Book Review: Naguib Mahfouz’s once-lost stories finally see the light

In the book, Mahfouz introduces characters such as the head of the quarter, the businessmen who run it, and the vegetable vendor. (Supplied)
Updated 04 December 2019

Book Review: Naguib Mahfouz’s once-lost stories finally see the light

  • Mahfouz's daughter found 18 never-before-seen short narratives hidden in his desk
  • ‘The Quarter’ is both new and familiar, with Mahfouz’s captivating characters and their ordinary lives

CHICAGO: Thirteen years after the death of literary giant Naguib Mahfouz, 18 never-before-seen short narratives emerged after his daughter found them hidden away in his desk. 

Attached with a note that read “to be published in 1994,” the newly discovered collection was immediately published in 2018 in Arabic, and has now been translated into English by Roger Allen with Saqi Books. 

After over a decade, admirers of one of the globe’s most prolific writers can be led once again to Egypt and into the Gamaliya quarter in Cairo in a new book called “The Quarter.” Readers can immerse themselves into Mahfouz’s famous Cairene streets and characters after a career that has spanned half a century with the publication of over 30 novels, short stories, and screenplays.

“The Quarter” is both new and familiar, with Mahfouz’s captivating characters and their ordinary lives. They live under firm patriarchy and tradition, with bold personalities. From young lovers who run away from the quarter, to how gossip can bring unintended consequences, the 1988 Nobel Laureate captures life in its most vivid form. 

He introduces characters such as the head of the quarter, the businessmen who run it, and the vegetable vendor, each with their own unique stories. He explores every aspect of life in Gamaliya and moves readers to understand his characters.

According to Allen, 1994 was significant in Mahfouz’s life, as it was the year he was stabbed in the neck by a religious fanatic, which caused paralysis in his writing hand. Allen said that Mahfouz’s writing style changed throughout his career from a heavy interest in ancient Egypt to his love for Cairo’s quarters. He continuously pushed the limits with his writing, keeping him on the radar of the authorities.

Mahfouz always touched people with his work and spoke for those whose voices could not be heard. He continues to do so even in death. In 1988, he wrote in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that “in this decisive moment in the history of civilization it is inconceivable and unacceptable that the moans of mankind should die out in the void.” This rings true today.


Depp says wife-beating claim made him ‘Quasimodo’

Updated 10 July 2020

Depp says wife-beating claim made him ‘Quasimodo’

  • The High Court trial revolves around a 2018 headline in The Sun asking how JK Rowling could be happy casting ‘wife-beater’ Depp in a ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film
  • Johnny Depp: ‘I went from Cinderella into Quasimodo in 0.6 seconds and I was without a voice’

LONDON: Hollywood legend Johnny Depp on Friday accused Britain’s The Sun tabloid of turning him from “Cinderella into Quasimodo” by claiming he beat his ex-wife Amber Heard.
The first week of Depp’s star-studded libel trial against the paper’s publisher and executive editor drew to a close with the 57-year-old denying hurling a champagne bottle and a phone at his former wife.
Depp claims charges compiled by Heard over a tumultuous two-year marriage that ended in 2017 were a “hoax” designed to advance her career at his expense.
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor said Thursday he was so often high or strung out on drugs that he was “in no condition” to hurt the 34-year-old model and film star.
The High Court trial revolves around a 2018 headline in The Sun asking how JK Rowling could be happy casting “wife-beater” Depp in a “Fantastic Beasts” film.
Depp said the headline altered his Hollywood image and endangered his career.
“I went from Cinderella into Quasimodo in 0.6 seconds and I was without a voice,” he told the court.
“That’s where I was in my life at that point.”
Cinderella is a beautiful fairy tale princess and Quasimodo the disfigured protagonist of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Depp looked more confident and engaged on the fourth day of the three-week trial than he appeared at its start.
He listened alertly in an olive suit and verbally clashed with publisher News Group Newspapers’ (NGN) lawyer Sasha Wass in an attempt to refute her various charges.
Wass has gone chronologically through each of Depp’s 14 alleged assaults and other abuses.
She attempted on Friday to complete her depiction of the US superstar as self-centered and out of touch with reality due to debilitating drug abuse.
Depp countered that it was Heard who was chronically looking for a fight.
He said he went to read in bed on the night of Heard’s 30th birthday party because “I was trying to avoid another confrontation with Ms Heard about something that didn’t go exactly as she wanted or had planned.”
Depp turned up for the party two hours late because of a difficult business meeting about a financial dispute.
But Wass said Depp was fuming because Heard had pointed out one of his character faults.
“And the argument picked up pace and you picked up the bottle of champagne and you threw it at Ms Heard. And it missed and the bottle hit the wall and it smashed,” the lawyer said.
“And that, I suggest, is how you express yourself when you are angry, you smash things,” the lawyer said.
Depp denied this happened and countered: “I disagree.”
The couple’s marriage was all but over by the time Heard accused Depp of hitting her in the face with a phone in May 2016.
Wass said Depp “wound up like a baseball pitcher” and threw it at his wife at one of their mansions while one of Heard’s friends was on the other line.
Depp denied this but admitted that Heard asked the friend to call the police.
He also said the security on site witnessed how the entire episode was staged.
“She was screaming ‘stop hitting me, Johnny!, stop hitting me, Johnny!’, and the security came and she was still screaming... and I was 20 feet away getting something from the fridge,” Depp said.
“And then (one of the guards) said boss, let’s get out of here.”
Wass’ cross-examination ended with a 30-minute private session in which reporters were asked to leave the courtroom.
The actor’s attorney David Sherborne then took over by directly asking whether Depp had ever hit a woman.
“Never, no sir,” Depp replied.
Sherborne also got Depp to confirm that no other woman had alleged abuse in his past relationships.