Libmonster ID: BY-2335


Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences

Peoples ' Friendship University of Russia

Keywords: modern Arabic literature, Naguib Mahfouz, "Children of our Street", banned literature, Islamists

The Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) is an outstanding artist who captured the life of his country in the XX century (in the novels "Khan al-Khalili" (1947), " The Cairo trilogy "("Sulasiyyat al-Kahira") (1956-1957), "Chatter over the Nile" ("Sarsara fawka al-Nil) (1966), " Dear Sir "* ("Hadrat al-Mukhtaram") (1975), etc.), a talented screenwriter and thinker who received worldwide recognition.

The first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1988), Naguib Mahfouz lived a complex, dramatic life, joining the ranks of those world - famous writers whose novels were banned at various times for various reasons.

A fateful role in the writer's life was played by his novel "Children of our Street"1 ("Awlad haritna"**, 1959), which became the pinnacle of his work. For him (including) in 1988, the writer received the Nobel Prize and gained world fame and recognition. Because of it, he was also attacked in his own country, including in the pages of the press. In 1994, a young radical Islamist attacked Mahfouz with a knife - the writer survived, but was no longer able to lead an active lifestyle, communicate with readers, and participate in television and radio programs.

After the July 1952 revolution, when patriotic "Free Officers" led by Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt, eliminating the monarchy, Mahfouz did not write for several years. Then, probably disillusioned with the results of the revolution, Naguib Mahfouz created a large parable novel "Children of our Street" (more than 500 pages long) in a new genre, in which he tried to cover the spiritual history of mankind in a metaphorical form with its search for God, justice and happiness (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and atheism).

"Children of our Street" began to be published in parts already in 1959 in the central Egyptian newspaper "Al-Ahram", but soon the novel received sharp condemnation from the special council of" Al-Azhar " - the spiritual center of the Islamic world. A fatwa was issued*** banning the novel.

Under the secular government and the judicial system, the fatwa was, on the one hand, advisory in nature, but on the other - a huge force and authority in Muslim society. The authorities were not interested in the scandal that broke out, and they strongly recommended Mahfouz to abandon the idea of publishing a novel, which also expressed the idea that any revolution is fruitless, and human vices after a period of recovery still lead us to injustice and despondency.

Mahfouz himself did not want to create confusion in society, having meekly accepted the ban on publishing his work in Egypt. However, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram, Mohammed Heikal, took a principled position and published the novel on the pages of the newspaper.

The novel "Children of our Street" was translated into many European languages, since 1962 it was published in Arabic in Beirut, but was still banned in Egypt. In Cairo itself, it could be bought as contraband goods, reprinted or copied.

The controversy surrounding the work has not subsided for many years, but an open discussion of the novel with theologians has not taken place. According to the writer's memoirs, Hassan Sabri al-Khuli, the head of the Nasser city administration, tried to arrange a meeting of theologians with Naguib Mahfouz, which never took place.2 For his part, N. Mahfouz did not submit an official application to Al-Azhar requesting written permission for publication.-

* Russian translation by V. N. Kirpichenko.

** In the Russian translation of V. N. Kirpichenko's "Legends of our Street "(1992).

*** The mufti's decision on any issue based on the principles of Islam and Sharia, based on the precedents of Muslim legal practice.

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This would mean, in general, transferring to a religious organization the right to prohibit or permit the publication of literary works. Mahfouz did not want to set a precedent.

In the early 1990s, thirty years after the novel was written, in Egypt, Mahfouz was again harshly accused of godlessness, heresy, insulting the prophets and the Arab nation, and supporting the enemy-Israel.3 The writer was called a communist, a Marxist, a Zionist, a Freemason. At the same time, there were such active opponents of Mahfouz who admitted that they had not read his works at all.

Several events served as a catalyst for the aggravation of the writer's situation in Egypt.

First, as mentioned earlier, Mahfouz received the Nobel Prize*, including for this novel, and as a result-attention to the novel from the rest of the world and its translations into foreign languages. At the same time, in Stockholm (Sweden), the title of the work was not translated as "Death of God", which was in some sense an incorrect initiative of the Swedish side, which ignored the title of the novel, which Mahfouz himself gave, which put the Muslim writer at risk.

Second, in the same year, Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses (1988), a British writer of Kashmiri origin, was published with a scandal and banned. This work caused a furious protest of Muslims. Naguib Mahfouz spoke out against the persecution of Rushdie.

Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a spiritual leader and religious teacher of Egyptian Islamists, mainly from organizations such as Al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya and Al-Jihad, said...If Mahfouz had been killed after he published Children of Our Street, there would have been no Satanic Verses. "' 1 In addition, Mahfouz was a supporter of maintaining peaceful relations with Israel.

Against the background of these events, the Egyptian newspaper with a large circulation, Al-Masa, begins to publish "Children of our Street"on its pages. Mahfouz stops publication after the first issue as the author and copyright holder, but there were voices among the intelligentsia that the novel is no longer Mahfouz's property, but belongs to everyone as an intellectual property.

All these circumstances contributed to the growing tension in the religious-minded part of Egyptian society and, ultimately, led to an attempt on the writer's life. It was committed by a member of a radical organization who considered Mahfuz an apostate from Islam and a dangerous enemy.

Immediately after the attack, which drew widespread sympathy for Mahfouz, he is visited in the hospital by representatives of Al-Azhar, and several Egyptian newspapers begin to compete for the right to publish the novel. But Naguib Mahfouz was adamant. His only condition for publishing the novel was official approval from Al-Azhar. But the work was never approved.

Naguib Mahfouz's reaction to the assassination attempt was characteristic. Chairman of the Union of Egyptian

* N. Mahfouz did not travel to Sweden for the award ceremony due to health reasons. It was given to his daughters, Umm Kalsum and Fatyma.

** In February 1989, Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to execute anyone involved in publishing the novel, and an Iranian religious foundation offered a monetary reward for Rushdie's murder. author's note).

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writers Mohammed Sel-mavi remembered: "I was shocked by what happened. Went to a hospital near his home in al-Agouz. Mahfouz told me all about it, expressing his sympathy for the young man who had attacked him. He said ," How hard it must be for him. He could have become an athlete or done something important in life, but he chose the path of a killer." Then he added, " I don't hold it against him. He's a victim*"5. When Selmawi met this young man, he expressed no remorse for what he had done and said that he would like to see the matter through to the end, since Mahfuz is an atheist, a blasphemer of Islam. At the same time, the young man admitted that he was not familiar with the novel that made a lot of noise.

It should be emphasized that the works of S. Rushdie and N. Mahfouz actually have little in common with each other, except that they only contain some reflections on the topic of religion, religious prototypes, but in terms of ideological content they are written in different keys.

In" Children of our Street " Naguib Mahfuz does not in any way touch any of the three world religions, does not use abusive language, moreover, shows the role of religion that unites the spiritual forces of the people. According to the novel, followers of all three religions, having found them, approached freedom and justice, developed high moral foundations, and understood their purpose.

Only Naguib Mahfouz repeatedly repeats in the novel that people still suffer, that the strong oppress the weak, that the rich do not care about the poor, that the struggle between good and evil is eternal and it takes place in our souls.

"...No one who is familiar with the history of our neighborhood will believe what is told under the rebab* * in coffee shops. Who are Gabal, Rifaa and Qasem? And what evidence is there outside of coffee shops that they actually existed? The ears hear about these legends, but the eyes see only an unhappy street. How did we survive until then? Where is Kasem and the close-knit neighborhood, where is the estate, the income from which goes to the common good? What has come over this greedy steward and the insane overseers?"***

"...The residents of the street were transported to the worst times they knew. They were stripped of their rights and dignity. They were driven by need, battered by blows, and slapped in the face. It was dirty again, with flies and lice spreading. The roads were filled with beggars, the possessed, and the crippled. The names of Gabal, Rifaa and Qasem became empty words and were repeated only in the songs of drunken poets. Each clan boasted about their ancestor, from whom they had learned nothing, and often their dispute ended in a fight."

Let us take a closer look at the accusations that led to the conclusion about the hostility of the novel "Children of our Street" to Arab culture and the Muslim faith.

It should be remembered that "Mahfouz's worldview and philosophical views were formed at a time when acquaintance with Western culture and science, enlightenment, the reformation of Islam and the renewal movement in literature shook the foundations of dogmatic faith, and many Arab writers - Christians and Muslims - were imbued with the ideas of individual knowledge of God, the search for "God within man"6.

The main points of accusation of Roman by Islamists were:

1) Creating an alternative history of religions.

Naguib Mahfouz creates not just a novel, but a parable, in the main characters of which you can guess:

God is the all-powerful ancestor of all those who live in the neighborhood, shutting himself away from everyone in a Large House with a garden al-Qabalawi.

The devil is his rebellious son Idris (consonant with the Arabic Iblis-devil), because of the temptation of which another son was driven out of the House - Adham (consonant with Adam) with his wife Umayma (consonant with the Arabic umm - mother, a direct reference to Eve). Accordingly, their children are brothers-shepherds Qadri and Humam (consonant with Cain and Abel), one in the plot hates the almighty grandfather, the other treats the ancestor with respect. Qadri also kills his brother out of envy when he is invited-

* Here and further translated from the Arabic by V. N. Zarytovskaya.

** Rebab - a stringed musical instrument.

*** Here and further citation based on the translation by V. N. Zarytovskaya - Mahfuz Naguib. Children of Our Street, Moscow, Center for Humanitarian Cooperation, 2012.

page 67

You can live in the Big House of al-Qabalawi.

The Prophet Moses-Gabal (in tune with the Arabic word mountain-a key word in the history of Moses ' life) was the first descendant of al-Qabalawi to hear his voice and instructions. He led his family and emphasized their choice.

Jesus Christ-Rifaa (from the Arabic verb rafaa-to raise, i.e. to lift up), who taught kindness and submission, endures ridicule of the whole neighborhood and sacrifices himself, has his followers, is betrayed and killed in the novel by criminal authorities.

The Prophet Muhammad-Qasem (the prophet was also called Abu Qasem), who married a rich widow (Khadija), talked with the servant of al-Qabalawi (the archangel Jabrayil (Gabriel), was forced to seek refuge from his persecutors in another place (migration from Mecca to Medina), etc.

2) Distortion of some historical facts.

Researchers and experts in history, as well as theologians, have drawn attention to the fact that Naguib Mahfouz's novel distorts the historical truth, tries to replace the historical truth with a lie. For example, a hero who represents Christ dies as follows::

In desperation, Rifaa said:

"Why do you want to kill me?"

Bayumi hit him hard on the head with the baton. Rifaa shouted loudly, " Al-Qabalawi!"

In the next instant, Hanfas hit him on the neck with a club, then Rifaa was hit by the others."

And the hero Qasem, who represents the Prophet Muhammad, marries the sister of his companion, but in reality Muhammad married Aisha, the daughter of the closest companion Abu Bakr al - Siddiq. The author also invented that Qasem was tending a widow's goat (in the novel - Qamar, the prototype of the prophet's first wife), and later married the widow.

Mahfouz's opponents considered such insignificant discrepancies between the novel and historical facts to be fundamental, since this can confuse the untrained reader and form false knowledge that he will accept as historically reliable. In this sense, Mahfouz is responsible as the author. However, first of all, we must remember that the author created an artistic canvas, a fiction based on the history of world religions, which does not pretend to become an alternative history of religions or "correct" it, which means that some historical facts may be omitted, something may be added or transformed, according to the ideological logic of the narrative.

3) The image and mortification of God.

The personification of God in the image of his grandfather, the ancestor of all those living in the al-Qabalawi quarter, was also considered blasphemous. Moreover, the author has constructed the storyline in such a way that the hero Arafa (derived from the Arabic verb to know), embodying a science that did not bring him happiness and involved him in twists and turns, decides to appeal to his grandfather. Entering a Large House under the cover of night, he runs into a servant, who tries to grab him, Arafa fights back and kills the servant in the dark. Shocked by the death of a loyal servant, al-Qabalawi dies. Thus, according to some researchers, Mahfuz proclaims the death of God, i.e. declares that God is no longer there.

However, we must not forget that Mahfouz did not create a journalistic work, but a work of fiction, and such a storyline, most likely, does not mean that God is dead, but that pure science, devoid of spirituality, is a dead end for humanity. Recall that earlier, before the novel appeared, the world experienced a monstrous tragedy-nuclear bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

4) Offensive depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

Some considered offensive certain lines of Mahfuz, which seem to debunk the infallible image of the prophet. For example:"...It was very different from his dates in the hot desert, when he experienced a blind passion, like hunger, which always ended in cold indifference."

5) Insulting remarks about the Arab nation.

Under the setting of the novel, you can guess the old Cairo district near Mount al-Muqattam, from which, as it is believed, Cairo began. Track-

page 68

In particular, the inhabitants of the street are compared to the Egyptians. And among the heroes of the novel are bandits and drug addicts.

"...Even the bandits greeted the wedding-some with folk games, some with dances. Beer was served free of charge in the taverns, and even the youngsters got drunk. Hookahs were distributed free of charge in all the smoking rooms, and the air was filled with the smell of hashish and Indian tobacco."

"Some of them were traveling merchants, shopkeepers and coffee shops, and there were often beggars, but they all had one thing in common - everyone was selling a little bit of drugs, mostly hashish and opium."

In the fourth part of the novel, devoted to the formation of Islam, Mahfouz, describing the Arabs, future Muslims, writes::

"This area had no name, and its inhabitants were the most miserable and miserable, were considered without a family or tribe and were called vagabonds";

"...the life of people, especially in the vagabond quarter, was like the life of dogs, cats and flies that infested it, swarming in garbage heaps in search of food..."

The word used here by Mahfouz to describe the Arabs-jarbou (plural - jarabiu) - means a jerboa and is used figuratively as a vagrant. The derogatory, and even more offensive, connotative element here, in our opinion, is minimal.

It is highly doubtful that the author, being a Muslim Arab who has lived in Cairo all his life and was a fan of his homeland, speaks contemptuously about his compatriots and co-religionists in the pages of his novel. Rather, this passage shows the concern for them and the destitution of the Arabs before the adoption of Islam, thanks to which the Arabs became a strong nation, which in the Middle Ages experienced an unprecedented flourishing.

6) Affirmation of the triumph of science over religion.

The main character of the last part of the novel - Arafa-claims that no one has seen God, and his knowledge will bring him happiness. It was this apostate position of the hero that caused sharp criticism.

"I am neither the overseer nor the chosen one of al-Qabalawi, but I possess such miracles that contain power unknown to Qabal, Rifaa, and Qasem combined."

But it should be noted that in the novel, the hero who carries knowledge does not become a prophet for this or that group of people, has no followers, except for one faithful helper and a bride, gets confused, begins to serve evil (inventing pills that excite male potency and exploding mixtures), becomes disillusioned, seeks a meeting with God and at the end of the novel dies a terrible death.

"Why are they digging the grave in advance? Arafa felt as if Mount al-Muqattam itself was squeezing his chest. He heard Avatef groan and jerked his bound body with the last of his strength. After that, he heard nothing but the clatter of shovels. How soulless these people are!"

Naguib Mahfouz himself wrote: "Islam is a source of virtue for our nation, and science is an instrument of progress and rebirth ..." 7

In 2006, shortly before Mahfouz's death, the idea of publishing "Children of our Street" as a separate book in Egypt reappeared, and Mahfouz agreed to publish it in absentia after a suggestion from one of the theologians, Ahmed Kamal Abu al-Majd, to write a conciliatory preface-explanation to the novel. After the writer's death, his family, after some hesitation, agreed to this publication.

However, the debate over the novel's right to exist continues to this day and has recently shifted to a different direction - cinematography, when the famous Egyptian director Khaled Yusuf announced his intention to make a film based on the novel. [8]

* * *

The story of the publication of Naguib Mahfouz's most significant and controversial novel "Children of our Street" had a very difficult fate and stretched for almost half a century, playing a fatal role in the author's life.

Relying on Arabic sources, it became possible to understand why this work raised a wave of criticism and indignation in Muslim society, although this criticism did not always correspond to the author's plan and the logic of the narrative. At the same time, the author of the article in no way tried to make his own conclusions on sensitive religious topics.

Mahfuz N. 1 Children of Our Street, Moscow, Center for Humanitarian Cooperation, 2012.

Husein Sh. 2 Selmawi: Fahm al-islya-miin lil adab qasir (Selmawi: Islamists understand literature "in a limited way") / / Al-watan, 30.08.2012.

Husein Sh. 3 Op. cit.

Al-buhairy A. 4 Azhariyuna yadauna shchuru-tan lil muwafaka ala naschri "Aulad haritna" (Azhariots put conditions for publishing the novel "Children of our street") / / Al-mysriy al-yaum, 19.01.2006; Baada 45 aman minal mani bimuktada fatwa azhariya fi ahd ab-den-Nasir (45 years of prohibition after the fatwa of Azhar during the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser) / / Al-mysriy al-yaum, 14.02.2006.

Husein Sh. 5 Op. cit.

Kirpichenko V. N. 6 Testament of Naguib Mahfuz / / Asia and Africa today. 2012, No. 10, pp. 68-72.

Naghim A. 7 Najib Mahfuz fi zimmat alla wal ibdai (Naguib Mahfuz-the conscience of faith and the conscience of creativity) / / Al-Djeish, 2006, N 254 -

8 Khaled Yusuf yatahaddi ssalafiin (Khaled Yusuf challenges the Salafists) / / An-naghar, 10.01.2012 -


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