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Midaq alley by Nagib Mahfuz
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Midaq alley (original 1947; edition 1981)

by Nagib Mahfuz

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815None11,139 (3.78)101
Member:chuck_ralston
Title:Midaq alley
Authors:Nagib Mahfuz
Info:Washington, DC : Three Continents Press [1981] Paperback ; ix, 246 p. ; 18 cm.
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Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz (Author) (1947)

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English (10)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Set in the Cairo of the mid-1940's, this novel through a series of vignettes depicts the lives of several individuals living in one of the cities alleys. With so many narrators, most are not fully developed into three dimensional people; instead each seems a caricature. However, through the variety of the caricatures and the many episodes, Mahfouz is able to create his portrait of the whole of Egyptian society and the forces beliefs, and habits that seem to thwart any hope of betterment of the characters or their place in society. I found it to alternate between a horrifying and charming world. ( )
  ELiz_M | Sep 28, 2013 |
Midaq Alley is a small, narrow street, but a community unto itself. Here, amid the feverish bustle of wartime Cairo, life goes on as it seems it always will. Uncle Kamil naps at the door of his sweets shop. The baker's wife berates her husband. Salim Alwan is busy making money and taking aphrodisiacs to feed his timeless libido. Mrs. Saniya Afify decides to put an end to years of widowhood and visit the professional matchmaker. Zaita the beggarmaker gives one of his clients a profitable new deformity. And Abbas the young barber gazes longingly at a window in hopes of catching a glimpse of Hamida, the girl he adores.

Hamida herself is the central character of the novel. An orphaned girl taken in by the matchmaker, she has few prospects in life despite her beauty. She dresses in rags. Her gorgeous thigh-length hair smells of the kerosene she uses to kill the lice. Yet she has an unconquerable pride and a fearsome temper. Even when she is fond of a man, she can't help lashing out with her sharp tongue at every chance, and she seems stubbornly determined to spurn the few opportunities life hands her.

In this community of generally high religious values there is also Kirsha, the café owner. Late in life he has developed a fondness for hashish, as well as for the intimate company of young men. His loud arguments with his wife and adult son have made him the scandal Midaq Alley. Yet the same group continues to gather daily at Kirsha's café for their evening tea and a smoke.

The novel takes place in the mid-1940s when the air raids and the threat of German occupation have passed, but the city is still a hub of military activity. The Allied armies provide both an economic windfall, with jobs aplenty for young men, but also the temptations to vice. There is still, however, a sense of timelessness that leaves Midaq Alley, not isolated, but somehow insulated from the passing centuries. This novel is like an exquisitely painted miniature depicting all of life's pleasures and sorrows in a tiny frame. ( )
7 vote StevenTX | Aug 25, 2012 |
Mahfuz inserisce il romanzo in un’unita spaziale precisa, come se in realtà fosse il Vicolo stesso, anziché la folta schiera di personaggi, il vero protagonista del romanzo. E’ l’immobilità (del tempo, della società, delle persone), il punto cruciale del romanzo. Vite intere scorrono nel Vicolo, come in un’isola fuori dal tempo. Tutti i personaggi che orbitano intorno ad esso vivono il proprio dramma personale: i ricchi vivono il disagio familiare o il problema dell’identità sessuale, i poveri lottano per una posizione più elevata, cercando di conquistarla con mezzi ambigui. Chi attraverso la guerra, quella che si crede infinita, contro Hitler, fonte di fortuna inaspettata (saranno poi gli stessi personaggi ad autocriticarsi per il fatto di gioire di qualcosa di così orribile). E chi, come Hamida, la giovane opportunista, che cerca fortuna come prostituta, rompendo gli impegni d’amore presi, per lei veramente poco importanti. Tutto questo non può che portare al dramma finale, ma anche di questo il Vicolo si fa beffe e in pochi giorni tutto è passato e tutto resta immobile.
Lo stile di Mahfuz è immersivo e delicato, riuscendo a dipingere Il Cairo nei suoi colori e odori. La gestione dei molti personaggi è fluida e lo stacco tra uno e l’altro non comporta noia o disorientamento, come in altri autori. ( )
  Zeruhur | May 26, 2012 |
Mahfuz inserisce il romanzo in un’unita spaziale precisa, come se in realtà fosse il Vicolo stesso, anziché la folta schiera di personaggi, il vero protagonista del romanzo. E’ l’immobilità (del tempo, della società, delle persone), il punto cruciale del romanzo. Vite intere scorrono nel Vicolo, come in un’isola fuori dal tempo. Tutti i personaggi che orbitano intorno ad esso vivono il proprio dramma personale: i ricchi vivono il disagio familiare o il problema dell’identità sessuale, i poveri lottano per una posizione più elevata, cercando di conquistarla con mezzi ambigui. Chi attraverso la guerra, quella che si crede infinita, contro Hitler, fonte di fortuna inaspettata (saranno poi gli stessi personaggi ad autocriticarsi per il fatto di gioire di qualcosa di così orribile). E chi, come Hamida, la giovane opportunista, che cerca fortuna come prostituta, rompendo gli impegni d’amore presi, per lei veramente poco importanti. Tutto questo non può che portare al dramma finale, ma anche di questo il Vicolo si fa beffe e in pochi giorni tutto è passato e tutto resta immobile.
Lo stile di Mahfuz è immersivo e delicato, riuscendo a dipingere Il Cairo nei suoi colori e odori. La gestione dei molti personaggi è fluida e lo stacco tra uno e l’altro non comporta noia o disorientamento, come in altri autori. ( )
  Zeruhur | May 26, 2012 |
Tale about the lives of the different neighbours who live in Midaq Alley. ( )
  Luli81 | Oct 24, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mahfouz, NaguibAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eksell, KerstinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Many things combine to show that Midaq Alley is one of the gems of times gone by and that it once shone forth like a flashing star in the history of Cairo.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385264763, Paperback)

Considered by many to be Mahfouz's best novel,  Midaq Alley centers around the  residents of one of the hustling, teeming back alleys  of Cairo. No other novel so vividly evokes the  sights and sounds of the city. The universality and  timelessness of this book cannot be denied.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:35 -0400)

Never has Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz's talent for rich and luxurious storytelling been more evident than in this outstanding novel, first published in Arabic in 1947. One of his most popular books (and considered by many to be one of his best), Midaq Alley centers around the residents of one of the teeming back alleys of Cairo.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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