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Authors: Naguib Mahfouz

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Children of Gebelaawi

BOOK: Children of Gebelaawi
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B award to him of th� Nobel Prize for Literature (1988) has brought him

om in 1911 in Cairo, Naguib



His work

is the lead

portrays the ing Arab novelist,

vigorous life of and the


teeming cities.

Children ofGebelaawi (banned in Egypt since its serialization in 1959, until two

Cairo re-issues

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

Animal Farm.


This historic translation of Children of Gebelaawi, the first of a Mahfouz novel

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)

ISBN 1-57999-039-1

Passeggiata Press

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

Awlad Haratina



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.

P. em.

ISBN 0-89410-818-2


PJ848.A46A913 1995


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.

Passeggiata Press

P.O. Box636

Pueblo, Colorado 81002


Translator's Introduction

Photocopies of several pages in Arabic illustrating

some differences in Texts A and B of

Mahfouz' s manuscript




Ad ham












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

BOOK: Children of Gebelaawi
2.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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