Naguib Mahfouz’s ‘Midaq Alley’ screens in Mexican Cinema


CAIRO – 13 October 2018: Late Legendary Nobel Prize Winner Naguib Mahfouz left our world, but his books and writings still live on. His books have been translated into many languages around the world.

The movie, “Zoqaq el-Mo’egezat” (The Alley of Miracles), inspired by Mahfouz’s novel “Zoqaq al-Midaq” (Midaq Alley), screened in a Mexican cinema. The movie was produced in the year 1995 and was directed by George Fons, and written by Vincent Lenero.

The movie was the acting debut of Hollywood star Salma Hayek. It was granted a total of 49 awards and Hayek was also granted an award in Mexico in 1995 for her role in the movie.

Even though some changes have been made to the movie in order to better represent the Mexican society, the movie shows that the Egyptian and Mexican societies have a lot in common.

The movie was nominated to win the Golden Bear award in Berlin’s International Film Festival and gained the appraisal of the Mexican audience.

“Midaq Alley” is the English translation of “Zuqāq al-Midaq” by Naguib Mahfouz, released in English in 1966. The story is about Midaq Alley, a teeming back street in Cairo which is a microcosm of the world.

Mahfouz played on the cultural setting. The novel was introduced with a focus on the Arabic culture. The novel takes place in the 1940’s and represents standing on the threshold of a modern era in Cairo and the rest of the nation.

naguib mahfouz

Author of 34 novels, over 350 short stories, five plays and dozens of movie scripts, Mahfouz was by all means the most disciplined writer ever. He wrote for one hour daily throughout his 70-year career, smoked three cigarettes per day and walked by the Nile every morning.

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He met weekly with a new generation of writers, artists, and readers through an informal seminar which is a habit he developed in the 1950’s.

Mahfouz at the age of 82 was stabbed in the neck in 1994 by an Islamic extremist in an assassination attempt following a huge wave of hatred that followed the fatwah (Religious statement) issued by Ayat Allah Khomeini of Iran against Arab/English author Salman Rushdi over his famous book “Satanic Verses”.

Khomeini decreed that Salman Rushy should be killed for writing that novel. Naguib Mahfouz, in spite of considering the novel disrespectful to Islam, took a position against inciting violence towards Rushdy.

This incident however directed attention to Mahfouz’s controversial novel “Awlad Haretna” (The Chidren of Our Avenue). It was deemed as one of the most famous novels in the history of Arabic literature. The novel spoke about God, the prophets and creatively explained the philosophy of religion.

The controversy came from his design of the character of Gebelawi, a wealthy landowner and a harsh father who is negligent to his descendants, leaving them in poverty and misery, appointing the dark son Adham to run the business instead of Idris the eldest son, relaying the story of Adam and Satan, then the quarrel between Satan and God, and later mentioning the story of Kane and Abel where he kills his brother and the grandfather refuses to interfere.

The stories of the prophets of the main religions, Moses, Jesus and Mohamed, continue. He changes the names brilliantly with clear hints to which religious personality he is handling in each new chapter. He avoids the miracles, humanizes the struggles in efforts to make the story about fighting for the rights of the poor who are all sons of Gebelawi and have equal rights to wealth.

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Mahfouz was blunt in expressing his ideas; he discussed, politics, history and philosophy in his novels. He covered a lot of subjects such as socialism, homosexuality, and God; his novels were informative and showed the development of Egypt in the 20th century.

Mahfouz’s first novel was “Khufu’s Wisodm” and he also wrote 35 novels afterwards and 15 collections of short stories alongside with “Echoes of an Autobiography” in 1994, according to an article by AUC Press.

The iconic literary author did not only abide by writing short stories and novels, but also took the initiative to work on 25 film screenplays that featured specific writing techniques such as flashbacks. The Egyptian cinema has created over 30 Egyptian films that were based on Mahfouz’s novels and literary works.

He also wrote weekly columns in state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram and Al-Ahram Weekly in 1971including “Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber: Reflections of a Nobel Laureate 1994- 2001”.

Mahfouz was honored by the government; he received the Egyptian State Prize twice for his writings. Promoting great collections of Arabic narratives locally and internationally, Mahfouz received other countless awards including one from the American University in Cairo and an honorary doctorate in 1995 and was chosen as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Institute of Arts.

Following his death, Mahfouz’s works further resonated in the Egyptian literary scene. AUC Press became his main English language publisher and agent of all translation rights. The agreement was signed with Mahfouz prior to his death and there are now around 600 editions in 40 languages for his works displayed at AUC Press.

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