Arabic: محفوظ نجيب
Born Dec. 11, 1911 – Died Aug. 30, 2007
Prominent Egyptian writer, Nobel Prize for Literature laureate
Naguib Mahfouz is one of the most influential and celebrated Egyptian figures domestically and internationally.
Mahfouz was one of the first Egyptian contemporary writers to discuss existentialism. Having published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories and dozens of articles, movie scripts and plays, Mahfouz said every piece of work he created was heavily laced with politics.
Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1988. His most well known book, Children of our Alley (1959), was banned because of the alleged blasphemy of personifying God and prophets in his story and daring to question certain habits and rituals. The ban was lifted after Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize.
Outside his work, Mahfouz faced controversy regarding his opinions and vision. In 1989 Mahfouz found Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to be offensive to Islam, but he was more upset with Ayatollah’s ‘fatwa’ condemning Rushdie to death. Mahfouz believed in freedom of speech and even if the Ayatollah was furious with Rushdie’s book, Mahfouz believes it was not his right to decide that he should be executed. This opinion made Mahfouz very unpopular with radical Islamists.
Mahfouz’s influence inspired a new outlook on many professions and a new outlook on Egyptian life.