Winner of the Nobel Prize in 1988, Mahfouz’s novels brought Arabic literature to an international readership. Far fewer people, however, know his non-fiction works – a gap that this book will fill. Bringing together Mahfouz’s early non-fiction writings (mostly penned during the 1930s) which have never before been available in English, this volume offers a rare glimpse into the early development of the renowned author. In a series of essays Mahfouz discusses the origins of philosophy, its development and contributions to the history of thought. He also presents a series of essays on literature, discussing European writers, such as Anton Chekov, as well as some of his own Arab contemporaries, for example Taha Hussein. Beyond this he explores some important, contemporary issues of the day: science and modernity, the growing movement for women’s rights in the Arab world, and emerging ideologies, such as socialism. Together, these essays give us a clear picture of the changing landscape of Egypt during the 1930s, but also explains how Mahfouz’s views and ideas came to shape the nature of his literary output. In On Literature and Philosophy we find all the nuances of Mahfouz’ thoughts concerning Islam, tradition and faith as he engages with modernity and the secular influences of the West.
Naguib Mahfouz (1911–2006) was the greatest Arab writer of the twentieth century. Born in the old Islamic Quarter of Cairo in 1911, he began writing when he was seventeen before entering university to study as a student of philosophy in 1930. He is the author of over thirty novels – including a number of masterpieces, such as The Cairo Trilogy and Children of the Alley. In 1988 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Rasheed El-Enany is Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, as well as Professor Emeritus of Modern Arabic Literature, University of Exeter. He has authored several books on Naguib Mahfouz, including Naguib Mahfouz: His Life and Times.
Aran Byrne is an Arabic language graduate of SOAS (University of London) and Oxford University. He was co-translator of Democracy Is the Answer by the best-selling Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswany.