The Harafish

The Harafish

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by Naguib Mahfouz
     
 

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Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, Naguib Mahfouz is perhaps the best-known living Arab writer. His books have had great success in this country, particularly The Cairo Trilogy. Fans of the famed trilogy will be delighted with The Harafish, an epic novel that chronicles the dramatic history of the al-Nagi family — a familySee more details below

Overview

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, Naguib Mahfouz is perhaps the best-known living Arab writer. His books have had great success in this country, particularly The Cairo Trilogy. Fans of the famed trilogy will be delighted with The Harafish, an epic novel that chronicles the dramatic history of the al-Nagi family — a family that moves, over many generations, from the height of power and glory to the depths of decadence and decay. The Harafish begins with the tale of Ashur al-Nagi, a man who grows from humble beginnings to become a great leader, a legend among his people. Generation after generation, however, Ashur's descendants grow further from his legendary example. They lose touch with their origins as they amass and then squander large fortunes, marry prostitutes when they marry at all, and develop rivalries that end in death. The community's upper class keeps a watchful eye on the descendants of al-Nagi for fear of losing their privileges, but they find no threat of another such as Ashur. Not, that is, until the al-Nagi who, like his noble ancestor, finds his power once again from among The Harafish, or the common people. Through the strength of their numbers and their passion, the glory of the name of al-Nagi is restored. "Of all [Mahfouz's] experiments in recent decades, this is the one which owes least to western inspiration and is probably the most successful. The Harafish, fluently translated by Catherine Cobham, makes accessible and engrossing reading." — The Washington Post Book World.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature comes this story of the prominent al-Nagi family, whose descendents nearly ruin its legendary name. (Apr.)
Library Journal
The al-Nagi family's history through ten generations in their Cairo alley is ``nothing more than a succession of deviations, disasters, lessons not learned.'' Ashur, the clan chief and ruler of the community, returns after the plague years to find the neighborhood deserted. Appropriating all the wealth and property, he distributes it to the impoverished (the harafish), creating the Covenant of Ashur. His legend is badly served, however, when succeeding generations succumb to the family curse: ``A desire for status, money and possessions, at the heart of which was anxiety and fear.'' Brother kills brother, and son kills father. The devil is evoked to grant immortality, and debauchery is a common refuge. Mahfouz is at his best in this sweeping meditation on the price, demands, and rewards of greatness. This novel dashes across generations as if across a battlefield littered with the descendants of Ashur al-Nagi. Most highly recommended.-Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.
Brad Hooper
Subsequent to his 1988 Nobel Prize for literature, Mahfouz has garnered increased readership outside the Arabic world. First published in 1977, "Harafish" is now presented in an American edition, and the author's enthusiasts will applaud. Epic, fablelike, it follows the fortunes of a particular family in the "alley," presumably a neighborhood in Mahfouz's native Cairo. We move through time but without the usual historical signposts. The passage of decades is indicated strictly in terms of local events in the alley, namely the rise and fall of the al-Nagi clan, who win, lose, and win again the respect and leadership of the harafish, the common people of the alley. It is not an easy task to maintain a balanced sweep through the ages while also fashioning numerous distinct characters, but Mahfouz does it dexterously. He is an outstanding fiction writer, and further proof is offered here.
Michael Dorris
A whirling dervish of a good yarn.
Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385403627
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/01/1994
Pages:
416

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