Monday, May 18, 2009
Naguib Mahfouz: Probably the most famous Egyptian author
Naguib Mahfouz: Ever heard that name? I hadn't until I moved to Egypt. I haven't read very many of his novels, but the ones I have read, I have thoroughly enjoyed.
What I enjoy about his books is that he writes about the common, everyday life, of the Egyptian people. This helps me to see and understand some of the things I have seen here. He was born in 1911, so of course, the settings for his books were in the past, but for lots of the underprivileged people here in Egypt, life hasn't changed all that much.
Mahfouz studied at what is now the University of Cairo and graduated with a degree in Philosophy. Later, while working on his M.A. he decided to become a professional writer. He did not marry until he was 43. He had the conviction that the numerous restrictions and limitations of marriage would hamper his writings. He and his wife had 2 daughters.
He was very controversial, and that sometimes leaked over into his writing, but Mahfouz did not run away from controversy. His support of Sadat's Camp David peace treaty, caused his books to be banned in many Arab countries. But this ban was lifted in 1988 when he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Mahfouz was criticized for this and for his outspokenness for freedom of expression. One of the books he is most famous for is called "Children of Gebelawi". The book is an allegory with Gebelawi representing God, and several other characters representing some of the prophets. This was considered blasphemy so the book is banned in Arab countries. He received death threats and there was even a "fatwa" (a strong opinion by a qualified Islamic scholar or sheik) issued against Mahfouz calling for him to be killed. Even though he was given police protection, Islamic fundamentalists succeeded in stabbing him in the neck in 1994. He survived, but sustained permanent injury to the nerves in his right hand.
In July of 2006, Mahfouz injured his head in a fall. He never fully recovered from this and died near the end of August.
Even though Mahfouz was not famous throughout the world, he definately made an impact on the Arab world. I greatly reccommend you pick up a Naguib Mahfouz book today and give it a try.