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Palace Walk: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 1

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  • Posted February 19, 2013

    The first book in a trilogy titled - The Cairo Trilogy, Nobel La

    The first book in a trilogy titled - The Cairo Trilogy, Nobel Laureate for Literature Naguib Mahfouz delivers a fascinating tale of the day to day lives of an Egyptian family residing in Cairo's Palace Walk; in the midst of the Egyptian struggle for independence.

    The tale is told of the duplicitous Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, the tyrannical head of the house who shows a face of strict devout religious disciplinarian to his family; while to his friends he is funny, a great singer - after having a few drinks, and a hedonistic ladies man who specializes in sensual Egyptian songstresses. This way, he controls his family through fear, leaving his wife and children completely terrified of their fundamentalist patriarch.

    He raises his eldest son - through his previous marriage - Yasin to detest his own mother; he punishes his submissive, humble wife Amina's one act of disobedience of leaving the house to visit a Mosque while he was away on business, by near divorce; he dictates to his daughters Khadija and Aisha whom and when to marry; he forbids intellectual Fahmy, his second son, from joining the nationalist revolution; and always seems to find a reason to give Kamal, the last born, a thorough beating.

    Kamal's antics and Amina's naïveté in matters political, as well as her overly superstitious nature are bound to leave the reader in stitches. A satirical insight into the political climate of the time is afforded through the discussions the family would have over afternoon tea, free from al-Jawad's domineering presence. Al-Jawad's diabolical mind manifests itself through his constant hatching of plots on better improved ways to be the life and soul of the party, on the one hand, and to absolutely terrify his family on the other.

    This work of absolute literary genius has the ingredients to shock, sadden and immensely delight the reader, all in one. Taking one on a fascinating journey into Islam, not just as a religion, but as a way of life, this classic novel leaves the reader with a reminder that despite the world being polarized by religion, we are all basically the same as humans; with similar emotional needs and passions constantly driving us, at various stages in our lives to laugh, cry, love and hate.

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