Literature Desk :
Naguib Mahfouz (December 11, 1911 - August 30, 2006) 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 34 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.
Possibly his most famous work, The Cairo Trilogy, depicts the lives of three generations of different families in Cairo from World War I until after the 1952 military coup that overthrew King Farouk. He was a board member of the publisher Dar el-Ma’aref. Many of his novels were serialized in Al-Ahram, and his writings also appeared in his weekly column, ‘Point of View.’ Before the Nobel Prize only a few of his novels had appeared in the West.
Most of Mahfouz’s early works were set in Cairo. 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 entire history of Egypt in a series of books. However, following the third volume, he shifted his interest to the present and the psychological impact of social change on ordinary people.
Mahfouz’s prose is characterised by the blunt expression of his ideas. His written works covered a broad range of topics. In his works, he described the development of his country in the 20th century and combined intellectual and cultural influences from East and West. His own exposure to the literature 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 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.
Mahfouz’s central work in the 1950s was the Cairo Trilogy, which he 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. The novels 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. Mahfouz stopped writing 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. He stated in a 1998 interview, he long felt that Nasser was one of the greatest political leaders in modern history. I only began to fully appreciate him after he nationalized the Suez Canal.
Tharthara Fawq Al-Nil (Adrift on the Nile, 1966) is one of his most popular novels. It was later made into a film during the régime of Anwar al-Sadat. The story criticizes the decadence of Egyptian society during the Nasser era. It was banned by Sadat to avoid provoking Egyptians who still loved former president Nasser.
The Children of Gebelawi (1959, also known as Children of the Alley) one of Mahfouz’s best known works, The book was banned because of its alleged blasphemy.
In the 1960s, Mahfouz further developed the 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 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) he 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 was awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature, the only Arab writer to have won the award. Shortly after winning the prize Mahfouz was quoted as saying “The Nobel Prize has given me, for the first time in my life, the feeling that my literature could be appreciated on an international level. The Arab world also won the Nobel with me. I believe that international doors have opened, and that from now on, literate people will consider Arab literature also. We deserve that recognition.”
The Swedish letter to Mahfouz included the quotations “rich and complex work invites us to reconsider the fundamental things in life. Themes like the nature of time and love, society and norms, knowledge and faith recur in a variety of situations and are presented in thought-provoking, evocative, and clearly daring ways. And the poetic quality of your prose can be felt across the language barrier. In the prize citation you are credited with the forming of an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind.” Because Mahfouz found traveling to Sweden difficult at his age, he did not attend the award ceremony.
Works: A translation into Arabic of James Baikie’s Ancient Egypt (1932) , Whisper of Madness (1938), Mockery of the Fates (1939), His first full-length novel, translated title in English Khufu’s Wisdom, Rhadopis of Nubia (1943), The Struggle of Thebes (1944), Cairo Modern (1945), Khan al-Khalili (1945), Midaq Alley (1947), The Mirage (1948), The Beginning and the End (1950), Palace Walk (1956), (Cairo Trilogy, Part 1), Palace of Desire (1957), (Cairo Trilogy, Part 2), Sugar Street (1957), (Cairo Trilogy, Part 3), Children of Gebelawi (1959), The Thief and the Dogs (1961), Autumn Quail (1962), God's World (1962), Zaabalawi (1963), The Search (1964) ,The Beggar (1965), Adrift on the Nile, The Pub of the Black Cat (1969), A Story Without a Beginning or an Ending (1971), The Honeymoon (1971), Mirrors (1972), Love in the Rain (1973), The Crime (1973),Karnak Café (1974),Stories from Our Neighbourhood (1975,Respected Sir (1975), The Harafish (1977), Love above the Pyramid Plateau (1979), The Devil Preaches (1979), Love and the Veil (1980) Arabian Nights and Days (1981), Wedding Song (also known as Joys of the Dome) (1981), One Hour Remains (1982; also published in translation as The Final Hour), The Journey of Ibn Fattouma (1983), Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth (1985), The Day the Leader was Killed (1985), The Hunger (Al-Go'a) (1986), Morning and Evening Talk (1987), Fountain and Tomb (1988) Echoes of an Autobiography (1994), Echoes of Forgetness (1999), Dreams of the Rehabilitation Period (2004), The Seventh Heaven (2005), Dreams of Departure (2007) posthumous translation), Before the Throne (2009; posthumous translation), In the Time of Love (2010; posthumous translation), Heart of the Night (2011; posthumous.