The Cairo Trilogy
Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street
Publication Date: October 16, 2001
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Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent epic trilogy of colonial Egypt appears here in one volume for the first time. The Nobel Prize—winning writer’s masterwork is the engrossing story of a Muslim family in Cairo during Britain’s occupation of Egypt in the early decades of the twentieth century.
The novels of The Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons–the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. Al-Sayyid Ahmad’s rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination in Palace of Desire, as the world around them opens to the currents of modernity and political and domestic turmoil brought by the 1920s. Sugar Street brings Mahfouz’s vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the aging patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politician.
Throughout the trilogy, the family’s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two World Wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, The Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller.
Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. A student of philosophy and an avid reader, he has been influenced by many Western writers, including Flaubert, Balzac, Zola, Camus, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and, above all, Proust. He has more than thirty novels to his credit, ranging from his earliest historical romances to his most recent experimental novels. In 1988, Mahfouz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He lives in the Cairo suburb of Agouza.
“The highest achievement of The Cairo Trilogy [is] the creation of memorable characters whose circumstances of life are unimaginably remote from our own, but whose aspirations are the same. The Cairo Trilogy extends our knowledge of life; it also confirms it.” –Boston Globe
“Luminous…All the magic, mystery and suffering of Egypt in the 1920s are conveyed on a human scale.” –New York Times Book Review
“The alleys, the houses, the palaces and mosques and the people who live among them are evoked as vividly as the streets of London were conjured up by Dickens.” –Newsweek
“A masterful kaleidoscope of emotions, ideas and perspective. Mahfouz has captured a family and its homeland at one gloriously varied moment in a cycle.” –Newsday
“Mahfouz presents us with a different concept of the world and makes it real. His genius is not just that he shows us Egyptian colonial society in all its complexity; it is that he makes us look through the vision of his vivid characters and see people and ideas that no longer seem alien.” –Philadelphia Inquirer