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Egypt's Nobel prize winning writer Mahfuz in hospital

Agence France-Presse CAIRO: World renowned Egyptian writer Nagib Mahfuz, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988, has been admitted to hospital, a hospital official said Thursday. Mahfuz, 95, is suffering from kidney problems, pneumonia and other ailments relating to his age, said Muntassem Abdel Muti, spokesman at Cairo s Police Hospital where he …


Agence France-Presse

CAIRO: World renowned Egyptian writer Nagib Mahfuz, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988, has been admitted to hospital, a hospital official said Thursday.

Mahfuz, 95, is suffering from kidney problems, pneumonia and other ailments relating to his age, said Muntassem Abdel Muti, spokesman at Cairo s Police Hospital where he is being treated.

He added that the novelist s temperature and general condition had improved.

Mahfuz had been admitted to the same hospital on July 16 after stumbling and injuring his head.

Born in Cairo in 1911, Mahfuz is Egypt s most celebrated intellectual with about 40 novels to his name. He began writing at the age of 17 and had his first novel published in 1939.

A flurry of other novels followed but it was the Cairo trilogy – Between the Palaces, Palace of Longing, and Sugarhouse – published between 1955 and 1957 that brought his name to the forefront of Arab literature.

The books, depicting traditional urban life, tell of a family living through the first half of the century when Egypt went from British colonial rule to independence under a monarchy.

Mahfuz studied philosophy at King Fuad I University (Cairo University), graduating in 1934 and working for a few years in the university s administration.

Nearly half of Mahfuz s 40 or so novels have been made into films which have circulated throughout the Arabic-speaking world. He has also written more than 100 short stories, many of which have been translated into English.

A lover of Cairo s sprawling cafes, many of his works centre around life in the bustling city, bring out its the uniquely Egyptian character at a key historical period during which a national identity was being defined.

In 1988, Mahfuz became the first Arab writer to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature, notably for the universal character of his art, which was considered a metaphor for relations between people in communities worldwide.

Throughout his life, the author has been actively interested in politics, staunchly defending a spirit of tolerance and acceptance, a stance which brought controversy into his life.

His novel, Children of Gebalawi, published in 1959, was banned by Egypt s Islamic Al-Azhar University for the disillusioned view it gave of religion. The book brought more trouble for him in the 1980s, when the fundamentalist Jihad group said Mahfuz should be killed for blasphemy over the book.

The author narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in 1994 when a radical Islamist stabbed him with a knife.

In a biography put out when he was named Nobel laureate, the Nobel Foundation said his second period of writing, starting with Children of Gebalawi, saw a new vein that frequently concealed political judgements under allegory and symbolism.

Works of this period include the novels, The Thief and the Dogs (1961), Autumn Quail (1962), Small Talk on the Nile (1966) and Miramar (1967), as well as several collections of short stories.

Mahfuz also worked as a civil servant, including being director of censorship in the Bureau of Art, director of the Foundation for the Support of the Cinema, and then as a consultant to the culture ministry.

Despite his moderate views on Israel and his defense of fellow artists sanctioned in Egypt for holding similar views, Mahfuz strongly supported the Palestinian cause.

When he won the Nobel award, he divided the prize money in four equal parts: one for his wife, two for his daughters, while part of his share went to charities for the Palestinians.

Topics: Aboul Fotouh

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