Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Najib Mahfouz: Simply sophisticated novelty

Obituary…. by Oula Farawati
It is 9,00 o'clock Cairo time… old men are smoking nargilleh on the sidewalks of the Gamaliya street… the air is still, yet is occasionally disturbed by the subtle clatter of the hubbly bubbly and women begging their children to go home after spending an entire day playing under the scorching sun of the old streets of Cairo.
A dark, quiet young man walks down the street… he does not contribute to the noises around, does not comment on any of the simple incidents which typify the old street of immortal Cairo, he is barely noticed by passers by and the inhabitants of the street, but his eyes don’t miss any detail…
He marches through the smoke of his cigarette… he puffs smoke in the air and registers incidents in his mind… his delicate steps are slow and subdued, but his mind is vibrant and pulsating… this very mind is soon packed of thoughts which then rapture on paper documenting history in details and eloquently telling the sadness and happiness of the simple lives of many Egyptians who survived the foreign occupations, autocracies and too much enchanting nationalism… with two scrutinizing eyes, this chap created history and dug for himself immortal memories in the minds and hearts of so many… He was nobody but Najib Mahfouz, the good son of old Cairo and the father of modern Arabic literature.

Mahfouz walked quietly towards death last month… His immortality survived an assassination, sickness, and too much passion for his beloved Cairo, but he then decided to walk away with grace and poise. The old streets of Cairo mourned him, along with the tears of oppressed poor old men and women, who would have never made any imprints in history had it not been for the simply sophisticated words of Mahfouz, who single handedly engraved minutes and seconds of their lives in human literally chronicles.

He was his own man. A simple truth that is bigger and superior to politics was his only concern. "I am a very old man, an introvert," he once told a journalist, who wasn't sure whether Mahfouz was joking or not. "So winning the Nobel was really terrible for me. I won the prize, yes, but I lost everything else," he shared.

Si-Sayed, Amina and all the young boys of his fairy tales are mourning him… They grieve the man who told simply refined stories of good and evil, right and wrong, truth and betrayal… He told us dreams and taught us manners and made traditions suddenly and ultimately right and forever eternal.

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