Reviews - What do customers think about The Changing Rhythm: A Study of Najib Mahfuz's Novels (Studies in Arabic Literature,)?
An outstanding research Mar 28, 2000
The book deals with the works of NagiB Mahfouz, an Egyptian writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, and was the first Arabic writer to be so honoured. Since 1960s Mahfouz has been acknowledged as the master of the Arabic novel. Many in the Arab world saw the prize somewahat ironic, not least because the work for which Mahfouz received the prize had been published at least three decades earlier. However, Mahfouz's books are still unavailable in many Middle Eastern countries on account of his support for President Sadat's Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1978.
Mahfouz was born in Gamaliya, Cairo. He graduated from the Cairo University in 1934. By 1936, having spent a year working on an M.A., he decided to become a professional writer. He worked as a journalist at Ar-Risala, and ontributed to A-Hilal and Al-Ahram.
Before turning to the novel Mahfouz wrote articles and short stories. By 1939 he had already written three novels. In the same year he entered government bureaucracy, where he was employed for the next 35 years. From 1939 until 1954 he was a civil servant at Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and worked then as director of Foundation for Support of the Cinema for the State Cinema Orgazination. In 1969-71 he was consultant for cinema affairs to the Ministry of Culture.
ABATH AL-AQDAR (1939), RADUBIS (1943), and KIFAH TIBAH (1944) were historical novels, that were conceived as a part of a larger unfilled project of 30 novels meant to cover the whole history of Egypt.
However, following the third novel, Mahfouz shifted his interest to the present.
Mahfouz's major work in the 1950s was The Cairo Trilogy, which the author completed before the July Revolution. The three novels were titled with the street names Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street. It depicts the life of three generations in Cairo from WW I to the 1950s, when King Farouk I was overthrown. Without turning the individual characters into representantives of the different historical currents, Mahfouz lets history flow from the richness of characters and from their psychological, intellectual and social dimensions. The trilogy and its mode connects Mahfouz with the line of such authors as Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy, and Galsworthy.
The Children of Gebelawi (1959), which was serialized in the magazine Al-Ahram, portrayed average Egyptians living the lives of Cain and Abel, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. The work was banned throughout the Arab world, except Lebanon. Mahfouz left his post as Director of Censorship and was appointed Director of the Foundation for the Support of the Cinema. In 1969 he became consultant to the Ministry of Culture, retiring in 1972. He has been also a board member of Dar al Ma'aref publishing house.
In the 1960s and 1970s Mahfouz started to construct his novels more freely and use interior monologue. In Miramar (1967) he used a form of multiple first-person narration in which four narrators tell the story. Manfouz become more interested in destinies, ideas, and human types than meticulous details of the perivious period. In Arabian Nighs and Days (1981) and in The Journey of Ibn Fatouma (1983) he used traditional Arabic narratives as subtexts.
Mahfouz has written some 40 novels and short story collections, screenplays and several stage plays. In his works Mahfouz have combined intellectual and cultural influnces from East and West - his own exposure to the literary of non-Arabic culture began in his youth with enthusiastic consumption of Western detective stories. Mahfouz's stories are almost always set in the heavily populated urban quarters of Cairo. His focus on 'the little man' who has to deal with the changing traditions, rebellion of younger generations and the temptations of Western values has made him spokesperson not only for Egypt but also for a number of non-Western cultures. But Mahfouz is not so interested in historical and realistic analysis as the philosophical and psychological impact of the change on ordinary people. Mahfouz's introspection has been valuable landmark in the 1990s for understanding the realities of Egypt in the age of transition.
NOTE: Latest news of Mahfouz tell that the fundamentalist Muslims have threatened him because of his writings. In his works Mahfouz has offered critical views of British colonialism and contemporary Egypt, social issues, and political prisoners. The major Egyptian influence on Mahfouz's thoughts of science and socialism in the 1930s was Salama Musa, the Fabian intellectual.