Volume I of the masterful Cairo Trilogy. A national best-seller in both hardcover and paperback, it introduces the engrossing saga of a Muslim family in Cairo during Egypt's occupation by British forces in the early 1900s.
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.Read more ›
The author is clearly talented, and though I liked his shorter work Autumn Quail more, Palace Walk is a nice overview of an Egyptian family living during British occupation and the resulting unrest. The civil unrest in this time period, though leading to Egypt's independence, also plants the seeds for the extreme militants in Egypt today. Mahfouz clearly paints a picture of these militants, not an entirely ugly but definately unsettling as they shake up tradition while clinging to quotes from the Koran. The relationship between the father and the son involved in the uprising against the British is strained and poignant, encapsulating some near-universal experiences.
If you want to learn more about Cairo and what the family unit was like in this fascinating country during the first half of the 20th century, read this book. The author rightfully won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
One of the more intriguing characters in the novel is Yasin, eldest son of Al-Sayyid Ahmad, and most likely to follow in his father's footsteps. Passion for music, wine, and women runs unchecked in his blood and, like his father, would rather spend the night in the company of mistresses and friends than with his family.
Fahmy is the intellectual heart of the family and has a devotion to his country's fight for independence that surpasses family ties and respect for his father's wishes. His undercover behavior and quest for martyrdom helps explain modern Muslim fundamentalism.
The sisters Aisha and Khadija are in a race for marriage, complicated by the extreme beauty of the younger sister and the disfiguring nose of the eldest.
Kamal lends a child's perspective to the novel, questioning the norms of Egyptian society and forging a shaky bond with occupying English soldiers. He's the fly on the wall that we'd all like to be, as readers, curious and questioning.
Overall, this is a profoundly intriguing novel that fully penetrates the minds of every character in "Palace Walk", and in doing so provides the reader with a significant portrayal of an Egyptian society steeped in culture and ruled by religion.
Just recently, a friend recommended I read the Cairo trilogy. I began with Palace Walk, and haven't yet read the others. This book is SUPERB. Westerners have trouble understanding how Middle Easterners THINK. This book is so wonderful because it takes you inside the mind of each of the characters, in turn, chapter-by-chapter, showing you how each one of them thinks, and allowing you to see their motivations for their behavior. One person commmented in their book review that the majority of the book concentrated on the male characters. There is a reason for this. Egyptian society is mostly about men, not about women. Even as the society modernizes, the THINKING stays the same. Mahfuz has done a masterful character study of each character in the book, as they go therough their daily lives. Without yet having read the two subsequent books, I expect that I will get more in depth into the women's lives in Sugar Street, because this is the house to which the two female daughters have moved upon their marriages to two brothers.
In the past, I have tried to read some other books by this author, and just couldn't get into them. These books are different. They really do merit the Nobel Prize. Reading them now, after being immersed in the Arab culture for 12 years, I see so many more things than I would have noticed had I read the books first.Read more ›