Having read and loved The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz, I couldn't pass up Fountain and Tomb (1988) by the same author when I saw it at the book shop. Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988, the only Arab writer to have won it. He died in 2006 at 94 years of age. The book is almost a collage of 1920s Cairo, a vision shown in parts. He writes beautifully!
from the back of the book:
"I enjoy playing in the small square between the archway and the takiya [monastery] where the Sufis live. Like all the other children, I admire the mulberry trees in the takiya garden, the only bit of green in the whole neighborhood. Our tender hearts yearn for their dark berries. But it stands like a fortress, this takiya, circled by its garden wall. Its stern gate is broken and always, like the windows, shut. Aloof isolation drenches the whole compound. Our hands stretch towards this wall -reaching for the moon."So begins Naguib Mahfouz's Fountain and Tomb, a kaleidoscopic novel set in Cairo in the 1920s. The narrator -now child, now adult reliving his childhood- tells tales of the street, of separated lovers, childhood games, workers, neighbors, loneliness. In his alley, his small slice of Egypt, he is presented with life's polarities; the excitement and harshness of Cairo at the one end, and the withdrawn but beautiful world of the sanctuary of the other.