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Naguib Mahfouz - Essay Example

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Considerable recognition will also be given to his contribution to the world of literature through his many successful works which will certainly never fade away even though he has passed.
The story of Naguib Mahfouz is similar to the story of modern Egypt itself (Lalami 2006, p.1). Born in 1911 in the Gamaliya district of Cairo, Mahfouz observed the very last days of British colonial rule and Ottoman influence, the nationalist struggle of Saad Zaghloul, the supremacy of King Fuad and King Farouq, the military revolution of 1952, the establishment of the republic, Gamal Abdel Nasser's takeover in 1954, the Suez Canal disaster, the rule of Anwar al-Sadat, the Camp David accords of 1978 and finally the brutal dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak together with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism (Lalami 2006, p.1). A devoted reader, Mahfouz had a lifelong infatuation for the history of ancient Egypt, predominantly its pharaohs: Akhenaten, who rejected pantheism in favor of monotheism; Menenre II, who ruled briefly at the end of the sixth dynasty; Khufu, who built the great pyramid at Giza and Nefertiti, Akhenaten's wife and mother-in-law to Tutankhamen (Breasted 1912, p.56).
Mahfouz published his earliest novel in 1939 (The Games of Fate), and since then has written thirty-two novels and thirteen collections of short stories (Allen 1982, p.17). In his old age he had preserved his prolific output, producing a novel every year. The novel genre, which can be traced back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, has no significant prototypes in classical Arabic writing (Allen 1982, p.26). Although this thrived in all kinds of narrative, none of them could be described as we recognize the term novel today (Hashmi 1986, p.19).
Naguib, who was born to a middle-class family in one of the oldest quarters in Cairo, was to give a face to influential metaphors, in excess of a period of half a century, to the expectations and frustrations of his homeland. Readers have so often identified themselves with his work, a great deal of which has been adapted for the cinema, theater and television, that many of his characters become household names in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab region (Allen 1982, p.26). Alternatively, his work, though deeply steeped in local reality, appeals to that which is universal and permanent in human nature, as shown by the relatively good reception his fiction has met in other backgrounds (Allen 1982, p.17).
Views on Life

Even though Mahfouz's novelistic methods have passed, as we have seen, through recognizable stages, one cannot say the same about his world view, the main features of which can be traced back to his earliest works (Allen 1982, p.17). Mahfouz appears to have sorted out the main questions about life at an early juncture of his youth and to have held on the answers he arrived at right up until his death. A sociopolitical vision of man's existence is at the very root of almost everything that Mahfouz has written. Even in a novel with a strong metaphysical claim such as "Al-Tariq" (The Way), the social message is appropriately woven into the texture of the work: man is not meant to spend his life on Earth in a futile search and his only true ...Show more

Summary

Naguib Mahfouz is today perhaps the most distinguished novelist in the Arab world, the result of winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988. His output includes more than thirty novels, along with a number of short story anthologies and plays (Lalami 2006, p.1)…
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