Naguib Mahfouz

Sugar Street

Then, heartbroken, Amina would abandon the conversation. Gazing sadly at Aisha, she saw the personification of shattered hopes. 3

During these brief nocturnal periods, the English-language teacher at al-Sidahar school was transformed into a liberated voyager who traversed the limitless expanses of thought. He read, pondered, and jotted down observations that he later incorporated into his monthly columns. His efforts were motivated by a desire to learn, a love for truth, a spirit of intellectual adventures, and a longing for alleviation of both the nightmare engulfing him and the sense of isolation concealed within him. He escaped his loneliness by adopting Spinoza's notion of unity of existence and consoled himself for his humiliations by participating in Schopenhauer's ascetic victory over desire. He put his sympathy for Aisha's misery into a perspective by devouring Leibniz's explanation of evil and quenched his heart's thirst for love by appealing to Bergson's poetic effusions. Yet this continuous effort did not succeed in disarming the anxiety that tormented him, for truth was a beloved as flirtatious, and coquettish as any human sweetheart. It stirred up doubts and jealousy, awakening a violent desire in people to possess it and to merge with it. Like a human lover, it seemed prone to whims, passions, and disguises. Frequently it appeared cunning, deceitful, harsh, and proud. When he felt too upset to work, he would console himself by saying, "I may be suffering, but I'm still alive...I'm a living human being. Anyone who deserves to be called a man will have to pay dearly in order to live. 11

It was inevitable for a person to be disappointed by something in life, in fact by many things--health, youth, or other people--but where were those days of glory, melodies, and love? 15

Life had been a tightly wounded scroll crowded with hopes. 18

A laugh of lament escaped from Muhammed Effat, and be said, "God have mercy on people who place their trust in this world." 40

Although he thought that no trace remained, his heart pounded with strange affection when he heard any of the songs of that age, no matter how trite the lyrics or the tunes. What did this mean?
     "But not so fast. A memory of love, not love itself, was at work. We're in love with love, regardless of our circumstances, and love it most when we are deprived of it. At the moment, I feel adrift in a sea of passion. A latent illness may release its poison when we're temporarily indisposed. What can we do about it? Even doubt, which puts all truths into question, stops cautiously before love, not because love is beyond doubt, but out of respect for my sorrow and from a desire that the past should be true. 46

How could these hearts, hardened by the coarseness of life, love anyone? Yet what experience did he have of hearts generous with love or eager for it? The daughter of the snack shop owner had been in love with him, but he had ignored her. He had loved Aida, but she had spurned him. In his living dictionary, the only meaning for love was astonishing pain that set the soul on fire. By the light of its raging flames amazing secrets of life became visible, but it left behind only rubble. 100

Although he categorically rejected the side of marriage, he could not ignore it. His heart was free, but he found this emptiness as nerve-wracking as being in love. 111

Abd al-Aziz laughed out loud and said, "Religion has taken its revenge on you. You fled it to pursue higher truths only to return empty handed." 95

Here the sweet fragrance of the past was redolent of lost love and tenderness. 114

What is there in life that doesn't turn out to be a fraud? 117

Profoundly influenced by the conjugal atmosphere that surrounded him, intoxicating his heart and senses, he felt a longing, although not for anyone or anything in particular. 117

Palace Walk

Previously he had learned, also from love, the different pains associated with separation, forbearance, leave-taking, doubt, and despair. He had learned as well that some pains are bearable, some enjoyable, and others constant, no matter how many sighs and tears are sacrificed to them. It seemed that he had fallen in love in order to master the dictionary of pain. By the glow of the sparks flying from the colliding pains he could see himself and make fresh discoveries. 204