Khan al-Khalili, by Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, portrays the clash of old and new in an historic Cairo neighborhood as German bombs fall on the city.
The time is 1942, World War II is at its height, and the Africa Campaign is raging along the northern coast of Egypt. Against this backdrop, Mahfouz’s novel tells the story of the Akifs, a middle-class family that has taken refuge in Cairo’s colorful and bustling Khan al-Khalili neighborhood. Believing that the German forces will never bomb such a famously religious part of the city, they leave their more elegant neighborhood and seek safety among the crowded alleyways, busy cafés, and ancient mosques of the Khan. Through the eyes of Ahmad, the eldest Akif son, Mahfouz presents a richly textured vision of the Khan, and of a crisis that pits history against modernity and faith against secularism. Fans of Midaq Alley and The Cairo Trilogy will not want to miss this engaging and sensitive portrayal of a family at the crossroads of the old world and the new.
Translated from the Arabic by Roger Allen
About the Author
NAGUIB MAHFOUZ was born in 1911 in the crowded Cairo district of Gamaliya. He studied philosophy at Cairo University, then worked in various government ministries until his retirement in 1971. His first three published novels were Khufu's Wisdom (1939), Rhadopis of Nubia (1943), and Thebes at War (1944), all of which are set in ancient Egypt. These political and philosophical critiques disguised as historical romances show the unmistakable signs of a burgeoning literary genius. He went on to write more than 35 other novel-length works, plus hundreds of short stories and numerous cinema plots and scenarios, many of which have been made into successful films. Naguib Mahfouz was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1988. In 2006, he died at the age of 95.
Roger Allen is professor of Arabic language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Among his translations are Naguib Mahfouz's Mirrors (AUC Press, 1999) and Bensalem Himmich's The Polymath (AUC Press, 2000).
“Mahfouz is a storyteller of the first order in any idiom.” —Vanity Fair