Naguib Mahfouz was one of the most prominent writers of Arabic fiction in the twentieth century. He was born in 1911 in Cairo and began writing at the age of seventeen. His first novel was published in 1939. Throughout his career, he wrote nearly forty novel-length works and hundreds of short stories. In 1988 Mr. Mahfouz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in 2006.
Raymond Stock is writing a biography of Naguib Mahfouz. He is the translator of numerous works by Mahfouz, including Voices from the Other World, Khufu’s Wisdom, and The Seventh Heaven.
THE FOLLOWING TITLES BY NAGUIB MAHFOUZ
ARE ALSO PUBLISHED BY ANCHOR BOOKS
The Beggar, The Thief and the Dogs, Autumn Quail
Respected Sir, Wedding Song, The Search
The Beginning and the End
The Time and the Place and Other Stories
The Journey of Ibn Fattouma
Adrift on the Nile
Arabian Nights and Days
Children of the Alley
Echoes of an Autobiography
The Day the Leader Was Killed
Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth
Voices from the Other World
Rhadopis of Nubia
Thebes at War
The Thief and the Dogs
Morning and Evening Talk
The Cairo Trilogy
Palace of Desire
First Anchor Books Edition, July 2009
The Dreams, translation copyright © 2004 by Raymond Stock
Dreams of Departure, translation copyright © 2007 by Raymond Stock
Translator’s Afterword copyright © 2009 by Raymond Stock
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. The Dreams was originally published in hardcover in the United States by The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York, in 2004, and Dreams of Departure was originally published in hardcover in the United States by The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York, in 2007.
Anchor Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All of these stories, with the exception of Dreams I–VI, which appeared in the daily al-Ahram (Cairo: December 9, 2005), were originally published in Arabic in Egypt in the magazine Nisf al-dunya (Cairo: January 2000 to September 2006). Copyright © 2000–2006 by Naguib Mahfouz. This translation was first published as two separate works The Dreams and Dreams of Departure by The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York, in 2004 and 2007 respectively. The numbering of these stories follows that of their original Arabic publication as Ahlam fatrat al-naqaha, with Dreams I–VI appearing between Dreams 176 and 177. Portions of the Afterword to this work were first published as the Introduction to The Dreams and the Afterword to Dreams of Departure.
Dreams 105, 106, 113, 117, 128, 148, 151, 155, 157, 161, 172, 179, and 188 originally appeared as “Thirteen Dreams” in the Southwest Review (Spring 2007) and were reprinted in Harper’s magazine (July 2007). An adapted version of the 2007 Translator’s Afterword by Raymond Stock appeared as “Naguib Mahfouz Dreams—and Departs” in this same issue of the Southwest Review.
The Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress.
About the Author
Other Books by This Author
Note to the Reader
Note to the Reader
The stories in this edition of The Dreams were originally published by the American University in Cairo Press in two volumes, The Dreams (2004) and Dreams of Departure (2007). The numbering of the stories follows that of their original Arabic publication in the Cairo magazine Nisf al-dunya from January 2000 to September 2006. However, between Dreams 176 and 177 are six dreams (numbers I–VI) that appeared in the Cairo daily al-Ahram on December 9, 2005, shortly before the author’s last birthday, placed where they fall chronologically in the magazine’s sequence. (See Translator’s Afterword.)
I was riding my bicycle from one place to another, driven by hunger, in search of a restaurant fit for my limited means. At each one I found its doors locked, and when my eyes fell on the clock in the square I saw my friend at its foot.
He called me over with a wave of his hand, so I headed my bike in his direction. In view of my condition, he suggested that, in order to make my quest easier, I leave my bicycle with him. I followed his suggestion—and my hunger and my search grew even more intense, until I happened upon a family eatery.
Propelled by the need for food and by despair, I approached it, though I knew how expensive it was. I saw the owner standing at the entrance before a hanging curtain. What could I do but to throw it open—only to find the place changed into a ruin filled with refuse in place of its grand hall readied with culinary delights. Dismayed, I asked the man, “What’s going on?”
“Hurry over to the kabab-seller of youth,” he answered. “Maybe you can catch him before he shuts down.”
Not wasting any time, I ran back to the clock in the square—but found neither the bicycle there, nor my friend.
We entered the apartment, the girl in the lead and I right behind her, while the doorman carried our bags. The girl and I had a firm relationship—though it was somehow undefined. We had begun to arrange our things when I sauntered onto the balcony overlooking the sea, and became lost in its vague horizons, intoxicated by its broken roar and its humid breeze.
Suddenly a scream issued from inside the flat. I scurried toward it to find the girl convulsed in terror as flames licked through the top of the doorway. Before I could recover from the shock, a man with features so hard they seemed cut from stone came in and—with a wave of his hand—put out the fire.
“Maybe the water service here will be cut off for a while,” he said, turning toward us—then went away.
My mind now at rest, I left my room for the supermarket to buy some needed things. Coming back, I discovered the apartment door open with the doorman standing around. I went into the flat, feeling anxious, and found it was bare but for a fat package of clothes tossed onto the floor. An arm from a pair of pyjamas stuck out through a hole in its wrapping. There was no trace of the girl.
“What’s happened?” I wondered.
“You must have gotten mixed up, sir, on your way here—this is not your apartment,” the doorman replied.
Staring at the protruding arm, I said, “Those pyjamas are mine!”
He replied calmly, “You’ll find thousands like them in the shops.”
I began to accept that I’d erred, especially in recalling that there were three buildings in a row that resembled each other here. Quickly I raced down the stairway to the street—and saw the girl walking through its emptiness toward the square jammed with people and with cars. I ran to catch up with her before she melted into the crowd.
At the center of the boat’s deck was a mast. A man was bound to it by a rope that wrapped around him from his upper torso to his lower legs. He twisted his head violently both right and left, crying out from his wounded depths, “When will this torture end?”
Three of us looked toward him with sympathy, exchanging confused glances with each other. A voice asked him, “Who’s doing this to you?”
The tormented man replied, as his head continued to thrash from side to side, “I’m the one doing it.”
“This is the punishment I deserve.”
“For what offence?”
“Ignorance,” he said, sighing with anger.
“We knew you as one who had a dream, as well as experience,” I answered him. “We did not know that rage lies latent in every person.”
“You were also ignorant of the fact,” he batted back, his voice rising, “that no human being can be stripped of all nobility, no matter how wretched their condition!”
At this, we were conquered by sadness and silence.
A huge, spacious hall, completely empty but with many doors. The three of us were standing in a hidden corner. My two friends strutted about like dandies, even wearing neckties, while I made do with a Moroccan jellaba—yet, thanks to our closeness as friends, I felt no embarrassment.
I heard a movement, and looked to see a man who came from I don’t know where dressed in formal attire, suggesting that he was some sort of master of ceremonies. I wrapped my jellaba around myself and said to my two friends, “I’m afraid there’s a party going on here!”
They replied, one after the other: “I don’t think so.”
“That’s not important.”
I became aware of another movement and when I looked I saw two men similar to the first joining him. At this point, all doubt vanished and I bolted to the nearest door. When I opened it, it was as if I found myself facing a barrier formed by the wall of the reception hall. I repeated this with every door, but all my attempts were frustrated like the first. So I went back to my two friends, insinuated myself between them, and hid myself there.
I was somewhat reassured, however, that the three men took no notice of us at all.
I watched the movements around us as the invitees poured in from every direction.
The place kept filling up without any of them even looking at us, for all had their eyes focused on one place. I felt compelled to do as they were doing, when suddenly a magnificent person with the look of a leader appeared, as the din of applause grew louder. Each time the man advanced a step, th
Amid the growing cheers and the continued warnings, the man opened the door, then disappeared from view as he ducked inside.
I am walking aimlessly without anywhere in particular to go when suddenly I encounter a surprising event that had never before entered my mind—every step I take turns the street upside-down into a circus. The walls and buildings and cars and passersby all disappear, and in their place a big top arises with its tiered seats and long, hanging ropes, filled with trapezes and animal cages, with actors and acrobats and musclemen and even a clown. At first I am so happy that I could soar with joy. But as I move from street to street where the miracle is repeated over and over, my pleasure subsides and my irritation grows until I tire from the walking and the looking around, and I long in my soul to go back to my home. But just as I delight once again to see the familiar face of the world, and trust that soon my relief will arrive, I open the door—and find the clown there to greet me, giggling.
The telephone rang and the voice at the other end said, “Shaykh Muharram, your teacher, speaking.”
I answered politely with a reverent air, “My mentor is most welcome.”
“I’m coming to visit you,” he said.
“Looking forward to receiving you,” I replied.
I felt not the slightest astonishment—though I had walked in his funeral procession some sixty years before. A host of indelible memories came back to me about my old instructor. I remembered his handsome face and his elegant clothes—and the extremely harsh way he treated his pupils. The shaykh showed up with his lustrous jubba and caftan, and his spiraling turban, saying without prologue, “Over there, I have dwelt with many reciters of ancient verse, as well as experts on religion. After talking with them, I realized that some of the lessons I used to give you were in need of correction. I have written the corrections on this paper I have brought you.”
Having said this, he laid a folder on the table, and left.
What a stupendous square, crammed with people and cars! I stood on the station’s sidewalk, waiting for the arrival of Tram Number 3. It was nearly sunset. I wanted to go home, even though no one waited for me there.