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Palace Walk: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 1 [Paperback]

Naguib Mahfouz
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 1 1990 Cairo Trilogy (Book 1)
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.

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From Publishers Weekly

This first volume in the 1988 Nobel Prize winner's Cairo Trilogy describes the disintegrating family life of a tyrannical, prosperous merchant, his timid wife and their rebellious children in post-WW I Egypt. "Mahfouz is a master at building up dramatic scenes and at portraying complex characters in depth," lauded PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This extraordinary novel provides a close look into Cairo society at the end of World War I. Mahfouz's vehicle for this examination is the family of al-Sayyid Ahmad, a middle-class merchant who runs his family strictly according to the Qur'an and directs his own behavior according to his desires. Consequently, while his wife and two daughters remain cloistered at home, and his three sons live in fear of his harsh will, al-Sayyid Ahmad nightly explores the pleasures of Cairo. Written by the first Arabic writer to win the Nobel Prize, Palace Walk begins Mahfouz's highly acclaimed "Cairo Trilogy," which follows Egypt's development from 1917 to nationalism and Nasser in the 1950s. This novel's enchanting style and sweeping social tapestry ensure a large audience, one that will eagerly await the English translation of the entire trilogy. A significant addition to any collection. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/89.
- Paul E. Hutchison, Fishermans Paradise, Bellefonte, Pa.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Walking Through Cairo Life Sept. 2 2002
Format:Paperback
Mahfouz is an enjoyable author, as he gives you insight into the real life of a middle-class family living in Cairo. One gradually learns all the different permutations of the patriarch's inner-conflicts and hypocrisy towards his own sons. The reader can also begin to understand the way tradition and religion has shaped relationships between men and women, as the two sisters find husbands, the younger one before the elder.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family matters Aug. 1 2002
Format:Paperback
The dooors of a traditional Egyptian family home are opened to the reader by N. Mahfouz in "Palace Walk". A loving father sees his well-intentioned strictness backfire in many ways in this novel of family closeness. Amina, a devoted wife and mother, has no qualms about being kept under lock and key by her husband, and has her beliefs confirmed by the disastrous consequences of a secret excursion.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction to Egyptian Culture April 13 2002
Format:Paperback
Twelve years ago, I spent several months living in Egypt. I am an American woman, and at that time, I found much of the culture and behavior of Egyptians to be confusing. Since that time, I have married a Moroccan, and have lived in Morocco for the past ten years. I now feel that I understand much about Arab culture.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars love and war
This boook was chosen for our book club by another member.
I learned a lot about life in Egypt around the time of the first world war and the views of the Egyptians toward the... Read more
Published on April 10 2011 by Monday's club
5.0 out of 5 stars A Smashing Success
The book arrived in good condition and the contents of which were quite scandalous. Thanks OPR McGillicuddy Bookshop of New Grimshire, Massachusetts, you made my day!!!
Published on Dec 7 2009 by R. Michael Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars He writes of us all.
This novel is the 4th Mahfouz that I have read and though I've loved them all, this one stands out as a masterpiece. Read more
Published on May 10 2004 by L. Dann
4.0 out of 5 stars An intimate story
An intimate story of a family and a community in early twentieth century Cairo. Mahfouz has a gift for vividly portraying the wide spectrum of human emotion. Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by J. Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars A family saga, the first in the Cairo Trilogy
Wow. Wow, wow, wow, what a masterpiece. Nagib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize (the first Arab author so honored), popularized the craft of the novel in the Arab world, and gained... Read more
Published on March 28 2004 by Peggy Vincent
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, and really informative as well
This is the first novel in the trilogy of books that was a major reason that Mahfouz managed to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2004 by Richard Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars "How Do I"
How do I pronounce those Egyptian proper names? Which word is the given name;which word is the surname;what do the other parts of the name mean? Read more
Published on Dec 3 2002 by Virginia L. Tubbs
5.0 out of 5 stars The Heart of a Family, the Soul of a Country
I have had a copy of Palace Walk in my book pile for about 10 years, but finally got around to reading it. Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2002 by debra crosby
3.0 out of 5 stars Long and drawn out story
I only finished this book because I had chosen it for my book club, based on all the wonderful reviews it had received. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2002 by artemis
5.0 out of 5 stars Richly Deserved Nobel Prize Winner
"The Palace Walk" is the first book of the Cairo trilogy, Mahfouz's family saga set in Egypt post WWI during the British occupation. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2002 by Gail Moore
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