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In his final years, Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz distilled his storyteller's art to its most essential level. Written with the compression and power of dreams, these poetic vignettes, originally collected in two books, The Dreams and Dreams of Departure, here combined in one volume for the first time.
These stories telescope epic tales into tersely haunting miniatures. A man finds his neighborhood has turned into a circus, but his joy turns to anger when he cannot escape it. An obscure writer finally achieves fame-through the epitaph on his grave. A group of friends telling jokes in an alley face the murderous revenge of an ancient Egyptian queen. Figures from Mahfouz's past-women he loved, men who inspired him, even fictional characters from his own novels-float through tales dreamed by a mind too fertile ever to rest, even in sleep.
Translated by Raymond Stock
and was invited to attend some of his lessons. I found the place crammed with humanity. The man said today’s lesson would be about the bull that bore the world on his horn. His speech struck me as odd, and a derisory laugh escaped me. Faces glazed with anger turned toward me. The man himself fixed me with a glowering stare, silently pointing to the door. Dream 94 Five men wielding switchblades seized me: I gave them my money and they fled with confusing speed. Yet some of their features
a woman wailing for help from God. I was dazed by the resemblance between her voice and that of my dearly departed mother. Quickly I dashed onto the roof where my brothers and sisters were gathered, my elder brother discussing the call for help and our mother. Absolutely sure that I was right, I told them this was our mother’s voice, that no other’s could be like hers. Dream 113 At last, the new minister arrived. I presented myself to him as his parliamentary secretary, but he didn’t
intended window and offered my papers, the first being my proof of possession for the new apartment. The man looked them over and told me, “We don’t have any vacant positions right now. We’ll get in touch with you at the appropriate time.” I felt my hopes frustrated—I would have to wait a long while. I returned to cutting my way through the crowd, contemplating the rush of gorgeous faces that I had loved before. I lingered alone in the flat, while on the street I heard a man say in a booming
I said, “The boat is inviting us!” as we rode along with the utmost pleasure. Then the pilot sang, “I crave you, by the Prophet, I crave you.” We grew drunk with ecstasy, and I suggested that we swim around the skiff. We stripped off our clothes and leapt into the water, splashing about with absolute delight. But then the moon suddenly turned back into a crescent—and the crescent, too, disappeared. We grew alarmed as we never had before, and I felt that this required a serious reappraisal of our
whom I’ve raised myself.” This calmed my heart for a time—though whenever my sight fell on the boy my chest began to tighten. Seeking a sense of safety, I opened one of the windows that overlooked the street in which there labored those whom I knew and who knew me—but instead, I saw the alley of the garage on which my flat in Cairo looks down. Amazed, my heart pounded even more. As the time went on and darkness approached, I asked the men to end their work for the day before the evening began,