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Download Echoes of an Autobiography epub

by Naguib. MAHFOUZ

Download Echoes of an Autobiography epub
ISBN: 0385408390
ISBN13: 978-0385408394
Category: Biographies
Subcategory: Arts & Literature
Author: Naguib. MAHFOUZ
Language: English
Publisher: Doubleday, NY (1997)
ePUB size: 1607 kb
FB2 size: 1323 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 691
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( Echoes of an Autobiography- paperback)

I'd like to preface my review by suggesting to those who are not very familiar with Mahfouz to first read a few of his novels, especially the "Cairo Trilogy". That is where Mahfouz is most generous with language, character development, descriptions...etc. and where "the sublime" is very reachable just beneath the surface. His novels should help a great deal in lessening the "opaqueness" that is sometimes introduced by the differences in time, place, and culture. I think to get the most out of "Echoes of an Autobiography", and perhaps even of any of his collections of short stories, one needs to be pretty familiar with Mahfouz's "language".

This is not a conventional autobiography, if at all an autobiography. It is a collection of short "pieces" (the longest is about one page) that are presented in no particular chronological order. There are reflections on boyhood and early adulthood memories, rehashing of old relationships and what might have been, contemplations of the meaning of his life, of love and other emotions and of death, in addition to deep probing into morality, religion and beliefs...etc...etc. To date, this book is where I found Mahfouz to be most abstract and economic with language (I haven't read the "Dreams" yet.) It is almost as if Mahfouz's thoughts, feelings, philosophy, life experiences, previous writings, insights into people and into things, craft ...etc. have all been thoroughly blended together and then distilled into concentrated droplets of his essence. Many pieces are haunting, while a few are so cryptic that I felt they were just beyond my reach, and I will soon be revisiting them.

I suppose that Mahfouz had to hone his ability to burry a lot between the lines, as he had to navigate through high tides of censorship, and to deal with real threats to those who would defy the political or religious establishments in Egypt, which were almost always at odds with one another, adding to the complexities through which writers like him had to live. This refined skill, along with his absolute mastery of the language, must have come handy here, perhaps in part to protect the identity of some of those who figure in his pieces (some may have been friends, relatives, and maybe even mistresses.) He might have also just not wanted to completely bare himself out, as he apparently was a pretty private man. Obviously, many of these pieces can be partly or completely of his creation, and were meant to just drive some of his thoughts home.

I have read quite a bit of Mahfouz's work, both in English and in Arabic. I read a couple of his works, including "Echoes of an Autobiography", in both languages. In the case of "Echoes...", I think that reading it in both languages helped me a bit to better decrypt a few pieces, although on a couple of occasions I found myself in disagreement with the translator over a couple of words or a sentence. On those very few occasions I would yield to the translator, who I think did a great job, since he has known Mahfouz, and may have actually conversed with him over the translation of this book, while I have never met the great writer.
This is a very, very good book by Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner. I read somewhere that this is not his own autobiography he is talking about but that of a fictitious person. Much of the book is tiny, bite-sized pieces that read almost like haiku. They are about all sorts of facets of living and often take the form of teachings from an older man to a younger. There must be a couple hundred of these nibbles, and they sound quite Egyptian. I really felt I was leaving America behind and partaking of the wisdom of the Middle East.

This got me homesick for Egypt, because I lived there from 1992-1993 and most of 2007. It would not be too much to say I love this country; it inspires me more than just about anywhere else on earth. So for me this book was a delicious set of snack cookies, and I gobbled down the tidbits and wanted more. Unfortunately, Mr. Mahfouz has passed away, so get his works while they're still in print!
If you want a break from other types of books, this book is a lovely change of pace.

It consists of very short prose pieces, perfect to pick up for a few minutes or to read before bed. If words could sing, this would be quite a fascinating composition--light, happy notes; deep, melancholy tones; charming melodies.

For me, I immediately wanted to share certain passages with others. I will keep this book on my shelf to refer back to from time to time, when I want to remember how beautifully words can convey images.

I also found myself amazed that a translator (Denys Johnson-Davies) could do such a fine job. Often translated works have an awkwardness, but these pieces each flow and stand on their own as individual works.

We read this book for our book club and it was wonderful because we could each choose several pieces and read them aloud and enjoy them together.
Despite its title, this is definitely not an autobiography of Mahfouz. Four things prove this: the narrator has three sons (Mahfouz had two daughters); he is sent to prison (Mahfouz never was); he works for a period outside Cairo (Mahfouz never did); he joins a Sufi order (Mahfouz assured me most emphatically that he never did). This was the last book that Mahfouz wrote. In fact he did not write it; it was put together out of pieces that he had dictated, and it is not clear how far it represents the complete work that he had in mind. I believe it should be regarded as a work of fiction, though it may be a fantasy of a life he would like to have lived. It is nevertheless a moving work, and it helps to enlarge our understanding of the author.