Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt, and the Art of Translation

October 13, 2017

Egyptian author and 1988 Nobel laureate in literature Naguib Mahfouz with writer, translator, and biographer Raymond Stock in March 1990, at the then-offices of The American University in Cairo Press, shortly after Stock began working there. (Photo courtesy Raymond Stock © 1990)

Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt, and the Art of Translation

Raymond Stock


On L2L: October 13, 2017 (click to listen to the episode)


About Naguib Mahfouz

Twenty-nine years ago today, on October 13, 1988, Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was the first Arab writer to be recognized with this award. Born in Cairo 1911 and age 94 upon his death in 2006, Mahfouz was prolific during his lifetime — writing 34 novels, several hundred short stories, and even films and plays.

His works are both inherently Egyptian — set in specific time periods and places in the country’s long history — and universally concerned with the plight and meaning of human existence. One of his most well-known works — now known as The Cairo Trilogy — depicts three generations of a merchant-class Muslim family during the first half of the twentieth century, and chronicles the political changes in Egypt during this time period while focusing on the everyday experiences and inherent moral tensions of his character’s individual lives.

In this way, Mahfouz was a quintessentially twentieth-century writer and observer of modernity, akin to Proust. But his body of work goes beyond The Cairo Trilogy and includes historical novels that link ancient Egypt with the Egypt of today as well as a collection of short passages known as The Dreams.

On this anniversary of Mahfouz’s Nobel Prize, Listening to Literature spoke with Dr. Raymond Stock, who has translated many of Mahfouz’s works from their original Arabic.

This is the first part of a two-part episode featuring Dr. Stock. The second episode can be heard here.

About Raymond Stock

Raymond Stock with Naguib Bey, recuperating in hospital on October 23, 1994, nine days after he was stabbed on October 14. (Photo courtesy Raymond Stock © 1994)

Raymond Stock, Ph.D., is an expert on Middle Eastern cultural and political affairs and is currently an Instructor of Arabic at Louisiana State University and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum. A twenty-year resident of Cairo (1990–2010), he has translated seven books by Egyptian author and 1988 Nobel laureate in literature Naguib Mahfouz (1911–2006), whose biography he is writing for Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Mahfouz himself cooperated in the research for this book.

A 2007 Guggenheim Fellow, with a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (including ancient through modern studies) from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Stock served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University in 2010–2011. A frequent commentator in the media, his articles and translations of Arabic fiction have appeared in Bookforum, The Financial Times, Foreign Policy Research Institute E-Notes, Harper’s Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, the Journal of Arabic Literature, The London Magazine, Middle East Quarterly, Zoetrope: All-Story, and many other venues.

He is currently translating a novel, Suleiman’s Ring, by Egyptian-American author Dr. Sherif Meleka. This novel was published in Cairo in 2008, with Dr. Stock’s forthcoming translation published by The American University in Cairo Press.

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