Sidharth Vardhan

Review of Midaq Alley

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Midaq Alley by Naguib MahfouzFirst written on October 1, 2016) I can see why it is called Naguib Mahfouz’s best novel (although I personally like his ‘Children of the Alley’ more). It has a large number of well-developed and complex characters built with great psychological insight. The Egypt of second world war comes alive in these pages. The lower-middle-class characters – barbers, sweet shop owners etc which populate the book are very much like people belonging to similar classes that I have met in India. Their psychology, their motivations which Mahfouz draws out so beautifully are universal though. The sexual desires suppressed because of social pressure, the strong desire to move up from one’s station in life, the constant consciousness of luxuries that are beyond one’s reach – which also turn some people towards corrupt ways. In this novel this desire also makes the youth (among which it is felt most) take part in the war as British army. Of course, once the war is over, the army lays them and their dreams out. One feels for Hamida whose fate is similar to those who, like her, ignore their emotional needs in face of the

Who’s the Mr. Capital-G in here? – a review of Children of Gebalaawi

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Children of Gebalaawi by Naguib Mahfouz First written on December 13, 2015) This is an allegory on the history of prophets of Abraham religions – Adam, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad represented as far as humanly possible. Gebelaawi, the creator of an alley, favored his son (from a servant) Adham over his other sons of higher birth including Idris (Iblis). Idris walked out on his father and later tricked Adham into the temptation of knowing Gebelaawi’s will causing G to throw him out. “Your mind stays in the place it’s been thrown out of.” Naguib Mahfouz (Children of Gebelaawi) Another book cover of ‘Children of Gebelaawi’ probably showing Adham in Gebelaawi’s house Adham lived on hoping to get back the comfortable life that was once his, scorn-ing at life to sustain which you have to earn: “Only an animal worries all the time about the next meal. “ Naguib Mahfouz (Children of Gebelaawi) Adham lived a miserable life – the memory of lost paradise can bring more suffering than residence in hell, he saw one of his sons kill the other. However, Gebelaawi promised Adham on later’s death bed that his children will get the life he

The Palace Walk : A study in Patriarchy and Politics

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Palace Walk by Naguib MahfouzFirst written on November 3, 2016) The Cairo trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz is a work of Tolstoyan proportions, drawing a picture of a place during a certain period through its portrayal of a large number of well-developed complex characters. Though mostly it is a story of a joint family, it expands into the political and socio-religious arena of its times. There is a lot more to this book than I will go into this review of its the first installment of the trilogy, Palace Walk. Palace Walk The amorality of the narrator works for me most of the time but sometimes it is really irritating, particularly initially when he is talking about double standards of al-Sayyid Ahmad. When it comes to running his family, Ahmed is quite a traditionalist even for his own times (the 1910s and 1920s) – ‘strict’ (the polite word for oppressive) both as husband and father; so much that his (second) wife, Amina isn’t allowed to leave the house without his permission even after nearly two decades of marriage. When she gives in to the temptation to visit a pilgrimage place in the city (which she hadn’t

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