Cairo is burning.
Autumn Quail promises to be a novel of Egypt’s entropy as independence and fledgling self-governance struggle to reconcile the past with the future. It shows the fall from power and the post-revolution purge of government ministers and those who are connected with them.
Autumn Quail reveals the honesty that, sometimes, underlies corruption. It also reveals an optimism for the coexistence of old and new ideals. It is Mahfouz writing from the perspective of Egypt’s old regime – the constitutional monarchy and the liberalism of the then-dominant Wafd political party – as the 1952 revolution unfolds.
Mahfouz has done this more thoroughly in many of his other writings, and Autumn Quail is one of his weaker novels. Somewhere between short story and novel, Autumn Quail, for the purpose Mahfouz gave it, should have been a much shorter work.