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Palace of Desire: Book II of the Cairo Trilogy ()

Nobel Prize Winners (1988)

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.


Grade: (C+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Naguib Mahfouz (Peter Murray Website)
    -Naguib Mahfouz (1911-)(kirjasto)
    -Naguib Mahfouz Winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature (Nobel Prize Internet Archive)
    -Naguib Mahfouz: Biased To Grassroots  (People & Facts)(Egyptian Government Site)
    -ESSAY : The Cruelty of Memory  (EDWARD W. SAID, NY Review of Books)
    -ARTICLE: Laureate in the Land of the Pharoahs   (Brad Kessler, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE: RECOVERING EGYPT WRITER ASKS EXTREMISM'S DEFEAT ( Associated Press, Sunday, October 16, 1994)
    -REVIEW: of PALACE OF DESIRE The Cairo Trilogy II. By Naguib Mahfouz (Peter Theroux, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: J. M. Coetzee: Fabulous Fabulist, NY Review of Books
        The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz and translated by Catherine Cobham
        Midaq Alley translated by Trevor Le Gassick
        The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk translated by William M. Hutchins and Olive E. Kenny
        Palace of Desire translated by William M. Hutchins, Lorne M. Kenny, and Olive E. Kenny
        Sugar Street translated by William M. Hutchins and Angele B. Samaan
        The Beginning and the End translated by Ramses Awad
        Children of Gebelawi translated by Philip Stewart
        The Thief and the Dogs translated by Trevor Le Gassick and M.M. Badawi
        Adrift on the Nile translated by Frances Liardet
        The Journey of Ibn Fattouma translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
    -REVIEW: of Palace of Desire 'PALACE' SKETCHES PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of PALACE WALK By Naguib Mahfouz. Translated by William M. Hutchins and Olive E. Kenny (Edward Hower, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Palace Walk TIMELESS RHYTHMS OF AN EGYPTIAN FAMILY (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW : of  The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz (Caroline Moore, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of SUGAR STREET The Cairo Trilogy III. By Naguib Mahfouz. Translated by William Maynard Hutchins and Angele Botros Samaan (Ammiel Alcalay, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Sugar Street  MAHFOUZ'S RICH 'CAIRO TRILOGY' CONCLUDES (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of Akhenaten by Naguib Mahfouz (Gelareh Asayesh, Washington Post Book World)
    -REVIEW: Najib Mahfuz by Menahem Milson (Daniel Pipes, Commentary)