The Early Novels of Naguib Mahfouz: Images of Modern Egypt

The Early Novels of Naguib Mahfouz: Images of Modern Egypt

The Early Novels of Naguib Mahfouz: Images of Modern Egypt

The Early Novels of Naguib Mahfouz: Images of Modern Egypt

Synopsis

Until he won the Nobel Prize for the literature in 1988, little was known in the West about the life and literary accomplishments of Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian and the first Arab to receive the award. His writing, here examined by Matti Moosa in its original Arabic, thereafter became widely available and widely scrutinized. Moosa introduces Mahfouz and his principal works to a Western audience by examining his treatment of social, political, and religious themes against the background of twentieth-century Egypt. Often compared to Dickens and Balzac, Mahfouz portrays the condition of the poor and oppressed in a realistic and classically Arabic style. Concentrating on the early novels, Moosa discusses such themes as conflict between generations, the changing role of women, and the humiliating inefficiency of bureaucracy. He describes how Mahfouz, a moderate Muslim, explains Islamic tradition and its place in a modern technological world. Moosa begins with Mahfouz's formative years as an essayist and ends with his Awlad Haratina (translated as Children of Gebelawi), which was considered blasphemous by Islamic fundamentalists when it was serialized in Cairo's daily newspaper in 1959. (It has never been published in book form in Egypt.) He devotes nearly half of the book to Mahfouz's Thulathiyya (Trilogy, completed in 1952), which Mahfouz considers his best work. These novels in particular, Moosa says, accurately convey Mahfouz's representation of both the religious ideas of the zealous Muslim Brotherhood and the tolerant ideas of many modern Muslims. At the same time they offer abundant insight into the social and religious attitudes of Egyptians from all walks of life and of Arab andIslamic culture and institutions.

Excerpt

In 1988 an unprecedented historical event occurred: Naguib Mahfouz became the first Arab writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. A wave of jubilation spread among the Arabs, who were proud that one of their own had been recognized for his literary achievement. Like other Arab writers, including Taha Husayn and Tawfiq al-Hakim, whose works had been translated into several European languages, Mahfouz was known in the West but only to a limited reading public. The Nobel Prize, however, brought him instant fame and worldwide recognition as a respected novelist.

Until the 1940s little was known about Mahfouz even in his native Egypt. Originally an essayist who wrote extensively about a variety of subjects, he was overshadowed by writers like Taha Husayn, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Abbas Mahmud al-Aqqad, and Ibrahim al-Mazini. But through fortitude, consistency, and industriousness, Mahfouz began to clear a steady path for himself in the field of literature. He gained some fame in the early 1940s when he published three historical novels; among these, Radobis brought him the Qut al-Qulub Prize and Kifah Tiba (The Struggle of Thebes) the Ministry of Education Prize. But he first won undisputed acceptance as a literary practitioner with his contemporary novels, in which he portrayed realistically many aspects of life in Cairo. The Thulathiyya (Trilogy), published in 1956-57, was his most monu-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.