cover image The Beggar

The Beggar

Naguib Mahfouz, Najib Mahfuz. Doubleday Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-26455-6

A former Egyptian revolutionary and poet suffers a male midlife crisis, and the political and the personal, the universal and the particular, merge in Nobel laureate Mahfouz's perceptive 1965 tale of alienation. Here the author characteristically employs florid language, the concept of time as an insidiouspk element and a provocative literary style. A third-person narrative is punctuated by the thoughts of the despairing protagonist Omar, now a successful lawyer who believes he has sold out his ideals: ``Samson fell asleep before he could destroy the temple. . . . What has poetry to do with this hulking body, with the preoccupation with legal cases, the construction of apartment buildings, and gluttony to the point of illness?''36 A confused Omar abandons his pregnant wife and his daughters in a promiscuous pursuit of young lovers. His university comrades pk represent the polar aspects of his personality: Mustapha has become a prominent television and radio journalist for whom ``acceptance by the public is gratifying, even if it means selling popcorn and watermelon seeds'';50 Othman, recently released from a long imprisonment for political crimes committed by all three, remains a zealot, a danger to himself as well as to Omar. (Aug.)