Past in Perspective
“A priest’s life is spent between question and answer — or between a question and the attempt to answer it. The question is the summary of the spiritual life.”
–Naguib Mahfouz, Khufu’s Wisdom.
Egypt opened a museum in Cairo to honour
her Nobel Laurette in 2019.
As Louise Glück won the 2020 Nobel Prize for literature, it will be interesting to know about the only Arab who grabbed it 32 years ago, Naguib Mahfouz. The Egyptian novelist received Nobel Prize for literature in 1988. He got the prize for his novels that tell the story of the evolution of Egyptian society.
In 1956, Palace Walk, the first volume of The Cairo Trilogy, came out, to be followed a year later by the other two volumes, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street. A novel on the grand scale of 1,500 plus pages, the trilogy deals with three generations of the Abd al-Jawad family and extends from 1917 to just before the end of the Second World War. The Cairo trilogy is a long tale of the social, political changes that Egypt underwent during those decades.
With him winning the Nobel Prize, “the Arab world also won the prize for the rich tradition of storytelling in the Arab world,” as he once said. Along with Abdur Rehman Munif, Naguib successfully changed the landscape of Arab literature.
The present-day chaos in Egypt finds a mention in one of Naguib’s articles of the 1990s, where he said, “Democracy is not deeply rooted in our culture. Egyptians would make sacrifices for independence, but they did not value democracy, and so, step by step, our system fell apart.” Nothing has changed much, since then.