Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I am in California right now and to drown out the sound of construction to the house next to where I am staying, I play the radio.

I woke up at 4 a.m. to the news that Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, the first writer in Arabic to win the Nobel prize for literature, died.

His health has suffered since his hospitalisation in 1994 after an Islamic fundamentalist, angered by his portrayal of God in one of his novels, stabbed him in the neck.

The knife caused nerve damage in his neck, limiting his ability to use his writing hand and causing his eyesight and hearing to deteriorate.

Is this what people do to writers who tell the truth?

Born in 1911, Mr Mahfouz is regarded as one of the best writers and premier intellectuals in the Arab world, publishing more than 50 novels, short story collections, plays, newspaper columns, essays, travelogues, memoirs and political analyses.

His works, including Palace of Desire, Adrift on the Nile and Children of Gebelawi, are often seen as depicting the social history of Egypt during upheavals of the 20th century, and have been published in 25 languages. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

I read in someone else's blog on his work: 'Isn't that great?The Arab world produces a good novelist after centuries and what do the Islamists do to honor him? Stab him in the neck because they don't like his protrayal of "God" (betcha they find it blasphemous to Islam!). Of course, I'm forgetting about Salman Rushdie, another good novelist from the "Arab world" who was honored with a fatwa demanding his death for "betraying Islam" with his work The Satanic Verses. Hope you get well soon, Mr. Mahfouz! You sound like a decent guy and I must make an effort to check out your books soon.'

Indeed. Rest in peace, darling.