|Biographical detail : ||The first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Writing from the age of 17, his first three novels – published in Arabic in 1939, 1943 and 1944 – were set in ancient Egypt, were followed by 10 more before the Egyptian revolution of July 1952.
Some of Naguib’s famous books are Khan al Khalili 1946, Midaq Alley, The Castle of Desire 1956, Between the Two Castles 1957, The Sugar Bowl 1957, The Thief and The Dogs 1961, Quails in Autumn 1962, The Bagger 1965, Gossip by the Nile 1966, High Mile Ribbon 1988 etc. His short story collections have also been published.
Mahfouz is best known for The Cairo Trilogy, his saga about a modern Egyptian family living under British colonial rule between the two world wars.
Across the span of 35 novels, more than 20 film scripts, and a dozen collections of stories, essays, anecdotes and dreams, Mahfouz depicted with startling realism the Egyptian “everyman”, balancing between tradition and the modern world. Often the scene of the novels did not stretch beyond a few familiar blocks of Cairo, the 1,000-year-old quarter of the capital where Mahfouz was born.
Naguib’s Nobel Prize for literature in 1988 brought international recognition to a man already regarded in the Middle East as one of its best writers and premier intellectuals. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel, he spoke of being “the son of two civilisations that at a certain age in history have formed a happy marriage” – the civilisation of ancient Egypt and of Islam. Mahfouz declared that the Arabic language was “the real winner of the [Noble] prize. It is, therefore, meant that its melodies should float for the first time into your [Swedish] oasis of culture and civilisation.”
He was the Director General 'Cinema Organisation of Egypt' and contributed to various newspapers including Al Ahram.
He had suffered health problems since being stabbed in the neck in 1994 by a religious extremist, angry at his portrayal of God in one of his novels. After that incident, Naguib was in hospital for seven weeks and suffered nerve damage in his neck, which limited his ability to write and caused his eyesight and hearing to deteriorate.
Mahfouz – “a great son of Egypt, a patriot in the fullest sense of the word” – was strongly political, but kept to a moderate line. He was a great defender of the Palestinian right to an independent state and a critic of US foreign policy in the region.
Naguib Mahfouz was born in Gamaliyah, a 1,000-year-old quarter of Cairo, whose densely packed and labyrinthine lanes were overhung by balconies that blotted out the daylight. He was named after the obstetrician who saved his mother’s life at the time of his birth.
Naguib Mahfouz died after suffering from a bleeding ulcer. He was a perfect gentleman – self-effacing, tolerant to a fault, and a consummate listener. His coffin, draped in an Egyptian flag, was given a state funeral, and was attended by many including the country’s President.