Intellectual Space in Naguib Mahfouz’s Thartharah fawq al-Nīl

CSULB McNair Scholars Research Journal, vol. 15, 2011, pp. 31-50. (See full article here:

Skyline of Cairo centering the Nile River
“Cairo Skyline” by Tamlyn Rhodes

Post-independence Egypt experienced a mass economic nationalization headed by President Nasser; the resulting emergence of an authoritarian socialist government became a source of alienation for the intelligentsia. Distinguished scholar Roger Allen states that Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s 1966 novel Thartharah fawq al-Nīl “depict[s] the role and fate of the Egyptian cultural intelligentsia during the 1960s” (107). Employing literary, theoretical, and historical scopes, this paper investigates the way Mahfouz accomplishes this, specifically in his construction of internal and external environments. From the physical stature of the novel being shorter in length than those from his earlier period, to the confined setting of the houseboat where the majority of the story takes place, the reader experiences a constricted feeling perhaps similar to that of the intelligentsia under Nasser’s socialist regime. On an internal level, the numerous mental evocations by Mahfouz’s main character involve a vast historical spectrum. Moreover, the constantly shifting currents of his stream of consciousness serve to relocate and dislocate the reader. This multi-layered analysis of the author’s spatial construction of both internal and external environments promotes a deeper understanding of both Mahfouz’s artistry and the reality for the Egyptian intellectual in the 1960s. (Read more from CSULB McNair Scholars Research Journal)