Cairo Modern

Cairo Modern

It has been a while I havent come up with a new recommandation of book as well as a new blog post. Cairo Modern is a book written by the Eyptian Author Naguib Mahfouz,  won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature and regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature to explore themes of existentialism. It is first book written by this author I have ever read. It was a book selected by a booklover from our whatsapp group. When the friend first came with this proposal of reading, it made me chuckle and also demoralized me as a consequence of being an unkown author but while reading it, it gave me some goosebumps , thrilled and impressed me very deeply...

Before giving some details as to the book, i have to say that, there are some impacts of Flaubert,Balzac, Zola, Camus, Tolstoy,  Dostoevsky and Proust  considering that he reads eloborative readings and reviews of books written by those authors. The one of most significant features of the books of the writer is that "the time" is an immovable and unchangeable theme and it is a subject constantly preoccupying the minds of the characters. In accordance with the works written by the author, the "time"  generally is the worst  comprade and companion and this grim reality is always reflected to the books.

To put it into simple terms, Cairo Modern is,  ironic an satirical book. As the author creates a morality tale in which life's most basic guiding principles are still undetermined.  The novel opens, four college students, all due to graduate that year, are arguing moral principles, one planning to live his life according to "the principles that God Almighty has decreed," while others argue in favor of science as the new religion, materialism, social liberation, and even love as guiding principles. None of the students have any respect for their government, which they see as "rich folks and major families."

Among the students, Mahgub Abd al-Da'im is the poorest, and he must literally starve himself in order to finish the school year, becoming more and emaciated as time passes. Finding a job upon graduation is a matter of his whole family's survival. When Mahgub contacts a former neighbor, Salim Al-Ikhshidi, for help, Al-Ikhshidi, in consultation with governmental higher-ups, presents a plan for Mahgub, who is in no position to be selective. If Mahgub will agree to marry the lover of a high-ranked government official and become part of a ménage a trois, all his expenses will be paid and a job will be guaranteed in the ministry where Al-Ikhshidi himself works. Desperately, Mahgub agrees, intending to "find satisfaction in a marriage that was a means, rather than an end." On his wedding day, he meets the bride--the former girlfriend of one of his closest friends, a girl his friend still loves.

Mahgub's marriage is filled with the expected complications as he tries to hide his poverty-stricken past and his betrayal of his college friend, at the same time that he is rising in the government, associating with wealthy and influential friends, and becoming arrogant, all sources of satire by Mahfouz. Mahgub and his wife become a perfect couple--"Each of us has sold himself in exchange for status and money." 

The author criticizes the society of its country, the system of public administration , politics and so on. It is an amazin book to read and in lights of author's observations, you ll see how a country is and perhaps you can resemble it to your own society in which people kiss some asses to get a position.

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  • by the way, Batuuu... if I can suggest you a novel from the modern Arabic literature, it would be the incredible novel "Memory in the flesh" by the incredible author "Ahlam Mosteghanemi".... I think you will never find a smarter noverlest like her... I call her a magician, because she only fascinates by the way she processes literature... above all noverlests I read for, I could never find someone who surmounts her.... her works were translated to many languages, so you will definitely find an English copy in the internet, but I am not sure it will be at the same beauty as in the original Arabic written language... 


  • Hi Batuu, 

    nice presentation of the book. I read this novel when I was 18 or maybe a bit older.... I even couldn't remember the title, but as you explained the events, I was aware that it was the one I read. Well, I have to say that yes, Mahfouz is one of the most famous modern Arabic novelists. but personally, I don't feel attracted towards modern Arabic art and especially novels... The book generally is very arguable and shoking, and yes, I agree that it gives the reader goosebumps... However, as I told you I think that Arabic Literature is much deeper and richer than the literature of modern era.. greetings :) 

  • Hey, Batuuu, It's an inviting book recommendation. Thanks for your post! - People who dare to criticize the circumstances in their own countries are the only one I can feel appreciation for. I will put this on my list to read it next year. 

    BTW I can't understand why you called your English poor the last time. ;)


    • First and foremost thank you for dropping by and reading the blog :)none else (antireaders) takes a look at such post:)As regards the books written by mahfouz, the criticism is existent in his all books and the author doesn't like much the Egyptian society bcuz the author always somehow humiliates and reprimandes the people owing to their untrustworthiness and being a quitter easily for a seat , a position or money...

      I said that about my English bcuz it is still difficult for me to read books translated into English or written in English bcuz of the fact that they have an advanced English and it makes it hard for me to figure it out 

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