Respected Sir

Najib Mahfuz, Author, Naguib Mahfouz, Author Doubleday Books $19.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-385-26479-2
With this portrait of a misanthropic civil servant, the Egyptian Nobel laureate devises a cunning send-up of egregious ambition, stodgy bureaucracy and cloying piety. Mahfouz's overblown language mirrors the grandiose aspirations of his protagonist Othman Bayyumi, a common archives clerk who schemes for a lofty appointment as Director General, expounding that ``a government position is a brick in the edifice of the state, and the state is an exhalation of the spirit of God, incarnate on earth.'' As Egypt experiences the birth pangs of nationalism, Othman remains an apolitical, selfish loner wallowing in his self-imposed misery, who fawns over his superiors, works like a dervish and squirrels away his money, his only physical pleasures the visits he pays religiously to a prostitute, which ``were usually followed by a wholehearted plea for forgiveness and a prolonged resort to prayer and worship.''45 Envisioning marriage as a means to forge social connections that will launch him to glory, he viciously turns down prospective brides; because no one is good enough for him, he ends up in his later years with two wives, one a opium-addict aging prostitute, the other a young woman who uses him as he sought to use others. This was originally published in Egypt in 1975. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1990
Release date: 08/01/1990
Hardcover - 154 pages - 978-0-7043-2596-8
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