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There has been a flurry of activity concerning new fiction, and previously unpublished in English non-fiction, by the Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz who won the Nobel Prize in 1988 and is generally considered to be ‘the greatest Arab writer of the twentieth century’.
Saqi Books in London is to publish a newly discovered collection of short stories and Gingko, also in London, is half-way through a four volume programme of Mahfouz’s non-fiction.
Lynn Gaspard, publisher at Saqi, has acquired world English rights in the short stories from sister company Dar al Saqi in Beirut. The stories were discovered by a journalist who was researching a book at the home of Mahfouz’s daughter, Umm Kulthum. He found 50 stories, eighteen of which have never been published before and which will be published by Saqi in English for the first time. They will be translated by Roger Allen, former President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America who has translated many of Mahfouz’s works.
All the stories are set in Cairo, Mahfouz’s home city, and Gaspard says: “With fable-like scenarios and reappearing characters, these stories still speak of contemporary Cairene society. With Mahfouz’s often ironic, always insightful observation of the human character, this priceless discovery is wonderful news for fans of one of the world’s best-loved novelists. We are excited beyond measure to be bringing these stories to readers in English, translated by the brilliant Roger Allen.”
Saqi will publish the as yet untitled collection in autumn 2019 with Dar al Saqi publishing in Arabic on Mahfouz’s birthday, 11 December 2018 during the Beirut International Book Fair.
Meanshile, Gingko, the publisher committed to ‘better understanding between the west and the Middle East and North Africa’, is continuing with its Mahfouz non-fiction programme. It has already published On Literature and Philosophy: The Non-Fiction Writing of Naguib Mahfouz Volume 1 and Essays of the Sadat Era 1974-1981: The Non-Fiction Writing of Naguib Mahfouz Volume II, and there are two more volumes to come. The series collects his non-fiction written between the early thirties and 1996 and is expected to be complete by 2020.
Both of the first two volumes were acquired from Cairo publisher Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah at the Sharjah International Book Fair in 2014. In the Introduction to Volume 1, Rashid El-Enany, Emeritus Professor of Modern Arab Literature at the University of Exeter, says: ‘Where the interest lies today in reading these essays is in tracing Mahfouz’s own intellectual sympathies with regard to the thinking and ideologies he expounds. With the benefit of hindsight, scholars of Mahfouz can recognise in these essays the origins of much of what was later to become his intellectual hallmark.’