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On holiday

Amit Chaudhuri

21 July 1994
The Harafish 
by Naguib Mahfouz, translated by Catherine Cobham.
Doubleday, 406 pp., £15.99, June 1994, 0 385 40362 3
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... NaguibMahfouz made his name with his trilogy of Cairo life – Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street – first published in Arabic in the late Fifties. At first glance, The Harafish, which was originally ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The Salman Rushdie Acid Test

24 February 1994
... of the Arab and Muslim world offer, within the pages of this book, their reasons for sympathising with Rushdie and their reasons for regarding his own case as, in some important way, their own. NaguibMahfouz, the Egyptian Nobel laureate, is probably the best-known of these authors, but many of the leading Palestinian, Algerian and Tunisian voices were heard also. A separate petition, inscribed by ...

Where are the playboys?

Robert Irwin: The politics of Arab fiction

18 August 2005
Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthology 
edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi.
Columbia, 1056 pp., £40, June 2005, 0 231 13254 9
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... for the Egyptian Republic that was established after the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952. Disillusion with Nasser’s regime soon followed. That disillusion was given voice in such novels as NaguibMahfouz’s gloomy Miramar (1967), in which the various characters staying in a hotel comment on the failure of Arab socialism to deliver on its promises. After Egypt’s crushing defeat by Israel in the Six ...
7 July 1983
Aisha 
by Ahdaf Soueif.
Cape, 159 pp., £7.50, July 1983, 0 224 02097 8
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... critic, Elias Khoury, the result has been that the most popular and affecting prose works in modern Arabic are formless, and these formless works, not the far more substantial fiction achievements of NaguibMahfouz, have attained to the position of classics. Formless works in Khoury’s definition are autobiographical, episodic, often lyrical – two great examples are Taha Hussein’s Autobiography and ...
22 June 2000
The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey 
by Fouad Ajami.
Pantheon, 368 pp., $14, July 1999, 0 375 70474 4
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... of Egypt: on the modernity at the core of its national aspirations and the threat from theocratic politics. During a recent visit, Ajami spent four evenings in the company of the great novelist NaguibMahfouz. Now in his eighties, Mahfouz is still recovering from a knife-wound inflicted by religious fanatics that nearly cost him his life and paralysed his writing hand. For Ajami, he epitomises at ...

Black, not Noir

Adam Shatz: Sonallah Ibrahim

7 March 2013
‘That Smell’ and ‘Notes from Prison’ 
by Sonallah Ibrahim, translated by Robyn Creswell.
New Directions, 110 pp., £11.99, March 2013, 978 0 8112 2036 1
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... that beguiled many left-wing writers in the Arab world, was in his view a kind of Marxist wish fulfilment, a way of nursing one’s wounds. But he was no more enamoured of the Balzacian realism of NaguibMahfouz whose Cairo Trilogy struck Ibrahim as too orderly, too cohesive for the shattering experiences he hoped to capture. He was in little doubt that he had something to say: ‘The mouth, like the ...

Those rooms had life

Sameer Rahim: The Yacoubian Building

10 May 2007
The Yacoubian Building 
by Alaa al-Aswany, translated by Humphrey Davies.
Fourth Estate, 255 pp., £14.99, February 2007, 978 0 00 724361 7
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... government was sure to act. In books and films, however, there is more room for freedom of expression. Egypt is proud of its cultural heritage. Last summer, the government gave a state funeral to NaguibMahfouz, despite the controversy over his novel The Children of Gebelawi – published in 1959, it was banned for causing religious offence – and his opposition to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime ...
8 December 1988
... NaguibMahfouz’s achievement as the greatest living Arab novelist and first Arab winner of the Nobel Prize has in small but significant measure now retrospectively vindicated his unmatched regional reputation ...
6 July 1995
Islamic Britain: Religion, Politics and Identity among British Muslims 
by Philip Lewis.
Tauris, 255 pp., £9.99, October 1994, 1 85043 861 7
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TheFailure of Political Islam 
by Olivier Roy, translated by Carol Volk.
Tauris, 238 pp., £14.95, October 1994, 1 85043 880 3
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... impossible to censor satellite dishes, videos, faxes, e-mail or access to the internet – except in small, highly urbanised areas. By attempting to silence indigenous artists like Tasleema Nasreen, NaguibMahfouz or Yousuf Chahine, the Islamists are successfully attacking the public culture of the countries in which they operate. If the Islamists come to power, Muslims under Islamist rule will become ...

We’ll win or lose it here

Robert F. Worth: Lessons from Tahrir Square

20 September 2017
The City Always Wins 
by Omar Robert Hamilton.
Faber, 312 pp., £14.99, August 2017, 978 0 571 33517 6
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Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt 
by Yasmine El Rashidi.
Tim Duggan, 181 pp., £11.70, June 2017, 978 0 7704 3729 9
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... vloggers in 2011, but only if they had their eyes tightly closed and headphones on. It is not the history-burdened, misery-stained city one sees in the novels of Sonallah Ibrahim, Alaa al Aswany or NaguibMahfouz; nor would it be recognisable to ordinary Egyptians. Hamilton and his hero seem only dimly aware of the fatal mismatch between their hipster-rebel worldview and the conservatism of the ...
13 September 1990
... Tahia is referred to as almeh in her best film, one of her earliest, Li’bet il Sit (‘The Lady’s Ploy’, 1946), which also stars the greatest of 20th-century Arab actors and comedians, Naguib el-Rihani, a formidable combination of Chaplin and Molière. In the film, Tahia is a gifted young dancer and wit, used by her rascally parents to ensnare men of means. Rihani, who plays an unemployed ...

The bullet mistakenly came out of the gun

Jack Shenker: The Age of Sisi

30 November 2017
The Queue 
by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette.
Melville House, 220 pp., £10.99, June 2016, 978 0 9934149 0 9
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... and spread by deranged lunatics. It explained that life was to go on as usual.’ Abdel Aziz’s work draws on a rich lineage of Egyptian literary styles, from the character portraits drawn by NaguibMahfouz to the satire of Gamal al-Ghitani and the allegorical minimalism of Sonallah Ibrahim. She probes the gulf between official rhetoric and the stubborn inconvenience of real events, and delights ...

From Progress to Catastrophe

Perry Anderson: The Historical Novel

28 July 2011
... Strikingly, in the same years that Lampedusa was composing his portrait of the Risorgimento in Palermo, not so far away in the Mediterranean a historical novel was moving in the opposite direction. NaguibMahfouz’s Cairene Trilogy, depicting semi-colonial Egypt from the rise of the Wafd at the end of the First World War to the activity of Muslim Brothers and Communists during the Second through the ...

11 September

LRB Contributors

4 October 2001
... carved rigorously down the middle. Civility now confronts barbarism – which is to say, among other things, that the fundamentalist fanatics of Montana are pitched against the wisdom of artists like NaguibMahfouz or ‘Abd al-Hakim Qasim. In the conflict between capitalism and the Koran, or a version of it, one transnational movement confronts another. For the moment, in its atrocious suffering, the ...

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