Naguib Mahfouz

Naguib Mahfouz

Naguib Mahfouz was born in December 11, 1911 and died in August 30, 2006. He was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature, along with Tawfiq el-Hakim, to explore themes of existentialism. He published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career. Many of his works have been made into Egyptian and foreign films.

Most of Mahfouz's early works were set in el-Gamaleyya. Abath Al-Aqdar (Mockery of the Fates) (1939), Rhadopis (1943), and Kifah Tibah (The Struggle of Thebes) (1944), were historical novels, written as part of a larger unfulfilled project of 30 novels. Inspired by Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) Mahfouz planned to cover the whole history of Egypt in a series of books. However, following the third volume, Mahfouz shifted his interest to the present, the psychological impact of the social change on ordinary people.

Mahfouz's central work in the 1950s was the Cairo Trilogy, an immense monumental work of 1,500 pages, which the author completed before the July Revolution. The novels were titled with the street names Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street. Mahfouz set the story in the parts of Cairo where he grew up. They depict the life of the patriarch el-Sayyed Ahmed Abdel Gawad and his family over three generations, from World War I to the 1950s, when King Farouk I was overthrown. With its rich variety of characters and psychological understanding, the work connected Mahfouz to such authors as Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy, and Galsworthy. Mahfouz ceased to write for some years after finishing the trilogy. Disappointed in the Nasser régime, which had overthrown the monarchy in 1952, he started publishing again in 1959, now prolifically pouring out novels, short stories, journalism, memoirs, essays, and screenplays.

Tharthara Fawq Al-N?l ("Chatter on the Nile"; 1966) is one of his most popular novels. It was later made into a film featuring a cast of top actors during the time of president Anwar al-Sadat. The film/story criticizes the decadence of Egyptian society during the Nasser era. It was banned by Sadat to avoid provocation of Egyptians who still loved former president Nasser. Copies were hard to find prior to the late 1990s. Mahfouz's prose is characterised by the blunt expression of his ideas. His written works covered a broad range of topics, including socialism, homosexuality, and God. Writing about some of the subjects was prohibited in Egypt.

The Children of Gebelawi (1959, also known as "Children of our Alley") one of Mahfouz's best known works, has been banned in Egypt for alleged blasphemy over its allegorical portrayal of God and the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, until the ban was released in 2006. It portrayed the patriarch Gebelaawi and his children, average Egyptians living the lives of Cain and Abel, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. Gebelawi has built a mansion in an oasis in the middle of a barren desert; his estate becomes the scene of a family feud which continues for generations. "Whenever someone is depressed, suffering or humiliated, he points to the mansion at the top of the alley at the end opening out to the desert, and says sadly, 'That is our ancestor's house, we are all his children, and we have a right to his property. Why are we starving? What have we done?'" The book was banned throughout the Arab world, except in Lebanon, and in Egypt where the novel was published in 2006. In the 1960s, Mahfouz further developed its theme that humanity is moving further away from God in his existentialist novels. In The Thief and the Dogs (1961) he depicted the fate of a Marxist thief, who has been released from prison and plans revenge.

In the 1960s and 1970s Mahfouz began to construct his novels more freely and to use interior monologues. In Miramar (1967) he developed a form of multiple first-person narration. Four narrators, among them a Socialist and a Nasserite opportunist, represent different political views. In the center of the story is an attractive servant girl. In Arabian Nights and Days (1981) and in The Journey of Ibn Fatouma (1983) Mahfouz drew on traditional Arabic narratives as subtexts. Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth (1985) is about conflict between old and new religious truths.

Many of his novels were first published in serialized form, including Children of Gebelawi and Midaq Alley which was adapted into a Mexican film starring Salma Hayek (El callejón de los milagros).

Mahfouz described the development of his country in the 20th-century. He combined intellectual and cultural influences from East and West - his own exposure to the literarature of non-Egyptian culture began in his youth with the enthusiastic consumption of Western detective stories, Russian classics, and such modernist writers as Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka and James Joyce. Mahfouz's stories, written in the florid classical Arabic, are almost always set in the heavily populated urban quarters of Cairo, where his characters, mostly ordinary people, try to cope with the modernization of society and the temptations of Western values.

Books: 

* Old Egypt
* Whisper of Madness
* Mockery of the Fates
* Khufu's Wisdom
* Rhadopis of Nubia
* The Struggle of Thebes
* Modern Cairo
* Khan El-Khalili
* Midaq Alley
* The Mirage
* The Beginning and The End
* Cairo Trilogy
* Palace Walk
* Palace of Desire
* Sugar Street
* Children of Gebelawi
* The Thief and the Dogs
* Quail and Autumn
* God's World
* Zaabalawi
* The Search
* The Beggar
* Adrift on the Nile
* Miramar
* The Pub of the Black Cat
* A story without a beginning or an ending
* The Honeymoon
* Mirrors
* Love under the rain
* The Crime
* al-Karnak
* Respected Sir
* The Harafish
* Love above the Pyramid Plateau
* The Devil Preaches
* Love and the Veil
* Arabian Nights and Days
* Wedding Song
* One hour remains
* The Journey of Ibn Fattouma
* Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth
* The Day the Leader was Killed
* The Hunger
* Speaking the morning and evening
* Fountain and Tomb
* Echoes of an Autobiography
* Dreams of the Rehabilitation Period
* The Seventh Heaven