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Palace of Desire
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Festival of African Lit. 2016 > Palace of Desire (The Cairo Trilogy #2)

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message 1: by Betty (last edited Jun 24, 2016 05:32PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments A brief intro to Palace of Desire:

http://theculturetrip.com/africa/egyp...

I like the ways in which that short article sets this sequel apart from the previously read Palace Walk, highlighting change across the years of the two parts.

A different slant about Palace of Desire comes from

http://www.complete-review.com/review...

emphasizing the continuing stories about the sons Yasin and Kamal.

Kamal's interest in Darwin might be a cause for pause [Edit: Michael Allan's entire article "Re-Reading the Arab Darwin" can now be read at academia.edu ]

https://www.academia.edu/25743462/Re-...

as Mahfouz assigns chapter 104 to controversial historical/philosophical ideas. Those ideas and Kamal's willfulness heat up the crises -- traditional views v. modernizing ones -- especially within this story of a Cairene family.

Finally, it appears that Mahfouz's works have just been published in ebook!


message 2: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments If you balk at spoilers, then you might best reserve the following until you reach the end of this novel.

https://weneedtotalkaboutbooks.com/20...

The writer "justjase79" links that article to his summaries of Palace Walk and Sugar Street.


Carol (carolfromnc) | 14 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "If you balk at spoilers, then you might best reserve the following until you reach the end of this novel.

https://weneedtotalkaboutbooks.com/20...

The writer ..."


These are fab articles, Asma. Thanks for sharing these links. Much food for thought.


message 4: by Betty (last edited Jun 21, 2016 08:43PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Carol, Yes, I like to broaden our Goodreads forum with outside sources. Like you said, they sometimes provide new perspectives about the story.


message 5: by Sue (last edited Jun 21, 2016 10:17PM) (new)

Sue | 306 comments Good to know that his books are coming to ebooks--is that in translation? Hopefully more and more international literature will become available.


message 6: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "A brief intro to Palace of Desire:

http://theculturetrip.com/africa/egyp...

I like the ways in which that sho..."


Thanks for these summaries/reviews, Asma. Very helpful as I'm about to begin.


message 7: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue wrote: "Good to know that his books are coming to ebooks--is that in translation? Hopefully more and more international literature will become available."

The transition to ebook is a done thing as of June 15, according to his Facebook page of that date. Good question -- what percentage of Mahfouz is translated -- I would unscientifically say a lot.


message 8: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments That's so great, especially for some of these large tomes.


message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue wrote: "Thanks for these summaries/reviews... I'm about to begin.."

Sue, I find that preparation for reading helps. It familiarizes me with the characters, setting, idiosyncrasies of it. Then, the novel tends to feel like a pair of comfortable shoes I choose over an unbroken-in pair.


message 10: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments An article 'Mahfouz and Europe: A Complex Admiration' by Daniel Gover, pp 103-06, about the character Kamal. It analyses his dual nature -- his liking the ideas of modern science and the ideals of western democracy on the one hand and his loyalties for Egyptian nationalism on the other hand. The article goes beyond Palace of Desire into Sugar Street.

https://books.google.com/books?id=j66...


message 11: by Mary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary D (wanderroxyreads) | 4 comments Thanks so much for the additional links.!!! I was not planning to continue on to read Sugar Street. I have changed my mind after reading "justjace79"'s review.


message 12: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments You're welcome, Mary. Perhaps an open topic for Sugar Street would be worthwhile.


message 13: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Having found that I could read the entirety of the paper "Re-Reading the Arab Darwin" on academia.edu [message 1 above], I also found that the majority of the paragraphs pertained to Palace of Desire. What I learned from that paper was that Mahfouz is not promoting any one view (secular modern science, superstition, religious teachings). Rather, he's using the conflict among differing opinions to move forward the story, as well as using his characters (Kamal, Amina, al-Sayyid Ahmad) to portray the historical and cultural rifts among generations and genders. In other words, Kamal's paper about Darwin brings forth differing antagonistic responses from his father and mother. Each of the latter have their own insights into Kamal's paper. There's also Kamal's unyielding, rational decision to pursue a life of knowledge rather than one of fame or money.


message 14: by Betty (last edited Jul 02, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Basic information about the Wafdist leader Sa'd Zaghlul. He married the daughter of a previous prime minister. She (Safia Fehmy) also worked for Egyptian nationalism (independence from Britain). Nicknamed "the mother of Egypt" and childless, she was the complete opposite of the unobserved, motherly character Amina. [Though each woman was remarkable in her domain.] At the end of the first volume Palace Walk, Amina's son Fahmy comes to a tragic end because of his nationalist participation. The end of the second volume Palace of Desire coincides with Sa'd Zaghlul's death. http://crisissome.blogspot.com/2015/0...


message 15: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments It's interesting to see the paths the men ate walking now. Father seems bent on self-destruction. Yasin, well he shows many of his father's ways but without his prior self-control. Kamal is the mystery here for me.


message 16: by Betty (last edited Jul 02, 2016 02:20PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue, I haven't reached a definitive understanding of the character Kamal. So far, he is caught up in progressive thinking. Scientific thinking is his new religion. He is assertive about his future career, being aware of his own self, and being unpersuaded to trade his convictions for respectability or remuneration and therefore is unconvinced by his father's counsel and by any trendy movement. Reminds me of the Renaissance--value placed upon humankind to reason rather than to accept faith and tradition. At the same time, he retains his loyalty for an independent Egypt and for family, maintaining ties with both. And, he's suffering unhappiness because of a mega, romantic disappointment. An untraditionally single man, he's also without the cohesive, large family of former days (epidemic, aging, revolution). He might feel somewhat withdrawn and philosophical and somewhat remote from the younger generation of his nephews. A theme of the trilogy is the effect of forces more powerful than the resistance to them.


message 17: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments I think I may be somewhat behind you in my reading, Asma, but I see these threads unwinding.


message 18: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Both Ahmad and Yasin seem bound for self destruction as the story moves on and while I find their actions often repulse me, I then find myself operating under a sort of double standard. What about Zanuba and Umm Maryam? How to judge their actions in this male dominated world?


message 19: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue wrote: "...I may be somewhat behind you in my reading..."

Not at all! I'm towards the end of Palace Walk!


message 20: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue wrote: "...What about Zanuba and Umm Maryam? How to judge their actions in this male dominated world?"

This story is becoming riveting. I wonder what surprises those women will bring to a reader. I see that Umm Maryam (both before and after her widowhood) appears flirtatious to Ahmad. Yasmin's wife Zaynab tries to support her mother-in-law Amina's opinions but perhaps doesn't hold Amina's committed sense of submission. And, Yasin's distancing himself from a full-time marriage might bear on respectable Zaynab's actions. Now, for another "Z" female Zanuba, she is a tremendous bringdown for Yasin's father Ahmad. How ironic is it that her children will be among the trilogy's survivors. There's a spoiler alert here, so I am omitting the details of Zanuba's libertine life and subsequent marriage.


message 21: by Sue (last edited Jul 07, 2016 10:40PM) (new)

Sue | 306 comments Ah! You know some future details. I guess I'm ahead of you, well into Palace of Desire. It will be interesting to discuss these women, and their roles in relation to the main male characters when you get further. As I said, I am a bit conflicted but Ahmad and Yasin don't seem to have redeeming virtues yet. I wonder how much my judgment is affected by my culture and time and gender? (undoubtedly a lot)


message 22: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments I see Ahmad as a confident, concerned father, who wants to rear his children well, rather than to have other people guide his children (consider the rationale for homeschooling children). He wants that his children be unharmed (Fahmy's revolutionary committee) and be exemplars of respectability (Yasin's indiscriminate lust). At the same time, he's donating to the revolutionaries' cause and is carousing every night with friends. This balancing act between his family and his comings and goings is logically supported by a rationale of 'reputation' rather than by an unbridled libido. He maintains the respectability of a solid home life, his libertine conduct never challenging his domestic situation. However, his tyrannical authority over family carries a circumscribed pride, within the family, to which occupying soldiers and young adults do not submit.


message 23: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments But what he wants and what he can have may not equal out in Palace of Desire. Some of this is due to outside forces but some seems, to me, to be a result of the effects of his combined rigidity with his family and personal licentiousness.


message 24: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments The tragic, eye-opening situation with Zanuba (he'll "give" her a houseboat but won't marry her) backfires.


message 25: by Suzann (new)

Suzann | 60 comments Perhaps moving to a very detailed comment in the midst of a discussion of characters--A line near the end of Palace of Desire, Kamal musing about the ignorant harshness of the father and the ignorant tenderness of his mother, that ignorance linking his spirit with legends (religion?) and the Stone Age. Kamal muses over the painful effort to liberate himself from parental influence--"to abolish the family". ..."grant me a nation with no history and a life with no past".
Recently, I read words of Edna O'Brien referring to history and past. O'Brien defines history as the "official version" of events and "narrative of concealed power" and the past as "inert, unchangeable, sometimes brutal reality of what happened".
I'm not sure the parallels are strong, but Kamal seems to feel constricted by the family and religious customs which make him an outsider in the Shaddad pro-European family culture. History is a national or cultural narrative which creates tribal unity, or otherness among those who do not share the cultural narrative. To O'Brien the past is raw event which might parallel Kamal's love for Aida--a raw, sincere love which must be unrequited because of the constrictive narrative of power. I'm not sure I've communicated any possible parallels, however, they are vaguely formulated in my own mind!


message 26: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Interesting thoughts to pursue, Suzann. I'm currently enmeshed in the end of Kamal's blind obsession and move on to his other levels of pain, as he negotiates love, the ideal, clay feet of idols and friends. He hasn't specifically reached his parents yet but I have a feeling it will be soon.


message 27: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Suzann wrote: "...History is a national or cultural narrative which creates tribal unity, or otherness among those who do not share the cultural narrative...."

An insightful comment, Suzann. Kamal's passage is at the end of Chapter 108. Your parallel brings to mind the mention of alienation in commentary about this trilogy. Some of Kamal's and the Shaddad's beliefs are disconnected from each other, and it's shocking to learn that Aida is marrying someone else. There also is Kamal's scientific interpretation about human origins, which is disconnected from his parents' beliefs, as your above comment points to.

A similarity to Kamal's quote "a nation with no history and a life with no past" is Yasin's in Palace Walk Chapter 63, while he's addressing his birth mother: "Don't go back over the past. Let it depart, never to return". There's a hint of John Lennon ("Imagine") when the singer describes a fairer and saner world for all.


message 28: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue wrote: "...I'm currently enmeshed in the end of Kamal's blind obsession..."

How thrilling. Quite an heartfelt epic.


message 29: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "Sue wrote: "...I'm currently enmeshed in the end of Kamal's blind obsession..."

How thrilling. Quite an heartfelt epic."


It really is---I was having some difficulty with this section but as it has unfolded I see much more at play here than a young man's unrequited love (of course) and the feelings are being expressed better and better .


message 30: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments I hope to catch up with you soon, and am in Palace of Desire.


message 31: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "I hope to catch up with you soon, and am in Palace of Desire."

Welcome!


message 32: by Betty (last edited Jul 14, 2016 07:20PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Howdy! The death of Fahmy in the previous Palace Walk, makes a great change in Al-Sayyid Ahmad's harsh demeanor. In Palace of Desire, five years of grief have elapsed in a page (!). While his familial dynamics have otherwise changed for more kindness, the influence of his lifelong friends are encouraging his return to nights of wine, women, and song.


message 33: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "Howdy! The death of Fahmy in the previous Palace Walk, makes a great change in Al-Sayyid Ahmad's harsh demeanor. In Palace of Desire, five years of grief have elapsed in a page (!). While his famil..."

Oh yes, wait and see how this plays out --- and Yasin!


message 34: by Suzann (new)

Suzann | 60 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "A similarity to Kamal's quote "a nation with no history and a life with no past" is Yasin's in Palace Walk Chapter 63, while he's addressing his birth mother: "Don't go back over the past. Let it depart, never to return".

But is it a selective and fickle desire for freedom from the past? Are characters able to escape the past and/or does the past offer as much comfort as pain. Is it embracing the pain that deepens love? Despite the pain of the past the al-Sayyid Ahmad household stays very close to their traditional past. Even education, through which Kamal overcomes his religious past, does not liberate him from the cultural past of his neighborhood and family. Seems like at least a tangential connection to the concept of free will.


message 35: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue wrote: "... --- and Yasin!"

I just left Fuad (son of Al-Sayyid Ahmad's assistant) and Kamal at the coffeehouse. Their destination is kept from the mother Amina (such an establishment not being respectable to her). During their dominoes game, Fuad speaks realistically/practically about his future. His activities and outside reading are aimed at his anticipated law career; whereas Kamal wants to indulge serendipitously in subjects of "higher thought" (ethics, history, literature, e.g.). Those subjects might benefit a teacher.

Kamal observes Yasin and Maryam on the connecting roof. I got the idea that Kamal disapproved of their conversation. Anyway, he lapses into a reverie about Maryam. All three sons (Yasin, Fahmy, Kamal) of Al-Sayyid Ahmad loved Maryam.


message 36: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Suzann wrote: "...a selective and fickle desire for freedom from the past? Are characters able to escape the past...does the past offer as much comfort as pain....the concept of free will."

A lot for thinking, Suzann. There are characters who remain tied to the past, yet there also are advances of free will in the Al-Jawad family. Yasin returns to the past, marrying Zanuba, living in his birth mother's house. Al-Sayyid Ahmad returns to his nocturnal outings and, after a tragic affair, to Amina.

Sometimes the past carries pain for the characters, like something unsolvable. A perplexed Kamal remembers his former adoration of the shrine when he discovers that Al-Husayn probably isn't buried there. There's Yasin's divorce from Zaynab and his son, Yasin's father and father-in-law refusing to allow Yasin another try.

There undoubtedly are lots more scenes, if you know more of them.


message 37: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Suzann wrote: "...Seems like at least a tangential connection to the concept of free will."

I guess that there is the desire for free will as the story moves forward. Wives, children, the country of Egypt demonstrate more freedom of movement, of career choice and of marital choice. As with the al-Jawad sons Yasin and Kamal, their choices meet with negativity from the family's patriarch. Still they persevere with self-determination, Yasin's hope for a happier second marriage failing in its promise; but his choice of a third marriage is the charm. His brother Kamal asserts his choice of career to the negative response of his father, but he is well-suited to the teaching profession of his choice.

There are nevertheless changes in the conviviality of the coffee hour, the children going away to separate residences. Each of the parents passes away as well. Yes, some parts of life the characters can determine in their best interests; the passage of time is not one of those. For instance, Kamal bears the alienation left by the dispersed family members. Kamal cannot restore the good times of the past nor can he avert Aïda's marriage to someone else. His long career might be enough after that romantic disappointment, so he doesn't act to marry Aïda's younger sister Budur, as Aïda's family thought that he should do so at one time. He keeps his free will but scorns materialistic striving and doesn't marry unlike a traditional male.


message 38: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments But Yasin is never happy really. Any marriage seems an unwanted limitation of his urges. Kamal does seem to be acting by free will, though, like so many, he is trapped by his dream though he knows it's unreal. The parents haven't yet passed in my reading though I am sure it will be soon. But so many life and death struggles are going on.


message 39: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue, the parents are challenged in their traditional views as the grown children, especially the sons in this installment, go against long-held beliefs. Al-Sayyid Ahmad regrets both his "losing a grip" upon his increasingly opinionated wife and his secretive children, the truth about the latter brought by his friends. Yasin behaves irrationally in marriages and lacks good business sense, being insincere about the virtues of family respectability and continuity (marrying an inappropriate woman and not raising the grandson Ridwan). His other son Kamal shockingly introduces the theory of Darwinian science for a literary magazine; the traditional parents respond with shock and negativity. And, al-Sayyid Ahmad's aging is slowing down his double life. Despite the children's strict upbringing, the father and mother of the family haven't passed on their immutable values of respectability and faith.


message 40: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments I wonder if the father's obvious duplicity is at least partly to blame for some of the values not being passed on. Yasin knew early on of his father's evening life and "night time" values so at odds with those he presented to his family. As for Kamal, his disillusionment began early too when he found that the mosque was not in fact the burial site that he had thought. The questions that started then never stopped. His father never taught by example or even personally , only by fiat and his mother really seems almost by superstition. So Kamal seems to have used his rational education against both of them.


message 41: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Sue, an interesting reveal was Yasin and Kemal's discussion in the bar. Kemal can't believe his father's double life. Afterward, Kemal questions his mother why his father, also arriving home late the same evening, berates Kemal, as the two men have simultaneously returned home. As you mention, there are enough discrepancies of facts, once discovered by Kemal, that change his traditional beliefs. Why Kemal's life is unhappy interests me. He doesn't have friends with similar intellectual interests.


message 42: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Kemal really is very much an individual, isn't he. He is a dreamer, a philosopher, but also more of a realist. He seems to actually see the world around him while most of his friends are playing roles dictated by their families.


message 43: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments Yes, at the same time Kemal doesn't want to antagonize either his mother or father with his different view about truth, after his magazine article about evolution reaches his parents' notice. Kemal doesn't press his point, imho, in the conversation. He almost cannot press it, as his parents' points of view suggest revisions according to their beliefs. Another instance of his delicacy is the father and son outing to Al-Husayn after the father's medical recovery. To the novel's reader Kemal's internal voice describes altered feelings, comparing his childhood's affectionate display to this present time. To the shrine's visitors, he seems one with the crowd.

------

Thinking about the riverine setting, this little article's last page, 'Houseboats on the Nile' by Christian Junge, speaks about those riverbank dwellings. The houseboats are really moored to the Nile's shoreline. Who lives there changed across time. https://www.academia.edu/11392288/Die... pp140-41


message 44: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "Yes, at the same time Kemal doesn't want to antagonize either his mother or father with his different view about truth, after his magazine article about evolution reaches his parents' notice. Kemal..."

Is there a way to translate this article? I'm not savvy enough for that :-)


message 45: by Betty (last edited Aug 15, 2016 01:11PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments I agree with you, sometimes being at a linguistic loss. In this instance, the small article about the houseboats is translated on the sixth page from the top, scrolling down. That's the English one.


message 46: by Sue (last edited Aug 15, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "I agree with you, sometimes being at a linguistic loss. In this instance, the small article about the houseboats is translated on the sixth page from the top, scrolling down."

I'll look again...missed it.
OK..I found it, but the print is so small that I can't comfortably read much of it without craning my neck which I'm not supposed to do. Thanks for the resource though.


message 47: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments You're welcome, Sue. Hope that you are mending well.


message 48: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "You're welcome, Sue. Hope that you are mending well."

Sadly, a chronic neck issue, but I manage it.


message 49: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3619 comments The typhoid epidemic which took away Aisha's husband and sons (as well as ending the glorious Age of Pericles and possibly the early American Jamestown colony) tends to infect youths. With chlorinated water, antibiotics, vaccine, and other medical interventions, this infectious illness is today held at bay in some places, while remaining "endemic" in other ones. A survivor who developed a gall bladder infection from the disease can spread the bacillus to others. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoid...


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