With this portrait of a misanthropic civil servant, the Egyptian Nobel laureate devises a cunning send-up of egregious ambition, stodgy bureaucracy and cloying piety. Mahfouz's overblown language mirrors the grandiose aspirations of his protagonist Othman Bayyumi, a common archives clerk who schemes for a lofty appointment as Director General, expounding that "a government position is a brick in the edifice of the state, and the state is an exhalation of the spirit of God, incarnate on earth." As Egypt experiences the birth pangs of nationalism, Othman remains an apolitical, selfish loner wallowing in his self-imposed misery, who fawns over his superiors, works like a dervish and squirrels away his money, his only physical pleasures the visits he pays religiously to a prostitute, which "were usually followed by a wholehearted plea for forgiveness and a prolonged resort to prayer and worship."45 Envisioning marriage as a means to forge social connections that will launch him to glory, he viciously turns down prospective brides; because no one is good enough for him, he ends up in his later years with two wives, one a opium-addict aging prostitute, the other a young woman who uses him as he sought to use others. -- from http://www.amazon.ca (April 26, 2011).
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Alienation is the theme Mahfouz investigates in these three latest translations. The earliest, Autumn Quail (1962), looks back on the revolution in Egypt through the character of Isa. Formerly a high ... Read full review
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Abdullah Wajdi al-Husayn al-Husayni Alley al-Khayyam ambition Arabic Arabic literature Archives Section Asila asked aunt Bachelor of Laws Bahjat Noor Bayyumi believe budget Cairo Trilogy Children of Gebelawi dark death Deputy Director desk despair Director General's Director of Administration dream everything Excellency the Director eyes face feeling felt flat girl glory God's Hamza al-Suwayfi hand happy Head of Archives heard heart hope incoming mail kind kissed knew laughed live look man's marriage married matter meaning mercy Midaq Alley mind ministry mumbled Naguib Mahfouz never night novel Omm Husni Onsiyya Ramadan Othman PALACE WALK path path of glory piastre prayer Qadriyya Qur'an Radiya replied Sa'fan Basyuni sacred Sayyida secret Secretary shook sighed silent smiled sorrow stood tell Thank There's thing thought tion told took translation unknown voice walked What's wife woman word Zaynab