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Naguib Mahfouz: افراح القبة (Wedding Song)

As in ميرامار (Miramar), Mahfouz tells this tale by giving the perspectives of the key protagonists and letting them tell their tale. It is the story of a theatre troupe. The four key characters are Karam Younis, the prompter; Halima al-Kabsh, the cashier, who will marry Karam; their son, Abbas Karam Younis, and the actor, Tariq Ramadan. Karam and Halima have financial problems so they turn their house into a gambling and drugs den, get caught and are sent to prison. Abbas marries Tahiya, one of the women from the theatre, whom Tariq was interested in and incurs Tariq’s enmity. Things go badly after the birth of their son, Taher, which occurs just before Karam and Halima are set to prison. Tahiya and Taher become ill and die. These events become the basis of a play written by Abbas which is the subject of the four accounts by the protagonists. Tariq is still bitter that Tahiya married Abbas and blames Abbas for her death. Halima feels guilty. Abbas is still grieving and Karam tries, not too successfully, to stay above it all. Mahfouz not only gives us the four protagonists’ perspective but also the perspective of the play which, of course, has its own truths and distortions. Clearly moving away from his realist stance, some have condemned it as being too experimental but, for me, it works.

Publishing history

First published in 1981 by Maktabat Misr
First English translation in 1984 by American University in Cairo Press
Translated by Olive E. Kenny; edited and revised by Mursi Saad al Din and John Rodenbeck