The Harafish

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Naguib Mahfouz
Translated by Catherine Cobham

In The Harafish Naguib Mahfouz returns to the style of sweeping narrative at which he proved himself a master. He chronicles the dramatic history of the Nagi family—a family that descends, over many generations, from the heights of power and prestige to the depths of decadence and decay. The epic story begins with the tale of Ashur al-Nagi, a man who grows from humble roots to become a great leader and a legend among his people. The name of Ashur epitomizes a time of glory for the harafish, or the common people, when they were led by one of their own. Generation after generation, however, Ashur's descendants stray further from his legendary example. They lose touch with their origins as they amass and then lose large fortunes, marry prostitutes when they marry at all, and develop rivalries that end in death. Finally, a Nagi appears who restores the family name to its former distinction. The Harafish is a mythic tale, a compelling portrait of human weaknesses—pride, dishonesty, lust, and greed—and of the greatness of which we are capable when we overcome them.