[Marxism] Edward Said on Egypt's greatest writer

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Aug 31 10:31:19 MDT 2006

August 31, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz
August 31, 2006; Page A8

"It became apparent to me that between me and death there was
censure, but that I was condemned to hope." So wrote the Egyptian
writer Naguib Mahfouz in 1994, the same year he was stabbed in the
neck by an Islamic fanatic who took offense at a religious allegory
Mahfouz had penned 40 years earlier.

Mahfouz survived that "censure," as he did so many others until his
death this week (of natural causes) at the age of 94. He leaves
behind some 50 novels, including the "Cairo Trilogy," which earned
him a well-deserved Literature Nobel Prize in 1988.

But perhaps Mahfouz's most important legacy is as a model of Arab
intellectual life at its best -- critical and playful, sensual and
moderate, authentically Egyptian but seriously engaged with the
better currents of Western intellectual life.

These qualities, it sometimes seems, are in short supply in Arab life
today. But we have spent time in Egypt -- and in Lebanon, Palestine
and Iraq -- and met others who, like Mahfouz, are also "condemned to
hope." Would that the writer's memory inspire such changes that hope
in the Middle East be something other than a sentence.

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