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Lost Naguib Mahfouz stories discovered in Nobel laureate's papers


Naguib Mahfouz

Lost Naguib Mahfouz stories discovered in Nobel laureate's papers

This article is more than 2 years old

Fifty handwritten stories – 18 of which have never been published – by the late Egyptian writer were found in his daughter’s home

Alison Flood

Friday 9 November 

A lost collection of short stories by the celebrated Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz has been discovered in a box of the late Nobel laureate’s papers.

The 50 handwritten stories were found by the Egyptian journalist Mohamed Shoair at the home of Mahfouz’s daughter Umm Kulthum. While some of the stories were published in magazines while Mahfouz was alive – the Arab world’s most beloved novelist died aged 94 in 2006 – 18 of them have never been published. Set in Cairo, they are filled with “fable-like scenarios and reappearing characters”, according to UK publisher Saqi Books, which will release the stories in English next autumn.

Shoair found the papers when Kulthum gave him a box of Mahfouz’s papers while he was working on a book about the Nobel laureate’s manuscripts. He said he felt, “that I’m in front of a treasure”.

The author of 34 novels and more than 350 short stories, Mahfouz won the Nobel prize in literature in 1988. The Nobel jury described him as an author “who, through works rich in nuance … has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind”.

Saqi Books said: “We are excited beyond measure to be bringing these stories to readers in English … With Mahfouz’s often ironic, always insightful observation of the human character, this priceless discovery is wonderful news for fans of one of the world’s best-loved novelists.”

The collection will be published in Arabic on 11 December 2018, Mahfouz’s birthday, by Dar al Saqi, and in an English by Roger Allen next autumn.

The handwritten stories were accompanied by a note: “for publishing 1994”. Saqi said 1994 had been “very difficult” for the Mahfouz, then 82, who was given police protection after death threats, yet was stabbed in the neck outside his Cairo home by an Islamic extremist that year.

“He survived, but the nerves in his right arm were permanently damaged, and he could no longer write for more than a few minutes a day. As a result, he dictated most of his stories,” the publisher explained. “For the last decade of his life, most of his work were short narratives, such as Echo of an Autobiography and Dreams.” It is not yet known if the newly discovered stories were written before or after the attack.


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