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The Thief and the Dogs Paperback – September 20, 1989


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reissue edition (September 20, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385264623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385264624
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Out of prison for less than a day, thief Said Mahran quickly resumes his old ways, and worse. Angered by his young daughter's refusal to even shake hands with the parent she has not seen in four years, and by the chilly reception from Rauf Ilwan, a former colleague in crime whom he suspects of having betrayed him to the police, Mahran goes berserk and seeks revenge with a gun. But this onetime Robin Hood (an ardent nationalist, he stole only from "people who deserved to be robbed") accidentally murders two innocents instead of his intended victims, the new husband of his ex-wife and Ilwan. Pursued by the press and the police, he finds refuge with a prostitute he knows; her flat has a view of a cemetery. The Nobel laureate writes here with remarkable clarity and eloquence. His tale of the haunted, hunted Mahran feverish and suspenseful, introspective and subtle. In just 176 pages, he offers a complex psychological portrait of a man hell-bent on ruining himself. This 1961 novel was previously published in the U.S. in a limited edition.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The incredible variety of Mahfouz's writing continues to dazzle our eyes."
The Washington Post

"[Naguib Mahfouz] is not only a Hugo and a Dickens, but also a Galsworthy, a Mann, a Zola, and a Jules Romains."
—Edward Said, The London Review of Books

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Okla Elliott on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
This novel, by one of the world's premier fiction writers (Nobel Prize, 1988), is an interesting combination of Western and Middle-Eastern traditions. The prose style is a mixture of Camus' "The Stranger", Hesse's "Siddartha", and Graham Greene's "A Burnt-Out Case". There is a hard-boiled aspect that reminds the reader of Graham Greene's best "entertainments" and a philosophical strand similar to the French existentialists. Mix in a little Sufist wisdom and Egyptian scenery, and you've got a rather interesting literary mixture.
I advise any fan of world literature to give it a try. It's short and fast-paced, so the time investment will only be a day or two.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gail Moore on October 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
First published in Egypt during the sixties, another great novella from Naguib Mahfouz, this one a riveting page turner narrated as a streaming flow of consciousness from a criminal mind.

The story opens with Said Mahran, just released after years in prison, burning up with hatred and obsessed with the idea of revenge on his ex-wife Nabawiyya and her new husband and his old friend Ilish. When he sees the success of one of his old cronies, Rauf Ilwan, he hates him too and desires vengeance. He seems driven by circumstance, yet later when he is given opportunities to change, he does not take them, knows only how to be a thief and nothing else. He is unable to change, blaming everyone except himself for his problems and soon seeks out "Tarzan" and his sleazy club out in the dark of the desert, drawn back into the criminal underworld.

A psychological study of someone bent on self-destruction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. A. ZAIDI on November 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
In The Thief and the Dogs; Naguib Mahfouz explores some of the disappointments in the failure of the revolution to bring real change. His characters live in a world rich in emotional and political colour. Anyone can identify with their dilemmas, their passions and their frustrations. The Thief and the Dogs deals with the experience of Said Mahran, a burglar and smalltime political activist who goes to jail before the revolution in 1952 and emerges four years later to find the world he used to know has completely changed. Both in personal and political terms Said feels betrayed: his wife has married his old sidekick Ilish, and his former political mentor Ra'uf has given up his student radicalism for a comfortable job with a newspaper.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on June 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
Newly released from prison, professional thief Said Mahran finds his previous life torn asunder. His wife, having spent all "the loot," has married a close friend; Said has been cut off from his daughter; his mentor, a journalist, has sold out to the temptations of a "plush office suite" and a "lovely villa" on the river. These acts of betrayal inspire Said to bitter thoughts and vindictive acts--and to the end, he remains the unredeemed casualty of his own crimes.

Given its plot, the crime-noir tone of Mahfouz's psychological novel isn't surprising; it is even strikingly reminiscent of Graham Greene's "Brighton Rock." Like Greene's wannabe criminal wunderkind Pinkie Brown, Said seeks both hesitant comfort from a familiar religious sanctuary and uneasy shelter in the arms of a woman, but he ultimately proves beyond the redemptive powers of religion or companionship. His sources of refuge--the courtyard of family spiritual mentor Sheikh, the tavern owned by the morally neutral Tarzan, the apartment of the prostitute Nur, Said's accomplice in petty crime--fail to shelter him from his self-created tragedy. Every act at salvaging his self-respect only uncovers another source of despair: "I, the murderer, understand nothing.... I've tried to solve part of riddle, but have only succeeded in unearthing an even greater one."

The style of the novel alternates between traditional crime narrative and a stream-of-conscious tour of Said's mind. It's masterfully done (and it's a notably easy read), but the techniques and themes will be familiar to readers of the genre in the Western tradition. The novelty here, as translator Trevor Le Gassick notes, is the "intimate and authentic impressions of the values and structures of Egyptian society of the period." Although it may not seem as weighty as some of Mahfouz's better-known masterpieces, "The Thief" still manages to be powerful in its concision.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the story of a man who had stolen for the Revolution. Released from jail in post-revolutionary times, he continues to blame society for his ills, reverting to his old, thieving habits, and brings himself to self destruction. A fascinating, but not a very likeable, character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Loren Eaton on March 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Stories remind me of people. Something in their style calls to mind the mannerisms of family and friends. Self-important historical epics make me think of a lumbering middle-school teacher. The upper-crust comedies of P.G. Wodehouse take me back to a certain night out on the town with my little-black-dress-clad, then-future wife. Having just finished Naguib Mahfouz's The Thief and the Dogs, I find myself thinking of the Florida redneck who taught me to handle a gun, a man as hard and direct as the bullets he shot.

The years Said Mahran spent in an Egyptian jail did little to cure him of his affinity for burglary. Instead, they gave him a new vice -- revenge. Newly free, he wants the lives of his ex-wife and her lover, the two people who turned him over to the police. And when an overture to a former revolutionary friend turned nouveau riche falls flat, Said adds another name to his murderous list. He gets a gun from the owner of a less-than-reputable café and love from a faithful whore, but a fatal mistake quickly turns everyone else against him. A stray slug can take more than a life; it can kill a man's most-cherished plans.

Mahfouz's slim little novel is less interested in the niceties of vengeance than in examining the consequences of an ill-aimed life. Said soon moves beyond mere retribution and starts striking out at anyone and everyone who gets in his way. A gentle Sufi mystic chides him, yet Said is so wrapped up in bitterness that he can't grasp the ruin that envelops him. It doesn't matter how hot your rage burns when the whole world is nipping at your heels.
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