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Heart of the Night

Heart of the Night

Naguib Mahfouz
Translated by Aida A. Bamia
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 112
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  • Book Info
    Heart of the Night
    Book Description:

    Jaafar Ibrahim Sayyed al-Rawi, the main character in this most recently translated Mahfouz novel, is guided by his motto, “let life be filled with holy madness to the last breath." He narrates his life story to a friend during one long night in a café in old Cairo. Through a series of bad decisions, he has lost everything: his family, his position in society, and his fortune. A man driven by his passions, he married a beautiful Bedouin nomad for love, and as a consequence pays a punishingly high price. From a life of comfort with a promising future guaranteed by his wealthy grandfather, he descends to the spartan life of a pauper, after being disinherited. Jaafar faces his tribulations with surprising stoicism and hope, sustained by his strong convictions, his spirituality, his sense of mission, and his deep desire to bring social justice to his people.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-306-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. 1
    (pp. 1-4)

    I looked at him closely and said, “I remember you very well.”

    He bent over my desk, his foggy sight fixed on me. His proximity, his roaming look, and his efforts to see clearly, revealed his weak eyesight. Seeming unaware of his closeness to me and the small size of the quiet room, he said in a harsh, high-pitched tone, “You do! I do not trust my memory anymore, and on top of that I do not see very well.”

    The days of Khan Jaafar cannot be forgotten!” I said.

    “Welcome. You are from that district then?”

    I introduced myself...

  3. 2
    (pp. 5-8)

    My relationship with Jaafar al-Rawi grew stronger with time. In his loneliness, he was ready to cling to anyone who would encourage him, be it only with a smile. I ventured into this friendship with the strong conviction that it would end soon. His disturbed personality did not suggest a desire to settle down into a lasting friendship and it did not take much to satisfy him. There were obvious reasons that drew me to him, but there was also an intangible motive: past memories and my own fascination with the al-Rawi family, their stories, the rumors about Jaafar’s crazy...

  4. 3
    (pp. 9-18)

    Bab al-Akhdar alley fell into silence under cover of night. It is then that the hordes of beggars return to their spots, the lunatics clutter the corners, and the smell of incense fills the air. No outsider roams there at night except the few customers of Café Wadud. They are all hash smokers.

    “Let me tell you about the time of the legend,” said Jaafar.

    “You mean your childhood years,” I said.

    He was quick to respond, “I mean what I said, so do not interrupt me. There is no childhood, but a dream and a legend, the age of...

  5. 4
    (pp. 19-38)

    Surprised, I asked him, “For the first time?”

    “Yes, for the first time.”

    I asked again, “He was never mentioned during your mother’s lifetime?”

    “Never, though he lived in the same neighborhood.”

    “Why did she keep you in the dark about him?”

    “Maybe because she was upset with him. Anyhow, our neighbor explained the relationship to me and told me that he was my father’s father. His house was not too far from Margush, and in a way it was a familiar place, as my mother and I often walked by its high walls on our way to al-Hussein.


  6. 5
    (pp. 39-61)

    “I was walking with Muhammad Shakroun at the edge of al-Darrasa when we encountered a herd of sheep led by two women. When we stepped aside to let them pass, I was able to see the women up close, most probably a mother and a daughter, very much alike. The daughter wore a long belted black dress, was draped in a black shawl, and had on a loose burqa that revealed her eyes. She was barefoot and held a spindle.”

    Jaafar fell silent for a long time.

    “What happened?” I asked.

    He turned toward me and said, “I, too, wonder...

  7. 6
    (pp. 62-79)

    “At a soirée in the Lipton Garden where Muhammad Shakroun was entertaining we were invited to meet Huda Sadeeq in her loge during the intermission. She received us with a smile that reflected her self-confidence. A very dark-complexioned woman sat beside her, and from her extreme politeness I guessed she was Huda Sadeeq’s lady-in-waiting.

    “I was struck by Huda’s beauty, her conservative but elegant dress, and a certain pride that remained within the boundaries of politeness. She was enveloped in a halo of serious charm, but her feminine beauty was all in her eyes and her round face. I was...

  8. 7
    (pp. 80-94)

    “The office attorney was at the center of activities. He was in charge of minor cases that were quite suitable for a young lawyer at the beginning of his career. I was, in fact, his assistant, and my work revolved around his activities. But my office became the meeting place for my friends, especially those whose opinion I sought while studying law. They were originally distant travel companions, but throughout our regular meetings they achieved the political conquest of my soul.

    “I want you to know that I was not totally disconnected from politics, as you might think. Among the...

  9. 8
    (pp. 95-99)

    “I am in shambles, an old sick man, half blind, with a handful of memories that no one can believe, but I have not lost my clarity of mind or my strong determination, and the seduction of debates is still alive in my heart.

    “I thought that if I found Muhammad Shakroun, I would be able to locate the link that would take me to the heart of matters. But there was no trace of him, and I did not meet anyone who knew him, as if he had not entertained a generation of Egyptians with his voice. At the...

  10. Glossary
    (pp. 100-104)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 105-105)