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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second part of "The Cairo Trilogy",
This review is from: Palace of Desire: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 2 (Paperback)In the second volume of "The Cairo Trilogy", we follow the progress of Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad's family after the death of Fahmy in a riot against the British. After more than one year, Al-Sayyid Ahmad resumes his visits to Jalila and Zubayda. The later is to become his private mistress on a houseboat on the Nile and later Yasin's wife! Kamal is now seventeen and to Al-Sayyid Ahmad's disappointment he intends to enrol at the Teachers College. His father would wish him to become a civil servant or an engineer but Kamal is more interested in literature and philosophy. He is indeed becoming an adult and his relation with his mother Amina is changing. He feels that he has nothing much to tell her except "meaningless chatter". Another disappointment for Kamal is his love for Aïda who never quite reciprocates his feelings for her.
What makes the second volume interesting is the evolution of the Egyptian society, the rules of which begin to relax as the country inexorably adopts more Western values. These values are difficult to accept for conservative people like those of Al-Sayyid Ahmad's generation. It appears that the family values suffer most from such a modernisation and in this respect Yasin is a good example with his three marriages. Like in the first volume, the reader can expect the highest literary standards in "Palace Of Desire" by one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Arabic realism,
This review is from: Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) (Paperback)This second volume of the Cairo Trilogy really captured my imagination - more so than Palace Walk, its predecessor. I think that's because, five years later in Mahfouz's epic story, the ignorant patriarchal tyranny of Al-Sayyid Ahmad is finally being challenged. Palace Walk, set before the 1919 Egyptian Revolution, is a novel about an odious father who rules his family like a corrupt king. Palace of Desire, set in 1923, reflects a time of change: in the background, it's a political one - and in the foreground, it's a subtle (but acute) domestic one.
Al-Sayidd Ahmad and the old-fashioned Islamic world he represents are the key reasons for this change. He himself remains totally unchanged, even by his advancing age: he still pursues young women like a deluded lech, he still treats his wife like a slave, he still treats his (now adult) children like abject minions. But this oppressive fatherhood is now beginning to reap its own rewards. Fahmy, the eldest son - having been driven to religious extremes by his father's interference - has been killed in an anti-British riot. Yasin, the second son, has inherited his father's womanising ways and causes regular drunken scandals with prostitutes. Khadija, the eldest daughter, has been married off by her father and fallen into bitter dispute with her incompatible mother-in-law. Aisha, the second daughter, has also been married to a man of her father's choosing and is seemingly happy - but fate ultimately decrees that her new family will be struck down by typhoid (paving the way for the third novel in this trilogy, "Sugar Street"). Kamal, the youngest son, is the only family member who eventually recognises - and questions - the destructive effect of his father's household and the archaic Muslim rules that govern it. Indeed, by the end of this book, he has renounced Islam... an astonishing transformation that really made me look back over the 1,000 pages of these first two volumes in a totally different light. Mahfouz has built up to this moment in incredible detail and when it arrives, you truly begin to appreciate what he's been trying to achieve all along: a steady drip-feed of emotions and ideas that build, morph and explode with all the weight of real life.
Kamal is the real hero of this book and his infatuation with Aida and the wealthy Shaddad family is unforgettable. This is unrequited love - and literary technique - at its very best. Mahfouz really does a sterling job with Kamal's heartbreak and the subsequent fallout from it: here, finally, is the first inkling that a new generation is on the rise, scrutinising the old Islamic values with a critical eye. Mahfouz captures this brilliantly when Kamal's parents chastise him for taking an interest in Darwin. Mentally addressing his mother, Kamal thinks: "Ignorance is your crime, ignorance... ignorance... ignorance. My father's the manifestation of ignorant harshness and you of ignorant tenderness. You're my link to the Stone Age."
As for the Black Swan translation? As with the first volume, at times it can read like a dry academic essay - at others, the basic meaning can get muddled. But for the most part I think it's a success, given that Arabic is so very different to English. (Consider, for example, that every consonant in Arabic can have three different meanings... and you begin to appreciate how hard it is to crowbar Arabic words into our language.)
Overall, I thought this book was excellent and it's criminal that the first English translation only appeared in 1991. It was written in 1957! Just goes to show how many literary heavyweights are out there, undiscovered by Western readers.
4.0 out of 5 stars All good service - thanks,
This review is from: Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) (Paperback)Having read the first book of the trilogy, the second part feels a littler same-y - but I am only third of the way through.
5.0 out of 5 stars Egyptian life through late 19C to early 20C,
This review is from: Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) (Paperback)Continuing this extended family saga, the social and political world is moving on. The British are in Egypt, negotiating with an emerging Egyptian political elite. Within the family, life is also changing, primary education is no longer the doorstop, but secondary education is acceptable for both boys and, now, girls. Social life is unchanging. Political thought, as expressed by the characters, depicts extremes of vision, as separate from other Muslim countries as from the British who rule in Egypt. Family life is still gaspingly claustrophobic, ignorant and, at times, frightening. Despotic is a term one might use to describe all sectors of both public and private lives. Goodwill one day, abuse the next. It rolls along, fiercely, as a cart being drawn by a runaway horse.
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb,
This review is from: Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) (Paperback)A classic. Full of pathos and atmosphere. Brilliant characterisations and a worthy follow up to the first book. ... ..
5.0 out of 5 stars Palace of Desire;Cairo Trilogy 2,
This review is from: Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) (Paperback)After reading the first book in the Cairo Trilogy I couldn't wait for the second and it was well worth waiting for. I enjoyed it very much , I felt as if I where in Egypt , and part of the family !! Anyone interested in Egypt would really enjoy these books. The details are so that you can almost imagine the smells , and sounds of the local life in and around Cairo.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cairo Trilogy,
This review is from: Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) (Paperback)I bought Palace Walk for my wife because it was the next book that was suggested for her local book group. Once started she couldn't put it down,said it was 'mesmerising' and well worth all the plaudits,. Now I have had to buy Palace of Desire and Sugar Street to complete the set. She is halfway through Palace of Desire and thoroughly enjoying it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid heartwrenching portrait of unrequited love,
This review is from: Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) (Paperback)The double standards of 1920s Egypt continue to affect the extended family of Ahmad al Jawad in this second novel of the trilogy, set five or so years after the death of his son Fahmy. This novel concentrates on the senior men of the family in a way that the first was more concerned with the distaff side. Ahmad finds he cannot hold sway over his family as before. Yasin's personal life is a mess, as he rumbles from one marital crisis to another. Meanwhile, the family baby, Kamal, has his heart crushed by the object of his affections, while also being humiliated in front of his friends. The portrait of the pain of unrequited and destroyed love is handled poignantly and with skill. We also get a hint at the end of the book of a tragedy that may be about to befall the family. An excellent sequel to 'Palace Walk'.
4.0 out of 5 stars Recovered binding,
This review is from: Palace of Desire (The Cairo Trilogy) (Hardcover)I was very pleased with the service and delivery very good, but I was disappointed that I had not been informed in sales details that this books hard cover had been replaced in pink, a good job but not the original, there should have been the title etc embossed on the hard cover. Still maybe somebody has an original.
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as the first part,
This review is from: Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) (Paperback)Every bit as good as the first volume in the trilogy. Mahfouz, like all great novelists, can make you care for characters that are, when viewed objectively, quite unsympathetic.
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Palace Of Desire: Cairo Trilogy 2 (The Cairo Trilogy) by Naguib Mahfouz (Paperback - 1 Aug 1994)