cover image The Journey of Ibn Fattouma

The Journey of Ibn Fattouma

Naguib Mahfouz, Najib Mahfuz. Doubleday Books, $20 (148pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42323-6

In this short, intermittently provocative fable, first published in Arabic in 1983, the Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author of the Cairo Trilogy ponders the question: What is the best way to organize a society? Betrayed by his sweetheart, young Ibn Fattouma of ``the land of Islam'' begins a journey in search of wisdom. In Mashriq, whose citizens go naked and worship the moon, he marries Arousa, a pagan woman. Thrown out of Mashriq for trying to bring up his son as a Muslim, he next stops in Haira, a land whose bloody king is worshiped as God. Ibn Fattouma escapes imprisonment for Halba, where all religions are welcomed and Muslim homosexuals peacefully demonstrate for gay rights. There he marries a Muslim female pediatrician who teaches him the value of an Islam ``of independent judgment.'' Next the hero visits Aman, a communist state with full employment but no personal freedoms. He never reaches his ultimate goal, Gebel, land of perfection. Mahfouz's pithy parable mocks the hypocrisy of nations that wage war and maintain empire in the name of brotherhood and freedom. (Sept.)