Tuesday 6 June 2017

Mahfouz, Naguib "Palace Walk"

Mahfouz, Naguib "Palace Walk" (Arabic: بين القصرين/Bayn al-qasrayn) - 1956 (Cairo Trilogie 1)

Part 1 of the Cairo Trilogy. I love big books, I love family sagas, I love historical fiction, I love books by Nobel Prize winners, so this should definitely the book for me.

And it is. The story of an Egyptian family between 1917 to 1919. We get to know al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad who rules his family like a tyrant, his wife, his daughters and his sons, they all have to obey him without question. He is by far not a perfect person himself but expects this from everyone around him. Given the time, everyone accepts this as a God-given law.

Brilliantly told, Naguib Mahfouz is a fantastic observer, he mentions so many things, describes people's feelings in a way that is unique and highly commendable. We can imagine being a fly on the wall who notices everything that is going on. I would love to read a book Mahfouz would write now about the same family, well, their progeny. The author managed to create a family that seems so real, so alive. We can well imagine meeting them somewhere. A very realistic story.

I already have the follow-up "Palace of Desire" on my table waiting to be read next and will certainly also read the last part "Sugar Street".

This book is also on the list of "The non-western books that every student should read".

From the back cover:

"Palace Walk is the first novel in Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent Cairo Trilogy, an epic family saga of colonial Egypt that is considered his masterwork.

The novels of the Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons - the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. The family’s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two world wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries."

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.


  1. Wow...This reminded me of a book called Daughters of Arabia by Jean Sasson.

    I read it years ago....just a vague memory but remember the hardships women had to endure inside their houses.

    I will look for this book.

    Shalet Jimmy

    1. First of all, thank you for visiting my blog. I will have to check out yours.

      I love books about other countries and cultures but would you believe htat I never heard about "Daughters of Arabia"? It certainly will go on my wishlist. Thank you so much.

      If you are interested in these topics, you can always look at my labels and find more books about it.

      And thank you for requesting my friendship on Goodreads. Of course, I happily accepted.

      Looking forward to talking more with you.

      Happy Reading,

    2. You're welcome. Glad to have met you.

  2. I have read the entire trilogy. All three books are wonderful. But this was the book that made me decide to read all of Mahfouz's novels and everyone so far has been an eye opening look into the modern times of this ancient and storied country.

    1. I am pretty sure they are, have just started the third one. Before, I had only read Children of the Gebelawi by this author and always wanted to read more. I am sure this trilogy won't be my last novel by him, either.