Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. A student of philosophy and an avid reader, his works range from reimaginings of ancient myths to subtle commentaries on contemporary Egyptian politics and culture. Over a career that lasted more than five decades, he wrote 33 novels, 13 short story anthologies, numerous plays, and 30 screenplays. Of his many works, most famous is The Cairo Trilogy, consisting of Palace Walk (1956), Palace of Desire (1957), and Sugar Street (1957), which focuses on a Cairo family through three generations, from 1917 until 1952. In 1988, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer in Arabic to do so. He died in August 2006.
Nobel Prize winner Mahfouz's stunning portrait of a family in dissolution (first published in 1957) mirrors an Egypt trying to plunge into the modern world but beset by colonialism, a rigid class system and political oppression. The third volume of his Cairo Trilogy, the novel opens in 1935 as Egypt smolders under British occupation, and it extends through the war. Kamal, son of the gaunt, wasted patriarch, is a grade-school teacher and philosopher who veers between lusty debauches and reading Spinoza. One of his nephews, Abd Al-Muni'm, becomes a Muslim fundamentalist; another nephew, Ahmad, takes Marx as his prophet. These two diametrically opposed brothers will share the same fate--a jail cell. The inadvertent cause of their undoing may be another scion of the patriarch, young Ridwan, a closet homosexual whose liaison with a prominent politician apparently backfires. Tragedy, in this busy family drama, can mean anything from marrying below one's station to a massacre of protesters by English constables and Egyptian soldiers. Mahfouz's characters blaze with intensity, his Egypt pulsates with unresolved tensions. (Jan.)
"A masterful kaleidoscope of emotions, ideas, and perspective.
Mahfouz has captured a family and its homeland at one gloriously
varied moment in a cycle." --"Newsday"
"Mahfouz's characters blaze with intensity, his Egypt pulsates with unresolved tension." --"The Atlanta Constitution
""A resonant tour de force, a superbly written novel. One of the most enjoyable books of recent memory." "--St. Louis Post-Dispatch
""Mahfouz presents us with a different concept of the world and makes it real. His genius is not just that he shows us Egyptian colonial society in all its complexity; it is that he makes us look through the vision of his vivid characters and see people and ideas that no longer seem so alien." "--Philadelphia Inquirer