Authors: Naguib Mahfouz
B award to him of th� Nobel Prize for Literature (1988) has brought him
om in 1911 in Cairo, Naguib
is the lead
portrays the ing Arab novelist,
vigorous life of and the
Children ofGebelaawi (banned in Egypt since its serialization in 1959, until two
1994 in Arabic) is his most controversial work. On the surface it
is the history of a Cairo alley through several generations. Successive heroes
struggle to restore the rights of the people to the trust fund set up by their ancestor
Gebelaawi, usurped by embezzlers and tyrants. Mahfouz creates in all its detail a
world on the frontier between the real and the imaginary.
At a deeper level, the book is an allegory whose heroes relive the lives of Adam
and Eve, Cain and Abel, Moses, Jesus and Muhammed. Their appearance in a
modem context invites the reader to see them as human beings relevant to the
present day, not as remote sacred figures -to the consternation of some traditionalists. Most controversial is the significance of Gebelaawi, the immensely longlived patriarch. Mahfouz himself has said that his character represents' not God, but a certain idea of God that men have made', standing for the god of those who forget
the absolute transcendence of God affirmed by Islam.
All this professes to be as narrated by the traditional bards in their simple earthy
style, but the readet can also dig deepe1 in the hope of finding the thoughts of Mahfouz himself, a graduate in Philosophy who has chosen always to express
himself in fiction rather than in academic abstractions.
These are the ingredients in the swiftly moving narrative of this remarkable
book. There is little to compare with it in world literature, though it may distantly
recall Shaw's Back to Methuselah, Kazantakis' Christ Recrucified and Orwell's
ever to be completed, was made in 1962 with assistance from the author and was
first published in the United States in 1981. For Passeggiata Press's 1997 edition,
it has been revised in light of new findings concerning the missing manuscript, and
can claim to be the only version in any language to take full account of the original
sources. This Passeggiata edition also boasts a new introduction which looks into
the publishing history and manuscripts in some detail.
ISBN 1-57889-038-1 (pbk)
P.O. Box 636
Pueblo, CO 81002
Children of Gebelaawi
Children of Gebelaawi
By Naguib Mahfouz
Nobel Prize for Literature 1988
Revised Augmented Edition
Arabic Title Is
Copyright© by Philip Stewart, new (3'd and 4111) printing by Passeggiata Press, 1997 and
Copyright© Philip Stewart, Washington, D.C., USA, 1981.
First Edition, Second, and Third U.S. printings, 1988 and 1989 respectively.
Copyright © by Three Continents Press, USA, 1990
First Edition, Revised, Later printings, 1992, 1994, augmented 1995, 1996.
©Naguib Mahfouz, 1959, of Original Arabic Edition (Awlad Haratina).
First English language edition published in 1981 in the U.S.A. by Three
Continents Press, Inc., Washington, D.C. and simultaneously in the U.K. by
Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., London.
The Library of Congress has catalogued the Three Continents Press edition as
follows. The new publisher is Passeggiata Press with ISBN 1-57889-038-1
(paperback edition only).
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data
Mahfuz, Najib. 1912-
[Awlad, haratina, English)
Children of Gebelaawil Naguib Mahfouz.- Rev. augmented ed.
982 736--dc 20
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher except for
brief quotations in reviews or articles.
Pueblo, Colorado 81002
Photocopies of several pages in Arabic illustrating
some differences in Texts A and B of
Mahfouz' s manuscript
A major work by a great writer should need no introduction. Children oJ Gebelaawiby Naguib Mahfouz is an exception, for it has been much misu nderstood - even to the extent of
endangering the life of its author.
From the begi nning the novel posed problems for i ts
readers as a new departure not only i n the work ofMahfouz bu t
also in Arabic or indeed in any Islamic literature, being a
religious alleg01y based on the lives of the prophets. It consists
of five closely inter-linked fables, the heroes of the first four of
which relive the lives of Adam, Moses,Jesus and Muhammad
while the chief actor in the fifth stands for the scientist. The
story is set on the edge of the real Cairo, and i ts world is
almost completely cut off from any outsi de events.
Trouble began wi thi n days of the publication of the first
episode in the semi-official Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram on
21 September 1959. The protests grew steadily in intensity led
by members of Al-Azhar, the ancient Mosque-University. More
than once, the preacher of a Friday sermon led his congregation through the streets of Cairo to demonstrate against vii