Monday, September 04, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz: I'll Miss You!

Naguib Mafouz, one of my favorite authors, died this past week. I am sad. An Egyptian writer, he closely observed his friends, family, neighborhood, and country along multiple dimensions. Mahfouz had an eye for detail that included but went beyond simple sensual description to make his readers feel the universality of life and along the way, empathy, humanity, and acceptance. But even better, he wrote page turners. The three books of The Cairo Trilogy are among the most absorbing books I've ever read. I thought about the people he described after I finished each of them. I wondered what they would do in certain situations. I visualized their comings and goings to and from the houses, cafes, markets, stores, and the Souks of their world. I have these images still settled in my mind to pull up at a moment's notice, as I do for so many really great books I've read. I became a part of these books and they became a part of me.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in an Arab country in the late 60s. I discovered amazing warmth and generosity among the people I met and knew. Those experiences made me love his books even more. I knew, from my own insights, that he was telling the truth. And the truth was sensuous, alluring, mysterious, challenging, and an invitation, generously extended, to learn and understand. He never brushed aside differences or weaknesses or for that matter, strengths.

George Bush said, "Mahfouz was a cultural light. . . who brought Arab literature to the world. . . and expressed values of enlightenment and tolerance." I can only dare to hope, and pray, that Mr. Bush has read or is now reading Mahfouz' works.

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2 comments:

The neurophilosopher said...

Sheryle, it's always good to find people who appreciate Mahfouz, and, more importantly, who have some understanding of the Arab world.

I highly doubt Dubya had even heard of Mahfouz before his death. "...brought literature to the Arab world"? Please...the Arabs fuelled the Enlightenment by bringing literature (and science) to the Western world. The Koran is the greatest work of Arab literature - I say this even though I am Coptic.


PS. You may like to change the spelling of your link to my weblob!

Sheryle said...

Thanks--great to hear from a like-minded soul on this subject. And yes (plus my apologies and red face), I'll change the link!