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Karnak Café by Naguib Mahfouz

Karnak Café (1974)

by Naguib Mahfouz

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In this short novella, the narrator recounts his interactions with a set of characters who all hang out at the same coffee shop. The story works both as a story about individual people, and as a political allegory for Egypt in the late 1960s. For example, it seemed to me that the aging belly dancer Qurunfula is a figure for Egypt, in love with her youth, but unable to stop them from being betrayed. The story also works as a searing sketch of the way a police state can undermine human relationships and human dignity. [ That said, the Mahfouz' (as distinct from the narrator's) treatment of the second female character, the young woman Zaynab, felt clumsy to me - she works as metaphor, but her suffering felt more like a prop for the allegory than the gross injustice it should be for a real person. ( )
1 vote bezoar44 | Feb 15, 2016 |
Karnak Cafe, by Naguib Mahfouz, is a thin novel by any measure though written by a master. Clearly his Cairo Trilogy remains supreme. I don't have a good reason for you to read this novel. A lot of talk about the revolution takes place in the Karnak Cafe, but it is a lot of chatter. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Dec 23, 2014 |
Once in a while I read a book that sparks my interest in the history and culture of the writer's country... well, more often than not that is the case. And it is definitely the case with Naguib Mahfouz's books.

Written soon after the the June War of 1967, this book explores the post-1967 era of Egypt's history, an era of profound dismay, of reflection, of recrimination, of "looking back in anger". It is a short novel that takes place in a small Café. The Café is frequented by 3 young people and several older people. The young people periodically disappear and reappear. And their story of imprisonment, brutal interrogations, and betrayals is pieced together by the narrator.

This is a book that is still relevant today. ( )
  Banoo | Feb 9, 2009 |
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Llegué al café Karnak por casualidad.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307390454, Paperback)

In this gripping and suspenseful novella from the Egyptian Nobel Prize-winner, three young friends survive interrogation by the secret police, only to find their lives poisoned by suspicion, fear, and betrayal. At a Cairo café in the 1960s, a legendary former belly dancer lovingly presides over a boisterous family of regulars, including a group of idealistic university students. One day, amid reports of a wave of arrests, three of the students disappear: the excitable Hilmi, his friend Ismail, and Ismail's beautiful girlfriend Zaynab. When they return months later, they are apparently unharmed and yet subtly and profoundly changed. It is only years later, after their lives have been further shattered, that the narrator pieces together the young people's horrific stories and learns how the government used them against one another. In a riveting final chapter, their torturer himself enters the Café and sits among his former victims, claiming a right to join their society of the disillusioned. Now translated into English for the first time, Naguib Mahfouz's tale of the insidious effects of government-sanctioned torture and the suspension of rights and freedoms in a time of crisis is shockingly contemporary.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:46 -0400)

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