August 30, 2006


First Arab Nobel winner for literature dies at 94 (AP, 8/30/06)

Naguib Mahfouz, who became the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novels depicting Egyptian life in his beloved corner of ancient Cairo, died Wednesday, his doctor said. He was 94.

Egypt Nobel winner Mahfouz dies (BBC, 8/30/06)
Mahfouz's Nobel Prize brought international recognition to a man already regarded in the Middle East as one of its best writers and premier intellectuals.

The Egyptian writer, Ahdaf Souief, who knew Mahfouz well, said the writer was a "massively important influence" on Arabic literature.

He said: "He was our greatest living novelist for a very long time... Mahfouz was an innovator in the use of the Arabic language.

"He also embodied the whole development of the Arabic novel starting with historical novels in the late 1940s through realism, through experimentalism and so on."

He added: "He single-handedly went through the whole development of the Arabic novel and made innovation possible for generations of writers after him."

The Cairo Trilogy - Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street, all of which appeared in the 1950s - detailed the adventures and misadventures of a Muslim merchant family.

The books introduced a character who became an icon in Egyptian culture: Si-Sayed, the domineering father who holds his family together.

Controversy came in 1959 with the publication of the novel Children of Gebelawi.

First serialised in Egyptian newspapers, it caused an uproar and was banned by the Egyptian religious authorities on the grounds it violated Islamic rules by including characters who clearly represented God and the prophets.

But it was published in Lebanon and later translated into English.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 30, 2006 12:02 AM

We may be sure that the irony was intended. Everyone knows that Cervantes fought the jailhouse at Lepanto.

Let the lesson not escape us: in the jailhouse, award-winning literature is censored and banned. Good, very good--this is exactly what makes them such chumps.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 30, 2006 12:56 PM

The Spaniards knew how to treat heretics. They'd not have suffered such as Mahfouz to live. But we like our jailhouse.

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2006 2:41 PM

"it violated Islamic rules by including characters who clearly represented God and the prophets" There is really no way one can pull the 7th century mentality to a 20th/21st century world.

Posted by: ic at August 30, 2006 5:06 PM

The 21st century mentality is killing those who adhere to it.

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2006 5:21 PM