The Search is an intriguing novella overwrought with psychological passions set in the netherworlds of Alexandria and Cairo. One can sense the specters of Dostoevsky and Georges Simenon haunting Naguib Mafouz as he wrote--a misfit searching for his father commits a murder to seal a pact with his lesser female angel while ignoring his good one.
At times the narrative hurtles along with cinematic speed, at other times it stretches out in a languor of frustrated dreams and boredom; some passages of dialogue extend for several pages; other passages are interrupted with the intrusion of second-person narrative, directed at the protagonist/miscreant, Saber.
It's hard to know what this explosive text might read like in Arabic. In English it has a slap-dash, but compelling quality.
The theme of the search for the father, which is inconclusive and somewhat unbelievable, provides more of a backdrop to the main thrust of the narrative than primary substance. That said, it is an interesting theme in that it substantiates the amoral, disoriented quality of Saber's character. One wonders to what extent Mafouz was tapping into the broader insecurities of his Egyptian/Arab readership, but the appeal of this book isn't culturally limited. It snaps like a flag in a storm.
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