh is betrayed by his own son, and by his dearest friends—then makes a most peculiar decision. A mummy returns to life after three thousand years, to confront the arrogant new race that now rules the land. A favored prince flees to a faraway country when the king dies suddenly, leaving his true love behind—only to come back to question her about their forty lost years. A famous young writer, composer of a legendary epic of Pharaoh’s greatest battle with the Hittites, is carried off without warning by a mysterious disease—then speaks to us in this life from beyond the veil of death. Such are the tales that make up this volume of five masterly stories by the young Naguib Mahfouz, all inspired by the Egypt of the pharaohs. Like three novels set in ancient times that he published early in his career, and two more with pharaonic themes that he produced four decades later, these stories reveal his wide reading of Egypt’s (and the world’s) oldest history and literature. All of these gems, however, are very much his own creations. Their voices speak with the familiar genius of Egypt’s greatest modern writer—though they call from a very different world than the one for which he is best known.
This is the story of a theatrical family of Cairo, whose playwright son exposes its most intimate and sordid secrets on the stage in his first play. The story is told four times from four different viewpoints: that of the family acquaintance, the father, the mother, and Abbas, the son, who is the central character.
This paperback compendium edition combines Naguib Mahfouz’s first three novels, all set in ancient Egypt, which skillfully explore recurring themes within human relationships: the balance between destiny and individual agency, the sanctity of the bonds to the land and religion, and the constant power struggles that affect human lives at multiple levels. In Khufu’s Wisdom, translated by Raymond Stock, Pharaoh Khufu is battling the Fates. At stake is the inheritance of Egypt’s throne, the proud but tender heart of Khufu’s beautiful daughter Princess Meresankh, and Khufu’s legacy as a sage, not savage, ruler. Rhadopis of Nubia, translated by Anthony Calderbank, follows the powerful love that grows between Rhadopis, a courtesan whose ravishing beauty is unmatched in time or place, and youthful, headstrong Pharaoh Merenra, worshiped by his people as a divine presence on earth, against the background of the high politics of Sixth Dynasty Egypt. Finally, in Thebes at War, translated by Humphrey Davies and written in 1937–1938 when Britain and Turkey held sway over Egypt, Mahfouz dramatically depicts the Egyptian people’s undying loyalty to their land and religion and their refusal to bow to outside domination. After two hundred years of occupation, the Hyksos leader in his capital in northern Egypt tells Pharaoh in the south that the roaring of the sacred hippopotami at Thebes is keeping him awake at night and demands that they be killed, galvanizing Egypt into hurling its armies into a struggle to drive the barbarians from its sacred soil forever.
This is the story of one man and the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. Isa al-Dabbagh is a senior civil servant in the Egyptian government who loses his job and his fiancée when the Purge Committees of the Revolution bring his venal past to light. His personal relationships reflect the resulting internal conflict he suffers between mind and heart, between intellectual acceptance of the Revolution and the basic emotional instincts that hold him back.
It is the late sixties, and for the group of friends who meet night after night on the houseboat on the Nile, times have changed. Nasser has ushered in an age of enormous social change, and these middle-aged sons and daughters of the old bourgeoisie are left high and dry, to gather beneath the moonlight, to smoke and chat and inhabit a cosy and enchanted world. But one night art and reality collide with unforeseen consequences.
In Adrift on the Nile, Mahfouz has given us a tale, at once thrilling and deeply serious, which exposes the human and artistic dilemmas of modern times.