A mummy awakens: The pharaonic fiction of Naguib Mahfouz
TABLE OF CONTENTS COPYRIGHT NOTICE, ii DEDICATION, in ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, iv NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION AND TRANSLATION, x ABSTRACT, xi TABLE OF CONTENTS, xii CHRONOLOGY OF ANCIENT EGYPT, xvi PREFACE: (Quotation from Herodotus, Histories, Book IT), xvii INTRODUCTION: THE PHARAONIC FACE OF NAGUIB MAHFOUZ, 1 Statement of Objectives, 1 Works Studied and Origins of Study, 8 Profile ofNaguib Mahfouz, 13 Nobel Address: "I am the son of two civilizations," 35 CHAPTER I: ROOTS OF A NILOTIC NATIONALIST, 40 "Our Father is Tutankhamun," 40 The Pharaonic Self-Instruction ofNaguib Mahfouz, 62 CHAPTER II: THE THEORETICAL CONTEXT, 74 Author and Text, 74 Narrative, History and Historical Fiction, 82 Myth and Fiction, 85 Themes Explored, 94 xii
Ill: MAHFOUZ'S EARLY "HISTORICAL" PERIOD: SHORT STORIES (1936- 1945), 98 Short Story, "al-Sharr al-ma'bud" ("Evil Adored," 1936,1939), 98 Short Story, 'Afw al-malik Usirkaf" ("King Userkafs Forgivenness," 1938), 102 Short Story, "Yaq^at al-mumiya'" ("The Mummy Awakens," 1939), 108 Short Story, "'Awdat Sinuhl" ("The Return ofSinuhe," 1941), 123 Short Story, "Sawtmin al-'alam al-akhar" ("A Voice from the Other World," 1945), 135 IV: MAHFOUZ'S EARLY "HISTORICAL PERIOD:" NOVELS (1939-44), 153 Novel: 'Abath al-aqdar (Khufu's Wisdom, 1939), 153 Novel: Radubis (Rhadopis of Nubia, 1943), 169 Novel: Kifah TTbah (Thebes at War, 1944), 183 V: PHARAONIC ALLUSIONS, "INTERMEDIATE PERIOD" (1945-83), 213 Hashish and History: Novel, Thartharah fawqa al-Nil (Adrift on the Nile, 1966), 213 Dialogue and the Dead, 214 Almost Ancient Egyptian: Story," "al-Samd' al-sabi'ah " ("The Seventh Heaven," 1979), 226 VI: MAHFOUZ'S PHARAONIC "LATE PERIOD" (1983-2006), 246 Novel-in-Dialogue: Amama al-'arsh (Before the Throne, 1983), 246 Novel: al-'A'ishJt-al-haqTqah (Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth, 1985), 291 Oneiric Pharaonica: Altlam fatrat al-naqahah (Dreams, 2000-2006), 307 VII: CONCLUSIONS: THE TRIUMPH OF FICTION AS HISTORY, 315 Naguib Mahfouz as Imhotep, Moses, and Manetho, 315 xiii
Naguib Mahfouz and the Afterlife, 328 APPENDICES, 331 1: THE PHARAONICA OF NAGUIB MAHFOUZ (IN ARABIC), 331 2: THE PHARAONICA OF NAGUIB MAHFOUZ (IN TRANSLATION), 333 3: COMPREHENSIVE NAGUIB MAHFOUZ BIBLIOGRAPHY, 340 4: SELECTED WORKS ON NAGUIB MAHFOUZ AND HIS PHARAONICA, 344 SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY, 348 INDEX, 387 XIV
CHRONOLOGY OF ANCIENT EGYPT2 Late Paleolithic Period 6500 BC-4500 BC Badarian (Nile Valley), Merimda (Delta), Fayyum A&B 4500 BC-4000 BC Naqada I (Nile Valley), Ma'adi / Buto, al-'Umari (Memphite area) 4000 BC-3500 BC Naqada II (Nile Valley) 3500 BC-3000 BC Naqada III ca. 3100BC-2950BC Early Dynastic Period (First-Third Dynasties) 2950 BC-2575 BC Old Kingdom (Fourth-Sixth Dynasties) 2575BC-2150BC First Intemediate Period 2125BC-1975BC Middle Kingdom (Eleventh-Fourteenth Dynasties) 1975BC-1640BC Second Intermediate Period 1630BC-1520BC 2 John Baines and Jaromir Malek, Atlas of Ancient Egypt, Revised Edition. (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, Second Printing 2005), 8-9. XV
New Kingdom (Eighteenth-Twentieth Dynasties) 1539BC-1075BC Third Intermediate Period 1075BC-715BC Late Period (Twentyflfth-Thirtieth Dynasties) 715BC-332BC Greco-Roman Period 332 BC-395 AD Byzantine Period 395-640 XVI
"Anyone may believe these Egyptian tales, if he is sufficiently credulous." 2 Herodotus 3 Herodotus, The Histories (II), trans. A. de Selincourt, rev. with introduction and notes J. Marincola (Penguin, 2003), 24, quoted by John Burrow in A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 24.
INTRODUCTION THE PHARAONIC FACE OFNAGUIB MAHFOUZ Look, their words endure in writings. Open, and read!—The Teaching for King Merikare1 Egypt, to me, is not merely a strip of land. She is the Cradle of Civilization, the motherland of humanity throughout history, who merits the respect of nations, the way that parents deserve respect from their children—even when they are inferior in wealth, knowledge, and power.—Naguib Mahfouz, May 2004.2 Statement of Objectives This dissertation probes a number of fictional works by Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature Najlb Mahfuz (henceforth Naguib Mahfouz, 1911-2006) that deal with ancient Egypt: principally, four novels, a difficult-to-classify book-length work in dialogue, and five short stories. Also to be included are at least fourteen brief, sometimes epigrammic, sometimes epiphanic, works, each allegedly based on an actual dream, which are part of Mahfouz's final project. A number of his other works that contain traces of pharaonic themes and imagery are also examined. 1 Translated by Richard B. Parkinson in The Tale ofSinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems, 1940-1640 B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 218. ^ From Mahfouz's foreword in Im Land der Pharaonen: Agypten in Historischen, Fotos von Lehnert und Landrock, Text von Walter M. Weiss, Vorwort von Nagib Machfus (Heidelberg: Palmyra, 2004), 6. The original text reads as follows: "Agypten ist fur mich nicht nur ein Fleckchen Erde—es is fur mich die Wiege der Zivilisation. Es ist das Mutterland in der Geschichte der Menscheit, und dafiir verdient es die Anerkennung und Achtung aller Nationen, so wie auch alle Eltern die Achtung ihrer Kinder verdienen, selbst wenn sie ihnen an Reichtum, Wissen und Macht unterlegen sind." 1
The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that these works reveal a great deal not only about Mahfouz's own formation as a writer, but also as a determinedly (and permanently) Egyptian territorial nationalist, at the dawn of modern pan-Arab and pan- Islamic ideology—and continuing to his death. Furthermore, that they illustrate the creative adaptation, the persistence, and even the survival of many ancient Egyptian motifs, myths (a term of some controversy in Egyptology, as will be explored below) and beliefs as expressed through the medium of fiction (much of it arguably aesthetically underrated) written by a modern Egyptian. This particular Egyptian's status as likely the most globally famous and influential prose writer in his nation's history—both ancient and modern—imbues this phenomenon with unusual significance. Naguib Mahfouz, who in 1988 became the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature, is best known for his fiction set in his native country in the 20th century. Mahfouz's most famous works such as al-Thulathiyah (Bayna al-Qasrayn, Qasr al-shawq, and al-Sukkariyah, known in English as Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street) and a half-dozen or so others, have been brisk sellers worldwide, with more titles added frequently. Many have read (and many more have read of) Awlad haratina (Children of the Alley), Mahfouz's 1959 novel banned in Egypt for alleged blasphemy, and for which a religious fanatic—apparently under orders from a radical shaykh reportedly funded by Usamah ibn Ladin (henceforth Osama bin Laden)—stabbed him nearly to death in 1994.3 Still, despite the huge and ever-increasing interest in his work -* Raymond Stock, "How Islamist Militants Put Egypt on Trial" in The Financial Times (London), Weekend FT, March 4/5, 1995, III. For further details on Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman—who allegedly issued orders to his followers to murder Mahfouz—as well as his relations with Osama bin Laden (and his associate Ayman al-Zawahiri), see Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Alfred A. Knof, 2006), 56-7,95, 138, 173, 176-7, 179, 184,214,221,256,258,261,277,316, 2
and persona, and the growing tide of translations, a minority of his readers know that this doyen of Arabic letters, who would have turned 95 on December 10, 20064—had another face. This aspect of Mahfouz views the present through the various prisms—some glorious and others less-so—of his nation's oldest recorded times. In his lifetime, Mahfouz published approximately sixty books, exploring a broad array of fictional styles and genres. Included within this expansive oeuvre is a small— and, until recently, largely neglected—body of works set in, or using devices from, the age of the pharaohs. His first published book was a translation of a young readers' guide to ancient Egypt, and his first three published novels were inspired by classic tales and events from the 4th, 6th, 17th and 18th Dynasties. Like the vengeful ghost in one of his early short stories, "Yaqzat al-mumiyd''" ("The Mummy Awakens," 1939), Mahfouz's use of Egypt's glamorous past to write about its more problematic present was revived with two book-length works in the 1980s. This dissertation aims to study these long nearly forgotten stories with the rigor of an archaeologist examining the tomb and contents of an ancient Egyptian monarch. Or, more properly, to examine them the way that a modern specialist of Ancient Egyptian literature dissects a Middle Kingdom tale, and its intriguing—if unfortunately now difficult to reconstruct—cultural, literary, personal, and social context. 342-3, and 409 «; and Mary Anne Weaver, "The Real Bin Laden," in The New Yorker, January 24, 2001, posted online at www.newyorker.com on September 13, 2001. ^ Naguib Mahfouz's birthdate is widely given as December 11, 1911. However, his original birth record, examined at Dar al-Mahfuzat in the Cairo Citadel in November 1995, states that his birth was registered on that date, but that the birth occurred one day earlier, on December 10, at 2:00 a.m. An extract of his birth record obtained in August 1992 from his employment file at al-Ma'had al-QawmT lil-STnima (National Cinema Institute), dated September 5, 1922, states also that his birth was registered on December 11, 1911, but that "the date of birth is the 10th." The Nobel Prizes are officially awarded in Stockholm on December 10 each year, commemorating the death of Alfred Nobel (at 2:00 a.m.) in 1896. 3
In Arabic, these works have had varied critical success, with, on the whole, relatively little public reception. His first three novels received only a single contemporary review each (discussed—along with more recent reception and adaptations—with the novels themselves in Chapter IV). None of his early pharaonic works were commercially successful at the time of their initial publication, though a condensed version of at least one of them has become a standard part of the Egyptian school curriculum, due to its message of Egyptian patriotism and resistance to foreign occupation.5 Yet their very intellectual richness as well as their surprising (in view of their prevailing neglect) readability has necessitated this research. This surprise was expressed by 1991 Nobel laureate in literature Nadine Gordimer, who recently told al-Ahram : "I was blessed with a wonderful experience as one of his devoted readers when his three first novels, which deal with life in ancient Egypt—Kifah Tlbah [Thebes at War], Radubis [Rhadopis of Nubia], and 'Abath al-aqddr [Khufu's Wisdom] were published in translation, and I was asked to write an introduction for an edition that would include all three of these works in one binding. I was filled with enthusiasm when I discovered that he had these three works which I had not read before, when I had assumed that I'd read all of his works that had been translated into English, and so I agreed with the greatest pleasure. "My reading of these three novels was, as I said, a splendid experience. For here we have a young writer, but all that he would reveal in his subsequent productions—all that wisdom, and all that profundity—were apparent in these initial works, whether with respect to politics or human relations, particularly the love between a man and a woman, as well as surreptitious affairs, and the gaps that exist between the generations in one family."6 -* Humphrey Davies in his "Translator's Introduction" to Naguib Mahfouz, Thebes at War (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2003), viii. Davies makes a similar point in an interview by Youssef Rakha, "Deciphering the Hyksos," Al-Ahram Weekly, (Cairo), July 25, 2002, 16. " Nadine Gordimer interviewed by Baha' JahTn and Halah Ahmad ZakT, al-Ahram, Dec. 12, 2006. 31. 4
In her introduction to the Everyman's Library edition of Khufu 's Wisdom, Rhadopis of Nubia and Thebes at War, Gordimer observes: The historical novel is not a mummy brought to light; in Mahfouz's hands it is alive in ourselves, our twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in the complex motivations with which we tackle the undreamt-of transformation of means and accompanying aleatory forces let loose upon us. Although these three fictions were written before the Second World War, before the atom bomb, there is a prescience—in the characters, not authorial statement—of what was to come. A prescience that the writer was going to explore in relation to the historical periods he himself would live through, in the forty novels that followed.7 And in the first Naguib Mahfouz Memorial Lecture at the American University in Cairo on December 3, 2006, Gordimer called Khufu's Wisdom "an early novel in which Mahfouz's brilliant creativity is already evident." In her peroration, she implicitly compared Khufu's mission in the novel to write '"a great book guiding the souls and protecting the people's bodies with knowledge'" with Mahfouz's overall accomplishments as an author by saying, that, with his death last year, "he's left us his wisdom, his writings, his inward testimony, the wisdom of great literature."8 Gordimer's very approving reaction to the appearance of Mahfouz's early pharaonic novels in English was not unique. Reviewing their individual Random House paperback editions in The Seattle Times, Michael Upchurch writes: ' N. Gordimer, Introduction, Three Novels of Ancient Egypt by Naguib Mahfouz: Khufu's Wisdom, Rhadopis of Nubia, and Thebes at War (New York: Random House/Alfred A. Knopf/Everyman's Library, 2007), ix. Gordimer here appears to use the term "forty novels" in reference both to the forty historical novels that Mahfouz originally planned to write, and the roughly forty novel-length works that he actually would write, most of them set in his own times. (Gordimer also introduced Denys Johnson-Davies' English translation of Mahfouz's 1994 work, Asda' al-sirah al-dhatiyah, published as Echoes of An Autobiography by the American University in Cairo Press and Doubleday, New York, 1996). ° Complete text published in Al-Ahram Weekly, December 7, 2006, 15. (The above line from Khufu's Wisdom (New York: Random House, 2005, 86-87, is slightly misquoted. The correct text is: "a great book.. .guiding their souls and protecting their bodies.") 5
Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz is best known for "The Cairo Trilogy," his saga about a modern Cairo family living under British colonial rule bet ween the t wo wars. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that his first three novels—published in Arabic in 1939, 1943, and and 1944—were set in Ancient Egypt. In their pages, Mahfouz deftly moves between grand spectacle and behind-the- scenes intrigue, between lofty rhetoric and deflating remark, as he immerses you in a world where Egypt was the only reality and everything else was mere rumor... Similarly, Brendan Hughes, in the magazine The Believer, fnds these novels to be both larger than life and refreshingly unexpected: For the first time, Everyman's Library has collected Mahfouz's trilogy of novels about ancient Egypt in one volume. Compared to his better known and dustily realistic Cairo Trlogy, which portrays mid-twentieth century Cairo in all its menace and squalor, these early novels seem grandiose and melodramatic, like a Cecil B. DeMille movie, complete with chariots and a cast of a thousands. The pleasure of this trilogy, like that of all good historical fiction, is in the intricate re-creation of the past. Mahfouz was a famously voracious researcher and an inveterate plotter—Nadine Gordimer, in her introduction, aptly compares him to a detective novelist...10 Richard Marcus, reviewing the Everyman's Library edition for blogcritics.com, takes a more cross-cultural, stylistic approach to render his praise of all three novels: In each novel the author shows us the talent emerging that will one day produce a body of work worthy of a Nobel Prize. In each instance we are seeing his work through the eyes and ears of his translators, so a certain amount of trust is involved that they are accurately represented. But since that is [sic] case with any foreign language author there's not much you can do about it. The style of writing may sound a bit strange to our ears, as it has an ornate quality not normally heard in the English novel anymore. Differences that may disconcert the reader a little are the use of descriptive phrases in a manner that is unfamiliar, and until your ears adjust may sound overly melodramatic or flamboyant. "The listeners were 9 Michael Upchurch, "Ancient Egypt shrouded in intrigue, passion," The Seattle Times, December 9, 2005 (http://www.seattletimes.com). Brendan Hughes, "A review of Three Novels of Ancient Egypt by Naguib Mahfouz," The Believer (San Franciso, CA: September 2007), 41.
delighted, their blood gladdened in a swoon of gaiety and glory, and contentment glowed on Pharaoh's strong, manly features." To our ears that might sound a little over the top as a means of saying that everyone liked the news, but it elevates the subject matter above the commonplace. One of the conventions of Classical literature is that was believed that language used had to be elevated appropriate to the subject matter of the nobility it depicted. Lesser men and women were considered to speak a more rudimentary form of the language and would be depicted accordingly.12 Meanwhile, in cinema, Mahfouz's Pharaonica have affected, at least indirectly, the production of a highly anticipated French animated film, La Princesse du Soleil (2007, based on Christian Jacq's novel, La Reine soleil, on the fictive search of a young princess Akhesa, daughter of Akhenaten, and Prince Tutankhamun for Nefertiti). In preparing the script, director Philippe Leclerc read "those novels by Naguib Mahfouz which are set in ancient Egypt; they've helped me a lot in capturing the mood."13 Yet the critical appraisal has not always been positive—sometimes, just the opposite. Sasson Somekh lays out his objections to Mahfouz's early pharaonic novels in his 1973 study, The Changing Rhythm, the first major work on Mahfouz and his fiction overall in a Western language. His views represent a rather common judgement among many critics on this phase of Mahfouz's production: Mahfuz was, for one thing, ill-equipped to write historical novels. His knowledge of ancient Egypt was fragmentary and his acquaintance with western historical novels 11 N. Mahfuz, 'Abath al-aqddr (Cairo: Maktabat Misr, 1988?; first published 1939), 9; Khufu's Wisdom, Three Novels of Ancient Egypt, 8. 12 Richard Marcus, Book Review: Three Novels of Ancient Egypt by Naguib Mahfouz (http://blogcritics.org/archives/2007/03/24/005249.php). 13 "French films make a comeback to Egypt," by Nehal el-Sherif, The Egyptian Gazette (Cairo: March 16, 2007), 6 (for quote on Mahfouz.'s novels). For more on the film, see Christian Jacq, "Film: 'La Reine Soleil, "' mLe Progres Egyptien (Cairo: March 17, 2007), 4. Tutankhamun's correct name as a prince (i.e., prior to assuming the kingship) was Tutankhaten ("Perfect is the Life of the Aten")—the reversion to traditional religion after Akhenaten's death was not then seriously attempted or complete, as explained in Akhenaten & Tutankhamun: Revolution & Restoration by David P. Silverman, Josef Wegner and Jennifer Houser Wegner (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Musum for Archaeolgy and Anthropology, 2006), 7-9. 7