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on April 27, 2017
I originally picked up the book thinking that it would be a selection from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. It only took one page to realize that I was wrong, but that I was reading something truly exceptional. The stories and characters simply present themselves like little gems of Egyptian life to be examined without sympathy nor derision. They lead from one to another as did Scheherazade's stories without conclusions.
This little book led me to the Cairo trilogy a truly epic saga from a Nobel Literature Prize winner.
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on October 17, 2012
Evil djinnis take the role of bad guys seducing hapless humans into dreadful behavior throughout this book. They bankrupt the wealthy, frame the innocent, and lead people to rape and murder while leading them away from righteous behavior and sound moral judgement. Mahfouz rewrites some of the Arabian Nights tales, like that of Aladdin and Ma'rouf the Cobbler, and works around the edges of others, like that of Sindbad the Sailor, while introducing a slew of his own characters who interact with each other and generally get the short end of the stick in this collection of interwoven stories.

Against the djinn are a few morally upright humans and one angel whose powers are extremely limited. This small band tries to stem the tide of corruption and despair which pervades the entire book and gives it its central themes.

This is a very, very enjoyable collection of stories, fast-moving and philosophical in tone, posing questions of moral weight and conscious import through its vignettes. I had such a good time with this book that I read it in one sitting. Mahfouz is not trying to give you answers with this book, he's posing questions about moral behavior and corruption and showing what happens when corruption gains the upper hand in people's lives. Beyond that, he's playing with familiar characters from the Arabian Nights and re-writing their stories to take these themes into account. If you're looking for a book that slavishly follows the stories of the Arabian Nights, this book isn't for you. Mahfouz deviates from the stories in that book to explore his key themes; for instance, Aladdin in Mahfouz's story is put to death for theft before he ever had his adventures with the wondrous lamp, and Ma'rouf the Cobbler never finds the treasure hoard in the farmer's field. The book reads like a hallucination, with characters coming and going at whim, their stories warping and twisting as the djinn screw with them and throw obstacles in their paths. If you want an exploration of corruption and moral redemption, you will find it here, and well handled. Come to this collection understanding that Mahfouz is not re-writing classic tales but is telling them anew on his way to his own explorations, and you'll be in the right frame of mind for these stories.
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on January 9, 2016
I read this to be able to tutor someone who had to read this for a class. It's pretty enjoyable. It's a lot like 1001 Nights, but in a contemporary form - not helpful I know. The characters are much more 3d; you get to see inside their heads.
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on March 13, 2001
I found myself distracted with a nagging question whether the narration was an illusion or reality. The novel is a loosely set of tales, where each chapter is self contained describing the experiences of a character. The plot converges at the `Cafe of the Emirs'. The characters are faced with an adventure in which they appear to find more about themselves. In this adventure they are tempted with their weakness, there is a self struggle where they determine to take the path of choice. It is this path which can lead to their destruction or bliss. The apparent conflicts are in the nature of corruption, self righteousness, lust, greed.
This is my second read from Naquib Mahfuz, he boldly exposes the true realities and choices one faces and makes in every day life. Due to this i found the book somewhat depressing.
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on April 17, 2001
The book is very readable and not too long, and the translation is excellent. Starting where the traditional Arabian Nights' Entertainment leaves off, Mahfouz cleverly describes surprising events in a world in which "jinn" (genies) are actively involved in the affairs of mankind. The tale is very enjoyable.

But on another level, Mahfouz indirectly poses a more philosophical query: to what extent am I responsible for my actions, and if I err, to what extent can I blame circumstances, outside interference, and my inherent weakness as a human being? And if a very wicked person repents of his evil deeds, how much forgiveness is he entitled to in this world?

I recommend the book.
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on March 2, 2015
Great service. Highly recommend.
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on March 30, 2015
Great book
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on April 27, 2015
Love
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on February 14, 2013
My favorite of his novels - it is philosophical, very thoughtful and never dogmatic or simpliified.. Really magical and somehow fulfilling.
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on August 4, 2014
Because of this book, Naguib is a favorite writer
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