Though I can’t get into his novels or the trilogies, I dig Mahfouz’s shorter works. The Daily Star reports on The Seventh Heaven, a collection of short stories by the 95-year-old author, translated by Raymond Stock. Sounds like a cool collection:
“The Seventh Heaven,” then, is an opportunity to delve into Mahfouz’s earlier, unknown or overlooked short fiction. All thirteen stories were written in Arabic between 1979 and 1999. They appear here in chronological order.
The first piece, which gives the collection its name, is essentially a novella, a 50-page story that serves as a precursor to Mahfouz’s 1993 novel “Before the Throne.”
A young man named Raouf is killed by a friend-turned-rival in the opening scene. He splits from his body and looks down on the crime scene, regarding himself as a bloody mess sprawled out on concrete. From there, he ascends to a place or a space – “a new city” – known as the first of seven heavens.
Here, Raouf meets Abu, defense counsel for new arrivals, who are tried in a court and either acquitted (in which case they are prepared for ascent to the second heaven), condemned (in which case they are reborn) or given probationary sentences to serve as spiritual guides for the living.
The article draws comparisons between this collection and the works of Rushdie, Kundera, Auster, Marquez, and Murakami. The more you read about it, the clearer the comparison gets.