Nine Stories - J. D. Salinger
Palace Walk - Naguib Mahfouz (Arabic)
This is the first of a trilogy, but I won’t be reading the others. Not that this book doesn’t have virtues. It’s substantial and truthful, the prose flows nicely. It presents the thinking of people who are foreign to me, living in a culture full of contradictions – or, to put it more bluntly, hypocrisy. At the forefront is the father, who professes an extreme religiosity while casually breaking religious rules with his womanizing and drinking. He exerts an imperious (even brutal) control of his household, where he’s feared by wife and children. Subservience rules lives, especially those of women. A large portion of the book concerns the ban on a man and woman even seeing each other before marriage, much less getting to know one another. About two-thirds of the way through I found that there wasn’t one character I liked (was this intentional on Mahfouz’s part?). When the revolt against British occupation became a big factor, I lost more interest. Maybe Mahfouz’s accomplishment was to offer a critique of the culture he lived in; if so, he succeeded.