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.
About the Author
Naguib Mahfouz (d. 2006) is Egypt’s foremost writer. Over a career that lasted more than five decades, he wrote 34 novels, 13 short story anthologies, numerous plays and 30 screenplays. Of his many works, the most famous are The Cairo Trilogy, The Children of Gebelawi and The Thief and the Dogs. Mahfouz received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988, the first writer in Arabic to do so.
About the Translator
Roger Allen obtained his doctoral degree in modern Arabic literature from Oxford University in 1968, the first student to do so. His translations of Naguib Mahfouz’s novels include Mirrors, Autumn Quail, Karnak Café, Khan al-Khalili and One Hour Left, as well as the short story collection God’s World. He has also translated the seminal works of key contemporary authors such as Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Yusuf Idris, May Telmissany, Ahmad al-Tawfiq and Hanan al-Shaykh.
‘A master of both detailed realism
and fabulous storytelling’
‘A towering literary figure, and the joyous chronicler of a turbulent Egyptian century’
‘Egypt’s greatest living writer … one of the world’s most humane literary figures’
Laila Lalami, The Nation
‘The Arab Tolstoy’
Simon Sebag Montefiore
‘Masterly … Unmistakably Cairene … translated with practised clarity by Roger Allen.’
‘Naguib Mahfouz’s legacy as Egypt’s greatest novelist is sustained with these engaging short stories … their themes are timeless.’
‘Adds yet another essential chapter to the oeuvre of a literary figure of greatness.’
‘Smooth reading … a compelling experiment in sound and echo.’
‘This new folio of interconnected stories is very much part of Mahfouz’s late experiments.’
‘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.’