“Habit woke her at this hour. It was an old habit she had developed when young and it had stayed with her as she matured. She had learned it along with the other rules of married life. She woke up at midnight to await her husband’s return from his evening’s entertainment. Then she would serve him until he went to sleep.”
Originally published in 1956 in Arabic, Palace Walk is the first part of trilogy written by Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz. From the opening pages, the reader is given a glimpse into the life of a Cairo family near the end of the first world war. The father, a conservative Muslim, keeps his women confined to their home, and yet himself carouses at night, drinking and having affairs with various women. He rules his sons with an iron fist, and yet they each, in their own way, rebel against him. When WW I ends, Egypt is embroiled in a push for independence from Britain, and the family is caught up in the struggle.
This book is masterful on many levels. First, the story is excellent. It had me hooked immediately. Second, there is a great opportunity to learn about Egypt on the eve of independence, and the life of a Muslim family faced with political and cultural change. Third, I loved the subtle comparison of the oppression enforced by the family patriarch when placed next to their outrage against British oppression. Simply brilliant.
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1956, English translation copyright 1990