Sad news today: Naguib Mahfouz, the first Arab Nobel laureaute has died at the age of 94 in a Cairo hospital. Mahfouz was a courageous writer, most famous for his 1988 Nobel Prize-winning Cairo trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street. I first read his work in 1992 and now own several of his books.
Throughout his life, Mahfouz's writing about the foibles of Egyptian life invited controversy. In 1959, religious authorities banned publication of Children of Gebelawi, claiming it featured characters representing God and the Prophets. The book was published in Lebanon and later translated into English. In 1994, Mahfouz was stabbed in the neck by a Muslim militant, angered by his work.
Mahfouz published more than 30 novels, short stories, plays, newspaper columns, essays, travelogues, memoirs and political analyses. His last major work - The Seventh Heaven, a collection of stories about the afterlife, was published last year. In December Mahfouz told an Associated Press reporter that he wrote The Seventh Heaven because he "wanted to believe something good will happen to me after death." "Spirituality for me is of high importance and continuously provides inspiration for me," he said.