cover image The Time and the Place

The Time and the Place

Naguib Mahfouz, Najib Mahfuz. Doubleday Books, $19.5 (174pp) ISBN 978-0-385-26471-6

Much more concise and pointed than his discursive novels, Nobel Prize winner Mahfouz's short stories must rank with the finest anywhere. Variety is the keynote of these 20 fluently translated tales, which range from a Kafkaesque allegory of an apartment dweller's obsession with rodents (``The Norwegian Rat'') to the moving, passionately feminist ``The Answer Is No,'' about a teacher who chooses independence and self-respect over a marriage proposal from the tutor who raped her. Mahfouz's Cairo is bursting with countless tragedies, comic absurdities and hope. In ``The Ditch,'' a solitary civil servant takes up residence in his family's burial vault, already occupied by squatters. A genie's blessing turns into a nightmare of police repression in the supernatural title story. Dark parables, psychological realism, wisdom quests, political satire--Mahfouz is inobtrusive master of every mode. This volume is the first selection of his stories available in English. (June)