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Naguib Mahfouz: ميرامار (Miramar)

Miramar is the name of a boarding house in Alexandria, run by Marianna, a lady of Greek origin. The novel gives the perspective of four patrons of the Miramar, as they tell their stories. The four are Amer Wagdi, a retired journalist and member of the Wafd party, who has been pushed aside after the Nasser revolution; Hosni Allam,”a gentleman of property”; Mansour Bahy, brother of the Cairo police chief, broadcaster and former communist (who betrays his comrades) and Sarhan El-Beheiry, one of the supporters of the Nasser revolution, who pays lip service to it but does not stand by its principles. It is El-Beheiry who, for Mahfouz, represents the betrayal of the principles of Nasser’s revolution. Though not telling her tale, the key character is the young servant, Zohra, of peasant stock and clearly symbolising Egypt, keeping her integrity intact. Zohra as Egypt fends off the advances of many of the patrons and those that do not harass her feel unable to help her (in this case the socialist and the Wafdist). She soon realises that she is on her own and will get no help from the Wafdists, the socialists, the Nasserites, the landowners or anyone else. However, it is she – a peasant girl who has escaped from a forced marriage and has to struggle on her own – who is shown as the hope by Mahfouz, while the others are stuck in the past, are corrupt or riddled with guilt for their behaviour. She doesn’t have a voice – like many Egyptians of the time – but it is she who speaks loudest.

Publishing history

First published in 1967 by Maktabat Misr
First English translation in 1978 by Heinemann
Translated by Fatma Moussa-Mahmoud; edited and revised by Maged el Kommos and John Rodenbeck