{Kindle} ß The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street ¸ eBook or E-pub free

In a way this is a deeply familiar story despite it s colonial Egyptian setting If you ve ever sniffed a nineteenth century family saga, particularly one that stretched into the twentieth century flavoured by the author s progress from boy to writer then you know, emotionally, what to expect, overbearing hypocritical patriarch, meek housebound wife, youngest son en route via teaching to become an author, add mid novel stone throwing and protests at occupying British, stir occasionally on a low In a way this is a deeply familiar story despite it s colonial Egyptian setting If you ve ever sniffed a nineteenth century family saga, particularly one that stretched into the twentieth century flavoured by the author s progress from boy to writer then you know, emotionally, what to expect, overbearing hypocritical patriarch, meek housebound wife, youngest son en route via teaching to become an author, add mid novel stone throwing and protests at occupying British, stir occasionally on a low heat Perhapskindly we might observe that unfortunately or conveniently, despite differences of religion, climate and tradition, people and interpersonal relationships don t actually vary that much So it is with this family saga set in turn of the 19th into the 20th century Cairo in a lower middle class household.Most clearly I remember the scene where the family patriarch, upright, moral and dignified to his own family, marries a prostitute and has a raucous party with his cronies Part of this relationship is observed by his youngest son, if I remember correctly The greatly the surface stress on dignity and piety, the greater the self indulgent hedonism behind closed doors I suppose view spoiler Not that I dare suggest that the Archbishop of Canterbury can be found of an evening dancing naked while balancing a glass of champagne on his head, perhaps though when he was younger hide spoiler Originally written as one massive novel, Mahfouz s publisher would not touch it It was only by serializing it and breaking it up into three books that we get to marvel at Mahfouz s finest work today The Everyman s Library edition also has an excellent introduction by Hafez.The novel traces three generations of an Egyptian family, coping with its ups and downs, while the country was grappling with political uncertainty.Palace WalkThe first of the three books is set around the time of the first Originally written as one massive novel, Mahfouz s publisher would not touch it It was only by serializing it and breaking it up into three books that we get to marvel at Mahfouz s finest work today The Everyman s Library edition also has an excellent introduction by Hafez.The novel traces three generations of an Egyptian family, coping with its ups and downs, while the country was grappling with political uncertainty.Palace WalkThe first of the three books is set around the time of the first Egyptian revolution of 1919 It is a story with three layers On top and what drives the story are its colourful characters and how they interact with each other In the middle is a rich exposition of Egyptian culture of the time Simmering beneath is the growing political discontent and a national desire to cast off the yoke of British domination, just waiting to disrupt their lives and change their family irrevocably.Mahfouz has the gift of creating memorable characters Characters who evoke a whole range of emotions, from admiration to exasperation, from empathy to despisement.Al Sayyid is the patriarch and the centre of the family universe He is parochial, pigheaded, hypocritical and has double standards He seems modest yet thrives on adulation He somehow manages to strike an odd balance between licentiousness and religiosity He is a bully at home, but when confronted by the enemy, he is a coward.Amina, his second wife, is totally subservient, yet she has an inner strength which makes her the pillar of the family, rather than her husband.Yasin, his eldest son from his first marriage, is shallow and an idiot He is ruled by his bestial instincts rather than by intellect.Khadijah, his elder daughter, is most like Amina and her second in command She suffers because of her lack of physical beauty and is rather bitter and caustic She, too, has an inner strength and a selfless trait.Fahmy, his middle son, is intellectual and perhaps the most alienated in the family.Aisha, his younger daughter, is pretty and coquettish.Kamal, his youngest son, is striking in his innocence and naivety.The introduction to the culture of the time is fascinating Four aspects stand out the intricacies of family life with its hierarchy, the central role of religion in the family, arranged marriages and the status of women.A key theme cutting across all these is the need for order and control The most obvious is the tyrannical Al Sayyid iron fisted rule over his family There is zero tolerance for disobedience Ironically, his harsh way of raising his children has made them weak and timorous, his sons especially His children long for control over their own lives and destinies, but they cower in deference to Al Sayyid s will They lead imperfect but safe, secure, comfortable lives They have their moments of contentment, as well as moments of disillusionment There are parallels in Egypt s subjection to foreign powers, as a protectorate of the British The people desire to wrestle themselves free but there are high costs.The writing of each character is psychological, almost reminiscent of Stefan Zweig Each character lives within his or her own microcosm, clashing with each other at points But ultimately they are all swept away by the irresistible flow of history.Although long, the novel is not draggy It is broken up into digestible episodes, with almost fable like forms and lessons, rather than one continuous drama.Palace of DesireDrama It is difficult to discuss this book without revealing a whole lot of spoilers This middle book of the trilogy focuses on development of the characters and relationships.It picks up from view spoiler the tragedy of Fahmy s death in the first book hide spoiler , where everyone is in asubdued and reflective state Some interesting discussions emerge from theircontemplative state Kamal about his career choice, Yasin about his love interest The serenity does not last long as their hidden passions gradually emerge and wreak havoc in their lives While there is a veneer of propriety and civility, deep down in their hearts they are resentful and scheming Her white scarf came down over her lavender housedress, which revealed how thin she had become She was cloaked in a stillness at times stained by sorrow like seawater that during a momentary calm becomes transparent enough to reveal what is beneath the surface.We see through the facade of three characters in particularHow fitting it would be for all of us to be united in a single book Why should we stay here on the ground, since we re so drawn to the world of the imaginationview spoiler Obsession.Al Sayyid Despite suspending his partying ways, he remains popular and respectable For a brief period, he seems to have changed from his philandering and dissolute ways But he eventually gives in to his carnal nature, pursuing the much younger Zanuba, as though he was chasing after his lost youth Only later does he discover that father and son are lusting after the same woman Scandalous In the end, Zanuba, seeks to marry him but he gets cold feet and rejects her He also acknowledges his failure as a father, yet he does nothing about it Loser.Lust.Yasin He seemed to have turned from his degenerate ways initially While pursuing Maryam, he cannot control himself from ogling her mother s voluminous bottom and has an affair with her But at least that secret is kept from Maryam What was far worse was his utter disrespect for Maryam by bringing Zanuba to his home and getting caught It does not end there, as he looks for prostitutes after marrying Zanuba Idiot.DevotionKamal He has great prospects and potential He is smitten by his best friend s sister Aida He is dealt a humiliating blow as she weds his friend Hasan instead We can only speculate why Was it scheming on the part of Hasan Was it Kamal s own tardiness in courting her Was she just stringing him along all the while Or was he never in contention because of his lower social status compared to Hasan Sad life hide spoilerTo attain my goal, you ll find I m prepared to sacrifice everything except life itself My qualifications for this important role include a large head, an enormous nose, disappointment in love, and expectations of ill health.The truly amazing love is mine for you It testifies on behalf of the world against pessimistic adversaries It has taught me that death is not the most atrocious thing we have to dread and that life is not the most splendid thing we can desire Sugar StreetThe third and shortest book takes a different direction from the earlier books Fast forward to the mid 1930s and things have changed dramatically Unlike the first two books which detail events at a specific time, the third covers a much longer period from the 1930s to the 1940s Time becomes the dominant theme here The French philosopher Henri Bergson, whose theories of time and duration influenced Mahfouz, gets mentioned.The stories arevaried, rotating between different characters, primarily involving the third generation of the Al Sayyid family The subplots are much shorter and do not necessarily have a conclusion Perhaps time has not only moved on, it seems to be moving faster with the ages Time is also not kind as issues of ageing and ill health areapparent.Politics, politicians and political unrest mark out the chronology of this book The evolution of society and culture are also highlighted Perhaps the most obvious changes are with regards the status of women, from being confined to the home to seeking higher education to being in employment stops short of leadership roles With all this change, the Al Sayyid family at risk of being left behind It is most evident in this conversation between Yasin and his friends about Yasin s daughter Karima, which sums up the changing times and the anachronistic state of the al Sayyid familyGirls today are a safer bet in school than boys We don t send our girls to secondary school Why not Because they are not going to take jobs Does talk like this make sense in 1938 In our family, they ll be saying it in 2038 The impact of social class also started to change, with the Al Sayyid family moving downwards Even the respectable Shawkat family was affected There was a reversal of fortunes as Al Sayyid s employee, Al Hamzawi s son is very successful in his career and holds a high position while Al Sayyid s own family languish in complacency Besides, class and property were two existing realities that he had not created himself, nothan his father or grandfather had He bore no responsibility for them A combination of struggle and science could wipe out these absurdities that separated people from each other.There are perhaps three characters who serve as markers for the transitions between the three books We see Al Sayyid decline from overbearing patriarch with absolute control to a self absorbed hedonist with no self control to a frail invalid with no control We see Kamal move from ingenuous to idealist romantic to alienation The minor character the Shayk, goes from revered to irrelevant to pathetic.The only immutable things were the streets on which they lived Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street are actual streets in Cairo Through the years, these streets retained their identities by the tradesmen who plied their trades along them.So this is a fitting end to a magnificent tri generational family history I wonder where would they be now.Finally, something to ponderLooking at Ahmad most of all, Kamal said earnestly, The elections were rigged Everyone in the country knows that All the same they have been recognized officially, and the country will be governed according to their results What this means is that people will become convinced that their representatives are thieves who stole their seats in parliament, that the cabinet ministers also stole their posts, that the whole government is bogus and fraudulent, and that theft, fraud, and deception are legitimate and officially sanctioned So isn t an ordinary man to be excused if he renounces lofty principles and morality and believes in deceit and opportunism Ahmad replied enthusiastically, Let them rule There s a positive side to every wrong It s better for the people to be humiliated than for them to be intoxicated by a government they love and trust, if it does not fulfill their true wishes I ve often thought about this, and as a result I haveappreciation for the reign of despots like Muhammad Mahmud and Isma il Sidqy This trilogy narrates the rise and fall of the family of al Sayyid Ahmad Abd al Jawad, a tyrannical hypocrite who oppresses his wife, terrorizes his children and leads a life of debauchery on the sly Although he may be the ruler of the family, the one who enables it to function from day to day is his hard working, slavishly docile and incredibly submissive wife, Amina His wife and children use different strategies to wriggle out from beneath the iron fist of their husband and father, not all o This trilogy narrates the rise and fall of the family of al Sayyid Ahmad Abd al Jawad, a tyrannical hypocrite who oppresses his wife, terrorizes his children and leads a life of debauchery on the sly Although he may be the ruler of the family, the one who enables it to function from day to day is his hard working, slavishly docile and incredibly submissive wife, Amina His wife and children use different strategies to wriggle out from beneath the iron fist of their husband and father, not all of them in good ways The various members of this family weather the storms of Egyptian history during the first half of the twentieth century They go through colonialist rule, revolutions, and two world wars They find their own ways to cope with the political, cultural and religious upheaval I am somewhat at a loss to know how to review this work, as I think that to really understand it, you need to know something about Egyptian history and Islamic culture And there are a lot of allusions to popular songs and political figures of the day which might seem familiar to someone who is part of the culture and cryptic to someone who is not So as a Western, Christian reader, I am at a disadvantage Some of the things that impressed me however, were the following.Even though some people rebel against their religion and culture, they cannot get away from them entirely because they are so steeped in them This can be seen in such minor details as the religious phrases used as part of everyday conversation even by prostitutes and hedonists Several of the characters renounce marriage but they are constantly bombarded from within and without by the traditional idea that the best way to be happy is to get married to someone the family approves of , settle down and start a family of one s own The best career for men is one in politics or law, while the best thing for women to do is to get married And so onAnother thing is the attitude of the author toward his characters Mahfouz ironically exposes the vices and even the foibles of the cast members of this vast drama Thus, the father is a tyrant, the mother is ignorant, one daughter teases mercilessly, her sister is sweet but a bit spoiled, etc Even so, Mahfouz still manages to make us feel some sympathy for these people From a literary point of view, Mahfouz sometimes ornaments his narrative rather self consciously with similes and metaphors While they are not exactly purple prose, for my feeling, some of them do distract occasionally from the story But this may have something to do with stylistic habits in Arabic literature, so I don t want to comment too much or make any judgment on this until I have had a chance to readwidely and make some proper comparisons Volume 1 Palace WalkShe told him frankly that he was excessively conservative in his treatment of his family It was abnormal When I started reading this I was immediately reminded of nineteenth century classics such as Middlemarch or Trollope s Palliser Novels, a story where the marriage plot is supreme and where an extended family s dramas play out against a background of political change But reading the introduction after I d finished, I see that Mahfouz himself cites The Forsyte Saga Volume 1 Palace WalkShe told him frankly that he was excessively conservative in his treatment of his family It was abnormal When I started reading this I was immediately reminded of nineteenth century classics such as Middlemarch or Trollope s Palliser Novels, a story where the marriage plot is supreme and where an extended family s dramas play out against a background of political change But reading the introduction after I d finished, I see that Mahfouz himself cites The Forsyte Saga as one of his influences a series I haven t yet read but I have seen the TV miniseries and that s illuminating since those books chart the final throes of a late Victorian middle class patriarch and his family s move into modernity It s an apposite model for this book, only here the story is doubly fascinating for the insight into an Egyptian family in Cairo in the last years of both WW1 and the British Protectorate I see from the reviews that many people loathe the father, Ahmad Abd al Jawad, for his tyranny over his family as well as for what has been read as hypocrisy in keeping his wife and daughters constrained within the house while he goes out at night drinking with his mistresses of which there are quite a few across the book but he s actually a farcomplex character than this I don t want to give spoilers but the deep and rounded nature of Ahmad s personality is one of the highlights of the book Surrounding him are his young family three sons, two daughters, three of whom get married in the book and so bring spouses to the extended family Inter generational politics are frequently fraught as the generations, as is their wont, fail to understand each other, tensions madesharp by the fact of living in the same household The seriousness is often tempered by humour especially from charming young Kamal, the baby of the family It s especially fascinating to see life through the eyes of the female characters they nowant or expect to go outside, have an education, or do anything other than marry and have children than Jane Austen s heroines dream of becoming doctors or lawyers All the same, there are small moments of subversion such as when a husband takes his wife out to a scandalous night show, or when a woman asks for her own divorce Patriarchal power may not be collapsing but it s certainly being snipped away at.But alongside this story of a family, is afigurative portrait the sometimes brutal behaviour of the head of the family can be read as a comment on British colonialism which has its own patriarchal edge The attempts by the sons to assert their independence away from their father s conservative values, work as a stand in for Egypt and the country s search for its own national identity This doubled reading comes to the fore especially in the final third when, after the 1918 armistice, agitation for Egyptian independence becomes acute, and the revolution in the streets is matched by a number of crises in the family It s worth noting that this first volume ends in an arbitrary, way as we move forward into volume 2.Volume 2 Palace of DesireOpening some years after Palace Walk, this second book charts the loosening of patriarchal control in the central family, even as Egypt has nominally been given independence though the British are still in control behind the scenes The focus is mainly on the men of the family Khadija and Aisha are both married with children and play only small roles though it s striking that Khadija seems to have inherited her father s will to control in her household there are some lovely comic scenes around her clashes with her mother in law.Desire is central and works as a chaotic force as Ahmad returns to his socialising, Yasin manages to get through a couplemarriages, and Kamal, now 17, falls in love The latter strand is particularly reminiscent of Proust, bringing together issues of love, memory and writing.The waning powers of Ahmad become everpoignant as he ages his grandchildren feel none of the respect and fear his own children had, Kamal asserts his own will over choice of study and career, and Ahmad is increasingly overshadowed by Yasin whose potency grows as that of his father retreats There s less of overt Egyptian politics than in the first book, but I feel that this strand will emergestrongly in the final part of the trilogy.Volume 3 Sugar StreetOver the course of time, the old house assumed a new look of decay and decline Its routine disintegrated, and most of the coffee hour crowd was dispersed These two features had been the household s soul and lifeblood Oh, this is melancholy Flipping forward again to the 1930s and into the war years, the family who we got to know so well in Palace Walk is fading Ahmad s shop is closed, too many people are dead, and what once looked so strong is collapsing surely and inevitably This feels like the most overtly political of the trilogy old ideas of Egyptian independence are overswept by new adherences to the radical Islam of the Muslim Brethren and its opposite, communism It s perhaps a little patterned that Khadija s two sons should represent these two positions, but their fate brings these two brothers back together Change is everywhere and is especially calibrated through the shifting position of women and marriage in the first book, women were essentially housebound, and there s a shocking reminder of their subordinate status when we re told that Khadija, through lack of use, has forgotten how to read and write Women of the younger generation are now studying in universities alongside men, a key character even working at a radical newspaper And marriages that were once arranged or forbidden by parents, are now, sometimes, agreed by the participants, even, in once case, takes place secretly without even parental knowledge But traditions are not abandoned without loss, and that is especially made clear when parents die This text,than the other two, feels regularly punctuated by weddings and funerals.Once again, there is an open ending which is a little frustrating I can see that Mahfouz takes a modern perspective on not tying up ends in any neat fashion but after 1300 pages I really wanted to know what happens next to these characters with whom I ve lived through three books.The scope of the trilogy is broad taking us through the sweep of Egyptian history from 1917 to around 1943, but it s done through the intimacy of a central family and its complicated, intertwined branches Throughout the trilogy, the sense of urban, middle class Cairo is strong and the movement into modernity is traced through the houses which form the three titles Palace Walk belonging to the patriarchal father Palace of Desire, the home of the eldest son, Yasin and now Sugar Street belonging to the daughter Khadija and home to her two sons, important proponents of Egypt s options of progress Multilayered, intimate as well as expansive, this holds Egyptian culture and history up to critique and finds it both wanting and enveloping at once Many wonderful writers have taken me to exotic locales, but one who has been in my thoughts a great deal lately is Naguib Mahfous Thanks to this man, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, I feel a special kinship with the people of Egypt They arethan the TV images of a deadly riot after a soccer game or a street filled with an angry mob I don t mean to say that those images don t tell a story in their own right, but rather that, having read Mahfouz s Cairo trilogy, it s easy f Many wonderful writers have taken me to exotic locales, but one who has been in my thoughts a great deal lately is Naguib Mahfous Thanks to this man, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, I feel a special kinship with the people of Egypt They arethan the TV images of a deadly riot after a soccer game or a street filled with an angry mob I don t mean to say that those images don t tell a story in their own right, but rather that, having read Mahfouz s Cairo trilogy, it s easy for me to empathize with the individuals who make up the crowd The first book in the trilogy, Palace Walk, set in the period during and immediately following World War I, introduces us to the family of el Sayyed Ahmed Abd Gawad, a successful merchant his wife, Amina their two daughters, and three sons I found it both fascinating and frustrating to spend time with Amina as she waited for her husband to come home after an evening out drinking with his friends Here s how the book begins She woke at midnight Habit woke her at this hour It was an old habit she had developed when young and it had stayed with her as she matured She had learned it along with the other rules of married life She woke up at midnight to await her husband s return from his evening s entertainment Then she would serve him until he went to sleep Mahfouz goes on to describe Amina and her home, making the reader a silent companion as she goes out onto the balcony to watch for her husband We accompany her into the closed cage formed by the wooden latticework and stand beside her, watching her turn her face right and left while she peeked out through the tiny, round openings of the latticework panels that protected her from being seen from the street When, finally, she hears the tip of his walking stick strike the steps of the stairway, she held the lamp out over the banister to light his way It would be hard to imagine a life and attitudedifferent from mine than Amina s Yet, due to the skill with which Mahfouz drew his setting, I vicariously live her life and respect her attitude, even if I only partially understand it.Palace of Desire, the second book of the trilogy, takes place mostly in the 1920s and shows the effect of modern influences and political turmoil on the various family members Kamal, the youngest son, goes to college and falls in love He meets people whose ideas challenge the orderly world in which he grew up Sugar Street covers the period from roughly 1935 through the end of World War II As in the Palace Walk, Mahfouz draws his setting with exquisite detail, so that I absorb the culture and feel a part of this household.I take vicarious part in the rapidly changing social and political climate of Egypt from World War I through the 1950s I watch as the old ways disappear and a new world, seemingly without rules, takes its place, bringing unique challenges to each individual Perhaps the most poignant for me was the plight of Amina I turned the pages of the first book, longing for changes to occur that would give her some freedom, some control over her own destiny, only to realize that, after a lifetime of knowing exactly what was expected of her, freedom was a bewildering concept Taken as a whole, the three books helped me understand a little better why change does not come easy in that part of the world Having been given a glimpse into the life of one Egyptian family, I look into the faces in the crowds in the street and wonder where each member of that family would be in this situation At the level of sheer storytelling, The Cairo Trilogy comprised of Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street is remarkable in its depth and scope of chronicling various individuals over three generations in the al Jawad family For me, the most satisfying aspect of the three books is the cerebral insight in which Mahfouz investigates each major character throughout the successive generations The result is a family saga immensely rich in its range of personalities Readers feel as though At the level of sheer storytelling, The Cairo Trilogy comprised of Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street is remarkable in its depth and scope of chronicling various individuals over three generations in the al Jawad family For me, the most satisfying aspect of the three books is the cerebral insight in which Mahfouz investigates each major character throughout the successive generations The result is a family saga immensely rich in its range of personalities Readers feel as though they are experiencing emotions through a kaleidoscope Mahfouz is astonishing with his ability to channel the intimate thoughts of each character in order to unveil their deepest secrets and trace the source of their actions and behavior Moreover, Mahfouz penetrates the tantalizing matters of the heart He gives us characters in their most human form We see them experience pain and joy, hope and despair, and also the perils of love and loss.The central figure spanning all three volumes is the imposing patriarch, Ahmad Abd al Jawad He dominates over his household with the authority of a tyrannical king He presents himself as a man living up to the highest standards of religion and morality Among his family by day, he acts like a man of stern principles and devout prayer Yet his hypocrisy is dually noted early on in the narrative, as he is also a man of uninhibited indulgence By night, he carouses, drinks, and engages in adultery He represents Mahfouz s quintessential literary focus on allegory, which is prevalent throughout most of the trilogy Al Sayyid Ahmad embodies someone who thinks he is free to do anything he wants without consequence, while at the same time he forbids others from the same behavior In other words, Ahmad portrays himself as everything he is not, just as the historical backdrop of the trilogy shows how the free reign of British colonialism to do whatever it wants is anything but free of guilt Palace Walk, volume 1 of the trilogy, shifts gears from a family saga to a historical drama when Mahfouz begins to highlight the forces and events surrounding the Egyptian revolution against the British occupation With extraordinary realism and visceral affect, he brings to life the sights, sounds, and motives of the populace to confront the injustices of colonialism He inserts the al Jawad family into the center of this maelstrom Of the five children of al Sayyid Ahmad, it is the middle son, the idealist and erudite Fahmy, who falls victim to martyrdom, even as his father defies him not to pledge the rebellion of 1919 The oldest son, Yasin, is from Ahmad s first marriage, and he portrays the second generation figure whose misguidance perpetuates the same sins of debauchery as his father Ahmad s two daughters are diametrical opposites both in appearance and demeanor The older daughter, Khadjia, has unflattering features, yet she is full of energy and seemingly cursed with a flair for sarcasm Her younger sister, Aisha, is a radiant blonde with a voice like a songbird, yet she is prone to reveries The most compelling child is the youngest, Kamal Prone to playfulness and lies, he is mischievous with inquiry about the world and fascinated with religious studies The same as all the siblings, Kamal is terrified of his father Then there is the matriarch, Amina, a paragon of nurturing and caring She does for her family what any ideal mother would do, and yet she suffers the duality of pretending to turn a blind eye on her husband s transgressions Palace Walk takes readers through the daily struggles and joys of the family up until the 1919 nationalist revolution in which Fahmy loses his life.In volume 2, Palace of Desire, the saga of the al Jawad family recommences in 1924 with the British reaching a rapprochement with the widely popular Wafd leader, Sa d Zaghlul In this second volume, the fate of the next generation plays out After several affairs and scandals, Yasin attempts to find monogamy with his second wife Zaynab, but again he fails to do so Although Aisha is the younger sister, she is wed off to Khalil Shawkat, and shortly thereafter her older sister Khadija follows suit by having her marriage arranged to Khalil s much older brother, Ibrahim The children of both these couples are in their infancy as this novel proceeds, but the most compelling figure in volume 2 is Kamal, the youngest sibling of al Sayyid Ahmad and Amina Now seventeen, Kamal has passed his exams to earn his baccalaureate Against the wishes of his father, he insists on pursuing philosophical truths and the search for meaning in an existential world Kamal s disavowal of religion places him in conflict with his father, who pledges the fundamentalist tenets of Islam As a free thinker catapulted into the field of modern science s quest for meaning and understanding, Kamal falls victim to despondency after he suffers from the agony of unrequited love Palace of Desire focuses on Kamal s plight as the central figure of the second generation His modernist vision of the world, with its reliance on science and reason, reflects the Wafd Party s nationalist ideology of governing the nation free from the constraints of Islam as a political system When the second book ends with the passing of the leader Sa d, one sees the parallel between the painful end of an era and the pain Kamal feels with his own lofty hopes for love shattering around him.By volume 3, Sugar Street, it is now 1935, and the third generation has become the focal point This generation is most aptly depicted through the two polarizing figures of Abd al Muni m and Ahmad, the two headstrong sons of Khadija and Ibrahim Abd al Muni m grafts himself to the fanaticism preached by Shaykh Ali al Munufi, a religious zealot devoted to the budding philosophy that the Quran s teachings should be implemented as a political system and code, even in the modern world As leader of the Muslim Brethren, al Munufi ensnares vulnerable young minds such as Abd al Muni m during a time in Egypt s history when the country s political turmoil continues to consume everyday society On the opposing side of these ideologies is Ahmad He finds solace in following AdliKarim, the open minded Editor in Chief of The New Man magazine Karim views the Wafdists as the starting point of Egypt s national movement towards independence and democracy He, however, believes the nation must go beyond developing social freedom Ahmad latches onto Karim s ideas and supports the mission of The New Man to confront the fanatics, while at the same time promoting scientific mentality Both brothers heed the patriotic call for revolution and independence, yet both see entirely different ways of achieving liberation from British rule With a host of other family characters, friends, and acquaintances to supplement the differences of the brothers philosophies, Mahfouz ultimately brings this grand trilogy to a summation during the government s mass crackdown on political activists on each side of the divide The arrests of both Abd al Muni m and Ahmad bring this monumental work to a close.In its totality, Mahfouz uses the three novels of The Cairo Trilogy to chart Egypt s tumultuous history through the meditations of various family members with distinctively different perceptions on life He achieves this by also exposing and confronting the ideologies of both repressive colonialism and radical Islam What he creates in the process is a breathtaking work of vivacity and bustle The trilogy is allegorical and literal in his depictions of the al Jawad family as a microcosm for the subsequent historical eras that three generations of the family endure With everything that Mahfouz accomplishes, what stands out most is how he offers us great insight into the hearts and minds of a vast array of characters He reveals to us the essence of their souls so that we might seek to turn a mirror on ourselves and examine what it is in each of us that yearns for a better understanding of humanity and what it means to be human.Having read the trilogy as a singular work, I believe in order to gain the full appreciation of the novels, it is important to read them together as one book So much transpires and reading the books separately or out of sequence may prevent one from experiencing the significance Mahfouz assigns to certain characters in each generation For example, the patriarch al Sayyid Ahmad is unyielding in his authority over his family at the beginning of volume 1 However, with his aging and with the influence of modernity on his beliefs, he is shown as capable of changing What is uniquely notable is that his grandson Ahmad one of the prominent figures of volume 3 clearly symbolizes tolerance and open mindedness To gain the full effect of this fascinating generational dichotomy, it requires an understanding of Ahmad the grandfather from volume 1 This type of symbolic contrast between characters occurs throughout the three novels, but without knowledge of what certain characters are like early in their lives, the effect of who they are in different volumes may not be as impactful this was my review written for the first volume in this trilogy The Palace Walk is the best novel I have read in years In the translation published by the Everyman Library the Cairo Trilogy is funny, biting and tragic with precise descriptions and deeply thought out characters Though I haven t read much of the great western popular novelists of the 19th century meaning, Balzac, Dickens, etc I get the impression that Mafouz was heavily influenced by them This book is descriptive of setting a this was my review written for the first volume in this trilogy The Palace Walk is the best novel I have read in years In the translation published by the Everyman Library the Cairo Trilogy is funny, biting and tragic with precise descriptions and deeply thought out characters Though I haven t read much of the great western popular novelists of the 19th century meaning, Balzac, Dickens, etc I get the impression that Mafouz was heavily influenced by them This book is descriptive of setting and the psychological motives of the characters in a way that is totally out of fashion in today s fiction I ate up the long thought passages of the law student son in love with a neighbor he has barely seen, or the minute description s of the mother s daily ritual The characters slowly open to us through daily experience and then, without warning, a tragedy or celebration occurs The pacing and writing make for a book that hits that sweet spot between well written and highly readable Unlike so many serious modern authors, reading Mafouz is not work, but it isn t candy like some of the other trash I have been reading lately.People s reactions to Mafouz here in Cairo are interesting First, they are surprised I have even heard of him Then, they talk about the movies In my experience, odds are they haven t read him Since I have been here I have heard Mafouz described as a national hero, and as being anti Islam I have heard that he exaggerates the traits of Egyptians, that he is the greatest Arabic novelist of all time and that he is boring I can t really speak to whether or not he exaggerates the traits of Egyptians, I imagine he does, but I do think he is one of the best novelists I have read in a long long time It s exciting to get to read him here, but also a bit of an embarrassment that it took me coming to Egypt to get me to read his books Wow Over the half of a year that I ve read these three books this family has become part of me, through their humanity and their flaws. {Kindle} æ The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street ç Naguib Mahfouz s magnificent epic trilogy of colonial Egypt appears here in one volume for the first time The Nobel Prize winning writer s masterwork is the engrossing story of a Muslim family in Cairo during Britain s occupation of Egypt in the early decades of the twentieth centuryThe novels of The Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch Al Sayyid Ahmad Abd al Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self indulgence Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul searching intellectual Kamal Al Sayyid Ahmad s rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination in Palace of Desire, as the world around them opens to the currents of modernity and political and domestic turmoil brought by the s Sugar Street brings Mahfouz s vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the aging patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politicianThroughout the trilogy, the family s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two World Wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, The Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller Perhaps Doubt was as much of an evasion of responsibility as mysticism or a passive belief in science I don t think there s any significant subject or philosophy of life and nationality that Mahfouz hasn t touched upon in this magnum opus of his literary career If no critic has, I will go ahead and declare that Mahfouz is to Egypt what Dostoevsky and even Tolstoy is to Russia And yet, the appeal of the book is universal and magnanimous He is such a crafty writer that he can make you feel Perhaps Doubt was as much of an evasion of responsibility as mysticism or a passive belief in science I don t think there s any significant subject or philosophy of life and nationality that Mahfouz hasn t touched upon in this magnum opus of his literary career If no critic has, I will go ahead and declare that Mahfouz is to Egypt what Dostoevsky and even Tolstoy is to Russia And yet, the appeal of the book is universal and magnanimous He is such a crafty writer that he can make you feel sad for even the tyrants and the story s biggest hypocrites The throes of passion, pain, death, freedom, life, idealism and even common familial life are so vividly portrayed that one can lose oneself in the world of Mahfouz s Cairo One paradox that struck me the most was the piety of the sinners of this story, sometimes one is inclined to interpret them as hypocrites while on the other hand it may seem that they have such firm beliefs in the concept of repentance and forgiveness before they die that they keep on sinning and praying both in extremity Although, people who see boys falls with British bullets and whatnot on daily basis, its astounding of them to believe that they will die of old age and hence get a chance to repent in time Oh well so much for human understanding