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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Brilliance of A Writer

I am not much of a fiction reader. I always thought there are better ways to get entertained like watching a movie or a sitcom. Well, I was chit-chatting w/t a co-worker the other day when he mentioned that reading helps him get to sleep faster, so I thought why not, let's give it a try. Now, who do I start reading for? That was easy, Mahfouz was an obvious first choice. Having been raised in Egypt, Naguib Mahfouz for me is a cultural icon to say the very least. So, I drove to the local Barnes and Noble book store and I was very proud to find a whole section dedicated to Mahfouz's work all translated in English. I picked up Midaq Alley the shortest novel I could find. Lemme first mention that I have not read any of Mahfouz's work except for a short story that I studied at high school and I can't even remember which one that was. And man oh man, have I been missing out! The first couple of days reading the book, I was enjoying it so much to the extent that I was looking forward to bedtime everyday. Its really nothing specific to that book, its Mahfouz's writing style that is quite the extraordinary. A typical fiction story consists of two things: dialogue between the characters and description by the author. I usually skip the description part cuz I find it boring and does not add any new information. Well, Naguib Mahfouz is an exception. I would say 90% of his talent lies in his characters description. He presents a very real and deep descrition of the characters that made me feel like I knew the characters for ages. And, to compare that with any other author's descriptive skills would be like comparing a 2d image to a 3d hologram, excuse my geeky analogy. I don't need to add any further praise for a writer whose work has been translated to 6+ languages and has a Nobel prize in literature among his long list of awards. Here's a snippet of his writing in Midaq Alley describing, one of the characters, Uncle Kamel:
"He is a hulk of a man, his cloak revealing legs like tree trunks and his behind large and rounded like the dome of a mosque, its central portion resting on the chair and the remainder spilling over the sides. He has a belly like a barrel, great projecting breasts, and he seems scarcely to have any neck at all. Between his shoulders lies his rounded face, so puffed and blood-flecked that his breathing makes its furrows disappear. Consequently, scarcely a single line can be seen on the surface and he seems to have neither nose nor eyes."
What's next on my reading list? Either The Thief And The Dogs or The Day The Leader Was Killed.