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Karnack Cafe

At a Cairo cafe, a cross-section of Egyptian society, young and old, rich and poor, are drawn together by the quality of its coffee and the allure of its owner, legendary former dancer Qurunfula. When three of the young patrons disappear for prolonged periods, the older customers display varying reactions to the news. On their return, they recount horrific stories of arrest and torture at the hands of the secret police, and the habitues of the cafe begin to withdraw from each other in fear, suspecting that there is an informer among them. With the night-time arrests and the devastation of the country's defeat in the 1967 War, the cafe is transformed from a haven of cameraderie and bright-eyed idealism to an atmosphere charged with mounting suspicion, betrayal, and crushing disillusionment. Exposing the dark underbelly of ideology, and delving into the idea of the 'necessary evils' of social upheaval, "Karnak Cafe" remains one of the Nobel laureate's most pointedly critical works, as relevant and incisive today as it was when it was first published in 1971.

Naguib Mahfouz was born in 1911 in the crowded Cairo district of Gamaliya. He wrote nearly 40 novel-length works, plus hundreds of short stories and numerous screenplays. He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1988. He died in Cairo on August 30, 2006 at the age of 94.

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