Naguib Mahfouz - Photo via The Guardian
CAIRO – 30 August 2021: Today is the death anniversary of the legendary late Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz.
Author of 34 novels, over 350 short stories, five plays and dozens of movie scripts, Mahfouz was by all means the most disciplined writer ever.
He wrote for one hour daily throughout his 70-year career, smoked three cigarettes per day and walked by the Nile every morning.
He met weekly with the new generation of writers, artists, and readers through an informal seminar, which is a habit he developed in the 1950’s.
At the age of 82, Mahfouz was stabbed in the neck in 1994 by an Islamic extremist in an assassination attempt following a huge wave of hatred that followed the fatwah (Religious statement) issued by Ayat Allah Khomeini of Iran against Arab/English author Salman Rushdi over his famous book “Satanic Verses”.
Khomeini decreed that Salman Rushdi should be killed for writing that novel. Naguib Mahfouz, in spite of considering the novel disrespectful to Islam, took a position against inciting violence against Rushdi.
This incident, however, directed attention to Mahfouz’s controversial novel “Awlad Haretna” (The Chidren of Our Avenue), which was deemed as one of the most famous novels in the history of Arabic literature.
The novel spoke about God, the prophets and creatively explained the philosophy of religion.
The controversy came from his design of the character of Gebelawi, a wealthy landowner and a harsh father who is negligent to his descendants, leaving them in poverty and misery, and appointing the dark son Adham to run the business instead of Idris the eldest son.
The novel relays the story of Adam and Satan, then the quarrel between Satan and God, and later mentions the story of Kane and Abel where he kills his brother and the grandfather refuses to interfere.
The stories of the prophets of the main religions, Moses, Jesus and Mohamed, continue. He changes the names brilliantly with clear hints to which religious personality he is handling in each new chapter.
He avoids the miracles, and humanizes the struggles in efforts to make the story about fighting for the rights of the poor who are all sons of Gebelawi and have equal rights to wealth.
Mahfouz was blunt in expressing his ideas; he discussed politics, history and philosophy in his novels. He covered a lot of subjects such as socialism, homosexuality, and God. Mahfouz's novels were informative and showed the development of Egypt in the 20th century.
Mahfouz’s first novel was “Khufu’s Wisdom”. He wrote 35 novels afterwards and 15 collections of short stories alongside with “Echoes of an Autobiography” in 1994, according to an article by AUC Press.
The iconic literary author did not only abide by writing short stories and novels, but also took the initiative to work on 25 film screenplays that featured specific writing techniques such as flashbacks.
The Egyptian cinema has created over 30 Egyptian films that were based on Mahfouz’s novels and literary works.
He also wrote weekly columns in state-owned newspapers Al-Ahram and Al-Ahram Weekly in 1971, including “Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber: Reflections of a Nobel Laureate 1994- 2001”.
Mahfouz was honored by the government; he received the Egyptian State Prize twice for his writings.
Promoting great collections of Arabic narratives locally and internationally, Mahfouz received other countless awards including one from the American University in Cairo and an honorary doctorate in 1995.
He was chosen as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Institute of Arts.
Following his death, Mahfouz’s works further resonated in the Egyptian literary scene. AUC Press became his main English language publisher and agent of all translation rights. The agreement was signed with Mahfouz prior to his death.
"There is no Egyptian, Arab or Arabic speaker who has not seen a movie or read a novel to Mahfouz," Abdel Fattah added.
A total of 50 newly discovered short stories written by the Egyptian Noble Laureate Mahfouz, were published on December 11, 2018.
The newly discovered short stories were found by the late writer's daughter, Um Kulthum Naguib Mahfouz, and culture journalist Mohamed Shoair.
The short stories collection were published by Lebanese publishing house Dar Al-Saqi under the title “Hams El-Nogoom” (Whispering of the Stars).
Dar Al-Saqi announced it acquired the rights to publish Mahfouz’s short stories from his daughter.
Egyptian minister of culture Inas Abdel Dayem inaugurated Naguib Mahfouz Museum on July 14, in the presence of a large number of diplomats, ambassadors and representatives of States, in addition to a group of officials from the Ministry of Culture and prominent public figures.
Huda Naguib Mahfouz (Umm Kulthum) expressed her happiness with the opening of the museum of her late father, the Nobel winning writer Naguib Mahfouz.
The museum is located in Tkeit Abu el-Dahab in Al Azhar district. The daughter of the late novelist thanked the Ministry of Culture and the current and former officials for their efforts to bring the museum to light.
Umm Kulthum further stated that she dedicated 1000 books to the Ministry of Culture. The books held the signature of her father, or were dedicated to him.
Mahfouz also dedicated to the ministry some of the awards and honorings he received during his lifetime, his personal office and a few of his personal belongings such as his glasses, his headset and some of his clothes, among others.
Umm Kulthum added that she was worried about losing her dad’s personal belongings, especially after the difficult circumstances the country faced following the January revolution.
Naguib Mahfouz Museum consists of two floors, the first hosts halls for seminars, a visual/ sound library, a public library and a library of critical research, including the most important researches and studies on the work of Naguib Mahfouz.
The second floor includes a suite of decorations and certificates obtained by the late writer, and another for his personal belongings with some papers written in his own handwriting, in addition to the Hall of Literature, which includes all the works of Naguib Mahfouz in their old and new prints, along with all the writer’s translated works next to a cinema hall and several other halls.