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Palace Walk (cairo Trilogy)

by Naguib Mahfouz
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Anchor
  • Publishing date: 01/12/1990
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780385264662
  • ISBN: 0385264666

Synopsis

Volume I of the masterful Cairo Trilogy. A national best-seller in both hardcover and paperback, it introduces the engrossing saga of a Muslim family in Cairo during Egypt's occupation by British forces in the early 1900s.

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  • lost in translation?
    From Amazon

    Perhaps in the original Arabic this book has life---I would hope so, as Mahfouz won the Nobel prize for literature--but the translation is stiff and lifeless, an academic accomplishment perhaps, but stodgy, difficult reading!!! I challenge anyone to open the book and read any paragraph, and you'll see what I mean!!
    I'll try another of his novels translated by someone other than William Maynard Hutchins to see if I can get a better idea of Mahfouz's writing!!

  • Egypt after WW1 through one family's eyes. A sumptuous read. I loved it!
    From Amazon

    Naguib Mahrouz won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988 and bears the distinction of being the only Arab writer who has ever done that. He recently passed away at the age of 94, having published 34 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts and five plays over a 70-year career. "Palace Walk", published in 1959, is the first of his books I've ever read. It will not be the last.

    Possibly based on his own Egyptian family, the book is set in 1917, as World War 1 was just ending. Egypt was then a British protectorate but wanted its independence. Yes, this book is about the politics of the time, but mostly it is about one family. The father ruled the family, the wife and daughters never left the house, and the sons were educated in strict Islamic tradition. I particularly related to the wife, who was married to the husband at age 14, bore him four children, and not only had she never left the house in all that time, she could only look out on the street from a through latticed shutters so that, with the exception of the immediate family, no person could ever lay eyes on her. She accepts this, of course. She lived in a culture where there were no other choices. It was me, the reader, whose feminist streak was ignited. However, I soon realized that the author was only describing the culture.

    In the tradition of the time, the father, who was a prosperous merchant, kept his family protected. However, he went out every single night to drink wine and hang out with his friends, telling jokes and engaging in pleasant conversation. He also had no qualms about romances with women. He, as well as his family, became very real for me. In fact, I found myself thinking about these people constantly. How did they feel? What would they do next? What conflicts did they have? Soon, I was even thinking like them. This certainly added to my deep enjoyment of this book.

    It's all there - the culture of the time through the eyes of each member of the family. There is the oldest son from a previous marriage and his relationship with his real mother as well as his father's wife. There are the two marriageable daughters, one of them with blue eyes and golden hair, and the other with an unattractive ugly nose. There is the son who is completely into politics and wants to go on demonstrations against the English. And then there is the young boy, who might have been modeled on the author himself, who was born in 1911. Through this boy's eyes, the reader grasps the big wide world in which he lives.

    At 498 pages the book is a slow and sumptuous read. The author uses a lot of words to describe and then re-describe the characters, their feelings, their observations, their conversations, they upsets and their pleasures. But instead of being bored with the repetition, I found my experience of the book intensifying. I was right there with each member of the family, feeling as I was living their lives.

    Palace Walk is the first of a series of three books. I have purchased the other two books in the series and look forward to reading more.

    I cannot say enough good things about this novel. I loved it and highly recommend it.

  • We're not that different
    From Amazon

    Palace Walk, Bayn al-Qasrayn, is a street in Cairo, Egypt, where Ahmad Abd al-Jawad lives with his second wife, three sons, and two daughters. At the beginning of the book, World War I is winding down and Egypt is still an English protectorate.

    PALACE WALK is written in omniscient point of view with shifting viewpoints. Ahmad Abd al Jawad, however, is the main character. He rules his household with an iron fist. His wife is forbidden to leave the house; his daughters must never be seen by a man until after their marriages are arranged. However, Jawad has a hidden side to his personality. After working all day at a kind of grocery store he owns, he spends his nights partying with his friends and cheating on his wife. He is the "life of the party," the direct opposite of the way he behaves around his family. His sons have never even seen him smile.

    Yasin, Jawad's adult son from his first marriage, is the spitting image of the old man. He spends his nights drinking and carousing, but he suffers from an almost total lack of self control. Fahmy, the second son, is a law student. His story line focuses on Egypt's fight for independence once the war is over. Khadija is the older daughter, who, unfortunately, has her father's nose and little prospects for a husband; she also has a biting sense of humor; Aisha is the beautiful second daughter who shames Khadija by marrying first. Kamal, is a mischievous ten-year-old.

    Much of Jamal's dialogue consists of quotes from the Koran; Jawad also attends mosque with his sons and has a prayer rug in his bedroom. Still, religion seems to be rather low on Jawad's list of priorities. Much of the narrative includes internal monologues where Jawad congratulates himself on what a good father, businessman, and patriot he is. He sees absolutely no problem with his carousing as long as he meets his religious expectations.

    The real worth of PALACE WALK in my mind is Mahfouz's employing the Arab family to show that there isn't a whole lot of difference in families the world over. Yasin, Fahmy and the girls meet during coffee hour, during which time they tease each other unrelentingly, just like brothers and sisters in America. They gossip and spy on their neighbors; they argue about how to deal with their father.

    For me, the real star of the novel is Kamal. He doesn't have a problem with making friends with the British soldiers, despite the fact that his brother Yasin is called a traitor for doing the same thing. He's the only one in the family who has the courage to stand up to his father's bullying, although he gets his "ears smoked" in the process.

    The ending is definitely ironic. It has to do with Jawad's ambivalence toward his son Fahmy's "freedon fighting." Jawad hates the idea of his son's defiance (Fahmy wouldn't swear on the Koran to stay away from the demonstrations against the protectorate), but he wouldn't mind having a patriot son to brag about to his carousing friends.

  • Wow!!
    From Amazon

    Palace Walk is among the best novels ever written. Mahfouz transports you into the streets and life of Cairo, and the minds and hearts of al-Sayyid Ahmad and his family, and by so doing into your own life. I could hardly put the book down. When it ended, I lost a friend.

  • A lovely story
    From Amazon

    It was a sad coincidence that I finished reading this book on the very day that Naguib Mahfouz passed away.
    Badly influenced by the Arabic textbooks in school, I assumed Mahfouz's works boring, philosophiocal and too heavy without even bothering to read them.
    I was wrong!

    Mahfouz's Cairo is a colorful, lively and fascinating place to be in, torn between strong religious forces and a fast pace of modernization and caught between two world wars. Religious, political and historical information is well woven into the lovely story of one family in Cairo and the many changes and upheavels it goes through.

    recommended!

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