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Nagib Mahfuz has died

By Ardain IsmaCSMS Magazine Staff WriterThe only Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature and Egypt’s most celebrated author, Nagib Mahfuz, died this Wednesday in a hospital in Cairo, Egypt. He was 94. Mahfuz, who was almost killed in 1994 when a radical Islamist stabbed him, was admitted to an interior ministry hospital in Cairo in mid-July after he suffered from kidney problems, pneumonia and other ailments related to his age.     According to Agence France Presse (AFP), Mahfuz “suffered a cardiac arrest Tuesday at 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) but doctors resuscitated him. He had another one today at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) and this time there was failure.” He is to be buried Thursday with a funeral at Cairo’s Al-Rashdan mosque, where ceremonies are often held for honored public figures, according to sources from the Egyptian interior ministry.     Mahfuz “was an exceptional writer, an enlightened and creative thinker, an author who brought Arab culture and literature to the world’s attention,” a statement from Mubarak’s office said. “He was the last of the pioneers,” Mahfuz’s friend and biographer Raymond Stock told AFP. “He was the only Egyptian who perfectly blended the East and the West.”     Born in Cairo in December 1911, Mahfuz was Egypt’s most renowned intellectual with about 50 novels to his name. He started his writing career at the age of 17 and his first novel was published in 1939.     A long list of other novels followed, but it was this three gut-wrenching novels: The Cairo trilogy, Between the Palaces, Palace of Longing and Sugarhouse, published between 1955 and 1957, that brought his name to the forefront of Arab literature and catapulted him to the world stage. The books describe the reality of urban life in his native country while depicting the life of a family living through the first half of the 20th century at a time when Egypt switched from British colonial rule to independence to fall under a monarchy.     In 1988, Mahfuz won the Nobel Prize for literature, notably for the universal character of his art, which was considered a metaphor for relations between people in communities worldwide. “Many classified him as a 19th century-style novelist after the trilogy but in my opinion he surpassed many of the greats from the West,” his biographer, Raymond Stock said.    “Although his physical condition deteriorated, his mental powers grew, his literary powers also continued to grow. He learned how to write entire novels in one paragraph,” said Sonallah Ibrahim who is perhaps the most famous Egyptian in Mahfuz’s absence. He told AFP “Mahfuz should be considered the master of the Arab novel. Each one of his novels was a new experience.”     “Nagib Mahfuz is to Arab fiction what the pyramids are to Egypt,” he said.Nearly half of Mahfuz’s novels have been made into films, which have circulated throughout the Arabic-speaking world. He wrote more than 100 short stories, many of which have been translated into English.     A lover of Cairo’s sprawling cafés, many of his works center around life in the bustling city, bringing out its uniquely “Egyptian” character just as a national identity was being defined. “Mahfuz treated people like an Egyptian and time like a German. He lived a very regimented and disciplined life,” Stock said.     Until a few weeks before his death, the writer’s frail figure could still occasionally be seen at his favorite Cairo cafés among one of his many circles of friends. His novel, Children of Gebalawi, published in 1959, was banned by Egypt’s Islamic Al-Azhar University for its disillusioned view of religion. The book brought more trouble for him in the 1980s, when the fundamentalist Jihad group said Mahfuz should be killed for blasphemy.    He was a fervent supporter of the Arab cause, noticeably the Palestinian cause. After winning the Nobel Prize, he divided the prize money in four equal parts: one for his wife, two for his daughters, while part of his share went to charities for the Palestinians. On that solemn occasion, the head of Arab writers Union, Mohammad Salmawy, speaking during a news conference following the death Nagib Mahfuz, said that the author was “one of kind, and that he will surely be missed.” Also see Egypt: https://csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060429I76

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