Naguib Mahfouz, 1911-2006

Naguib Mahfouz passed away this morning after more than a week of hospitalization, finally succumbing to complications that included internal bleeding.

There’s a good essay about Mahfouz on the Nobel Prize site.

More later.

Update: I have a reflection on Mahfouz on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website and was also interviewed by Radio France International’s English broadcast about his significance in Egypt and the Arab world. Let me know what you think. The funny thing is that while I’m not actually a great fan of Mahfouz’s work, I loved the man and his persona. If you really want to know tons of great anecdotes about him, pick up Gamal Ghitani’s recent book (in Arabic only, for now) about the literary salons he held throughout his life, which Ursula wrote about here.

0 thoughts on “Naguib Mahfouz, 1911-2006”

  1. The death of Naguib Mahfouz is a great loss, not just to Arab literature, but to world literature as a whole.His death adds to an already sad year for literature, with the deaths of two other great writers, namely Indonesia’s Pramoedya Ananta Toer, followed in quick succession by Pakistan’s Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi.

    I think it would be wrong to say that he was a great writer BECAUSE he won the Nobel.I think with the Nobel, Mahfouz just got lucky, lucky enough to be on the right side of the Nobel that year.And a unique tribute to his learning and intellect is the fact that both the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and his imperial backer, George Bush, have praised Mahfouz….I think he would have been very angry about that, because his life, as his work, were spent in confronting both dictatorship and imperialism, although not as well as some of us would have liked.

    His other great contemporary, the late Abdelrahman Munif, to whom I think the Nobel should have really gone, is certainly the greatest Arab novelist of the 20th century.Plus he spent the major part of his life in exile.His amazing trilogy “Cities of Salt” is a one-of-a-kind exploration and explanation of the rise and fall of oil-fuelled dictatorships.

    I hope that this year Nobel goes to an Arab artist like Adonis, Elias Khoury or Assiya Djabbar.I favour Khoury purely on the basis that his native country has been destroyed by Israel, and the best way for the world to show solidarity to the tragedy of Lebanon would be to recognize one of its great artists.Of course, Khoury himself is a sensitive and creative writer.

    Meanwhile, I hope Mahfouz’s work is made known to a larger number of people outside the Arab world, especially in my native South Asia, South-east Asia and Latin America, where it won’t be difficult finding comparisons with giants like Garcia Marquez, Abdullah Hussein and Quratulain Haider.

    Meanwhile, we in Pakistan grieve inconsolably for Mahfouz’s death…..

  2. I can’t say how tragic his death seems to me. Not tragic, because it was untimely (clearly, at 94, it was not), but tragic because I see Egypt and much of the Arab world teetering on the edge of a dangerous precipice. Voices like Mahfouz are few and far between. Who will replace him in his role?

  3. Prayers will be held tomorrow at 10am (better confirm the timing if you can) at the Hussein Mosque in Khan el-Khalili, after which his body will be moved to the Masged el-Quwat al-Mossalaha (Armed Forces Mosque) in Nasr City, for the more “official” funeral.

  4. I read books of him at first without knowing that he was the famous Nobel prize winner. I immedeately loved his work so much, that he became my favourite writer. I have to thank him for this beatiful experience! Because of him I started reading more arab writers.

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