Naguib Mahfouz's haunting novella of post-revolutionary Egypt combines a vivid pychological portrait of an anguished man with the suspense and rapid pace of a detective story.
After four years in prison, the skilled young thief Said Mahran emerges bent on revenge. He finds a world that has changed in more ways than one. Egypt has undergone a revolution and, on a more personal level, his beloved wife and his trusted henchman, who conspired to betray him to the police, are now married to each other and are keeping his six-year-old daughter from him. But in the most bitter betrayal, his mentor, Rauf Ilwan, once a firebrand revolutionary who convinced Said that stealing from the rich in a unjust society is an act of justice, is now himself a rich man, a respected newspaper editor who wants nothing to do with the disgraced Said. As Said's wild attempts to achieve his idea of justice badly misfire, he becomes a hunted man so driven by hatred that he can only recognize too late his last chance at redemption.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Nice book, but not in my top 50. The ending is a huge bummer though.