Of course, now I've got three (!) lengthy novels to finish, not only Genji and Martin Chuzzlewit, but also the rest of The Cairo Trilogy. It's obvious that the three novels are one long book that has been divided into three (like, say, Lord of the Rings). Finishing Palace Walk is a long way from finishing the whole novel.
I enjoyed Place Walk immensely. It seems to me that it is written (at least as translated into English) in very simple, straightforward prose, not unlike a 19th century novel. (BTW, I thought it was fascinating that virtually none of Mahfouz's work was available in English when he won the Nobel Prize. Jackie Kennedy, of all people, was instrumental in getting the books translated into English and published.) Did you know that it was a best seller in the 1960s, selling 250,000 copies in the US?
The window into a way of life so different from anything that I recognize was fascinating. Egypt of a century ago seemed to me about as foreign and exotic as Japan of a millennium ago. I thought it was quite a triumph for me to understand how Amina could be happy (mostly) with not leaving the house for 25 years. 'Abd al-Jawad is by most standards an incredible hypocrite. And yet, it seemed to me that his stern and overly strict and upright behavior at home was how he truly believed that a husband and father should behave, even though it is essentially in direct opposition to his real character. Or are both his "real" character?.
Mahfouz partly helps us to be able to tolerate the father by contrasting him with the eldest son, Yasin, whose tendency toward the rape of servants is truly shocking. And yet, he has touching scenes as well, especially the death of his mother. I wonder how he will develop in the later novels.
The death of Fahmy, especially after the Revolution appears won, is sad and shocking. I wonder what effect it will have on poor little Kamal who admires the English soldiers so much?
And then there's the contrasting sisters. I felt more deeply for poor, less attractive Khadija, who has such a soft heart but who constantly keeps others at a distance with her sharp tongue due to her vulnerability.
I guess Death in Veracruz is next. I will start it soon. In the week since I finished Palace Walk, I've been getting back into Genji. I absolutely intend to finish it (and the Dickens, too)!