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The Day the Leader Was Killed Paperback – June 6, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The incredible variety of Naguib Mahfouz's writings continue[s] to dazzle our eyes."--The Washington Post

"Mahfouz's work is freshly nuanced and hauntingly lyrical. The Nobel Prize acknowledges the universal significance of his fiction."--Los Angeles Times

From the Inside Flap

From the Nobel Prize laureate and author of the acclaimed Cairo Trilogy, a beguiling and artfully compact novel set in Sadat's Egypt.
"[Mahfouz] is not only a Hugo and a Dickens, but also a Galsworthy, Zola and a Jules Romain."--Edward Said
The time is 1981, Anwar al-Sadat is president, and Egypt is lurching into the modern world. Set against this backdrop, The Day the Leader Was Killed relates the tale of a middle-class Cairene family. Rich with irony and infused with political undertones, the story is narrated alternately by the pious and mischievous family patriarch Muhtashimi Zayed, his hapless grandson Elwan, and Elwan's headstrong and beautiful fiancee Randa. The novel reaches its climax with the assassination of Sadat on October 6, 1981, an event around which the fictional plot is skillfully woven.
The Day the Leader Was Killed brings us the essence of Mahfouz's genius and is further proof that he has, in the words of the Nobel citation, "formed an Arabic narrative art that applies to all mankind."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (June 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385499221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385499224
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew M. Yau on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Day the Leader Was Killed is a succinct but significant work in contemporary Egypt. Naguib Mahfouz, through his sober and lyrical prose, has skillfully woven one of the darkest political backdrops in Egyptian history into his novel. Sealing off the seventies and reaching the threshold of a new decade, President Anwar al-Sadat implemented the Infitah, an open-door economic policy that would expedite the country forward to modernization. Like many of Mahfouz's works, this story is told in alternating first-person narratives by three characters--Muhtashimi Zayed, a pious, retired family patriarch; his grandson Elwan Fawwaz Muhtashimi; and Elwan's strong-willed, beautiful fiancée Randa Sulayman Mubarak. The story builds upon around this middle-class family and through the family's perspective zooms a picture of the social, economic, religious, gender and interpersonal aspects of the larger society in Egypt. For the patriarch, who devoted his whole life to prayers and religious rituals, his life was nothing but loneliness. He was especially despondent that the younger generation drifted from the Koran to whose life made a substantial influence. The old man could not forget "the woes of the world" (25) when he thought of his beloved grandson. Randa, like all her female contemporaries, faced gender challenges and the clash between traditional values and modern ideals.
The novelette evokes the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981. Sadat was saluting troops at the annual military parade when a team of assassins began firing weapons and throwing grenades into the reviewing stand. Sadat, along with 20 others was instantly killed in the deadly attack.
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Format: Paperback
"The Day the Leader Was Killed," by Naguib Mahfouz, has been translated into English by Malak Mashem. The short author bio on the book's opening page notes that Mahfouz was born in Cairo, has received the Nobel Prize in literature, and "is the most prominent author of Arabic fiction published in English today."
This novel takes place during the "Infitah," an "open-door" economic policy in place under Egyptian President Sadat. The story is told in alternating first-person chapters by three characters: Muhtashimi Zayed, a retired old man; his grandson Elwan; and Elwan's fiancee, Randa. Both Elwan's and Randa's families face economic troubles, and the young couple faces uncertainty regarding their own future.
This novel is a fascinating look at modern Egyptian family life. I found it interesting that while the book deals with three generations of Egyptians, it is only characters from the youngest and oldest generations that actually "speak" directly to the reader. Mahfouz looks at the issues of gender, economics, religious faith, and family ties in the lives of these two families and the larger community. I was particularly moved by Mahfouz's portrayal of the old man's spiritual life; Muhtashimi Zayed is a Muslim in whose life the Quran is an important element. I was also intrigued by Mahfouz's exploration of the challenges faced by the modern young Arab woman, caught between contemporary ideals and traditionalism. Overall, a compelling multigenerational portrait.
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Format: Paperback
Powerful novella with brief chapters about a love tragedy in Cairo, Egypt, with significant political and religious undercurrents. It all ends in September 1981, with the nation groaning from the effects of years of economic liberalization and a retreating state. The already privileged, the well-connected and the ruthless grow fabulously rich, many millions on fixed salaries lose out despite working second jobs. They cannot keep up with inflation. The novella is primarily about Elwan and Randa, who grew up together with their families’ apartments one on top of the other. They have been in love and engaged for 11 years, even have the same employer. Now that they are both 26, they still cannot afford to marry. They have only kissed.
Their sad predicament affects everyone in their close circle of family and colleagues, incl. Elwan’s grandfather, who is fond of him and tries to lift his spirits with wisdoms from the Book. The now devout octogenarian— living in with his son & wife and grandson, passing his remaining days watching soaps on TV and reading the Book—is also keenly aware that Elwan and his parents live harsher lives in less hopeful times than he himself: when young, there was little opprobrium to fulfilling one’s natural desires, letting go, partying, drinking, consorting with warm and generous prostitutes (all sins to be atoned for in later life). It was also easier to find affordable housing and marry young. Grandfather is a Sufi Muslim and would love to be able to perform miracles for Elwan and everyone like him. Aware of his spiritual limits, he increasingly welcomes meeting the angel the Almighty sends to collect His every creation’s soul.
One character pronounces solemnly that Egypt in 1981 truly hit rock bottom, it cannot get any worse. What a prophecy!
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Format: Paperback
Always focusing on aspects of Egyptian social and political history, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz here depicts three generations of one family as they try to survive the socially tumultuous period between the Six Day War with Israel in 1967 and the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. The loss of the Six Day War in 1967 was a national humiliation for Egypt, which lost the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, as a result. In 1973, President Anwar Sadat tried to regain the lost territories with a surprise attack that initiated the Yom Kippur War, but again Egypt failed to win a strong military victory. Sadat's willingness to negotiate with the Israelis, however, resulted in the Egyptians' regaining of the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for Egypt's recognition of Israel and the establishment of normal diplomatic relations under the Camp David Accords. It made him very unpopular at home.

This tumultuous period was also a time of enormous economic hardships. Sadat had turned away from the Soviets, with whom Nasser had had a close association, and had established the Infitah, his attempt to establish a free-market economy in the desperately poor country. As Elwan Fawwaz Muhtashimi, one of the main characters in this novel says, however, "For this we cursed him, our hearts full of rancor. Ultimately, he [Sadat] was to keep for himself the fruits of victory, leaving us his Infitah, which only spelled out poverty and corruption. This is the crux of the matter.
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