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Palace Walk: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 1 Paperback – November 29, 2011

101 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Cairo Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Cairo around the end of World War I, as Egypt, a British protectorate, clamors for independence, 1988 Nobel Prize-winner Mahfouz's epic family drama explores deep fissures in the patriarchal structure of one household. Prosperous merchant Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, a tyrant at home, roams Cairo's tawdry entertainment district by night seeking illicit pleasures. His submissive wife Amina is chained to the house; he throws her out on the street after she commits the sin of going outdoors for a walk. His two daughters constantly bicker, and his three sons are beyond his control: Yasin commits sexual assaults on servants; Fahmy becomes an activist in the nationalist movement, while Kamal befriends British soldiers. The first volume in Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy (1956-57), this dense novel charts an Egypt lurching into the modern age. Mahfouz is a master at building up dramatic scenes and at portraying complex characters in depth.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This extraordinary novel provides a close look into Cairo society at the end of World War I. Mahfouz's vehicle for this examination is the family of al-Sayyid Ahmad, a middle-class merchant who runs his family strictly according to the Qur'an and directs his own behavior according to his desires. Consequently, while his wife and two daughters remain cloistered at home, and his three sons live in fear of his harsh will, al-Sayyid Ahmad nightly explores the pleasures of Cairo. Written by the first Arabic writer to win the Nobel Prize, Palace Walk begins Mahfouz's highly acclaimed "Cairo Trilogy," which follows Egypt's development from 1917 to nationalism and Nasser in the 1950s. This novel's enchanting style and sweeping social tapestry ensure a large audience, one that will eagerly await the English translation of the entire trilogy. A significant addition to any collection. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/89.
- Paul E. Hutchison, Fishermans Paradise, Bellefonte, Pa.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Cairo Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307947106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307947109
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

133 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Imperial Topaz on April 13, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Twelve years ago, I spent several months living in Egypt. I am an American woman, and at that time, I found much of the culture and behavior of Egyptians to be confusing. Since that time, I have married a Moroccan, and have lived in Morocco for the past ten years. I now feel that I understand much about Arab culture.
Just recently, a friend recommended I read the Cairo trilogy. I began with Palace Walk, and haven't yet read the others. This book is SUPERB. Westerners have trouble understanding how Middle Easterners THINK. This book is so wonderful because it takes you inside the mind of each of the characters, in turn, chapter-by-chapter, showing you how each one of them thinks, and allowing you to see their motivations for their behavior. One person commmented in their book review that the majority of the book concentrated on the male characters. There is a reason for this. Egyptian society is mostly about men, not about women. Even as the society modernizes, the THINKING stays the same. Mahfuz has done a masterful character study of each character in the book, as they go therough their daily lives. Without yet having read the two subsequent books, I expect that I will get more in depth into the women's lives in Sugar Street, because this is the house to which the two female daughters have moved upon their marriages to two brothers.
In the past, I have tried to read some other books by this author, and just couldn't get into them. These books are different. They really do merit the Nobel Prize. Reading them now, after being immersed in the Arab culture for 12 years, I see so many more things than I would have noticed had I read the books first.
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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By on March 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
The Cairo trilogy (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street) tells the story of a middle-class Egyptian family. The story opens during the allied occupation of Cairo during WWI and continues through Cairo of WWII when the Germans were defeated at El Alamein.
Although the story can be read at several levels, the most interesting is its exposition of the lives of the family members. The father and his three sons enjoy the public life of school, work, and the clandestine life of coffee shops, bars, and brothels. The mother and daughters pass their days enclosed within a comfortable but emotionally stifling walled home and the internal life.
The background of this family tale is set against the ongoing political struggles of the period, when Egypt was ruled by the British. Unless one is familiar with the political history of modern Egypt, much of this context is difficult to comprehend.
Reading in English translation and in the context of a foreign culture, it is quite difficult to assess this work. I can only say that it reveals a culture and mindset which is quite foreign to me as an American reader. It is this alien atomosphere which is one of the work's main attractions. Nothing happens as one expects it to ... just like life itself. It also goes a long way to explain why the British occupiers didn't get it either.
In conclusion, the writing in translation is sufficient to make us care about and suffer with the characters. Ultimately, that is reason enough to read.
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73 of 76 people found the following review helpful By matthew osborne on April 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in Kuwait. My dog-eared copy still has sand in the pages, so they make a desert noise when I turn them. It always takes me straight back...
Mahfouz is not easy for an American reader. We like to know what's about to happen, and we like the story to "get there" in a few strokes (witness Tom Clancy.) The language is beautiful--too beautiful for many Americans-- and the setting is so real, so evocative that I can smell Egypt when I'm reading this trilogy (or is that the sand again?)
If you feel like you need to warm up to this series, I suggest that you start with "Miramar" or, better yet, "Arabian Nights and Days." Mahfouz's work is always allegorical; characters reflect the passage of their era, and the language is part of that reflection. Many other reviewers have complained that they "don't get the language"-- well, I can read Arabic as well, and I have stabbed at the original text before, so I can safely tell you that (like anything in the Middle East) language is *everything.* Once you understand that, you can start understanding the people who live there.
This book begins the saga of a family in crisis. It isn't a single event, but a slow evolution brought on by the irrepressible challenge of modernity. Young people want to shake off old traditions...Adults misbehave in secret...And in Cairo, the home becomes a place where secrets are kept hidden from those within while it protects secrets on the outside. It is an allegory of the Egyptian soul in the age of independence. The trilogy metes these secrets out one by one, until the walls that "protect" inside and outside begin to crumble. People must make new lives and develop new self-identities.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Sprocketgrrl on June 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Doesn't function like a Western novel"? Does the reviewer who wrote that think that all novels need function like Western ones?
The novel is not an indigenous form to Arabic literature, and the first Arabic novel was published in the 1910's or 1920's in Egypt. Yet Middle Eastern writers, with Mahfouz at their head, have taken this foreign form and appropriated it, infusing their own cultural values and linguistic lyricism. How is literature to evolve if everyone must write in the same way?
We owe thanks to the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis for this wonderful translation of "Palace Walk"; she read it in French and enjoyed it so much that she set the wheels in motion to get an English translation onto American bookshelves. Since then many of Mahfouz's novels and novellas have been published by Doubleday. I own most if not all of them, and they are fantastic.
I'd like to add something about the difficulties of translation. Mahfouz's Arabic is too poetic and complex for me to understand, but the fact that the English translation is so lyrical and can stand on its own is testament to the greatness of the original work.
Reading literature from other cultures should open our minds and help us to come closer to global understanding. It's true that I have a far more intense bond with Mahfouz's work than a non-Egyptian or non-Middle Easterner would have, but he is such a consummate genius that he moves me as well, deeply.
In addition, the reviewer's opinion that the characters have not changed strikes me as either misinformed or born of bias. The characters do change, but you have to read the whole Trilogy to see just how much.
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