Naguib Mahfouz

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Naguib Mahfouz (Arabic: نجيب محفوظ‎, Nagīb Maḥfūẓ) (December 11, 1911 – August 30, 2006) was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature, along with Tawfiq el-Hakim, to explore themes of existentialism.[1] He published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career. Many of his works have been made into Egyptian and foreign films.

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Early life and education

Born into a lower middle-class Muslim family in the Gamaleyya quarter of Cairo, Mahfouz was named after Professor Naguib Pasha Mahfouz (1882–1974), the renowned Coptic physician who delivered him. Mahfouz was the seventh and the youngest child in a family that had five boys and two girls. The family lived in two popular districts of the town, in el-Gamaleyya, from where they moved in 1924 to el-Abbaseyya, then a new Cairo suburb; both provided the backdrop for many of Mahfouz's writings. His father, whom Mahfouz described as having been "old-fashioned", was a civil servant, and Mahfouz eventually followed in his footsteps. In his childhood Mahfouz read extensively. His mother often took him to museums and Egyptian history later became a major theme in many of his books.[2]

The Mahfouz family were devout Muslims and Mahfouz had a strictly Islamic upbringing. In an interview, he painfully elaborated on the stern religious climate at home during his childhood years. He stated that "You would never have thought that an artist would emerge from that family."[2]

The Egyptian Revolution of 1919 had a strong effect on Mahfouz, although he was at the time only seven years old. From the window he often saw British soldiers firing at the demonstrators, men and women. "You could say," he later noted, "that the one thing which most shook the security of my childhood was the 1919 revolution." After completing his secondary education, Mahfouz entered King Fouad I University (now the University of Cairo), where he studied philosophy, graduating in 1934. By 1936, having spent a year working on an M.A., he decided to become a professional writer. Mahfouz then worked as a journalist at er-Risala, and contributed to el-Hilal and Al-Ahram. The major Egyptian influence on Mahfouz's thoughts of science and socialism in the 1930s was Salama Moussa, the Fabian intellectual.

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