Sunday, January 23, 2022

Naguib Mahfouz

In 1988, Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was born in 1911 in the popular quarter of Gamaliya in the heart of old Cairo, and he devoted his life and work to his native city.

He inscribed Cairo’s life, space and modern history into the hearts of Arab readers, from the Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean, and familiarized them with its ways and norms.

Naguib Mahfouz is the the author of thirty-five novels, fifteen collections of short stories, twenty-five film screenplays, numerous critical works, and in his later years over five hundred short fictions based on his dreams (partly published as The Dreams and Dreams of Departure by the AUC Press in 2004 and 2007), he has been hugely influential on several generations of Arab writers, and his books are now read in more than forty languages around the world. In its citation for the Nobel prize, the Swedish Academy of Letters noted that Mahfouz “through works rich in nuance—now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous—has formed an Arabic narrative art that applies to all mankind.” And he has been described by Nadine Gordimer as “one of the greatest creative talents in the realm of the novel in the world,” by Ahdaf Soueif as a “massively important influence on Arabic literature,” and by Alaa Al Aswany as “the founder of the new Arab novel . . . . our father.” In this first biography of Naguib Mahfouz in English, Rasheed El-Enany looks at the life of the man and the work of the writer, and assesses the oeuvre and legacy of a towering figure in the Egyptian and Arab literary world who was able to reach far beyond his own linguistic and cultural boundaries to an admiring readership across the globe.

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