Reception[ edit ] It was originally published in Arabic in , in serialised form, in the daily newspaper Al-Ahram. It was met with severe opposition from religious authorities, and publication in the form of a book was banned in Egypt. As a result, in — a day after the anniversary of the prize — Mahfouz was attacked and stabbed in the neck by two extremists outside his Cairo home. Synopsis[ edit ] The story recreates the interlinked history of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam , allegorised against the setting of an imaginary 19th century Cairene alley. Critics claimed that Gabalawi stands for God.

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Shelves: fiction , nobel , arabic , works-of-world-lit Our plague is forgetfulness. As to the novel itself, I had a hard time with its two-dimensional characterisations and insufficient Our plague is forgetfulness. As to the novel itself, I had a hard time with its two-dimensional characterisations and insufficient conflict. We have a brutal world headed by Gebelaawi, the timeless arch-ancestor of the human settlement who fathered and brought into world various tribes, and who lives in seclusion in the grand house shielded by everyone and everything, ruling his estate - the world - in absentia.

God in other words, or the Abrahamic idea of it. The story revolves around the struggle between his succeeding generations modeled on various Biblio-Quranic figures such as Abel and Cain, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, who were chosen to be sent to their tribes when the human condition became intolerably dark.

Mahfouz leaves us in ambiguity as to whether the prophets were actually chosen by Gebelaawi or whether they came to believe in their station by some extraordinary natural agency that set them apart from the sheeple. The same story repeats itself like a broken record. Every reform movement descends into the chaos as soon as the leader of the tribe turns his back on the temporary abode that is the world. It is as though Mahfouz is saying that nothing ever changes; things do not get better for ever; evil overpowers good at the first opportunity.

One prophet comes, fixes things, gives people a simulacrum of justice and happiness, only for them to go back to fighting, killing, pillaging, and the oppression and injustice that comes with the abuse of power. Might the implied failure of various leaders have caused offence to the deranged extremists living in a perfect golden age of their imagination?

Who knows eh. The good and evil are portrayed in absolute terms even though the prophets are brought down from their infallible station in myth to the level of humanity with their personal flaws. We do have room to see it as ironical. This is a promising idea for a story superimposed on the historico-mythical children of Abraham, only if Mahfouz had handled it with more tact.

As for the bards, they tell only of the heroic times, avoiding anything that could offend the powerful, singing praises


Children of the Alley

Celebrating in the shadow of the Arab Spring, it was a itting coincidence for fans of the late great master, as Mahfouz was undoubtedly the most proliic chronicler of social transformation in modern Egyptian history. And it is not diicult to see why. In this essay I try to untangle what that might mean. What would such an aesthetics look like? How did Mahfouz construct it and why? At the core of his novel lie two fiGure 1.


Children of Gebelawi





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