Voices From the Other World


Naguib Mahfouz is an author I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, so when I saw a small book of his stories sitting on the Nobel Prize Winners shelf at the University Library, I couldn’t resist. Voices From the Other World – Ancient Egyptian Tales has five beautifully written stories, told almost as fables. The stories come from the folklore and mythology of ancient Egypt, and Mahfouz has used them to create his own sensitive, often humorous, very insightful illuminations of human nature.

Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. One of his best-known works is The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street, but he was a prolific writer so there are many more of his written treasures to discover and enjoy.

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7 thoughts on “Voices From the Other World

  1. Gentle Reader

    I loved Mahfouz’s Palace Walk, but never read the rest of the trilogy. I love the idea of his reinterpreting ancient folktales, so maybe I’ll read these stories! Great photo, too–thanks 🙂

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  2. jenclair

    I enjoyed Palace Walk, but have not been compelled to read the rest of the trilogy. I thought the novel was quite good, the writing excellent (Mahfouz gets into the mind of each character beautifully and believably), but found the father so domineering and his treatment of his family so foreign that I’m not sure I’ll ever complete the trilogy.

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  3. Nymeth

    Ancient Egyptians tales, that sounds like my kind of thing. I had not heard of Mahfouz even though he’s won a Nobel. Thank you for bringing him to my attention.

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  4. Robin

    Gentle Reader and MyUtopia,
    My nephew recommended Palace Walk to me years ago after reading it in his college class. It sounded very interesting, and I’ve been meaning to read it, but just haven’t gotten to it. Now I’m particularly interested in reading it.

    Jenclair,
    That’s something I wondered about–the cultural attitude towards women–and how I would react to it. I’ll try Palace Walk and see if I feel the same way about completing the trilogy.

    Nymeth,
    I think you’d really like these five stories. It’s a very fast, but very satisfying read.

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  5. Matt

    I read The Cairo Trilogy when I was an undergraduate, inspired by a professor who was born and raised in Egypt.

    I was most impressed with The Beginning and the End– a masterpiece of human compassion.

    Mahfouz’s adroit, in-depth delineation of each character has enlivened the character. The widow, who is mother of four children, coped with the loss of her husband and poverty with stoic and unusual calmness. The sexually repressed daughter persists through poverty-stricken life and degrades herself as dressmaker. The family is indebted to the good-for-nothing eldest son Hassan who later on becomes narcotics trafficker and makes a living on a prostitute.

    I recommend Mahfouz and his works to everyone.

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  6. Robin

    Thanks, Matt. “A masterpiece of human compassion” sounds really good. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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