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.
Drawing on the characters and the spirit of the classic A Thousand and One Nights, Arabian Nights and Days is a significant departure for Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. Though he is best known for chronicling his own times, in this novel, first published in Arabic in 1982, Mahfouz injects new life into an Arabic masterpiece. Though it is set in an Islamic city in medieval times, the modern reader will find much in this novel that is surprisingly familiar. It depicts a city plagued by widespread corruption among its most powerful citizens, and a pervasive sense of social unrest and insecurity. The chief of police is kept particularly busy dealing with the underground activities of various religious sects that are intent on changing the unscrupulous regime. Amid all of this, as in the Thousand and One Nights, genies appear out of bottles accidentally opened by innocent individuals, affecting their lives in exciting, sometimes detrimental ways. Famed for his skill as a storyteller, Naguib Mahfouz has here produced a novel that is as colorful and entertaining as the book that inspired it.
In Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth, Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz tells with remarkable insight the story of the ‘heretic’ pharaoh whose iconoclastic and controversial career has such resonance with modern sensibilities. Years after the king’s death, a young man with a passion for the truth questions the pharaoh’s contemporaries—including his closest friends, his bitterest enemies, and his enigmatic wife Nefertiti—in an effort to discover what really happened in those strange, dark days at Akhenaten’s court. As they each report their version of events, Mahfouz allows his readers to decide for themselves the truth about Akhenaten.
In this second volume of The Cairo Trilogy, the master storyteller spins a sensual, provocative tale, following the al-Jawad family into the awakening world of the 1920s, where increased freedoms prove as troubling as domination and repression once did. Like Palace Walk, Palace of Desire affords a fascinating look at a period of modern Egyptian history by lovingly and painstakingly examining the day-to-day lives of a single family.
In this final volume of Naguib Mahfouz’s masterpiece trilogy, al-Sayyid Ahmad is aging, ill, and confined behind the mashrabeya that once confined his wife. But in his grandsons we see a modern Egypt emerging: one becomes a communist activist, another a Muslim fundamentalist, both working for what they believe will be a better world. And a third launches a promising political career abetted by a homosexual relationship with a prominent politician.
In this breathtakingly compact novel, written in the mid-1980s, the focus is once again on the generational paradigm featured in the Cairo Trilogy. This time, Mahfouz traces the life of a middle-class Cairene family living in the early 1980s under President Sadat. It was an era of transition in Egypt, a time of acute crisis, as everywhere ordinary people were being pushed into the ‘’abyss of Infitah.’’ In the mad rush, there was a sense of an ending, a feeling of panic as the innocent helplessly watched their world rapidly disintegrating. A whole way of life with its age-old traditions and values was simply falling apart, making way for a merciless new materialism in ‘’the kingdom of the corrupt,’’ where survival had indeed to be for the fittest. The novel reaches its climax with the assassination of Sadat on October 6, 1981, an event around which the fictional plot is skillfully woven.
On a school playground in the stylish Cairo suburb of Abbasiya, five young boys become friends for life, making a nearby café, Qushtumur, their favorite gathering spot forever. One is the narrator, who, looking back in his old age on their seven decades together, makes the other four the heroes of his tale, a Proustian (and classically Mahfouzian) quest in search of lost time and the memory of a much-changed place.
In a seamless stream of personal triumphs and tragedies, their lives play out against the backdrop of two world wars, the 1952 Free Officers coup, the defeat of 1967 and the redemption of 1973, the assassination of a president, and the simmering uncertainties of the transitional 1980s. But as their nation grows and their neighborhood turns from the green, villa-studded paradise of their youth to a dense urban desert of looming towers, they still find refuge in the one enduring landmark in their ever-fading world: the humble coffeehouse called Qushtumur.