In an Egyptian Alleyway Looking for Ashur’s True Heir

Yes! I am actually travelling to a new country in my Around the World trip. I have spent the last few days in an Egyptian alley, immersed in the beautiful writing of Naguib Mahfouz, and hoping that a family won’t be seduced by wealth into forgetting the common people in their midst. It was written in 1977, but boy does it feel relevant to current Egyptian issues! My review follows and then my update.

The HarafishThe Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the passionate dark of dawn, on the path between death and life, within view of the watchful stars and within earshot of the beautiful, obscure anthems, a voice told of the trials and joys promised to our alley. In The Harafish, Nobelist Naguib Mahfouz spins out an epic tale of many generations of a single family living in an Egyptian city. The tale begins with an abandoned infant, taken in by a local man and raised as his own. The family is poor, but the child is raised with love and taught to value justice. Rivalry develops with the biological son of the adoptive family, and so a complex saga begins. The tale involves vast changes in family fortunes and family and local politics. There is romance, there is scandal, there are honorable battles, and there are murders. There are debates about morality, the nature of fate, economics, and social justice, but all of them are framed in a poetic language that carries the tale along. It took me just a couple days to get through this book, and I found I wanted to get back to it from the breaks I had to take to engage in the real world. According to the translator, “the harafish” literally translates as riffraff, but in this novel means the common people. Just as the novel is the tale of a family and its fortunes, so this is a tale of the fate of the harafish living in this little alley and whether that fate will ever be in their own hands.

View all my reviews

  • Orange July 1 2 3
  • Around the World: Africa: 1, 2 Asia 1 South America 1 2 3 4 5 6 Other countries 1 2 3 4
  • 1001 Books 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
  • Nobel: July Aug Sept
  • Pulitzer: July Aug Sept
  • Great African Reads: July Aug Sept
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About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
This entry was posted in Around the World 2012, Books, Nobel, Readathons and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to In an Egyptian Alleyway Looking for Ashur’s True Heir

  1. Pingback: Bout of Books Readathon | Beth's List Love

  2. Sharon says:

    Great review! This is on my “to-read” list and your review confirms that intent!

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