The Aesthetic of Revolution in the Film and Literature of Naguib Mahfouz (1952–1967)

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9780739183694: The Aesthetic of Revolution in the Film and Literature of Naguib Mahfouz (1952–1967)

In the wake of the 1952 Revolution, Egypt’s future Nobel laureate in literature devoted himself exclusively to writing for film. The Aesthetic of Revolution in the Film and Literature of Naguib Mahfouz is the first full-length study in English to examine this critical period in the author’s career and to contextualize it within the scope of post-revolutionary Egyptian politics and culture. Before returning to literature in 1959 with his post-revolutionary masterpiece Children of the Alley, Mahfouz wrote or co-wrote some twenty odd scripts, many of them among the most successful in Egyptian history. He did so at a time when film was the country’s second largest export commodity after cotton and the domestic film industry in Egypt the fourth largest in the world. Artistically, his screenplays channeled the ideology of the revolution, often raising themes of oppression and liberation, and almost always within a storyline of criminal transgression. But as he discussed in later articles and interviews, the capacity for film to enumerate the flow of life—through montage, jump cuts, lighting, and close ups—helped him to develop a darker, faster, and more complex vision of society. This technological revolution was followed by a literary one in the 1960s, a time when Mahfouz would generate through a series of short, trenchant, and often comedic novellas, a deeply measured meditation on the experience of collective upheaval and the interpersonal impact of political transformation.

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About the Author:

Nathaniel Greenberg is assistant professor of English at Northern Michigan University.


Nathaniel Greenberg's book is an impressive, many-sided addition to the multitude of studies on Naguib Mahfouz. The author centers attention here on the little-known but important role Mahfouz played in the movie industry in Egypt. He also presents a full and sensitive discussion of the critical writings that have examined the Nobel Prizewinner's works. Mahfouz is properly shown to have played a pivotal role in expressing, with subtle skill and courage, the dissatisfaction and dissent that arose in mid-century Cairo, the Arab world's intellectual and cultural center, a malaise that later contributed to the present turmoil witnessed throughout today's Middle East. (Trevor Le Gassick, University of Michigan)

Written in a lucid style and well argued, this case study of an early and most explosive period in Mahfouz’s career makes a significant contribution to the study of Mahfouz as novelist, script writer, and participant in the make-up of a thriving Egyptian film industry. The author’s solid knowledge of that period and his extensive reading in the literature of the period and the cinema industry enable him to present succinctly the Mahfouzian oeuvre as reflected in the writer’s major themes and preoccupations in post-revolutionary Egypt. In its marriage of the literary and the cinematic, and focus on the existentialist and political concerns of a liberal-socialist, this monograph supplies a much needed contribution, not only to the study of Mahfouz in the Western academy, but also to the understanding of Arabic culture through the impact of Mahfouz and the Egyptian cinema. (Muhsin al-Musawi, Columbia University)

The Aesthetic of Revolution in the Film and Literature of Naguib Mahfouz (1952–1967) examines the impact of revolution on one of the great literary minds of the twentieth century: the Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. Concentrating on the years following the 1952 Free-Officers’ Coup that brought to an end British colonialism in Egypt, this book is the first full-length study in English to analyze Mahfouz’s turn to screenplay writing and to examine the significance of that move within the context of post-revolutionary Egyptian politics and culture.

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