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Meet the people of Cairo's Gamaliya quarter. There is Nabqa, son of Adam the waterseller who can only speak truths; the beautiful and talented Tawhida who does not age with time; Ali Zaidan, the gambler, late to love; and Boss Saqr who stashes his money above the bath. A neighbourhood of
demons, dancing and sweet halva, the quarter keeps quiet vigil over the secrets of all who live there.
This collection by pre-eminent Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz was recently discovered among his old papers. Found with a slip of paper titled `for publishing 1994', they are published here for the first time. Resplendent with Mahfouz's delicate and poignant observations of everyday happenings, these lively stories take the reader deep into the beating heart of Cairo.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
This book is a collection of short stories focusing on Cairo's Gamaliya quarter. There are a variety of characters that appear, often with unusual events taking place. There seems to be a few categories of characters that appear frequently, adding a bit of continuity to what could have been a jumble of disjointed stories. There is also a repeated element of superstition that may or may not be baseless. I enjoyed never knowing for certain what was causing the events.
Naguib Mahfouz manages to create stories that immediately pull you in and make you wonder. The cast of characters are interesting and engaging. This is especially impressive when you realize that the stories are generally quite short. This pulls you into the book, while allowing you to dip in and out as needed. I generally prefer novels to short stories, but I was fully engrossed in this work. It was a fast read and would be great to stash in a bag for those times when you have a short wait. It's a book I'll definitely be passing on for others to read.
`A master of both detailed realism and fabulous storytelling' The Guardian; `A towering literary figure, and the joyous chronicler of a turbulent Egyptian century' The Economist; `Egypt's greatest living writer ... one of the world's most humane literary figures' Laila Lalami, The Nation; `The Arab Tolstoy' Simon Sebag Montefiore; `Adds yet another essential chapter to the oeuvre of a literary figure of greatness.' The National; `Smooth reading ... a compelling experiment in sound and echo.' Qantara; `This new folio of interconnected stories is very much part of Mahfouz's late experiments.' ArabLit; `A glimpse into a world that seems both ancient and distant ... [Mahfouz's] "simple" characters reveal to the reader not just the brutality of everyday life but also its distorted beauty. They show the complexities and uniqueness of their world and in doing so offer lessons for all of humanity to draw on ... a teasing glimpse of Mahfouz's work ... seek it out.' Socialist Review; `Masterly ... Unmistakably Cairene ... translated with practised clarity by Roger Allen.' TLS; `Naguib Mahfouz's legacy as Egypt's greatest novelist is sustained with these engaging short stories ... their themes are timeless.' New Statesman