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Palace Walk (The Cairo Trilogy, #1)
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Archive In Translation > 2019 September: Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

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message 1: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5715 comments Mod
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

Palace Walk (Arabic title بين القصرين) is a novel by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, and the first installment of Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy. Originally published in 1956 with the title Bayn al-qasrayn (lit. Between the Two Palaces), the book was translated into English in 1990. The setting of the novel is Cairo during and just after World War I. (501 pages)


Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments i will be reading this book in the second half of this month.


message 3: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5715 comments Mod
Please let us know how it goes along the way Brian.


Kathy | 1135 comments I'll be reading this also, starting in a week or two.


message 5: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5715 comments Mod
Palace Walk has been widely praised, in part for providing an intimate view of a culture that has not been well understood by those outside it. It is the rich and absorbing story of a family whose fortunes are changing with tumultuous times.

Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911.
In 1988, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer in the Arabic language to do so.


Susan | 4 comments I may be wrong but the editor of this book and possibly the entire series was none other than Jacqueline Kennedy.To me her style shines through the book.All the books in the series are excellent windows into the life and times but the first Palace Walk is superb.unforgettable characters


message 7: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 1371 comments I also will be reading this. I am number 1 in the holds queue so maybe a week or two.


Nancy (nancyhamer) | 22 comments I read Palace Walk a few years ago and loved it. I have the trilogy, so will be reading the other two soon, and in my TBR pile is Three Novels of Ancient Egypt, also by Naguib Mahgouz, in case any one else wants to know more about ancient Egypt and this fascinating culture. These books read more like western novels than some other writers from the area. Terrific translators.


message 9: by Brian (last edited Sep 05, 2019 03:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments Susan wrote: "I may be wrong but the editor of this book and possibly the entire series was none other than Jacqueline Kennedy.To me her style shines through the book...."

Wow, I'd never be able to identify her style. I didn't realize she had a style as an editor.
Jackie O would have been editor for the English translations in 1990. I'd be interested to find what an editor's role with a translator would be. In this case, I presume that Jackie as editor may not know the Arabic language like the translator does.
Interesting tidbit on the books.


message 10: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Sep 05, 2019 03:13PM) (new)

Lesle | 5715 comments Mod
I found about Jackie O as an editor:


https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/20...


Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments This is the article I read, which may be a part of the article Lesle has posted. I thought it interesting that it says Mahfouz won the Nobel Peace Prize. The article needed a better editor.

https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/ph...


message 12: by Carol (last edited Sep 05, 2019 05:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carol (carolfromnc) | 3337 comments Palace Walk is one of my favorite books of all time, and Mahfouz a favorite author. It wasn’t available in the US until 1990, 35 or so years after its initial publication, which was a travesty.

Here’s one of the best reviews, IMO, from the Feb 4, 1990 NYT, which provides a ton of interesting details.

https://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/04/bo...

And another from Culture Trip which has a somewhat different focus, along with stunning photos.

https://theculturetrip.com/africa/egy...


message 13: by Carol (last edited Sep 05, 2019 05:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carol (carolfromnc) | 3337 comments Brian wrote: "This is the article I read, which may be a part of the article Lesle has posted. I thought it interesting that it says Mahfouz won the Nobel Peace Prize. The article needed a better editor.

https:..."


I think it was the Nobel for Literature, but could be wrong.


Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments Carol, it was definitely the 1988 Nobel in Literature - that error should have been caught.


Carol (carolfromnc) | 3337 comments Brian wrote: "Carol, it was definitely the 1988 Nobel in Literature - that error should have been caught."

Ouch, yes.


Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments I just started the novel. My first observation is that I should get my wife to read this. I may not look so bad in comparison.


message 17: by Carol (last edited Sep 13, 2019 04:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carol (carolfromnc) | 3337 comments Brian wrote: "I just started the novel. My first observation is that I should get my wife to read this. I may not look so bad in comparison."

that'll work 100% in your favor. Plus, she should read it, lol. It's a story where you can't help talking (or yelling) out loud to one or more characters from time to time.


message 18: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 1371 comments I will be picking up my copy on Monday.


Kathy | 1135 comments I've started Palace Walk and find it very easy to read. The narrative is very straightforward.

I suspect I'm reading about a very traditional Egyptian family in the early 20th century but that change to the family is coming...


message 20: by Brian (last edited Sep 19, 2019 11:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments Lesle wrote: "Palace Walk has been widely praised, in part for providing an intimate view of a culture that has not been well understood by those outside it..."

I'm at Chapter 33 and I admit to not understanding the culture. I guess I understood the culture's male domination and treating women so poorly, but the idea of always keeping your daughters and wife at home is more extreme than I anticipated. Especially, while religious, this can't be an extremely religious culture. Otherwise, there would not be tolerance for the hedonistic lifestyle of the husband's nightly drunken debauchery. I guess I didn't expect such contrast between the strict restrictions with women and the male debauchery, at least not to the extent presented here, in this "traditional Egyptian family."
I guess the fact that the father is extremely liberal with himself and extremely strict with his family gives the dynamic tension to make this a story worth reading.


Kathy | 1135 comments I’m very stressed out reading about al Sayyid Ahmad and his temper and the way he treats his family. The family situation makes me angry. I just want someone to stand up to him!

I’m at the part where his children are trying to figure out who is going to talk with their father about their mother’s “situation.”


message 22: by Brian (last edited Sep 27, 2019 08:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments Kathy wrote: "I’m very stressed out reading about al Sayyid Ahmad and his temper and the way he treats his family. The family situation makes me angry. I just want someone to stand up to him!..."

As I mentioned earlier, al Sayyid Ahmed's hypocritical behavior gives dramatic tension to the novel. However, my feelings when reading about his character is similar to my feelings about the Mrs. Gibson character in Wives and Daughters. While the constancy of the author's depiction of the same self-centered behavior is admirable, after 400+ pages the behavior does get more frustrating and reading about it gets more tiresome.


message 23: by Brian (last edited Sep 29, 2019 07:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments FINISHED THE BOOK, SPOILERS: Some thoughts:

The ending is expected, as the author properly forecasts it a bit, and is an appropriate ending. But while the result works for this book, it also leaves me with a lessened desire to read on in the Cairo Trilogy. I understand that, as time goes on, another generation of characters will be introduced but, right now, I've had enough of the other characters, including Kamal.

The author does a great job providing insight into Egyptian life between the wars through a traditional family saga. It is a solid 4 star read for me. I very much enjoy learning about cultures through such family sagas, whether with more familiar ones, such as in Buddenbrooks and The Forsyte Saga or non-familiar ones such as in Kristen Lavransdatter and The Makioka Sisters. However, I find the depicted culture here so frustrating that I don't know if I want to spend more time immersed in it. The 500 pages was enough. I may change my mind, but that's my feeling right now.

Mahfouz does paint a complex culture with household heads imposing various degrees of faith based restrictions on women and family depending on how strict the household head wants to be, contrasted with the availability of a vibrant nightlife for these same household heads to party each and every night and for some women to entertain them.


Kathy | 1135 comments I'm enjoying al Sayyid Ahmed's discomfort at the family weddings where his family and friends come together. He actually has to sequester himself so his poor ears and eyes don't have to hear and see the celebrations.


Carol (carolfromnc) | 3337 comments Brian wrote: "FINISHED THE BOOK, SPOILERS: Some thoughts:

The ending is expected, as the author properly forecasts it a bit, and is an appropriate ending. But while the result works for this book, it also leave..."


Alas, ‘‘twas not for you then. When I finished Palace Walk, I pretty much fasted for a few days days to save up and purchase Palace of Desire. It was that compelling, to me. Bummer it didn’t capture you but all one can do is try and conclude thumbs up or down. I shall spot you The Cairo Trilogy and you’ll forgive me for despising Moby Dick, I hope. :)


message 26: by Brian (last edited Mar 02, 2021 07:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 4276 comments SPOILERS
Yes, it was not a 5 star read for me and did not compel me to want to read the sequel. I did not like the book as much as you did. However, I don't think you can say this book 'twas not for me just because I have no urge to read the sequel right now.
I thought the book was well-done and I am very glad I read it. I gave Palace Walk 4 stars (I gave Moby Dick 2 stars btw). However, my point was that the characters and culture were frustrating and the ending decreased any desire to read volume 2.
By the end, I did feel like I had spent enough time in this culture and with most of the characters. However, killing off the one character whose fate I cared about may have made this book better but took away any desire I had to read the sequel. But who knows, I may feel up to read more of the trilogy someday in the future.


Carol (carolfromnc) | 3337 comments Brian wrote: "Yes, it was not a 5 star read for me and did not compel me to want to read the sequel. I did not like the book as much as you did. However, I don't think you can say this book 'twas not for me just..."

Understood, Brian.


Kathy | 1135 comments I've finished Palace Walk and rated it a 4. I liked the second half of the book far better than the first half which focused (for me, anyway) on the fathers hypocritical behavior and his harsh treatment of his own family.

The second half brought the English occupation of Palace Walk which had the characters not so focused on family, but on the country of Egypt.

The women in this culture only have a part to play only in the home. I'm interested to see how their roles change in the future.

I may read the second book of the trilogy sometime.


Jazzy Lemon (jazzylemon) | 2152 comments Mahfouz wrote from what he knew and he had a brilliant way of developing his characters. As a child he looked out the window watching the English soldiers in the street below. He was the youngest of seven children, and so much younger that it was more like being an only child. His household was so strictly Muslim he was sure no one would have thought an artist (or author) could have sprang from it.

The book takes place in 1918/1919 and develops the family unit, the individual members (I am sure Kamal was himself), the hatred of the English and Australians who have set themselves up to keep the peace following the Great War. The death of Fahmy, the revolutionary, reminded me of the death of Enjolras in Les Misérables, and was heartbreaking. Will al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad truly repent his harsh line towards his family?


Melanie Anton | 12 comments I just read this book for my international book club and I have two things to say. First, the father and the son Yasin were loathsome. Second, the author’s writing style. There was way too much telling and not enough showing. I was trying to find some positives but the only things were learning about the history and culture of WWI Egypt. I would rather have read a history book than this one.


message 31: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 9676 comments Mod
I didn't read the book for two reasons-I had other books to read and I'd heard about the father's character(so I decided to give it a pass).
I am also influenced by an author's style, and it sounds like I wouldn't enjoy that either, Melanie.
Thanks for sharing your candid opinion of the book.


Melanie Anton | 12 comments Thanks, Rosemarie. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments about this book.


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Les Misérables (other topics)
Palace Walk (other topics)

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Naguib Mahfouz (other topics)