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Respected Sir by Naguib Mahfouz
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Respected Sir (1975)

by Naguib Mahfouz

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A story of one man's quest to achieve his aspirations seemingly because of his desire to achieve God's will - a desire to achieve what is sacred in this world in anticipation of what is sacred in the next. Yet, along the way we hear his thinking, his rationale and wonder. Does he lead his life for God or use God as his explanation for his life? It is a story that feels quite contemporary. An excellent read. ( )
  Griff | Mar 13, 2010 |
Othman Bayyumi is a young man who has just been hired by a government department in Egypt. He is part of the usual new employee welcome in the office of the Director-General of the department. Bayyumi is struck by the palatial furnishings, and the feeling of power and authority that emanates from the office. He decides, then and there, that one day, he will be Director-General of the department.

No, Bayyumi’s immediate superiors do not suffer a series of mysterious "accidents." Every day at work, he is a very diligent employee, taking on extra duties whenever possible. He spends his nights living in a furnished room (the rest of his family is dead, either from violence or disease) reading subjects like law and poetry, to make him a more valued employee. He does not go to the cafes and nightclubs, but does allow himself a weekly visit to a female prostitute named Qadriyya.

As time goes on, and Bayyumi ascends the ladder, he realizes that having a wife might be a good idea. Through a local marriage broker, he meets Asila, a respectable woman in any sense of the term, but it does not work out. Later, he meets Onsiyya, a much younger female employee of his department. They see each other for a while, but Bayyumi emotionally pushes her away. On the spur of the moment, he marries Qadriyya, and they move into a flat together. Questions are being raised about Bayyumi’s lack of a life outside of work. The marriage is a disaster, as Qadriyya descends into a world of opium and alcohol.

Years later, with his hair turning gray, and the Director-Generalship in sight, Bayyumi marries a young woman named Radiya. He suffers a severe medical problem (heart attack?) for which the diagnosis is absolute bed rest. Will Bayyumi fulfill his life’s ambition, and become Director-General?

This is certainly a quiet book, but a really good book. Mahfouz does a fine job turning a normal human emotion like ambition into some sort of all-encompassing religious quest. It is very much worth reading. ( )
  plappen | Aug 5, 2007 |
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A collection of three novels by Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, including "Respected Sir," the story of a petty government clerk's frenzied pursuit of a higher office; "Wedding Song," a psychological drama about life in the theater; and "The Search," which tells of a young criminal who is searching for his father.… (more)

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