Synopses & Reviews
In Naguib Mahfouz's suspenseful novel a bitter and ambitious nihilist, a beautiful and impoverished student, and a corrupt official engage in a doomed ménage à trois.
Cairo of the 1930s is a place of vast social and economic inequities. It is also a time of change, when the universities have just opened to women and heady new philosophies imported from Europe are stirring up debates among the young. Mahgub is a fiercely proud student who is determined to keep both his poverty and his lack of principles secret from his idealistic friends. When he finds that there are no jobs for those without connections, out of desperation he agrees to participate in an elaborate deception. But what begins as a mere strategy for survival soon becomes much more for both Mahgub and his partner in crime, an equally desperate young woman named Ihsan. As they make their way through Cairo's lavish high society their precarious charade begins to unravel and the terrible price of Mahgub's Faustian bargain becomes clear.
Translated by William M. Hutchins
"This new translation of an affecting early novel about love and social climbing by deceased Egyptian Nobel laureate Mahfouz (the Cairo trilogy) follows the fortunes of a Cairo university graduate eager to make his way in a venal 1930s imperialist society. When new graduate Mahgub Abd al-Da'im learns his father is at death's door and his monthly stipend will soon be terminated, he accepts a ministry position out of desperation. There is also a very large string attached: he must marry the minister's beautiful young mistress. The dishonor of this Faustian bargain is further underscored by the revelation that the young woman, Ihsan, was the ideal love of one of Mahgub's university friend's, and the two intended to marry before she was encouraged by her calculating family to accept the minister's seduction. Fallen characters, Mahgub and Ihsan set out on their single-minded path toward material advancement. Mahfouz is a master at depicting shifting forces of motivation, and despite some dated stereotypes, he offers a keen psychological portrait of a complex society in the midst of radical transformation." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A major Early novel by the Egyptian Nobel laureate, published for the first time in English
Newly translated, Cairo Modern
, one of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz's most daring novels, is the tale of a doomed ménage a trois.
In 1930s Cairo there are vast social and economic inequities. It is also a time when the universities have just opened to women and heady new ideas from Europe are stirring the young. Mahgub is a fiercely proud student, determined to keep both his poverty and his lack of principles secret. His lack of connections makes finding a job nearly impossible, and in his desperation he agrees to marry the mistress of a high government official in return for a job. On the wedding day he discovers that his wife-to-be is Ihsan, his best friend's beautiful former girlfriend, a poor student whose life has been ruined by her seductiveness. Despite their embarrassment, the two go through with the sham marriage and become partners in a precarious plot to make their way in Cairo's high society and outwit their ill fortune.
Translated by William M. Hutchins.
Translated into English for the first time, "Cairo Modern," one of Nobel laureate Mahfouz's most daring novels, is the tale of a doomed mnage a trois.
About the Author
"Intriguing.... Dostoyevskyan.... Mahfouz's brilliance lies in portraying the mixture of good and evil in human character.... Mahfouz was Egypt's Balzac." —The New York Times