Karnak Café

Naguib Mahfouz
Translated byRoger Allen

At a Cairo café, a cross-section of Egyptian society, young and old, rich and poor, are drawn together by the quality of its coffee and the allure of

English edition
116 pp.
12.5X20cm
ISBN 9789774166037
For sale only in the Middle East

$14.95

At a Cairo café, a cross-section of Egyptian society, young and old, rich and poor, are drawn together by the quality of its coffee and the allure of its owner, legendary former dancer Qurunfula. When three of the young patrons disappear for prolonged periods, the older customers display varying reactions to the news. On their return, they recount horrific stories of arrest and torture at the hands of the secret police, and the habitués of the café begin to withdraw from each other in fear, suspecting that there is an informer among them. With the nighttime arrests and the devastation of the country’s defeat in the 1967 War, the café is transformed from a haven of camaraderie and bright-eyed idealism to an atmosphere charged with mounting suspicion, betrayal, and crushing disillusionment. Exposing the dark underbelly of ideology, and delving into the idea of the ‘necessary evils’ of social upheaval, Karnak Café remains one of the Nobel laureate’s most pointedly critical works, as relevant and incisive today as it was when it was first published in 1974.

Naguib Mahfouz

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 holds a PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University, where she first became interested in Arabic history, language, and literature. She has taught medieval history and literature as well as Islamic civilization, and currently teaches Arabic at the University of Chicago.  
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