Palace of Desire by Naguib Mahfouz


 (Cairo Trilogy 3) 
 (Arabic Title: قصر الشوق/Qasr el-Shōq) - 1957

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

"Palace of Desire", Part 2 of the Cairo Trilogy, starts in 1924, five years after "Palace Walk" ends. The children have grown up, even the youngest son and the family moves on after several backdrops. al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, the Patriarch, still tries to control his children but he is less successful than in the first book.

Again, we meet all the friends and neighbours of the family, the sons-in-law, the girls pursued by the sons - and the father. A story that really deserves the title "saga".

We also learn again about the Egyptians' view of the British occupation and can totally understand them. Why should one country rule over another?

I know I mentioned I love big books but what I love even more is a continuation of a big book that makes it even bigger. This is one of those cases. I also really enjoyed the third part, "Sugar Street".

From the back cover:
"The sensual and provocative second volume in the Cairo Trilogy, Palace Of Desire follows the Al Jawad family into the awakening world of the 1920's and the sometimes violent clash between Islamic ideals, personal dreams and modern realities.

Having given up his vices after his son's death, ageing patriarch Al-Sayyid Ahmad pursues an arousing lute-player - only to find she has married his eldest son. His rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination as they test the loosening reins of societal and parental control. And Ahmad's youngest son, in an unforgettable portrayal of unrequited love, ardently courts the sophisticated daughter of a rich Europeanised family.
"

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

Find other books by Naguib Mahfouz that I read here.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz



(Kairo Trilogy 1)
(Arabic Title: بين القصرين/Bayn al-qasrayn) - 1956 

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read 


Part 1 of the Cairo Trilogy. I love big books, I love family sagas, I love historical fiction, I love books by Nobel Prize winners, so this should definitely the book for me.

And it is. The story of an Egyptian family between 1917 to 1919. We get to know al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad who rules his family like a tyrant, his wife, his daughters and his sons, they all have to obey him without question. He is by far not a perfect person himself but expects this from everyone around him. Given the time, everyone accepts this as a God-given law.

Brilliantly told, Naguib Mahfouz is a fantastic observer, he mentions so many things, describes people's feelings in a way that is unique and highly commendable. We can imagine being a fly on the wall who notices everything that is going on. I would love to read a book Mahfouz would write now about the same family, well, their progeny. The author managed to create a family that seems so real, so alive. We can well imagine meeting them somewhere. A very realistic story.

I also read the follow-up "Palace of Desire" and the last part "Sugar Street" and they are both just as great.

From the back cover:

"Palace Walk is the first novel in Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent Cairo Trilogy, an epic family saga of colonial Egypt that is considered his masterwork.
The novels of the Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons - the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. The family’s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two world wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries."


Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

Find other books by Naguib Mahfouz that I read here.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

Grass, Günter "Crabwalk"

(German Title: Im Krebsgang) - 2002

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read 

This book had been my suggestion because we always look for novels by authors from different countries. We haven't read many German books, so I thought, let's read a Grass. This author has never been an "easy" person, born in Danzig to Polish-German parents, raised Catholic, moved to West Germany as a young guy, he is strongly left-wing and will say what he thinks needs saying. He is a journalist and a sculptor/graphic artist.

A lot of our members found the book very hard to read. Why do translations of books into English always have to be so bad? We've made this experience again and again. Mind you, in this case, I can't really blame the translator too much, a lot of the conversations, especially by the narrator's mother, are in Pomeranian and even difficult to read in the original German version.

We had various members who started a couple of times until they finally finished it. Some of their remarks: I appreciate that he wrote it. This book caused a big stir in Germany when it came out I understand German shame factor. I realized how oppressive and burdensome it is for children to have to live with parents' ambitions. Paul Pokriefke wanted to be a normal person, his mother Tulla wrote him off completely and transferred all her ambitions to her grandson. Germans shouldn't dwell on their past. A lot of people don't want them to forget, the hatred is still there. They show it on TV, remind you every year. "Victimization gives them power." I appreciated the father's love for his son, he stands by him. You need not stand up against this great machine. What is going on at the moment? We talked about the Neo-Nazism in several European countries. The truth is, all European countries had and have Nazis.

Even though this was probably one of the toughest reads for most, it was a great foundation for a very interesting discussion. It leads to so many different topics. I don't think anyone should be surprised to know that the author was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Oh, and someone remarked they were astonished by the fast that there were six times as many deaths on the Wilhelm Gustloff as there were on the Titanic, yet you never hear about it.

From the back cover:
"Günter Grass has been wrestling with Germany's past for decades now, but no book since The Tin Drum has generated as much excitement as this engrossing account of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. A German cruise ship turned refugee carrier, it was attacked by a Soviet submarine in January 1945. Some 9,000 people went down in the Baltic Sea, making it the deadliest maritime disaster of all time.
Born to an unwed mother on a lifeboat the night of the attack, Paul Pokriefke is a middle-aged journalist trying to piece together the tragic events. While his mother sees her whole existence in terms of that calamitous moment, Paul wishes their life could have been less touched by the past. For his teenage son, who dabbles in the dark, far-right corners of the Internet, the Gustloff embodies the denial of Germany's wartime suffering.
'Scuttling backward to move forward,'
Crabwalk is at once a captivating tale of a tragedy at sea and a fearless examination of the ways different generations of Germans now view their past."

Günter Grass "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

The First Man by Albert Camus

(French title: Le premier homme) - 1994

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

Albert Camus is probably my favourite French author and this being an autobiography, I just couldn't reject it. However, this is an unfinished manuscript that was found when the author died in a car crash, hasn't been edited or altered, we get just the raw draft. I am sure this book would have been a lot more enjoyable had the author had the chance to work on it a little longer.

But it is what it is and I am happy this document was found and finally published because it does give us quite an insight into the author's life, especially his youth and also his quest for his father. We get a good idea about the man himself, how his philosophy came to fruition, how his mind works.

On the other hand, his daughter mentions in the introduction that her father might have changed a lot of his thoughts in the book, it might not have been as personal, if he had had the chance to work on it. I would have loved for the author to live a lot longer and write many more stories but at least we get this glimpse of him.

This was my third book by Camus and it won't be my last, that's for sure.

I read this book in the original French language.

From the back cover:
"The unfinished manuscript of The First Man was discovered in the wreckage of car accident in which Camus died in 1960. Although it was not published for over thirty years, it was an instant bestseller when it finally appeared in 1994. The 'first man' is Jacques Cormery, whose poverty-stricken childhood in Algiers is made bearable by his love for his silent and illiterate mother, and by the teacher who transforms his view of the world. The most autobiographical of Camus's novels, it gives profound insights into his life and the powerful themes underlying his work."

Albert Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times".

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

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