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The Day the Leader Was Killed [Paperback]

Naguib Mahfouz
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 6 2000
AN ANCHOR PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

From the Nobel Prize laureate and author of the acclaimed Cairo Trilogy, a beguiling and artfully compact novel set in Sadat's Egypt.

"[Mahfouz] is not only a Hugo and a Dickens, but also a Galsworthy, Zola and a Jules Romain."--Edward Said

The time is 1981, Anwar al-Sadat is president, and Egypt is lurching into the modern world. Set against this backdrop, The Day the Leader Was Killed relates the tale of a middle-class Cairene family. Rich with irony and infused with political undertones, the story is narrated alternately by the pious and mischievous family patriarch Muhtashimi Zayed, his hapless grandson Elwan, and Elwan's headstrong and beautiful fiancee Randa.  The novel reaches its climax with the assassination of Sadat on October 6, 1981, an event around which the fictional plot is skillfully woven.

The Day the Leader Was Killed brings us the essence of Mahfouz's genius and is further proof that he has, in the words of the Nobel citation, "formed an Arabic narrative art that applies to all mankind."

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Review

"The incredible variety of Naguib Mahfouz's writings continue[s] to dazzle our eyes."--The Washington Post

"Mahfouz's work is freshly nuanced and hauntingly lyrical. The Nobel Prize acknowledges the universal significance of his fiction."--Los Angeles Times

From the Back Cover

"The incredible variety of Naguib Mahfouz's writings continue[s] to dazzle our eyes."--The Washington Post

"Mahfouz's work is freshly nuanced and hauntingly lyrical. The Nobel Prize acknowledges the universal significance of his fiction."--Los Angeles Times


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Little sleep. Then a moment of expectation full of warmth beneath the heavy cover. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
The Day the Leader Was Killed is a succinct but significant work in contemporary Egypt. Naguib Mahfouz, through his sober and lyrical prose, has skillfully woven one of the darkest political backdrops in Egyptian history into his novel. Sealing off the seventies and reaching the threshold of a new decade, President Anwar al-Sadat implemented the Infitah, an open-door economic policy that would expedite the country forward to modernization. Like many of Mahfouz's works, this story is told in alternating first-person narratives by three characters--Muhtashimi Zayed, a pious, retired family patriarch; his grandson Elwan Fawwaz Muhtashimi; and Elwan's strong-willed, beautiful fiancée Randa Sulayman Mubarak. The story builds upon around this middle-class family and through the family's perspective zooms a picture of the social, economic, religious, gender and interpersonal aspects of the larger society in Egypt. For the patriarch, who devoted his whole life to prayers and religious rituals, his life was nothing but loneliness. He was especially despondent that the younger generation drifted from the Koran to whose life made a substantial influence. The old man could not forget "the woes of the world" (25) when he thought of his beloved grandson. Randa, like all her female contemporaries, faced gender challenges and the clash between traditional values and modern ideals.
The novelette evokes the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981. Sadat was saluting troops at the annual military parade when a team of assassins began firing weapons and throwing grenades into the reviewing stand. Sadat, along with 20 others was instantly killed in the deadly attack.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Three generations in modern Egypt Dec 8 2002
Format:Paperback
"The Day the Leader Was Killed," by Naguib Mahfouz, has been translated into English by Malak Mashem. The short author bio on the book's opening page notes that Mahfouz was born in Cairo, has received the Nobel Prize in literature, and "is the most prominent author of Arabic fiction published in English today."
This novel takes place during the "Infitah," an "open-door" economic policy in place under Egyptian President Sadat. The story is told in alternating first-person chapters by three characters: Muhtashimi Zayed, a retired old man; his grandson Elwan; and Elwan's fiancee, Randa. Both Elwan's and Randa's families face economic troubles, and the young couple faces uncertainty regarding their own future.
This novel is a fascinating look at modern Egyptian family life. I found it interesting that while the book deals with three generations of Egyptians, it is only characters from the youngest and oldest generations that actually "speak" directly to the reader. Mahfouz looks at the issues of gender, economics, religious faith, and family ties in the lives of these two families and the larger community. I was particularly moved by Mahfouz's portrayal of the old man's spiritual life; Muhtashimi Zayed is a Muslim in whose life the Quran is an important element. I was also intrigued by Mahfouz's exploration of the challenges faced by the modern young Arab woman, caught between contemporary ideals and traditionalism. Overall, a compelling multigenerational portrait.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Life In Egypt Feb. 7 2001
Format:Paperback
Najib Mahfouz in his compact dry story details the hardships faced by the people of Egypt from the economic liberation. Intifah, Anwar Sadat's open-door economic policy has increased disparities between the rich and poor, creating havoc in lives of its citizens. In this economic meltdown is Fawad and his fiance Randa whose commitment for each other is tested by realities of times.
In a subtle undertone, this novel has reflections to the struggle faced by masses presently in the middle east. Interesting aspect of this novel are the personal battles faced between self righteousness vs corruption, advancements vs traditions.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exercise your imagination June 13 2000
Format:Paperback
Once again, Mahfouz in THE DAY THE LEADER WAS KILLED gives us a great story reflecting contemporary life in Egypt. He captures the reader's mind and leads the reader to empathize with the sentiment and emotion of the characters who encounter life during the time of INFITAH.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A significant testimony of modern Egyptian history June 11 2003
By Matthew M. Yau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Day the Leader Was Killed is a succinct but significant work in contemporary Egypt. Naguib Mahfouz, through his sober and lyrical prose, has skillfully woven one of the darkest political backdrops in Egyptian history into his novel. Sealing off the seventies and reaching the threshold of a new decade, President Anwar al-Sadat implemented the Infitah, an open-door economic policy that would expedite the country forward to modernization. Like many of Mahfouz's works, this story is told in alternating first-person narratives by three characters--Muhtashimi Zayed, a pious, retired family patriarch; his grandson Elwan Fawwaz Muhtashimi; and Elwan's strong-willed, beautiful fiancée Randa Sulayman Mubarak. The story builds upon around this middle-class family and through the family's perspective zooms a picture of the social, economic, religious, gender and interpersonal aspects of the larger society in Egypt. For the patriarch, who devoted his whole life to prayers and religious rituals, his life was nothing but loneliness. He was especially despondent that the younger generation drifted from the Koran to whose life made a substantial influence. The old man could not forget "the woes of the world" (25) when he thought of his beloved grandson. Randa, like all her female contemporaries, faced gender challenges and the clash between traditional values and modern ideals.
The novelette evokes the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981. Sadat was saluting troops at the annual military parade when a team of assassins began firing weapons and throwing grenades into the reviewing stand. Sadat, along with 20 others was instantly killed in the deadly attack. The underlying cause of the fatal massacre traced back to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978, which led to a negotiated peace between the two countries in the following year. The historic agreement brought peace to Egypt but no prosperity. The economy still slumped with no trace of a turn-around. Poverty-stricken Muslims and Copts in Egypt rubbed in friction and exploded into some gruesome round of violence in the Cairo slum. This is the very socioeconomic backdrop on which Mahfouz adroitly set his novel. Like the Cairo Trilogy and many of his works, Mahfouz captures and chronicles the most crucial of his own times. 4.0 stars.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three generations in modern Egypt Dec 8 2002
By Michael J. Mazza - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Day the Leader Was Killed," by Naguib Mahfouz, has been translated into English by Malak Mashem. The short author bio on the book's opening page notes that Mahfouz was born in Cairo, has received the Nobel Prize in literature, and "is the most prominent author of Arabic fiction published in English today."
This novel takes place during the "Infitah," an "open-door" economic policy in place under Egyptian President Sadat. The story is told in alternating first-person chapters by three characters: Muhtashimi Zayed, a retired old man; his grandson Elwan; and Elwan's fiancee, Randa. Both Elwan's and Randa's families face economic troubles, and the young couple faces uncertainty regarding their own future.
This novel is a fascinating look at modern Egyptian family life. I found it interesting that while the book deals with three generations of Egyptians, it is only characters from the youngest and oldest generations that actually "speak" directly to the reader. Mahfouz looks at the issues of gender, economics, religious faith, and family ties in the lives of these two families and the larger community. I was particularly moved by Mahfouz's portrayal of the old man's spiritual life; Muhtashimi Zayed is a Muslim in whose life the Quran is an important element. I was also intrigued by Mahfouz's exploration of the challenges faced by the modern young Arab woman, caught between contemporary ideals and traditionalism. Overall, a compelling multigenerational portrait.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life In Egypt Feb. 7 2001
By M. A. ZAIDI - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Najib Mahfouz in his compact dry story details the hardships faced by the people of Egypt from the economic liberation. Intifah, Anwar Sadat's open-door economic policy has increased disparities between the rich and poor, creating havoc in lives of its citizens. In this economic meltdown is Fawad and his fiance Randa whose commitment for each other is tested by realities of times.
In a subtle undertone, this novel has reflections to the struggle faced by masses presently in the middle east. Interesting aspect of this novel are the personal battles faced between self righteousness vs corruption, advancements vs traditions.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We are a people more given to defeat than to victory. The strain that spells our despair has become deeply ingrained in us.." Sept. 30 2009
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Always focusing on aspects of Egyptian social and political history, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz here depicts three generations of one family as they try to survive the socially tumultuous period between the Six Day War with Israel in 1967 and the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. The loss of the Six Day War in 1967 was a national humiliation for Egypt, which lost the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, as a result. In 1973, President Anwar Sadat tried to regain the lost territories with a surprise attack that initiated the Yom Kippur War, but again Egypt failed to win a strong military victory. Sadat's willingness to negotiate with the Israelis, however, resulted in the Egyptians' regaining of the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for Egypt's recognition of Israel and the establishment of normal diplomatic relations under the Camp David Accords. It made him very unpopular at home.

This tumultuous period was also a time of enormous economic hardships. Sadat had turned away from the Soviets, with whom Nasser had had a close association, and had established the Infitah, his attempt to establish a free-market economy in the desperately poor country. As Elwan Fawwaz Muhtashimi, one of the main characters in this novel says, however, "For this we cursed him, our hearts full of rancor. Ultimately, he [Sadat] was to keep for himself the fruits of victory, leaving us his Infitah, which only spelled out poverty and corruption. This is the crux of the matter."

Alternating points of view among Muhtashimi Zayed, his grandson Elwan Fawwaz Muhtashimi, and Elwan's fiancée Randa Sulayman Mubarak, Mahfouz creates a novel which shows the domestic difficulties faced by educated Egyptian city-dwellers as they try to live their lives under this unpopular, less structured new economic system. Elwan and Randa have been engaged for eleven years, unable to marry because Elwan's salary is too low for him to save enough for an apartment, furniture, and the expenses of a family. Elwan and Randa both work for the same employer, and their relationship with each other and with their boss shows the stresses of their long engagement. The interrelationships between their two families also become tense, and as each narrator describes his/her own feelings, Mahfouz speeds ahead with his story, which at times feels as if it is moving in double-time toward its ironic conclusion.

Keeping the narrative firmly fixed on the everyday lives of his characters, Mahfouz shows the failures of the political system and the desperate acts to which some residents are driven by circumstance. Though the novella is short, Mahfouz provides a rare and often ironic vision of life in Cairo during the period which concludes with Anwar Sadat's assassination. As Elwan walks in the city that night, he sees" a trace of death on every passerby," but as he thinks about the assassination, he believes that "Tomorrow cannot be worse than today. Even chaos is better than despair." n Mary Whipple

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5.0 out of 5 stars Mehrdad Rafiee on Naguib Mahfouz March 20 2014
By mehrdad - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've got most of Mahfouz books in my library, really enjoy his works, lots of "words of wisdom" a fine and delicate "connective tissue" bridging past and present.
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