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Sugar Street: The Cairo Trilogy, Volume 3 Paperback – November 29, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Nobel Prize winner Mahfouz's stunning portrait of a family in dissolution (first published in 1957) mirrors an Egypt trying to plunge into the modern world but beset by colonialism, a rigid class system and political oppression. The third volume of his Cairo Trilogy, the novel opens in 1935 as Egypt smolders under British occupation, and it extends through the war. Kamal, son of the gaunt, wasted patriarch, is a grade-school teacher and philosopher who veers between lusty debauches and reading Spinoza. One of his nephews, Abd Al-Muni'm, becomes a Muslim fundamentalist; another nephew, Ahmad, takes Marx as his prophet. These two diametrically opposed brothers will share the same fate--a jail cell. The inadvertent cause of their undoing may be another scion of the patriarch, young Ridwan, a closet homosexual whose liaison with a prominent politician apparently backfires. Tragedy, in this busy family drama, can mean anything from marrying below one's station to a massacre of protesters by English constables and Egyptian soldiers. Mahfouz's characters blaze with intensity, his Egypt pulsates with unresolved tensions.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
The final volume in Nobel laureate Mahfouz's magisterial Cairo trilogy takes the Abd al-Jawad family from a rising tide of nationalist sentiment in 1935 through the darkness and confusion of WW II, as Britain defends an Egypt officially neutral. Yet national politics, for all its importance as background accompaniment here (as in Palace Walk and Palace of Desire), is usually kept just offstage--``They say that Hitler has attacked,'' old family servant Umm Hanafi announces halfway through, and matriarch Amina's final illness coincides with a bombing raid--as Mahfouz continues to dramatize the emergence of modern Egypt through ailing family head Ahmad Abd al-Jawad's family--his sons, sensualistic Yasin and scholarly Kamal; his daughters, prematurely aged widow Aisha and settled wife and mother Khadija; and his five grandchildren. As perennial bachelor Kamal methodically visits his father's favorite brothel and frets about whether to marry, the focus of the trilogy shifts from Palace Walk to Khadija's home with Ibrahim Shawkat on Sugar Street, where the couple's sons--Abd al- Muni'm, turning toward fundamentalist Islam, and increasingly committed Communist Ahmad--argue about their duty to the country and the nature of Egyptian society, but both end meeting the same fate. Meanwhile, Yasin's son Ridwan rises rapidly through the ranks of the civil service with the aid of magnetic, homosexual Pasha Isa, and their sister Karima, like Aisha's daughter Na'ima, prepares to receive the inevitable wedding proposal--though both times from a surprising source. Individual episodes--Ahmad Abd al- Jawad's hazy awareness that his friends are all dying; Kamal's abortive romance with Budur Shaddad, sister of his far-distant first love Aida; and his final tormented guilt over his moral paralysis--show Naguib's Tolstoyan economy at its most dramatic, though the third generation of his family makes a more muted impression than the first two. Mahfouz writes in the great tradition of the 19th-century novel from Balzac to Buddenbrooks. His trilogy shows just how rich and vital that tradition remains in the hands of a master. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Palace Walk and Palace of Desire reveal the times and events that have shaped the characters, and readers become invested in their lives. The family is basically old-fashioned. They are devout Muslims, but they are not fanatical. To some readers, the first two novels are a little weaker than the last because, for them, they are a little too much like a soap opera. Also, Sugar Street moves along more quickly. It closes the story of Al-Sayid Ahmad, a tyrannical patriarch who is now old and frail, and his children and their families, taking them to the mid-twentieth century, where we see the emerging of Egypt as a modern country.
In Sugar Street, Mahfouz existential views are more powerful as he continues to present the three generations of a middle-class Cairo family and their experiences. They are an example of the human experience. We see how they are affected by their times and how they adapt. The family has become fragmented by events on the national level and by events within the family. The lively home that the reader saw in Palace Walk is now gloomy. The family and its members are also a reflection of a changing Egypt, a country ruled by a strong leader and by almost blind religious belief. Like the al-Jawad family, the nation is one family, yet many families, looking for a path into the future. We observe their journeys and their often unsettling confrontations with change. We see how events send one person in one direction and another person in the opposite direction.
One of the techniques that Mahfouz uses is dialogue, especially the internal dialogue. The reader hears what people say and what they think but cannot say. Within the family, as well as within the nation, people do their best to maintain a façade, rarely communicating openly. At the same time, readers will hear dialogue that is a reflection of the national sentiment and socialist-like rhetoric of the times. The book takes the reader to a point just before Gamal Abdel Nasser seized power in Egypt, a point where Arab nationalist rhetoric was at its peak then.
One of the themes of the Trilogy is the very limited role of women outside the home. Women are treated as commodities and have difficult times, yet each generation makes advances. For example, Amina is the wife of Abd al-Jawad, the main protagonist. His death is tragic but also liberating for her. After his death, she gains a voice separate from other characters. She says the last prayers, effectively having the last word. Her inner dialogue reveals her thoughts, and she then becomes a character distinctly separate from others.
As has been said, “Poetry is what’s lost in the translation.” This statement, for many critics, applies to the English translation of the Cairo Trilogy. The translation of a text is never going to reveal as much as the original nor be as aesthetically appealing. However, the Cairo Trilogy is worth reading, especially Sugar Street. Do read them in order, however. Otherwise, you will most likely lose even more than what is lost in translation.
One man, on patriarch, sets his family down the road of despair through his relentless despotism. He even warps their brains into thinking that what he does is a good thing, and his hypocrisy a virtue. This could be a great book in teaching the lesson of how we choose generational sins for our family- but it doesn't seem to actually try to teach this. This is the result of the work of the patriarch, but there is no foil to present for hope for the family. The only successful individual is the grandchild engaged in homosexuality who succeeds at bureaucracy. There is no redemption. The book becomes the anti-Dickens, a world without possibilities. And this is the greatest value of the book, perhaps- showing us the Egyptian culture, strangling it's citizens in red tape.
Great Expectations (Penguin Classics)
This book opens with the father and his wife in old age, in their 60's, their children in middle age, and the younger (third) generation entering their 20's. It continues the interesting saga. The book finishes shortly after both the father and his wife eventually die of old age.
This entire series is SLOW DRAMA (warning for those who like "action"), but one of the BEST pieces of literature I have ever read in my life. I have lived in the Middle East for 11 years, and this entire series REALLY shows the Middle Eastern culture and way of thinking.