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Mirrors [Paperback]

By Naguib Mahfouz (Author)
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Item description for Mirrors by Naguib Mahfouz...

Mirrors is one of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz's more unusual works. First published in serialized form in the Egyptian television magazine, it consists of a series of vignettes of characters from a writer's life -- a writer very like Mahfouz himself. And accompanying each vignette is a portrait of the character by a friend of the author, the renowned Alexandrian artist Seif Wanli.

Through each vignette -- whether of a lifelong friend, a sometime adversary, or a childhood sweetheart -- not only is that one character described but much light is thrown on other characters already familiar or yet to be encountered, as well as on the narrator himself, who we come to know well through the mirrors of his world of acquaintances.

At the same time, Mirrors also reflects the recent history of Egypt, its political movements, its leaders, its wars, and its peace, all of which affect the lives of friends and enemies and of the narrator himself. As the translator writes in his introduction, "the narrator's acquaintances from childhood, schooldays, and civil service career take him from the lofty heights of intellectual salons to the seamy squalor of brothels and drug dens; from the dreams of youth and nationalistic ideals to the sobering realities of post-revolutionary society and clashing economic and political values."

The apparently simple but penetrating portraits by Seif Wanli add an extra, distinctive dimension to this already intriguing book. They originally appeared with the serialized texts in the television magazine, but were omitted when the book was first published in 1972, and were also omitted when the English translation first appeared in 1977. Now, in this special edition, the pictures and the complete text appear together for the first time.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: American University in Cairo Press
Pages   185
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 6.5" Height: 9.5"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 12, 2010
Publisher   American University in Cairo Press
ISBN  9774245601  
ISBN13  9789774245602  

Availability  0 units.

More About Naguib Mahfouz

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Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. His nearly forty novels and hundreds of short stories range from re-imaginings of ancient myths to subtle commentaries on contemporary Egyptian politics and culture. 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 was 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.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Classics
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Classics
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory > General
6Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory
7Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Middle Eastern > Arabic
8Books > Subjects > Reference > Foreign Languages > General
9Books > Subjects > Reference > Foreign Languages

Reviews - What do customers think about Mirrors?

The Haphazardly Concise & The Concisely Haphazard  Oct 12, 2000
Here is a work with the omniscience of genius, but none of the arrogance. A great writer's puppet show, with invisible strings. Naguib Mahfouz, who is undeniably a great writer, has written a novel that feels like a documentary so rich and detailed, it could never be documented by a person without having his/her personality color the facts to suit their particular agenda. So Mahfouz's Mirrors is a sprawling story told by an anonymous narrator who never bothers to introduce himself and never volunteers his religious or political beliefs. It is not told in chronological chapters, but seemingly random accounts of characters the narrator has met in his lifetime. At first glance, Mahfouz seems to have accomplished what is physically impossible; a mosaic of parallel lines. But what I think is the ultimate message of Mirrors is that, within a given society, no life ever progresses in parallel to the next. But its not that simple.

The first character, Dr.Ibrahim Aqul casts a long shadow over the others. As a post graduate student he had submitted a thesis that was perceived to be anti-Religion, and was attacked by the country's right wing as an atheist. Rather then stand up to public outrage and defend his beliefs, he recoils and denies the accusations. The narrator's first encounter with him was as his Literature student in the 1930s where Dr.Aqul, who had survived the controversy and taken a comfortable job, was the most despised member of the university's faculty. The hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie, who understood and/or questioned the government and religion, yet conformed for the sake of their financial security, would seem to be Mahfouz's target here. But Dr.Aqul reappears as a supporting player in the lives of other people, the reader's impression of him changes as other characters weigh in with their opinion of him. Maybe the message here, is that one person's impression of a man could never encompass who that man really was. There are many ways to interpret a man's actions, more still to guess his motives. But I'm afraid it was never going to be that simple.

The narrator never marries, but he does share two heartwarming tales of childish love of neighborhood girls he had never met face to face, and two heartbreaking, sordid affairs he had with two emotionally scarred and married women. His romantic idealism as a youngster mirrored that of a nation that fought tooth and nail against British colonialism. His loveless affairs and his surrender of idealism mirrored a broken nation, whose new rulers, the revolutionary forces that overthrew the corrupt monarchy and forced the British out, followed the example of Pigs in Orwell's Animal Farm and became more autocratic, brutal and unforgiving then their predecessors ever were.

Another buried theme in Mirrors is the emancipation of Egyptian women in the face of an often restrictive culture. There is the Madam who controlled many of old Cairo's bordellos, the illiterate housewife who accepts an acting job, the student who turned heads in a 1930s Egyptian university with her provocative clothes and her strong will and many many more. Yet Mirrors could never be pinned down to just that. The narrator is so subjective, so non-judgmental that he often appears bland, and therefore trustworthy.

The structure of Mirrors has a message all its own. As the narrator chooses to summarise his entire experience with a character in just a few pages, we are introduced to a character only to learn of their ultimate fate a few fleeting moments later. Because Time in its "Heaviness, majesty, betrayal, perpetuity and its effect" is mindlessly unjust. Its treats the good and the bad with equal disdain. From those, often shattering, short accounts of a life, there are stark images that once imagined will stay with a reader for a long time. There is the clueless and shocked eight year old narrator standing outside an Alexanderian bordello between to chattering whores, there is the love struck schoolboy who steels a gun and shoots the object of his desire once she rejects him and the beautiful girl standing at the window while an awe struck narrator watches from the street. What finally emerges from the Mirror is a kaleidoscope of sixty years of Egyptian history. It is a country that has often found itself out of the frying pan and into the fire. One that often retains a certain mystery even to people who have lived there their entire lives.

The last character in Mirrors is completely unrelated to all the others, the account, or in this case the memory of her is only two pages long. But its so perfect, so symbolic that it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

She's a girl from the narrator's childhood. As a seven-year-old, he would watch her from his window, and this sixteen-year-old girl would jokingly smile back at him. Everytime he tried to get to her house, the maid would catch him and would carry him kicking and screaming back to his house. So one day, when it had rained so heavily that their alleyway was completely flooded. In the pouring rain, he gets into his mother's plastic laundry box, rows past the made with a broomstick and runs upstairs to meet the ethereal beauty that had so moved him. Dripping wet he enters her room. She ruffles his hair, takes his hand and says:"I will read your fortune". And as she held his hand and revealed his destiny, the narrator remembers: "She followed the lines of my hand and read my future, but I had used up all my consciousness staring at her beautiful face". Mirrors is a masterwork. It's as simple as that.

I don't wont to be qualified as an "extremist fan" of Mahfouz, but I repeat myself: this is one of the most interesting and human book I ever read. The style chosen by Mahfouz is absolutely fascinating: a series of most appealing or repulsing people - both men and women - pass before our very eyes led by the voice of an anonimous character. Of course, one firstly suppose that the latter is none other than Mahfouz himself and that the other people are actual persons whom he met along his life, since the narrative is presented as flowing evocative occurrences, some having a sort of continuation along the play, others not. Some critics have denied that this work should be defined as a "novel", but an attentive reading and evaluation certainly dispels such a pretension. It is not only a "novel", but an extraordinary one, through which one can get closer to the mind, ways and heart of the Egyptian modern people. The Arabic original was published in 1972 and this was Mahfouz's first work after the "disaster" of 1967. Therefore, even the title is evocative of the psychological conditions of the Egyptian society at the time: like a mirror reflecting a succession of images, as a lot of fragments after a shock. The life of all those around the teller is simply sketched out, but one becomes familiar with each one of them, perhaps because, as it is usual in Mahfouz, he has touched upon the chords of the human heart.

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