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on September 13, 2017
The following are three separate reviews of the trilogy parts:

Palace Walk (The Cairo Trilogy #1) by Naguib Mahfouz

Originally published in Arabic in 1956, this novel was written by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is the first book of the Cairo Trilogy that was translated into English in 1990.

The setting of the novel is Cairo during and just after World War I, 1917 to 1919. Most of the story focuses on the life of one family living on a street named "Palace Walk," and toward the end the plot spreads to include demonstrations and protests leading up to the nationalist revolution of 1919.

The story provides a thorough description of a time and place as well as providing intimate character development of household members including three sons, two daughters, a maid servant, the wife, and a tyrannical husband. They are all observant Moslems, but the husband/head of household drinks alcohol and is an adulterer living a duplicitous life requiring strict conservative conduct at home and a gregarious personal life for himself outside the home.

This all takes place in an environment where the women of the family are required to not venture outside the home. When an official inquiry is received regarding a possible marriage proposal for the younger of the two daughters, the husband is puzzled why and how such an interest could exist because theoretically his daughters have never been seen by any men outside the household. We as readers know that the daughter's outline has been glimpsed through the slats covering a second story window. It doesn't take much of a view of the female form in this environment to enflame carnal passion.

The story follows the family through several crises which conclude in marriage of some of the children, birth of some grandchildren, and some marriage separations. Eventually family members become involve in the surrounding political agitation caused by the expectation that the British protectorate end and Egypt become an independent state. This part of the story is based on historical occurrences making this part of the book a historical novel.

Palace of Desire (Cairo Trilogy, #2) by Naguib Mahfouz

This is the second book of the Cairo Trilogy, that picks up approximately five years after the end of Palace Walk , the previous book, and covers the approximate time span from 1925 to 1927 of the life of a family living in old Cairo, Egypt. The previous book had ended with the tragic death of one of the sons who had shown great potential as a political leader. At the beginning of this book we learn that the father of the family (al-Sayyid Ahmad) had modified his profligate ways during the intervening five years and had abstained from adultery—but continued with partying into the night. At the beginning of this book he slips back into his old ways—after all one can't live a penitent life forever.

The oldest son (Yasin) leaves the family home to move to the house of his deceased biological mother located on Palace of Desire Alley. This move is forced because he married a woman unacceptable to the family, his step mother in particular. This second marriage of his soon fails like the first and he ends up marrying for a third time to an entertainer, which is more scandalous to the family's honor than the previous second marriage.

The love sick yearnings of the youngest son (Kamal) are thoroughly explored by the book. The account of his obsessive pinning for her love provides an account of the internal thoughts of a young man infatuated with a young lady. He is in his upper teens, his friends are headed in different directions, some to school, others to travel and work. In the end his unrequited love pushes him into sampling the life styles of his older brother and father.

I'm convinced that the story being told in this trilogy is largely autobiographic, and that the author sees himself in the character of Kamal. There are many pieces of evidence for this conclusion, and the final giveaway is the fact that Kamal in this story aspires to be a writer of novels. He dreams of writing a big long novel. This trilogy fits those aspirations. Mahfouz, the author, won the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature.

The political happenings in Egypt during this time period are mentioned but are very much peripheral to the story. The consequences of a fast-modernizing society with differing expectations and possibilities are implicit throughout the story.

The book ends with simultaneous pending death and pending birth. Near the end the aging father has some health problems leading the reader to expect perhaps he will die. Instead the ending goes in another direction.

Sugar Street (The Cairo Trilogy #3) by Naguib Mahfouz

Third book of the Cairo Trilogy, this book begins in 1935, some eight years after the end of the previous volume, Palace of Desire. Spanning ten years, Sugar Street is set against the backdrop of the Second World War and domestic Egyptian political unrest. A new generation has grown up since the close of the previous book, the tyrannical patriarch of the family from the previous volumes is now in his dotage, and the matriarch mother is at peace with life making daily pilgrimages to the local mosque.

Kamal, the precocious child of the first volume and the aspiring student of the second volume is now a middle aged teacher/writer doomed to ponder his unrequited romantic aspirations. Fortunes have reversed for some with a rich family from the previous story now reduced to common status, a former local fruit vendor now wealthy, and the son of the lowly shop clerk now a successful prosecuting attorney.

In this final volume life has become more modern and westernized with the political/religious/philosophical debates discussed front and center through the dialogs and internal thinking of the book's characters. The book ends with two young third generation members of the family held in prison on suspicion of sedition, one being a Marxist and the other a member of the Moslem Brotherhood, thus generating a portent of future generations of Egyptian political unrest. Symbolically, a 4th generation child of one of the imprisoned young men is about to be born as the book ends providing a reminder that life goes on.

This trilogy provides a glimpse into a time capsule of Arabic middle class urban Cairo during the first half of the twentieth century. It represents a region of the world that continues to play a significant part of international politics in today's news.
1 helpful vote
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on May 13, 2005
Like the first in the trilogy, this was excellent writing, alternating between telling and describing, but with the most vivid description, and somehow the telling is the most desirous writing as well. Yes, Kamal's long-winded poetic idealistic love gets...long-winded at times. But it builds to the a very appropriate conclusion in his life. It is amazing to watch a family crumble- but not at all unexpected. You see the seeds of destruction from the first pages of Palace Walk. Al-Sayyhid Ahmad Abd Al-Jawad desires to have such strong control over his family, he ends up building it's destruction. He wants to live a double life- and those live half as long. He sees no hypocrisy in his actions, for he lives the unexamined life. And he reaps his harvest. This is the message interwoven throughout both the first two books.

I keep on feeling that Naguib Mahfouz is the Dickens of his culture. Characters are consistent with themselves, yet constantly changing, evolving, to become something greater, or worse, and unexpected, yet somehow we always knew it had to be that way. He writes with such realism of the lives of people, and the changing lives over generations of the people of the large city. It is dirty, intimate, and full of pathos. It is life.
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5 helpful votes
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on March 4, 2013
Cairo Trilogy is a Muslim's family story of three generations from 1917 to 1944. It is an inside look at the confusion in a family lead by a well-to-do man who lived one life in the day and another at night. The condition of women during that time is depicted through the life of his house-bound wife. His children bore his harsh treatment, some well, some not so well. The book is beautifully written and won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. After that it was translated into many languages and became world renowned. The story is harsh at times but the writing is mesmerizing. Anyone aspiring to be a writer should read this tome, 1003 pages....but three individual books. Well worth the time it demands. Also anyone interested in understanding the Muslim world at this time should read this book.
3 helpful votes
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on November 12, 2016
Excellent writing, continuing the story of the Abd Al Jawad Family against the backdrop of the 20s and 30s. Kamal's introspection becomes too much at times, but his thought evolution is extremely natural and genuine.
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on June 24, 2013
I like the Everyman version of books. The bindings are solid, the attached bookmark ribbon is useful and the print is easy to read. This book is 3 stories about the daily lives of a family that is living in Cairo in the 1920's. It is easy to read. It gives an insight into the muslim mindset. There is plenty of graphic sex and use of drugs like cocaine and opium. This is 3 stories in one book but they are all related. It is the same characters in all the stories.
1 helpful vote
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on September 2, 2013
The Cairo Trilogy, of which this book is the second, gives a wonderfully vivid portrayal of Egyptian history and life in very individually focused accounts of family and every day life. In this, the books resemble the novels of Jane Austen in showing the very structured cultural expectations and approved behaviors for both men and women in a society where gender equality does not exist nor is desired.
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on October 9, 2017
Fabulous book!
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on November 14, 2017
An interesting read about life in a Muslim country a hundred years ago
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on October 9, 2017
Item was as described and shipping was prompt.
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on November 9, 2006
I bought this book because I wanted to try a novel by a Nobel prize winner whose native language was not English. I was rather daunted by it's size - but it caught me in it's web immediately. Mafouz is a spinner of tales that kept my attention totally. His book brought Cairo to life in much the same way as DIckens brought London to life in the last century. His characters are believable and are brought to life by the minutiae of their lives.

The translation seems excellent - judging by the fact that it is impossible to tell that the original language was not English.

I also should mention the excellent preface which sets the scene and the historical context and unlike a lot of prefaces was actually worth reading!

If you have any interest in reading about Cairo or in exploring this writer's work - get this book!
11 helpful votes
12 helpful votes
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