: Children of the alley (9780385264730) : Naguib Mahfouz : Books
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Children Of The Alley

by Naguib Mahfouz
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Anchor
  • Publishing date: 18/10/1996
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780385264730
  • ISBN: 0385264739


There are nineteen works of fiction currently available in paperback from Anchor. Because of the many universal themes of Mahfouz's work, and the variety of titles from which one can choose, this guide has been designed to provide you with questions that can apply to any or all of the books by Mahfouz which you choose to read. The questions offer new perspectives and context for your conversations. Although each of Mahfouz's novels is a unique reading experience, in an effort to guide you in making a selection, it is suggested that you might particularly be interested in one of the four following titles, each of which represents a different decade of his career: Palace Walk (1956), Midaq Alley (1966), The Harafish (1977), and The Journey of Ibn Fattouma (1983).

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  • Children of Sisyphus
    From Amazon

    On the surface Children of the Alley appears strange and of dubious intent. Five stories are set in the same place but at different times. Each generation reveres the wonderful deeds of their ancestors, celebrating them with art, poetry, and song. Meanwhile back in the present, people repeat the struggle for justice as if the earlier stories had never occurred. The struggle for justice plays out in the shadow of Gabalawi's mansion. Why is Gabalawi silent while his people suffer? Why do the Children of the alley achieve liberation, only to be discovered back in squalor at the beginning of the next story? What is history?

    Mahfouz writes in the style of his other tales of Cairo, a familiar landscape for those who read and love his novels. Each story echoes themes from famous stories from the Bible or the life of Mohammad. The author is saying something about religion as well as history, but what? Take Gabal, for example, a character who appears to be modeled on Moses. Gabal's solution to the problem of the gangsters is to lure them to run into a pit, and then to pelt water and stones down from the windows of the alley to smite them. It is not exactly the Red Sea, but we recognize the essential technique of drowning the creeps. Other recognizable figures - Adam, Jesus, and Mohammad - are given similar through-the-glass-darkly treatment, or so it seems. We are left to speculate who the fifth protagonist in the novel may represent.

    This novel is a fun read, and it is even more fun to read in a reading group, while doing enough background reading to compare the protagonists with their models. Lively discussion is sure to ensue, and we ask people to check their knives at the door, just in case it gets too lively.

    This is a great novel by a great novelist, a rare case where the Nobel prize should feel honored to have his name associated with it, rather than the other way around.

  • Fantastic book by a fantastic author
    From Amazon

    Naguib Mahfouz is one of the powerhouse writers in modern Arab literature and this book is one that should not be overlooked. The author crafts a story around the descendents of a rich Cairene tyrant and creates an allegory for the major motheistic religions of the world. His prose is wonderful and the story flows seamlessly. This book is rather profound in it's attitudes towards human history and social thinking and it's easy to see how this book stoked the ire of fundamental clergy after it's publication. Highly recommended for those interested in modern arab literature.

  • Provocative
    From Amazon

    Having wanted to read a novel by Mr.Mahfouz for years,I was lucky to have selected Children of the Alley to commence my love affair with his stories.You can smell this novelist's passion for the streets of Cairo from half the world away.His stories somehow come to life despite the translational barrier,I found myself following each unforgettable character,feeling their agony,their success,their humiliation and their shame. The provocative predictibilty of this novel is what makes it a remarkable read,how can he easily and every so simply identify these worldly controversial issues and put them into such a flawless context? The book is a challenging gift for the minds. Five starts to Mr.Mafouz,a gifted novelist,a passionate egyptian and shamlessly honest with his words.

  • A powerful allegory of human suffering
    From Amazon

    This is the story of the Gabalawi family. Gabalawi disowns his son Idris in favour of Adam and then puts the latter to the test. The children of the alley are all the people living in the Gabalawi Alley where Gabalawi is the ancestor who owns everything and everybody in the desert around it.
    We meet Adham, Gabal, Rifan, Quassem and Arafa who each in their own way fight the injustice and the gangsters in the alley in order to free their fellow citizens from bondage and tyranny. But after each individual victory it inevitably turns out that the children of the alley fall back again into greed, corruption, crime and poverty while just a few enjoy wealth and power.
    In this sense this is a powerful and daring narrative which teaches us a lot about the spiritual history of humankind. A powerful fable and a richly told story which embraces in its plot not only the world of the Middle East but the world itself.

  • A Brilliant Fable or Collection of Inter-related Short Stories
    From Amazon

    I would like to thank fellow reviewer Bruce Kendall for bringing this book to my attention.

    Naguib Mahfouz is one of the most important of the modern Egyptian writers and this is a good place to start with his 20 or so current novels still in print.

    This is not a novel, but a series of five similar stories about life in a small area known as the alley. Each story involves the same members of a related group of people but each story is set generations apart in time.

    All the stories or the five sections of the book involve a conflict between the manager and his enforcer of a central and walled off estate and the rest of the members of the alley society who live outside the walls. It is a struggle for equality and human dignity by the peole in the alley versus the manager of the estate and his enforcers who want to control the wealth. It is a struggle between economic dominance and poverty.

    Each story involves a central male protagonist who struggles to find equality and justice in his own way starting with Adham, and then followed by Gabal, Rifaa, Qassem, and Arafa. Each protagonist - in his own time or era - follows his own aggressive or passive style to try and reach his objectives. After the first section on Adham, each main character feels an attachment back to Adham and his successors, and that attachment plays a role in the subsequent stories

    The story or fable is a brilliant work of literature. It is well written, entertaining, and it is an excellent read.

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