Classic Author Focus: Naguib Mafouz

Naguib Mahfouz

Naguib Mafouz was a prolific Egyptian writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He wrote 34 novels, more than 350 short stories, movie scripts, and hundreds of op-ed newspaper columns. Many of his works have been made into films.

Mafouz was the youngest child of a Muslim family in Cairo that was so strict he later said that you would not have expected an artist to emerge from it. He also said he was greatly affected by the Egyptian Revolution of 1919, even though he was only seven at the time.

Mafouz’s first novel was published in 1939. His first works were historical novels inspired by Sir Walter Scott, wherein he wished to cover the entire history of Egypt. However, after his third book his interests changed to current settings and issues, and he liked to cover subjects that were taboo.

He was a civil servant who occupied positions in various ministries until his retirement in 1971. His writings were all concerned with politics, where he espoused Egyptian Nationalism. His books were banned by many Arab countries because he supported Sadat’s Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel. An assassination attempt was made against him when the Satanic Verses controversy reawakened an interest in his book Children of Gebelawi. Although he had police protection, an extremist managed to stab him in the neck outside his home. After this attack, he was able to write only a few hours a day and lived permanently with a bodyguard.

He was unmarried until the age of 43 because he thought marriage would interfere with his writing. However, he eventually married a Coptic Christian woman and had two daughters.

Dates: 1911-2006

Most Popular Works: The Cairo Trilogy, Adrift on the Nile, Children of Gebelawi, Palace Walk

Some Other Works: Arabian Days and Nights, The Journey of Ibn Fatouma, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street

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