Biography of Naguib Mahfouz
Naguib Mahfouz was born on the eleventh day of December 1911 in Cairo, Egypt to middle class parents. He grew up in Gamaliya district and this provided him with rich content that saw the writing of Cairo Trilogy. With time, his family migrated to Abbasiya suburb which was a little bit upscale. Naguib read many detective novels of British origin and this stirred him up to become a writer.
He went to elementary schools of Islam orientation before he moved to a secular secondary school. He published his first article when he was 17 years old and joined King Fouad University after high school. Before Mahfouz turned 21, his first novel was published and attained a degree in philosophy. He worked in the ministry of culture where he served as a director before terminating his service in the government when he headed the State Cinema Organization (Aucpress, 2010).
Naguib had an unrelenting desire of becoming a writer and as a result, he began writing at the tender age of eleven years. His first writing was published when he was seventeen years old. He finished writing Cairo Trilogy in 1952 but failed to get a publisher till the decade ended. The failure to get a publisher disturbed Mahfouz so much that he decided to focus on writing screenplays and short stories. However, the trilogy was published by a certain monthly journal.
The publication of the Trilogy gave Mahfouz unprecedented recognition as he was rated one of the best Arabic authors. However, he was not widely known outside his country until his trilogy was announced the winner of 1988 literature Nobel Prize. He is recognized as a writer who provided a glimpse that had never been witnessed in the daily lives of Egyptians. He was described by many as an author who introduced Arab literature to the rest of the world.
Mahfouz started writing novels again and produced Children of Gebelawi. The novel which first featured in a newspaper contained religious overtones that caused Islamic conservatives to be agitated. The novel did not pass for publication as a book and Mahfouz continued getting threats but he did not stop till 1994.
Egyptian extremists were against him, igniting enmity that caused him to be stabbed outside his home building. This caused a serious injury on the hand Mahfouz used to write with. He went for rehabilitation to recover but the wound still gave him problems when writing. The attack did not dampen his spirit and he maintained a social life in Cairo though he was a bit shy (imdb, 2011).
Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998 making him the first author of Arab origin to get such an honor. He never used to move out of Cairo so he sent his daughters to receive the prize in his absence. This award gave him worldwide recognition and his works could now be published in many different languages.
He was celebrated for portraying in a vivid manner the political, social and religious challenges that the people of Egypt were going through. The total number of novels by Mahfouz that were published exceeded 50 and many short stories. He remained active even when he was 90 years old and always met with his friends in cafes to discuss current affairs. He died in August 2006 when he was 94 as a result of a bleeding ulcer.
Mahfouz Role in Arabic Literature
Mahfouz is among the Arabic authors who contributed significantly to Arabic literature. In his first novel the Cairo Trilogy, Mahfouz explains how women were oppressed by being subjected to servitude. In this novel, he shows his devotion to Arabic Literature by trying to expose social injustices and realities that were taking place in Egypt.
A person reading the works of Mahfouz is in a position to understand the economical, social and political life in Egypt during this period of time. Mahfouz explores the social and environmental life of the people of Cairo for the reader to understand the situation. He also explores the trials that were imposed against the powerless children by the society. His literature is crucial in tracing the social instabilities between the past and the present and putting them in a point where they could be understood (Allegrreto, 2007).
The literature of Mahfouz enriches Arabic readers by highlighting the traditional past that gave rise to reforms and focuses on challenges that women were going through. Most of his writings were filled with political topics as he once pointed out. He once said that in his writings, he might ignore topics like love or any other topic but he will never leave politics outside his writings.
He featured the Egyptian nationalism in most of his writings and expressed the disheartening and sympathetic situations that were as a result of the world wars. He was also interested in democratic and socialist ideals although he never became a Marxist. Contrary to the sympathy Mahfouz had on democracy and socialism, he highly detested the Islamic extremism. He argued that Islam was delineated and said that it was unsuitable under all circumstances.
Mahfouz was disheartened by the revolution of 1952 and the shameful defeat of Egypt in 1967 in the war that took six days. He strongly opposed the 1952 revolution because he had a feeling that the practices of the revolution were not the right ones. Mahfouz clearly took a central role in Arabic literature by highlighting the wars that took place and the suffering Egyptians went through. His literature was also aimed at restoring peace and ending the war.
Allegrreto, P. (2007). Naguib Mahfouz: a western and eastern cage of female entrapment. New York: Cambria Press.
Aucpress. (2010). Naguib Mahfouz. Web.
imdb. (2011). Biography for Naguib Mahfouz. Available from https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0536914/bio .