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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LibraryThing ReviewUser 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
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1923 Constitution Ahmad Badir al-Fustat Al-Ikhshidi replied al-Ma'arri al-Qanatir Ali Taha AliTaha amazing anxiety astonishment beautiful began bey's bride Cairo Cairo Trilogy Congratulations delight despair door dreams elegant emotions everything eyes face Fadil father fear feeling forget Fuad University garden gaze girl Giza glance greeted Hamdis Bey Hanbali happiness head heard heart hesitated honor hopes hostel hunger Iffat Bey Ihsan Shihata Islam journalist laughed lips look Ma'mun Radwan Mahgub Abd al-Da'im Mahgub asked Mahgub felt Mahgub replied man's marriage married Midaq Alley millieme ministry Naguib Mahfouz never night parents passion Perhaps person philosophy piasters pleasure position pounds Qasim Bey Fahmi Qur'an Rashad Pasha Street realized remembered returned Saad Zaghlul Salim al-Ikhshidi sarcastically silent smile social society student Taha Tahiya Tawfiq al-Hakim tell thing thought told tone turned tuzz Uncle Shihata voice wait wife woman wondered young