The Mirageby Naguib Mahfouz
Kamil Ru’ba is a tortured soul who hopes that writing the story of his life/i>
A stunning example of Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz’s psychological portraiture, The Mirage is the story of an intense young man who has been so dominated by his mother that her death sets him dangerously adrift in a world he cannot manage alone.
Kamil Ru’ba is a tortured soul who hopes that writing the story of his life will help him gain control of it. Raised by a mother who fled her abusive husband and became overbearingly possessive and protective toward her young son, he has long been isolated emotionally and physically. Now in his twenties, Kamil seeks to escape her posthumous grasp. Finding and successfully courting the woman of his dreams seems to promise salvation, until his ignorance of mature love and his fear and jealousy lead to tragedy.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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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 became the first writer in Arabic to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in August 2006.
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The Mirage is a powerful psychological study of a man incapable of coping with the realities of the world. Our narrator and protagonist, Kamil Ru'ba Laz, is not likeable. He is pathetic, infuriating, narcissistic, and a great character. Kamil has been raised by his domineering mother, a woman so afraid that he will be taken from her by her ex-husband, like his older siblings were, that she holds him too tight. Growing up Kamil is not allowed to play with other children, barely allowed out of his mother's sight, and is fed sweet lies about how special he is. His mother fears not only that Kamil might be taken from her, but that he might form bonds with others and leave her in favor of them. Consequently through passive-aggression, she sabotages her son's life. Kamil grows up to be a man of little worth; uneducated, unambitious, and unable to communicate on a meaningful level with anyone outside his immediate family. Interestingly Kamil is aware of his shortcomings, yet still has an inflated picture of himself. This is because he refuses to accept responsibility for his life; all his failings, all his problems, all the obstacles to his happiness are the fault of others. When Kamil falls in love with the woman of his dreams (whom he has never met or spoken to) his deadly shyness and ignorance of worldly matters prevent him from making his feelings known. He stews in anguish while watching her from afar. When he miraculously manages to marry her his dreams of a life of normalcy and happiness seem to be fulfilled. But Kamil is not let off the hook so easily; he has little understanding of, or experience with, interpersonal relationships, and this lack of knowledge will lead to tragedy. This novel can at times be a little repetitive, and some scenes drag a bit, but all-in-all this is a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it.