Beyond Literary Landscapes—Naguib Mahfouz

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.

Who

This column serves as an introduction to the works of Naguib Mahfouz, a reminder of some of the author’s classics, and as an inspiration for further reading.

Born in Cairo, Egypt in 1911, Mahfouz was an “Egyptian novelist and screenplay writer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.”  Throughout his lifetime, he wrote more than 45 novels and short stories and 30 screenplays and plays.  His works were written in Arabic, with translations in a variety of languages now widely available.

What

Some of Mahfouz’s well-known works include The Cairo Trilogy, including Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar StreetThe trilogy covers “three generations of the Abd al-Jawad family and extends from 1917 to just before the end of the second world war.”

Other popular selections include Midaq Alley, Miramar, and Arabian Nights and Days.

Students may also be interested in other post-colonial authors, such as Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun, author of This Blinding Absence of Light.

Where

Many of Mahfouz’s works take place in Cairo, Egypt, as well as in ancient Egypt.

When

These works mainly take place in the mid-19th to 20th-centuries, including both World Wars, as well as during Egypt’s struggle for independence from British rule.  Several of his earlier novels take place during ancient times.

Why

These texts introduce readers to a variety of themes and topics, including family sagas, love, revolution, social upheaval, military coups, social realism, colonialism, and post-colonialism.  In addition, the novels may be of interest to students interested in ancient and modern-day Egypt.

How

AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to literary techniques are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may consider ENGL 341: World Literature, a senior-level, six-credit course, which “introduces students to literature from around the world.  Students will read literary works from the ancient world to today in a variety of forms,” including Mahfouz.

Students may also be interested in HIST 209: A History of the World in the Twentieth Century: I, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “introduces students to twentieth-century world history.”  In particular, the “primary objective of this course is to help students to understand the major economic, political, social, scientific, and technological developments in the twentieth century.  The course is based on four broad themes—global interrelatedness, identity and difference, the rise of the mass society, and technology versus nature.”  Happy reading!

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