Latest on publication of Children of the Alley in Egypt

El-Ahram on Mahfouz’s lastest scandal:

…Dar Al-Hilal announced that it planned to publish the novel and Al-Fagr newspaper went so far as to print its final chapter. Then came the surprise, not from the Brotherhood or Al-Azhar but from Mahfouz himself. The novelist would agree to publication of the book on two conditions: that Al-Azhar signal its approval and prominent MB member Ahmed Kamal Abul-Magd write the introduction.

Outraged secularist intellectuals accused Mahfouz of abandoning the principles of enlightenment and freedom of opinion and expression. In Al-Ahram of 26 January Mahfouz clarified his position. His refusal, he explained, was a personal decision taken on the basis of his commitment to an agreement he had concluded with the publishing house’s former director, Hassan Sabri El-Khouli. He stressed that he was not yielding to any ban issued by Al-Azhar, which had not issued any pronouncements and did not have the right to do so.

As serious as the situation is, what concerns me most are the contradictions and inconsistencies it throws into relief with regard to the three parties immediately involved: Naguib Mahfouz, the Brotherhood and Egyptian intellectuals.

I was particularly struck by the indignant, self- righteous tone of the intellectuals whose position displayed a lack of awareness of the personality of the author and his role in Egyptian cultural and political life. Unfortunately there is nothing new in this.

Read the rest here.

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