Naguib Mahfouz's Book Of Dreams
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
The late Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz is one of the titans of Arab literature. Near the end of his life, he published vignettes in Egyptian papers and magazines based on his dreams. Over 200 of them are now collected in a book simply called �The Dreams.�
Alan Cheuse has a review.
ALAN CHEUSE: Here in our country, we know mainly the Mahfouz of the novels and stories about Cairo family life and street life and a few books, his early ones, based on history and myth of the Pharaonic period in Egypt. These several hundred dreams come as a bit of a surprise.
Neither stories nor anecdotes, they give us a marvelous accounting of the night work, or so the fiction writer presents it as, of one of the West's finer novelists. Mahfouz packs each of these pieces with resonant details and plays with opposites in time and location before rapidly moving to a poignant or a questioning denouement. I'd love to read a fistful of them to you so you can hear the pithiness and compactness and sometimes longing for the dear, departed people in his life, sometimes relief that they're gone. But if I had to choose only one to read in the time allotted me, gee, I don't know which, maybe Dream Number 80.
We gathered in the old room, my mother, my four sisters and me. No sooner had we closed the door than complaints arose about times past and people we knew. My mother turned toward me apprehensively, swearing an oath that all she had ever done or said was out of love. At this, voices were raised, demanding; if that's true, then how do you explain what happened? Scoldingly, my mother replied, you have to account for yourselves as well. Don't try to tell me that it was all written and decreed.
No, life is not all written and decreed until the very end, and even near that end, malicious and menacing and enigmatic and revealing dreams may come to Mahfouz and to any and all of us.
BLOCK: The book is �The Dreams� by Naguib Mahfouz. It is translated by Raymond Stock. Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse.
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