Echoes of an Autobiography

( 1 )

Overview

From the Foreword by Nadine Gordimer: "These pieces are meditations which echo that which was, has been, and is the writer Mahfouz. They are--in the words of the title of one of the prose pieces--'The Dialogue of the Late Afternoon' of his life. I don't believe any autobiography, with its inevitable implication of self-presentation, could have matched what we have here."

With more than 500,000 copies of his books in print, Naguib Mahfouz has established a following of readers ...

See more details below
Paperback (1 ANCHOR)
$11.72
BN.com price
(Save 9%)$13.00 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (24) from $1.99   
  • New (11) from $4.20   
  • Used (13) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

From the Foreword by Nadine Gordimer: "These pieces are meditations which echo that which was, has been, and is the writer Mahfouz. They are--in the words of the title of one of the prose pieces--'The Dialogue of the Late Afternoon' of his life. I don't believe any autobiography, with its inevitable implication of self-presentation, could have matched what we have here."

With more than 500,000 copies of his books in print, Naguib Mahfouz has established a following of readers for whom Echoes of an Autobiography provides a unique opportunity to catch an intimate glimpse into the life and mind of this magnificent storyteller.  Here, in his first work of nonfiction ever to be published in the United States, Mahfouz considers the myriad perplexities of existence, including preoccupations with old age, death, and life's transitory nature.  A surprising and delightful departure from his bestselling and much-loved fiction, this unusual and thoughtful book is breathtaking evidence of the fact that Naguib Mahfouz is not only a "storyteller of the first order" (Vanity Fair), but also a profound  thinker of the first order.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A haunting commonplace book of tranquil wisdom."--Kirkus Reviews

"This mosaic of autobiographical vignettes, reflections, allegories, childhood memories, dream visions, and Sufi-like spiritual maxims and paradoxes is a deep pool of wisdom that confirms his stature as a writer of universal appeal."--Publishers Weekly

Robert Spillman

Naguib Mahfouz, the 85-year-old Egyptian Nobel Prize-winner best known for his "Cairo Trilogy," packs a lifetime of wisdom and reverence into this slim new book. This is not a dry, academic "I was born here, studied there" recounting, but a series of half-page meditations which capture the essence of a writer deeply tuned in to the spirituality of the everyday.

Fellow Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer writes in her introduction that "For Mahfouz life is a search in which one must find one's own sign-posts." Throughout his remembrances, anecdotes, allegorical and mystical tales, Mahfouz concludes that rapture is found in being constantly open to the world, and that the most perfect moment in one's life may well be in "the fleeting look of contentment under the date palm" which is "the secret of life and its light." The entries are filled with a constant struggle between polarized ways of living: between the need for order and the freedom of anarchy, between the pureness of abstinence and the humanity of sensuality, between the urge to examine everything and the contentment of letting life flow. The latter part of the book is taken up with the musings of a mythical Sheikh abd-Rabbih al-Ta'ih, a mystical figure who dwells in a desert cave that he refers to as a "tavern" because friends gathered there get drunk on the joy of communing with like-minded spirits. The Sheikh acts as a medium for Mahfouz to distill his Sufi-infused philosophy, a vision of acceptance, tolerance and a constant striving for the spiritual.

"The nearest man comes to his Lord is when he is exercising his freedom correctly," the Sheikh tells his followers. As the end of the book approaches, the entries get smaller and the pronouncements more precise, until they finally take on a Confucian simplicity. "As you love, so will you be," reads one entry called "The Secret." With Echoes of an Autobiography, Mahfouz has produced a fascinating and thought-provoking meditation on memory, love, spirituality and the eventuality of death. As the Sheikh says of Mahfouz, "O God, bestow upon him a good conclusion, which is love." -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mahfouz's first nonfiction book to be published in English, this mosaic of autobiographical vignettes, reflections, allegories, childhood memories, dream visions and Sufi-like spiritual maxims and paradoxes is a deep pool of wisdom that confirms his stature as a writer of universal appeal. These short forms seem to come naturally to the Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian novelist, a master of chiseled prose, pithy observations and devastating asides. As the title suggests, this compilation echoes his recurring themes: the common humanity of rich and poor, the redemptive power of love, the transitoriness of happiness, the yearning of salvation, and how our inevitable destiny, death, unconsciously molds our strivings and search for meaning. In her introductory essay, Gordimer defends Mahfouz against feminists who attack his depiction of women characters, arguing that he accurately portrays the oppression of women in his society. By contrast, the women in these parables and sketches, though often impersonally observed, are symbols of spiritual release, radiant joy, beauty and freedom. There are scattered, veiled political echoes, too, as in the first-person portrait of an elementary school pupil who secretly longs for anarchy and revolution. (Dec.)
Library Journal
"Do you deny that you had your share of the warmth of the world and its fragrance?" one interloper asks the elderly, often weary narrator in one of the series of allegorical reflections that frame the life of the Egyptian Nobel laureate (e.g., Children of the Alley, LJ 12/95). Mahfouz transcends the traditional autobiography here, offering instead distillations of an impossibly full and eventful career. The brief anecdotes recall the narrator's youth, a time "pure and unsullied"; temptation and longing to return to the embrace of family; dreams; fears of lost esteem and fallen glory; and sensuous epiphanies. A particular light, aroma, or tune will recall for the narrator, now in old age and hounded by death, snatches of a time he despairs of repossessing. Mahfouz surrenders the last quarter of this slim volume to the pithy parables of the sheikhs-as if to signal the end ("What I endured from desire made my life a yearning concealed in nostalgia"). Mahfouz's language carries the gravity of religious truth and the lyrical clarity of poetry. An enigmatic work that will please his growing numbers of American readers.-Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
Americans accustomed to the histrionic self-display of celebrity memoirs and the self-involved, studied impressionism of writers' self-portraits are likely to find Nobel laureate Mahfouz's fragmentary approach to autobiography charmingly novel.

In fact, Mahfouz's volume would be unrecognizable as autobiography to Western readers if it weren't for its title. Instead of presenting a straightforward narrative about his family in Cairo, his philosophical studies, his career in the civil service, and his 34 novels (Children of the Alley, 1996, etc.), Mahfouz collects 200 terse memories, parables, fictions, and fugitive moments, some narrated in the first person, some in the third, most no more than a few sentences long. Many of them read like distillations of the longer fables in Arabian Nights and Days (1995). A nine-month-old fetus worries about the dim prospect of an afterlife. A billiard player, refusing a game, says he prefers to play alone as others watch him, even though everyone else in the parlor is asleep. A man bothered by a commotion in the street stops trying to quiet the carousers when he suddenly sees them "in God's good time, as they hurried toward the grave." An old man and his wife recall how "they were brought together by love 30 years ago, then it had abandoned them along with the rest of their expectations." The majority of the characters here pass briefly and are gone, hustling off on their errands. Only one figure abides: Sheik Abd-Rabih al Ta'ih, whose Sufi-tinged apothegms on time and age, the ripeness of memory, the everlasting pursuit of love, and the shaping forces of death and faith ("There is no one more foolish than the foolish believer, except for the foolish unbeliever") dominate the last third of the book.

Readers looking for conventional revelations about the famously reticent Mahfouz will come away disappointed. For those more patient, the novelist offers a haunting commonplace book of tranquil wisdom.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385485562
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/1997
  • Edition description: 1 ANCHOR
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. A student of philosophy and an avid reader, his works range from reimaginings of ancient myths to subtle commentaries on contemporary Egyptian politics and culture. Over a career that lasted more than five decades, he wrote 33 novels, 13 short story anthologies, numerous plays, and 30 screenplays. Of his many works, most famous is The Cairo Trilogy, consisting of Palace Walk (1956), Palace of Desire (1957), and Sugar Street (1957), which focuses on a Cairo family through three generations, from 1917 until 1952. In 1988, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer in Arabic to do so. He died in August 2006.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)