Sunday, March 25, 2007

Book Review: 3 Novels Of Ancient Egypt by Naguib Mahfouz

"Just by coincidence I happened to come across a reissuing of three novels by Naquib Mahfouz, the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1988 who just recently died. Three Novels Of Ancient Egypt is a new release through the Everyman Library of Random House Canada containing three short pieces the author had written in the 1930's.
I don't know whether or not Khufu's Wisdom, Rhadopis Of Nubia, or Thebes At War have ever been translated into English before, but this is the first time the three novels have been published together in an omnibus form. They are logical choices to be produced together of course because all three are set in different periods of the glorious days of Egypt's Pharaohs."


Raymond Stock said...

I'm glad this edition of three full-length novels set in Ancient Egypt has come to your notice. I am the translator of the first volume, Khufu's Wisdom (first published as 'Abath al-aqdar in 1939). The second volume, Rhadopis of Nubia, translated by Anthony Calderbank, was published as Radubis in 1943, while the third, Thebes at War, translated by Humphrey Davies, appeared as Kifah Tibah in 1944. This Pharaonic triad comprises the first novels published by Mahfouz, and sadly the most neglected and underrated, as well. The American University in Cairo Press brought them all out individually in hardcover in December 2003, and Random House (publisher of the Everyman's Library edition you have profiled) issued them all in paperback in 2005. Nadine Gordimer's lyrical introduction to the new edition beautifully captures the precocious craft and wisdom of these early works of the master. Also of note, Tagreid Abu-Hassabo's translation of Mahfouz's 1985 novel, Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth (al-'A'ish fi al-haqiqa) was published by the AUC Press in 1998, and by Random House in 2000. A volume of Mahfouz's Pharaonic-inspired short stories from the 1930s and '40s, Voices from the Other World: Ancient Egyptian Tales, translated by yours truly, appeared in hardcover through the AUC Press in 2002, and via Random House in paperback in 2004. (In the Middle East only, all these works are also available in AUC paperback editions.) As it was my own proposal that all these stories be translated and published in English, I'd welcome very much any readers' comments on them. Meanwhile, only one work of Mahfouz's Pharaonica remains unpublished in English: Before the Throne (Amam al-'arsh, 1983), a novel-in-dialogue in which Mahfouz hauls some three score of Egypt's rulers and other luminaries, from Mina through Anwar al-Sadat, before the Osiris Court to defend themselves in the Afterlife. I am about halfway through translating this one, though no publication date has yet been set.--Raymond Stock, Cairo

Anonymous said...

I am curious as to whether or not you have finished the translation of Before the Throne. I need it badly for a book I am working on. If possible, please contact me at Thank you vern much.

Anonymous said...

TO Raymond Stock, Cairo:
What progress do you have on the Mahfouz book "Before the Throne"? I certainly would buy it if it were ready and/or published!

Raymond Stock said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'm very sorry not to have seen your comments till now (Jan. 17, 2009). To answer your question, I completed the translation of Naguib Mahfouz's Before the Throne for the American University in Cairo Press late November 2008, and it is scheduled for publication in Fall 2009. This work also figured prominently in my doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennyslvania, entitled, A Mummy Awakens: The Pharaonic Fiction of Naguib Mahfouz, completed in August 2008.
I am now translating a novel by the Iraqi writer, Najem Wali, about life under Saddam, called The Journey to Tell al-Lahm. Then I shall translate Mahfouz's last novel, Qushtumur, published in Arabic in 1988, for publication by AUC in 2010. And I'm also translating a brilliant but neglected 1945 novel about Akhenaten, called King of Rays (Malik min shu'a') by Adel Kamel, Mahfouz's closest friend for many years, who quit writing to practice law early in his career. What is the reason for your interest in Before the Throne? I hope will enjoy it will in it comes out in English.--Raymond Stock, Cairo

Anonymous said...

To Raymond Stock

I am currently reading Amam al Arsh in Arabic for my honours dissertation. Is it possible to access your doctoral dissertation from the UK? it would of course be fully creditted and acknowledged? I have been trying for some time to find a way to contact you. I hope you get this.