I’m shooting to have the review up by mid-week for Autumn Quail and am working on a series recap to come shortly afterward that compares the three novellas. Mahfouz was a tremendous writer and keenly aware of the lifeblood of Cairo’s every corner. He was Egypt’s Tolstoy. He did win the Nobel prize for literature.
My introduction to Mahfouz was through his Cairo trilogy a few years ago. The way he wrote about the British occupation and then of Egyptian independence through one merchant-class family showed all the glamour, richness, decrepitude, sadness; showed all…everything…that was alive in Cairo through the first half of the twentieth century. He gave this same attention to his writings of the ’52 revolution that I am now reviewing.
♠ Also reading…
I’m halfway through Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I’d been meaning to get to his work for a while and started in on this one per the recommendation of books n’at.
I might also pick up Julius Caesar once I finish Mahfouz – we’re near the storied Ides of March after all, and I haven’t read Shakespeare in years – but a couple of other books are also pulling me into their orbits. Read on.
Said Mahran is a fugitive once more. Imprisoned for four years on counts of burglary, he pursues vengeance for the perceived treacheries of his erstwhile friends and ex-wife at the same time that he seeks the affection of his 4-year-old daughter who never knew him.
Already new loves blossom and old thieves live ensconced in palatial villas, denouncing their old trade without irony. Said Mahran remains unchanged, though he nurses an embittered heart.
The Beggar is about a man who sees his passions and ideas dragged through the streets and spit upon to end up, once institutionalized in the full regalia of a new government, a dastardly version of what they should have been.
It is a novel, therefore, of the disappointment implicit in Egyptian politics.
Sharpened rays of sunlight and four trigger pulls, how to live when life and death are interchangeable?
The Stranger · Albert Camus · 1946
Matthew Ward translation · Vintage, 1989 · 123 pages, paperback
Albert Camus was a proponent of the idea that life becomes absurd once a man learns he is living only, one day, to die. Whether any one of us came into being in the first place is a chance occurrence that alters any other life on only a very insular level. And when we do die…well, we won’t be here to remember the things we did.
And we know this and yet we live this short little march with our full attentions. This is what Camus said was absurd. The Stranger is a slim book that puts Camus’ ideas in the clearest terms.
Oryx and Crake · Margaret Atwood
Random House, 2003 · 376 pages, paperback
Chickens have been reduced to tits and meat (heads no longer required) and pigs have become living organ farms. Live executions, porn, assisted suicides and naked news anchors stream freely online. Botox is laughable because new skins, head to toe, can be grown if you have enough money. Art and language are, at best, mere tools for marketing scientific achievements or, at worst, subjects of derision. Jimmy grows up in a future that is a grotesque parody of our own present.
And then plague erases this comedy and it really is time to start anew. This second future is the milieu of the Crakers, and it isn’t always easy to tell which is the more bleak.