"This book, in its first appearance in English, is an essential a backdrop to the Spring revolution as anything yet written" -- Andre Naffis-Sahely BANIPAL 20110701
About the Author
Raymond Stock, with a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Pennsylvania, is writing a biography of Naguib Mahfouz. He is the translator of numerous works by Mahfouz, most recently Dreams of Departure (AUC Press, 2007).
This is average Mahfouz. The plot rolls right along, and you get into the characters, but he's not really doing anything daring or unusual here. If you've read one Mahfouz life drama, you've pretty much read them all. They go through the same periods of history and are pretty predictable. That said, I enjoy these books, and I enjoyed "The Coffeehouse." By the end of the book you have been through revolutions, economic ups and downs, good and bad marriages, hope for the next generation, and plenty of worries over troubles that came along. Some of the characters learn and grow, others stay pretty much the same throughout their lives. I recommend "Adrift On The Nile" over this book, or even "The Thief And The Dogs," which is a much more intense novel. My very favorite Mahfouz book is probably "Midaq Alley," which like this book focuses on changes to one neighborhood over time. I think Americans in general don't read enough Mahfouz. He has a lot to say if you give him a chance. Try "Arabian Nights and Days" if you want a taste of his fantasy, which is a refreshing break from the Cairo of most of his books. I want to read "Dreams of Departure" next, one of his later works. Good luck with "The Coffeehouse," and try some more Mahfouz when you're done with it!