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Palace of Desire: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 2 [Paperback]

Naguib Mahfouz
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 29 2011 Cairo Trilogy (Book 2)

Palace of Desire is the second 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. In Palace of Desire, his rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination, as the world around them opens to the currents of modernity and political and domestic turmoil brought by the 1920s.
Translated by William Maynard Hutchins, Lorne M. Kenny, and Olive E. Kenny.

Frequently Bought Together

Palace of Desire: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 2 + Sugar Street: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 3 + Palace Walk: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 1
Price For All Three: CDN$ 39.00

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From Publishers Weekly

In this second volume of Nobel laureate Mahfouz's Cairo trilogy, a tyrannical father discovers that his mistress has secretly married his just-divorced son. "A masterpiece, albeit a wordy, very leisurely one, this family saga is well served by a scintillating translation that exposes English-language readers to an Egyptian Balzac," said PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Al-Sayyid Ahmad is mellowing as he leaves middle age. As this second novel of "The Cairo Trilogy" opens, he is ending his self-imposed abstention from liquor and women, begun five years earlier upon the death of his son, Fahmy. With shouts of joy, his friends welcome him back to their nightly revels, and al-Sayyid Ahmad promtly begins a new love affair. Meanwhile, his children are struggling with life beyond their father's domination. Yasin is twice divorced and incapable of resisting any woman. The two married daughters are split by an open feud. And Kamal, the intellectual center of this novel, enters college, where he suffers the three furies of religion, science, and romance. Through all these avenues, Mahfouz pursues his fascinating examination of Cairo's Islamic culture as it opens to modern influences. This novel continues the outstanding quality of this trilogy, leaving readers anxious for the final volume.
-Paul E. Hutchison, Pequea, Pa.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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4.0 out of 5 stars The Saga Continues Nov. 30 2002
In this, the second novel of the Cairo Trilogy (although I hesitate to call it that, since I now see the "trilogy" more as a novel in its entirety, which is what Mahfouz apparently preferred it to be), the movement of the narrative is more toward introspection, as we enter the mind of the youngest member of the family, Kamal. Kamal is a philosophically and romantically minded young man, an idealist who wants to be a teacher in spite of his father's strong opposition and the fact that the profession he seeks to enter gets little respect from his friends and the society in which he lives. His openness to the new ideas (such as evolution) stands in direct opposition to his father's staunch defense of the old ways and the old religious beliefs.
While sometimes I found the narrative a bit slow (too much of Kamal's ruminations on the nature of love, for example), I still enjoyed this section of the saga. I got a feel for Mahfouz' world view and a further education on the Middle Eastern mind. Egypt continues in a turmoil which parallels that of the young Kamal. Europe beckons, taking his best friend from him. The Western Influence is a source of pain and curiosity at the same time. More and more the reader comes to see why the Middle East views the West with scepticism and scorn.
Kamal's father begins to slide into infirmity, losing physical strength but not inner passion, and the family will soon no doubt have to deal with the problems related to the possible loss of its patriarch.
As always, well written, compelling narrative, for the most part. I will continue to complete the trilogy by reading "Sugar Street." This family saga is one I want to complete.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Egyptian Family, the story continues Nov. 18 2002
The family saga continues in book 2 of the Cairo trilogy, this time with Kamal as a main focus, his earlier childhood devotion to religion has been rejected and he has become a "seeker after truth" searching for meaning in life. It appears Kamal has been modeled after Mahfouz himself, and it is often through Kamal's eyes that we view the other characters in this story.
If you enjoyed the "Palace Walk" then "Palace of Desire" is a must read. As the title implies this book is about love & desire, albeit Islamic style. There are some hilarious scenes such as when the father discovers his mistress is cheating on him with his son or when the brothers meet in a brothel. The sisters are not forgotten in this continuing story, you find out how their married lives have gone.
For me, this whole trilogy is a really human look into another culture so different than our own here in North America. People are people with similar urges and feelings, and will find ways to express or control desires through whatever outlets happen to be available.
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I do consulting in the refining and petrochemical industries and have, as a result, struck up several friendships with Arabs and Arab-Americans working in those facilities. Once I asked several acquaintances if there were are well-regarded Arab writers with good English translations available that could help me as an American better understand the modern Arab experience and worldview. Several recommended The Cairo trilogy (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street) by Naguib Mahfouz. It covers a time period that would provide an excellent overview into 20th century Arab experience both politically and socially, especially vis-à-vis Arab/Western interaction. It is a family saga and therefore provides a good view of modern Arab family life and the affects modernization has had on it. It's urban setting and action would be more familiar to Americans than a more rural tale. The books are written from a genuinely Arabic sensibility language-wise-a sensibility not overly degraded by translation. And, finally, it would be a "less difficult" introduction to Arabic culture than other possibilities.
It should be noted that "less difficult" is not that same as "easy" or "easier". This marks an important distinction, one underscored by these books. Arabic language, society and sensibilities are colored much more by nuances and multiple permutations on a few basic themes than is true in Western society.
Naguib Mahfouz is a Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian novelist who adeptly and adroitly captures these nuances and evokes a genuine feel for-if not true understanding of-their intrinsic roots within the Arabic weltanschauung.
Clearly, based on the reviews to date for this book, there are many who have difficulty with this dynamic.
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3.0 out of 5 stars pretty lackluster read Nov. 18 2000
Palace of Desire continues the Cairo Trilogy of Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz. Like it's excellent predecessor, Palace Walk, it follows the family saga of the patriarchal merchant al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad and his children in 1920s Egypt. The changes occurring in the family parallel the upheaval in the outside world as a new generation comes to power, challenging al-Sayyid on the one hand and English rule on the other. The particular focus of this installment is Kamal, a nascent writer who is apparently modeled on Mahfouz himself.
The book brilliantly evokes the lost world of 20's Cairo and there are some funny set pieces, typically involving sex. But the story is badly under plotted and presents fairly few ideas, two factors which combine to make for a pretty lackluster read. As the story meanders along, we get a richly detailed picture of these peoples lives, but seem to be living them in real time; one longs for something, other than the sort of casual serial adultery which is the staple of the book, to happen.
I didn't like it nearly as much as Palace Walk, but it was still worthwhile as a sharply observed portrait of a time and place about which we in the West know fairly little.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Palace Walk
A continuation of Palace Walk, the story seemed to drag on. I found Kamal's intellectual transformations interesting, but quickly tired of Yasin's escapades and the focus on men... Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by J. Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars Mahfouz a Master of Characterization
While this book could be read on it's own, I highly suggest reading Palace Walk first, as it is a sequel. Read more
Published on July 13 2003 by Imperial Topaz
4.0 out of 5 stars Enter through the imagination
As a college teacher trying to help American students to understand why we are not universally popular in the Middle East, I have found that fiction works better than any number of... Read more
Published on May 9 2002 by sally a mcnall
2.0 out of 5 stars tedious
I absolutely LOVED Palace Walk, and couldn't wait to read the second book of the trilogy. But unlike the first, I found myself reading the same page over and over again until I... Read more
Published on Aug. 11 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A real treat
Mafouz has won the nobel prize for literature so I'm surprised I'm the first one here. This family is engaging and the way of life in Cairo almost palpable in this trilogy. Read more
Published on July 9 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of three and all
A marvellous sequel to "Palace Walk". It's a book about love, religion, despair, love, life and love once more. Read more
Published on June 11 1999 by Ahmet E. Gumrukcuoglu
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!!
All three books of the trilogy are written in an exceptional way, once you start reading them you can't stop!
Published on Feb. 24 1999
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