Saturday, August 15, 2009

Midaq Alley: No Escape

Naguib Mahfouz
Anyone exposed to the works of Egyptian Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz will certainly retain some of the dark, dismal alleys inhabited by alienated and displaced members of society - a society that does not necessarily embrace its people through positive feedback or support. Midaq Alley, for one, is an existence of nobodies. Each character is searching for escape from poverty and meaningless lives. Hamida, the main female character, illustrates this well as she tries to escape the stiffling heat and degrading existence that she endures among half wits, lusting maniacs, imbicile-type of neighbors, and mentally instable shop owners - only to fall into the hands of a pimp, who at first, leads her into believing he loves her. Soon enough Hamida discovers that she has escaped one type of prison for another: prostitution. Mahfouz does not pass judgment on his characters. He simply presents a cross section of Cairo in the early 20th Century with the heavy hand of British occupation and does not offer any resolution for his characters, those poor ingrates of society who suffer from meaningless existence and who have no hope for a tomorrow.

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