Cairo Modern

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American Univ in Cairo Press, 2008 - Fiction - 242 pages
1 Review
The novelist's camera pans from the dome of King Fuad University (now Cairo University) to students streaming out of the campus, focusing on four students in their twenties, each representing a different trend in Egypt in the 1930s. Finally the camera comes to rest on Mahgub Abd al-Da'im. A scamp, he fancies himself a nihilist, a hedonist, an egotist, but his personal vulnerability is soon revealed by a family crisis back home in al-Qanatir, a dusty, provincial town on the Nile that is also a popular destination for Cairene day-trippers. Mahgub, like many characters in works by Naguib Mahfouz, has a hard time finding the correct setting on his ambition gauge. His emotional life also fluctuates between the extremes of a street girl, who makes her living gathering cigarette butts, and his wealthy cousin Tahiya. Since he thinks that virtue is merely a social construct, how far will our would-be nihilist go in trying to fulfill his unbridled ambitions? What if he discovers that high society is more corrupt and cynical than he is? With a wink back at Goethe's Faust and Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews, Mahgub becomes a willing collaborator in his own corruption. Published in Arabic in the 1940s, this cautionary morality tale about self-defeating egoism and ill-digested foreign philosophies comes from the same period as one of the writer's bestknown works, Midaq Alley. Both novels are comic and heart-felt indictments not so much of Egyptian society between the world wars as of human nature and our paltry attempts to establish just societies.
 

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User Review  - michaelbartley - LibraryThing

A very good Egyian writer, the story is set in Cairo in the 1930s. It a Faustian story, a young University student, recently graducated full of amition is willing to sell his soul to acheive power and ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
1
Section 2
5
Section 3
8
Section 4
23
Section 5
29
Section 6
39
Section 7
43
Section 8
47
Section 23
123
Section 24
129
Section 25
133
Section 26
136
Section 27
142
Section 28
147
Section 29
151
Section 30
155

Section 9
50
Section 10
53
Section 11
57
Section 12
64
Section 13
66
Section 14
71
Section 15
76
Section 16
84
Section 17
90
Section 18
94
Section 19
99
Section 20
109
Section 21
116
Section 22
120
Section 31
160
Section 32
167
Section 33
171
Section 34
176
Section 35
182
Section 36
188
Section 37
194
Section 38
205
Section 39
212
Section 40
218
Section 41
222
Section 42
238
Section 43
242
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About the author (2008)

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William Maynard Hutchins teaches at Appalachian State University, is the principal translator of Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy (AUC Press, 1989-1992), and has most recently translated Ibrahim al-Koni's Anubis (AUC Press, 2005).

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