Worlding of Realism: The Case of Naguib Mahfouz

Abstract

The routes of European realism into Arabic cultural and literary expressions are many. They also overlap in both the travel and arrival of this complex package of politics and aesthetics, simultaneously and randomly, through translation and adaptation. A comparative reading of Arabic print culture, cinema, storytelling and theater allows us to see the overlapping network of circulation of European realism, and how it is subject to further conceptual blending of all kinds: global with local, visual with verbal, and creative with critical. Reception is the space in which Arabic realism finds articulation; each articulation is, however, unique, responsive, as it were, to the worldview, priorities and techniques deployed. Tracing the movements and transformations of European realism through Naguib Mahfouz – centripetally into his novel and film stories and centrifugally to Egyptian cinema and criticism – it is possible to track the worlding of realism in the globalization of Mahfouz. Read outside of a linear progressive chronology that implies a cause-and-effect trajectory of worlding (i.e., that the Egyptian development is directly influenced by European exports), and against a backdrop of visualization and embodiment in Egyptian and Mexican cinemas, class-conscious discourses of Egyptian criticism, and the political allegory of his later novels, Mahfouzian literary realism is theorized as reliant on the ability of the word to release the creative potential of the human imagination to relate writing to lived experiences

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