10 Sep 2006

In Memoriam: Naguib Mahfouz

Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006)

With the passing away of Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt's Nobel laureate, the literary world has lost an entire epoch. This 94-year-old writer wasn't only a pillar of Arabic literature, but the central figure who brought this literature on to the world stage. Someone influenced as much by his Islamic mother's tolerance for all humanity as by the ancient history of his country, his writing corpus matches the vastness of Egypt's heritage. From the reigns of pharaohs to the socio-political state of modern-day Egypt, Mahfouz's writing captured the entire gamut of this ancient and vibrant culture. A writer who deeply loved his land and never stepped out of it, not even to attend the Nobel ceremony in 1988, his vision was never constrained by any man-made boundaries—geographical or otherwise.

My position on everything I have read throughout my life -- and my readings include the Ancient Egyptian and Arabic heritage as well as English and French creative works -- was, as far as possible, a neutral, unbiased, one. This in the sense that all these cultures are, in the last analysis, human cultures, produced by man, and I am as entitled to the English [literary] heritage as I am to the Pharaonic heritage. In other words, all these cultures belong to me in my capacity as a human being. And if you were to ask me to enumerate my favourite works in order, you might find among them an Ancient Egyptian work, a French one, a third that is Arabic and a fourth that is English. When I read I allow my self to love what seems worthy of love, regardless of nationality.

~ Naguib Mahfouz, in an interview with Ibrahim Mansour

More on Mahfouz in Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly.



Bk30 said...

What a beautiful statement of life.
A loss to us all, but his words will live on and what a legacy to leave

Bernita said...

Spiritually, culturally, sometimes genealogically, we are the descendants and inheritors of a vast and rich legacy.
He hit upon a truth.

Lotus Reads said...

What a fitting homage to a wonderful writer and a great human being. He will be sorely missed.

Bhaswati said...

Thanks for the comments, BK, Bernita, and Lotus.

I have only read a short story by Mahfouz so far, but he is definitely an author I want to read more of.

Susan Abraham said...

Hi Bhas,
Your beautiful pieces as always, demand a proper read.
I'm exhausted from trying to restore my blog and I'm glad to have survived the ordeal.
Thank you for your comforting words and sound advice.
Be back tomorrow, fresh and ready to read all your stuff with the justice of time and reflection, that they deserve.
lots of love

Bhaswati said...

Aww, Susan. So glad to see you here, and so relieved to hear you survived the tech blogging blues. Please relax and take it easy. Your blogging friends are right here with you. :)

Scott said...

It's too bad someone has to die in order for me to notice. He sounds like a wonderful person.

Bhaswati said...

Scott, I am not all that well informed either. I had heard of Naguib Mahfouz before he died (heard of him when he won the Nobel), but having read just one short story by him, I can't claim to have much knowledge about his writing.

He does sound wonderful, no doubt. Most writers in their tributes recalled him as "humane." That says it all.

Susan Abraham said...

Hi again Bhas,
Losing a blog suddenly is scary, isn't it.
I was so grateful for your words and that of the others.
I waited for this evening to read your post on Mahfouz.
A fitting homage indeed.
It has always been my belief that in art and literature more than any other, the universe has no boundaries.
Take care, Bhas, do visit and I'll catch you later. And of course, I'll be watching out eagerly for your next post too.

Bhaswati said...

Hi Susan,

It is indeed scary. I am so sorry it happened to you. Please make sure to keep backups of your template.

You are so right about art and literature reflecting the oneness that pervades all creation. We need more writers who think like Mahfouz, don't we?

My next post goes up...soon! Hope to see you back again. :)

Shadowrite said...

This is a beautiful tribute. I am deeply moved by his statement, his literary capacity to embrace all kinds of writings, his openness to the different words of other cultures. This is indeed a beautiful literary figure, one to be remembered. Thanks for bringing him to our attention.

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