By Naguib Mahfouz. Roger Allen, tr.
Saqi Books, 2019
Reviewed by Caroline Stone on August 25, 2021
The first writer in Arabic to receive the Nobel Prize (1988), Naguib Mahfouz (1911–2006) wrote on a wide range of themes. Above all, he chronicled lives of his countrymen and especially ordinary people of Cario’s Gamaliya Quarter where he grew up. The 18 stories in this collection were recently discovered with a note: “To be published in 1994”—the year Mahfouz was savagely attacked and stabbed by a fanatic. Many of these very brief tales, some amusing, some serious, of the people of Gamaliya have strange and haunting subtexts, reflecting Mahfouz’s long-standing interest in Islamic thought. This aspect, as well as the discovery of the stories, is explored in the book’s introduction. The volume also includes Mahfouz’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech and facsimiles of some of some of his stories, showcasing handwritten script, written in Arabic.