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Naguib Mahfouz: السمان والخريف (Autumn Quail)

This is Mahfouz’s novel of the Nasser Revolution. It starts with the fire in Cairo after the massacre of Egyptian policemen by British soldiers at the Suez Canal in January 1952 and ends with the Suez Crisis. The story concerns Isa al-Dabbagh who is a senior civil servant at the end of the monarchy period, just before the Nasser revolution. He lives well and is engaged to the daughter of a senior palace official. However, after the revolution, he is called before the Purge Committee where he is accused of having taken bribes. His defence that everyone else did it is not accepted and he is pensioned off. While his cousin, Hasan, and friend fare well under the new regime, happily betraying their principles, Isa refuses to betray his. On the personal side, his engagement is called off (his former fiancée become engaged to his cousin) and he marries a divorced women, Qadriyya, who cannot have any children. At the end, he is left without a job, without children, gambling and visiting a prostitute, watching the revolution disappearing in front of him. Clearly, this novel can be seen as a condemnation of the old regime but it also shows the new regime, represented by Hasan, as just as greedy and corrupt.

Publishing history

First published in 1962 by Maktabat Misr
First English translation in 1985 by American University in Cairo Press
Translated by Roger Allen; revised by John Rodenbeck