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by Naguib Mahfouz

Out of prison for less than a day, thief Said Mahran quickly resumes his old ways, and worse. Angered by his young daughter's refusal to even shake hands with the parent she has not seen in four years, and by the chilly reception from Rauf Ilwan, a former colleague in crime whom he suspects of having betrayed him to the police, Mahran goes berserk and seeks revenge with a gun. But this onetime Robin Hood (an ardent nationalist, he stole only from "people who deserved to be robbed") accidentally murders two innocents instead of his intended victims, the new husband of his ex-wife and Ilwan. Pursued by the press and the police, he finds refuge with a prostitute he knows; her flat has a view of a cemetery. The Nobel laureate writes here with remarkable clarity and eloquence. His tale of the haunted, hunted Mahran feverish and suspenseful, introspective and subtle. In just 176 pages, he offers a complex psychological portrait of a man hell-bent on ruining himself. This 1961 novel was previously published in the U.S. in a limited edition.
Download The Thief and the Dogs epub
ISBN: 9774240340
ISBN13: 978-9774240911
Category: Literature
Subcategory: World Literature
Author: Naguib Mahfouz
Language: English
Publisher: Doubleday (November 1985)
Pages: 108 pages
ePUB size: 1788 kb
FB2 size: 1623 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 847
Other Formats: txt rtf lit lrf

Midaq Alley is one of the early books of Mahfouz, a real masterpiece of modern Egiptian and Arabic litrature.The book is fiction but is about real places and real people. I am Egiptian myself, born in Cairo and walked in this neighborhood because it is in the heart of Cairo where most of Prophet Muhammed's family have shrines such as Lord Husain and Lady of Ladies Zeinab (translated as People of The House. The characters sounds strange and unreal to the western reader, but I assure you that under the pressure of poverty, emotions and political turmoil such characters are very natural and inevitable. The main chacter is Hamida,a beatuful girl who turned to vice under the pressure of poverty. The residents of the alley are like a close family and to be neigbours means to be family.
It is a big story where every character has a little story but all are weaved and connected with all others. This book sounds very real even the streats are real and for a Cairene like me, I can walk with the characters through it.
Mahfouz doesn't conclude or teach us any one-sided morality, he just let us see things with his eyes and let each one of us decides the moral aspect of it. Close to the end one of his character give his opinion about good and evil and why God created evil, but some agreed and some not.
At the last chapter (35), the drama unfolded with drastic consequences for all and the disappearance of Hamida that caused it, still Mahfouz didn't comment wether it is good or bad. One of the appartment became vacant in the alley and a poor family with many children moved in; one of the children is again very beatuiful girl. Mahfouz trying to tell us that this is the world and it is as it is and it goes in cycles that we can't change.
This book is great, the translation is very good. It deserves five stars.
Having spent a year in Cairo during the early 80s, I was recently, belatedly interested to see what this awarded novel has to offer. These interwoven, disparate stories of people living and working on a Cairo neighborhood street give us an unapologetic look at the less-than-saintly motives and methods that lie beneath the thin veneer of civilized culture worn by people everywhere; but these simultaneous stories are decidedly Cairene. If you want a feel-good book, look elsewhere. If you want keen, if somewhat cynical, insight into human nature as it curiously manifests itself in 1940s Egypt, you'll like this book. There seems to be an implied moral lesson, embodied in one of the characters, but not overstated so as to cause our eyes to roll. From the perspective of my own experiences in the same city four decades later, the novel seemed very real indeed.
Thoreau said that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation." This wonderful novel, set in Cairo, Egypt, during WWII, beautifully illustrates that point. Midaq Alley is just what it sounds like, an out of the way alley in a big city where most of the inhabitants are just getting by, or worse. Some accept their fate, accepting it as God's will. Others are very unhappy with their lot in life and are determined to better themselves. Only one of them succeeds, but it is debatable whether the fate of that character, Hamida, whose way out is prostitution, a life style she is at first seduced into but chooses freely, is better than what she left.

Midaq Alley has a vibrancy and a sense of community that has all but disappeared in modern urban settings, at least in the US, but probably less so in Egypt. All of its residents know each other and are generally there for each other. All of then live by their wits. One man sells sweets. One is a coffee shop owner and openly homosexual, something I found very surprising in an Islamic society of six and a half decades ago. One woman is a matchmaker. One woman is a landlady. One young man is a barber who goes to work for the British in order to be able to marry the girl he loves, a girl who ultimately proves to be unworthy of him, and is his undoing.

One of the reasons fiction is valuable is that it gives us an insight into how societies that we may never otherwise come into contact with function. Midaq Alley is such a book. And, although it is tragic, its ultimate message is that life goes on. I highly recommend this book.
I originally bought this book for a class, and fell in love. A definite must read for everyone.
It's not a "happy" read book but definitely learned a lot from it. I recommend learning a little bit about the Qu'ran, if you have no knowledge about it, in order to appreciate the plot and the author more.
The text seems almost lyrical and the plot line is a true art form in character perspective. The story is engaging and filled with action, yet philosophical and a reflection of what it is to be human.
Two years ago, one of my professors from college recommended this book through email after I left school. I started to read it maybe three times since then yet the beginning's convolution lost me. There were too many names, and characters seemed to blend together (ex. mother Umm Hamida and daughter Hamida). In my defense, it wasn't a lack of intelligence--it was that the character's lives were as complex as mine. There was no room for the patience that the book required.

When I found that patience this week, I grew as a person--and a reader--more than I could hope. The thoughts and beliefs of the characters are so intimate, so real, that I latched on to their words, actions, feelings . . . with profound empathy . . . hating, loving, rejecting, accepting. As a dialogue, the book speaks to you with maturity.

The book challenged me, which is a representation of what it's like to live not just in Midaq Alley, but to live. You cannot run from the hardships of fate, especially within your home or neighborhood. So when the back of the novel purports that it's a soap opera, it's tricking the reader into learning wisdom. :) Today, I feel as if I lived in Midaq Alley. And I've changed for the better.
This is an exciting story with very well developed characters, they seem so vivid. The plot is very interesting with unexpected turns. Very well written!