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Palace Of Desire

by Naguib Mahfouz
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Anchor
  • Publishing date: 01/12/1991
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780385264686
  • ISBN: 0385264682

Synopsis

The second volume of the highly acclaimed Cairo Trilogy from the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, Palace Of Desire is the unforgettable story of the violent clash between ideals and realities, dreams and desires.

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  • A family saga, a view of Egyptian culture, and a history lesson. I loved it!
    From Amazon

    This is the second book in a trilogy by Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz. I loved the first book and enjoyed this one equally well. Of course, by now I'm acquainted with the characters and the time and place - shortly after WWI in Cairo, Egypt.

    This is a family saga. Each character is scrupulously drawn. Sometimes I thought the author used a few too many words to make his point however. That's because he goes into the thoughts of his characters. It does seem real as he describes what they say as well as what they don't say. At times I thought I would like to edit it a bit and make these musings a little shorter, but I soon just accepted it as the author's style and let myself be enveloped in his world. And I must say that this technique made me feel I was inside their heads, viewing their world as they experienced it. I found this very impressive.

    The family has been mourning the death of one of their sons during a demonstration several years before, and this sadness is something they live with all the time. The father and patriarch of the family is now in his fifties. He hasn't been womanizing for a while but is ready to go back to his former pleasures in life. The oldest son compromises the family's honor by choosing the wrong bride. And the youngest son is in his late teens and insists on going to a teacher's college instead of studying law. He falls in love and we share his despair when it is not returned. The two daughters are married and have several children each. We get a glimpse into their lives too, and the conflict that one of them is having with her mother-in-law.

    One of the best things about the book was the understanding I got about another culture. I perceived it all naturally, through the eyes of the author. He described Egypt at the time he was living it. He didn't try to give me a history lesson. This book was writen in the mid-1950s. It was written in Egyptian for Egyptian people. Later it was translated into English. I couldn't help but contrast it with a best seller I read recently which tried to pack a history lesson into the narrative. Reading this trilogy however, gives me a history lesson without really trying. I liked that.

    I totally enjoyed this book as I did the first book, Palace Walk. I would recommend reading that first if you are interested in this trilogy, however, because understanding the background of the characters really enriches the whole story. I have the third book, Sugar Street, waiting for me to read on my bookshelf. I am looking forward to it.

    Definitely recommended. And I can certainly understand why Naguib Mahrouz won a Nobel prize for literature.

  • One man's family . . .
    From Amazon

    Although published as a trilogy, Mahfouz' story of a Cairo family was originally written as a single novel. "Palace of Desire" is one-third out of roughly the middle of it. The time is now the 1920s, and the focus is chiefly on three characters, the father, Al-Sayyid Ahmad, and his two sons, Yasin and Kamal. Desire as a theme runs strongly through the entire trilogy, and it emerges here in three very different ways. The older man feels the beginnings of age interfere with his extramarital dalliances and his life of nightly good fellowship with friends and female company. The older of his two sons is a heedless Don Juan, bored with his wives soon after he marries them. The younger son experiences his first true love and is tormented night and day, first by her teasing interest in him and then in the discovery of her real feelings. Meanwhile, there is a kind of high comedy in the ongoing conflicts between the father's two daughters and their mother-in-law.

    Mahfouz also explores class differences in this part of his story, where Kamal, the younger son, is introduced through a school friend to a wealthy, westernized family. His coming of age, loss of innocence, and discovery of a world very different from the sheltered life he has known make this part of the story especially poignant. References to the changing political climate in post-WWI Egypt reflect the theme of national independence from British dominance that Mahfouz has followed from the beginning of the trilogy. Altogether, Mahfouz' family saga, with its interwoven threads of related storylines is a joy to read.

  • Worthy of the Nobel Prize
    From Amazon

    It's tough to think of Palace of Desire as a stand-alone book. It wouldn't make any sense outside of the context of the trilogy that it's a part of. A reader would be lost if he simply picked this off the shelf and started reading without having read Palace Walk. And likewise, you would feel unsatisfied if you stopped at the end of this book instead of continuing on with the final installment of the trilogy.

    Of course, no one (least of all the author) would argue that point. This was all meant to be one book from the start, and that's pretty obvious. But since there aren't all that many people out there with the patience to read an eleven-hundred-page book....well, that's why this is three books and not one huge one.

    Part two of the trilogy is just as fascinating as part one. Each of the characters is up to his same old tricks. Yasin is getting married, and divorced, and married again, and still visiting prostitutes - sometimes the same ones that his dad is visiting. Kamal is enrolling in the Teachers' School, against his father's wishes, and starting to lose his faith in religion as he learns more about science, philosophy, and the world around him. And throughout it all, Egypt is portrayed as a country very much in transition. The traditional elements of society are precariously juxtaposed against the liberal forces of change. And this inevitably causes sparks to fly.

    It's easy to see why Mahfouz was awarded the Nobel Prize. He's more than just a great writer; he's also an eloquent voice speaking on behalf of a fascinating country in a fascinating time.

  • Another Great Mahfouz
    From Amazon

    Like the first in the trilogy, this was excellent writing, alternating between telling and describing, but with the most vivid description, and somehow the telling is the most desirous writing as well. Yes, Kamal's long-winded poetic idealistic love gets...long-winded at times. But it builds to the a very appropriate conclusion in his life. It is amazing to watch a family crumble- but not at all unexpected. You see the seeds of destruction from the first pages of Palace Walk. Al-Sayyhid Ahmad Abd Al-Jawad desires to have such strong control over his family, he ends up building it's destruction. He wants to live a double life- and those live half as long. He sees no hypocrisy in his actions, for he lives the unexamined life. And he reaps his harvest. This is the message interwoven throughout both the first two books.

    I keep on feeling that Naguib Mahfouz is the Dickens of his culture. Characters are consistent with themselves, yet constantly changing, evolving, to become something greater, or worse, and unexpected, yet somehow we always knew it had to be that way. He writes with such realism of the lives of people, and the changing lives over generations of the people of the large city. It is dirty, intimate, and full of pathos. It is life.

  • Second part of "The Cairo Trilogy"
    From Amazon

    In the second volume of "The Cairo Trilogy", we follow the progress of Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad's family after the death of Fahmy in a riot against the British. After more than one year, Al-Sayyid Ahmad resumes his visits to Jalila and Zubayda. The later is to become his private mistress on a houseboat on the Nile and later Yasin's wife! Kamal is now seventeen and to Al-Sayyid Ahmad's disappointment he intends to enrol at the Teachers College. His father would wish him to become a civil servant or an engineer but Kamal is more interested in literature and philosophy. He is indeed becoming an adult and his relation with his mother Amina is changing. He feels that he has nothing much to tell her except "meaningless chatter". Another disappointment for Kamal is his love for Aïda who never quite reciprocates his feelings for her.
    What makes the second volume interesting is the evolution of the Egyptian society, the rules of which begin to relax as the country inexorably adopts more Western values. These values are difficult to accept for conservative people like those of Al-Sayyid Ahmad's generation. It appears that the family values suffer most from such a modernisation and in this respect Yasin is a good example with his three marriages. Like in the first volume, the reader can expect the highest literary standards in "Palace Of Desire" by one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

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