Renowned Intellectuals Analyse Interplay of History and Society in Naguib Mahfouz’s Works

The first session of the Focus Personality programme at the 33rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF 2024), titled ‘Naguib Mahfouz: A Mirror of History and Society’, focused on the renowned Egyptian author, describing him as a universally acclaimed literary giant.

Held at the Memphis Stage at the Fair, the session brought together Dr. Ahmed Zayed, Director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Dr. Muhsin Al-Musawi, Professor of Classical and Modern Arabic Literature at Columbia University – New York, Dr. Mohammed Afify, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Cairo University, and Dr. Said Bensaid Al Alaoui, Honorary Professor at Mohammed V University. Author Reem Bassiouney moderated the session.

Dr. Ahmed Zayed discussed Mahfouz’s profound impact on society, saying: “Naguib Mahfouz stands as a universally acclaimed literary giant. His works portray beauty and imagination through a philosophical lens, which is exceptional. This is evident in his depiction of societal images, beginning with the neighbourhood. He delves into the conflicts and yearnings for justice and revolution prevalent within it”.

For his part, Dr. Mohammed Afify analysed Mahfouz’s engagement with history, saying: “The historical dimension in Mahfouz’s novels holds significant sway and influence. History was a profound obsession for him and greatly influenced his work. The author continually sought to explore history and its significance, a theme that manifests in his trilogy”.

On a similar note, Dr. Said Bensaid Al Alaoui explained: “When comparing ‘novel’ and ‘history’, each stands as a distinct genre with unique characteristics, but I hold reservations regarding the term ‘historical novel’. The novel serves as a reflection of both history and society. Through Mahfouz’s novels, we gain deeper insights into both”.

Dr. Muhsin Al-Musawi, remarked that: “Naguib Mahfouz’s novels reflect the transformation experienced by anxious individuals. The author’s emergence was pivotal, drawing significant attention to the realm of Arabic literature, succeeding esteemed figures such as Taha Hussein and Tawfiq Al-Hakim, whose works were translated into numerous languages, but Mahfouz remains the sole Nobel laureate from the Arabic literary sphere”.


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