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Children of the Alley: A Novel Paperback – October 18, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Originally published in Arabic in 1959, Mahfouz's multigenerational saga presents an allegorical look at spirituality.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Gabalawi's mansion sits at the desert's edge, surrounded by high-walled gardens. His sons, however, quarrel over his estate, and the omnipotent gangster banishes them from his earthly paradise. Their descendants settle outside the wall, desperately poor but always praying to Gabalawi for salvation. As each succeeding generation spawns its messiah, the people rise up against the ruling gangsters, seizing their portion of the estate, but greed and ignorance prove their ultimate undoing, poverty and suffering their inescapable fate. Mahfouz masterly unfolds this timeless story of oppression and a people's longing for deliverance from themselves. As in The Harafish (LJ 4/15/94), he focuses on how principle is coopted by mob psychology and all good works are subject to the entropy of corruption. This novel, which begs for religious allegory, is highly recommended for all collections.?Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Perhaps many people noticed the similarity of the stories with the bible not knowing that the writer actually based it also on the Qura'n. I find that heartwarming.
In the beginning, an eldest son is cast from his father's house, and loses his inheritance, which goes to a son by a different mother. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, this next inheriting son is tempted, and also falls prey to his human failings. The two cast-out sons establish residence in the alley outside the opulent security of their father's house. They spend their lives waiting to be forgiven, for their "ancestor" (father) to call them and their families back into the fold. In this way, the sons and the son's sons live the life of the alley, a microcosm of the misery of mankind, where the strong feed on the weak and violence dominates.
The story becomes an allegory for all of mankind seeking salvation and forgiveness, a return to the source from which we came. Some of the descendants claim to have visions of their "ancestor" (God), changing their lives completely, spreading a doctrine of love and renewal; as well, each generation in the alley produces a "prophet". Life becomes so desperate that the people willingly change their ways and temporary peace settles on the alley. In each case, over time, all is forgotten and the people fall into despair again. And so the cycle repeats. The reader is left to look inward at his own role, his own small history, whether to choose the light or the darkness.
Great writers can't find better dramatic themes than the suffering associated with religions which constitute the everlasting struggle between good and evil.
Great writers like Mahfouz are philosophers by nature who have overall prespective and still observe all details and penetrate it to the real essence of things.
Mahfouz is trying to tell us that inspite of all religions, philosophers, prophets and sages, throughout the long history of mankind, still goodness and virtue can't gain a footing in our lives. The reason is that everything revolves around the human nature which consists of good and evil kneaded together. The human being will accept the call for virtue, love, philanthropy from religion but next day finds himself jeolous, hateful towards his brother and kills him, then mourns him for the rest of his life, then comes new religion and the divine comedy repeats itself.
Even without God or religions and stanging on the soilid ground of science, still humans are unable to be happy, content and virtuous.
The children of the alley is the story of the humanity stemming from God (Gabalawi) and his son Adam (Adham) and his three grandchildren, Moses(Gabal), Christ (Refaa) and Muhammad (Qassem) then follown by sience represented by (Arafa). the book is well written, easy to read and gets us emotionally invelvod. I highly recommend this book and give it five stars.