by Naguib Mahfouz
1974 / 101 pages
rating 9.25 – classic – 20th cent fiction
Back in 1954 Egypt was swept up by the July Revolution and granted independence from Britain. King Faruk was unseated and the Republic of Egypt established under Abdel Nasser. It took some time to adjust but then – Well, then came the 6-Day War with Israel in 1967 which Egypt lost soundly and by 1971 the country was in trouble with Nasser’s death and Anwar Sadat in office as president, a new constitution and a general feeling of impotency. After an assassination attempt Sadat instituted a series of purges, the beginnings of a police state really. There were protests but the voices were silenced.
Into this environment Mahfouz inserts the fictional but probably typical Cafe Karnak – a small, cozy meeting place for folks with very close and politically informed friendships. There are old people from the days of the original uprisings in the 1950s and young people suspected of activity against Sadat.
And then one day the young people are gone.
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