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Karnak Cafe [Hardcover]

By Naguib Mahfouz (Author)
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Item description for Karnak Cafe by Naguib Mahfouz...

At a Cairo caf, a cross-section of Egyptian society, young and old, rich and poor, are drawn together by the quality of its coffee and the allure of its owner, legendary former dancer Qurunfula. When three of the young patrons disappear for prolonged periods, the older customers display varying reactions to the news. On their return, they recount horrific stories of arrest and torture at the hands of the secret police, and the habitus of the caf begin to withdraw from each other in fear, suspecting that there is an informer among them. With the nighttime arrests and the devastation of the country s defeat in the 1967 War, the caf is transformed from a haven of camaraderie and bright-eyed idealism to an atmosphere charged with mounting suspicion, betrayal, and crushing disillusionment. Exposing the dark underbelly of ideology, and delving into the idea of the necessary evils of social upheaval, Karnak Caf remains one of the Nobel laureate's most pointedly critical works, as relevant and incisive today as it was when it was first published in 1971.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: American University in Cairo Press
Pages   112
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.2" Width: 5.1" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 27, 2007
Publisher   American University in Cairo Press
ISBN  977416072X  
ISBN13  9789774160721  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 10:12.
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More About Naguib Mahfouz

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Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. A student of philosophy and an avid reader, his works range from reimaginings of ancient myths to subtle commentaries on contemporary Egyptian politics and culture. Over a career that lasted more than five decades, he wrote 33 novels, 13 short story anthologies, numerous plays, and 30 screenplays. Of his many works, most famous is The Cairo Trilogy, consisting of Palace Walk (1956), Palace of Desire (1957), and Sugar Street (1957), which focuses on a Cairo family through three generations, from 1917 until 1952. In 1988, he became the first writer in Arabic to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in August 2006.

Naguib Mahfouz currently resides in Agouza Cairo. Naguib Mahfouz was born in 1911.

Naguib Mahfouz has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Cairo Trilogy

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Middle Eastern > Arabic
6Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Spy Stories & Tales of Intrigue

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Reviews - What do customers think about Karnak Cafe?

"What was the point of [progress] if people were so feeble that they were not worth a fly, if they had no personal rights."  Jan 24, 2009
(4.5 stars) In this powerful novella by Naguib Mafouz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, a narrator stops in at the Karnak Café, an off-the-beaten-path café in Cairo run by Qurunfula, a former belly dancer, who raised her craft to the level of true art. Recognizing her immediately, he stays, seduced by the atmosphere and by the charm of a small group of regulars--three old men, three young people, and the PR director of a company--who visit the café every day and create their own urban "family."

Written in 1974 and newly translated by Roger Allen, the story takes place in the mid-1960s and focuses on the café regulars as they respond to key moments in contemporary Egyptian history. For the young people, "history began with the 1952 Revolution," in which the army, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, overthrew King Farouk, abolished the pro-British monarchy, and established a republic. The three young people and their fates become the focus of the narrator when the young people inexplicably disappear for several months, They return, changed, only to disappear again. While they are gone, Egypt is defeated in the Six Day War of 1967 with Israel.

Mahfouz develops tremendous suspense about the outcomes of the regulars of the Karnak Café, at the same time that he creates an intense look at the pressures placed upon them as they try to do what they think is right. The "family" atmosphere, which is so dominant at the beginning of the story, slowly dissipates as speculation develops about the fates of the young people. Changing points of view keep the perspective on events constantly changing and the interest in the outcome high. The taboos of the society become obvious, and the young people's faith in the future of the revolution of 1952 is put to the test. Ultimately, they must consider whether "peace is more risky than war." Their individual lives cease to exist in the aftermath of their trauma, and their ability to trust is gone forever.

Mafouz recreates in a mere one hundred pages an historical record of a country yearning to be free, at the same time that he depicts the movements against individual freedom which are also evolving. The young people he creates here are ordinary college students, though all of them have overcome far more than the average western college student will ever dream of. Though they insist that they still believe in the future of the revolution of 1952, their experience less than fifteen years later, shows them and the reader just how far they have left to go. Dynamic, powerful, and thought-provoking, this novella carries an impact--and modern relevance--that the reader will not soon forget. n Mary Whipple

Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth A Novel
The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street (Everyman's Library)
Children of the Alley: A Novel
Arabian Nights and Days: A Novel


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