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The Day the Leader Was Killed Paperback – June 6, 2000
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"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."
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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!Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My issues with this book are more with the edition than with the literary qualities of the work. First, I confess I was influenced by the blurb, particularly the words... Read morePublished 18 months ago by A. J. Sutter
I've got most of Mahfouz books in my library, really enjoy his works, lots of "words of wisdom" a fine and delicate "connective tissue" bridging past and present.Published on March 20, 2014 by mehrdad
A short novella, written from the viewpoints of three people on the eve of Anwar Sadat's assassination. Read morePublished on March 29, 2011 by E.J. Kaye
The Day the Leader Was Killed by Naguib Mahfouz
(translated by Malak Mashem), (orig. pub. in 1985).
This is a slender novel by Mahfouz, only 103 pages. Read more
Najib Mahfouz in his compact dry story details the hardships faced by the people of Egypt from the economic liberation. Read morePublished on February 7, 2001 by M. A. ZAIDI