Sunday, July 6, 2008

Miramar (1967)

Not an easy read for the ride but I stuck with it. Naguib Mahfouz tells this story from four different perspectives, each one representing a different political position and social class in Egypt. I was ready to give it up after the first section, but became mildly interested when I realized in the second, that each person portrayed is quite different from how the author originally draws them.

If Zohra, the Miramar pension’s serving girl, is the personification of Egypt as critical analysis suggests, each of the men who interact with her are the various influences that affect her. The aging reporter Amer Wagdi wants to protect and take care of her. He cares deeply for Zohra's happiness and her well being but his days are numbered. Hosni Allam, a younger man, has wealth but no education. He wants to rape and abuse Zohra for his own pleasure and satisfaction but is continually rejected by her. Mansour Bahy, the quiet intellect is suddenly driven mad by his need to defend her. And Sarhan El-Beheiry, an opportunist, takes advantage of Zohra, first seducing her and then leaving her with guilt but no real sense of remorse. Throughout it all, Zohra, whose direct point-of-view is never heard, survives, broken yet strong, and vows to continue her quest for independence and education.

In closing this post, I recommend you go to the National Public Radio Web site, to learn more about Umm Kulthum, the revered singer, described there as "a powerful symbol of Arab nationalism." It is she who manages to unite all of Mahfouz's characters one evening as the single voice of Egypt.

Click here to find out more about the book: Miramar.


Andrea said...

hey leslie in adams morgan! who knew that you were doing all this while the rest of us where spending our gas money! And I thought you were knitting!

You are one cool chick!

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

Miramar was never one of my favourite Mahfouz books, though I know a lot of people for whom it was their favourite. I was always more interested by Midaq Alley and The Children of Gebelawi. He has a wonderful way of writing though.