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Fountain and Tomb [a novel]

Naguib Mahfouz, translated by Soad Sobhi, Essam Fattouh, and James Kenneson
Fountain and Tomb [a novel]
ISBN: 978-0-89410-581-4
1988/120 pages/LC: 86-51004

"Mahfouz is engrossed with the mysteries of existence.... The novel reads as an intriguing kaleidoscope, as intricate as a finely patterned prayer mat, as quickly brilliant as a discreet jewel.... The tales are warming, bizarre, frightening, frustrating—as, of course, is life."—Annie Greet, CRNLE Reviews Journal


"I enjoy playing in the small square between the archway and the takiya [monastery] where the Sufis live. Like all the other children, I admire the mulberry trees in the takiya garden, the only bit of green in the whole neighborhood. Our tender hearts yearn for their dark berries. But it stands like a fortress, this takiya, circled by its garden wall. Its stern gate is broken and always, like the windows, shut. Aloof isolation drenches the whole compound. Our hands stretch toward this wall—reaching for the moon."

So begins Naguib Mahfouz's Fountain and Tomb, a kaleidoscopic novel set in Cairo during the 1920s. The narrator tells tales of the street—of separated lovers, childhood games, workers, neighbors, loneliness. In his alley, his small slice of Egypt, he finds the excitement and harshness of Cairo at the one end, and the withdrawn but beautiful world of the sanctuary at the other.


Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz is one of Egypt's most beloved writers. This translation of Fountain and Tomb won Columbia University's 1986 Arab League Translation Award.