Saqi Books picks up Naguib Mahfouz short stories

Rights - Fiction Friday, 09 November 2018

English translation of newly-discovered collection of stories by Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz will appear next autumn

Lynn Gaspard, publisher at Saqi Books, has acquired world English rights from sister company Dar al Saqi for the recently-found collection of short stories by Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz.

Yesterday BookBrunch reported the uncovering of The Whisper of Stars collection, lost amongst papers at the dead author's house since the early 1990s. Mahfouz (pictured) won the Nobel in 1988, and died in 2006.

Whilst undertaking research for a book at the home of Mahfouz’s daughter, Umm Kulthum, Egyptian journalist Mohamed Shoair stumbled across a hitherto undiscovered collection of fifty short stories by Naguib Mahfouz. The handwritten stories were accompanied by a note: 'for publishing 1994.' Although some of the stories were published in magazines and collections during Mahfouz’s lifetime, eighteen of these stories have not been published before. Umm Kulthum announced she was looking for a publisher in September this year.

1994 was a very difficult year for the author. The publication of The Satanic Verses brought with it attention from unwanted sources to Mahfouz’s novel Children of Gebelawi, seen as controversial by some. Mahfouz was given police protection after a number of death threats, but despite this an Islamic extremist succeeded in stabbing the 82-year-old novelist in the neck outside his home in Cairo. 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. For the last decade of his life most of his work were short narratives, such as Echo of An Autobiography and Dreams.

All eighteen stories are situated in Cairo, Mahfouz’s home city. Saqi Books has said of the collection: "With fable-like scenarios and reappearing characters, these stories still speak of contemporary Cairene society. 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. We are excited beyond measure to be bringing these stories to readers in English, translated by the brilliant Roger Allen."

Saqi will publish the as yet untitled collection, translated by Roger Allen, in autumn 2019. Dar al Saqi will publish in Arabic on Naguib Mahfouz’s birthday, 11 December 2018, during the Beirut International Arab Book Fair.

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