Spring 2001 • Vol. XXIII No. 2 Cultures of Creativity: The Centennial Celebration of the Nobel Prizes |

A Voice from the Other World*

From the Arabic.    1. By God, what does this tomb want for the good things of a bygone existence? It is a fragment of life's essence rich with lusciousness and luxury. Its walls are adorned with scenes of servants and slave girls. It is filled with the most lavish of furniture, the most sublime of embellishments. It has all that one could want of splendid fixtures and fragrances and decorative objects. It has a storehouse stuffed with seeds and fruits and vegetables, and what my library bore of books filled with wisdom, and what a writer may need from the tools of his trade. It is the world as I knew it. But do my senses now still taste life? Do I still need its distractions? Those who built this house for the dead surely labored in vain. And yet, I cannot deny—however strange it may seem—that I have not lost the urge to write. How amazing! What are these leaves that call to me with their beloved bewitchment? Is there still some part of me from which Death has not

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Naguib Mahfouz in 1988 became the first Arab Nobel Laureate in Literature. His roughly sixty books cover virtually every style and genre of fiction. He lives in the Cairo suburb of Agouza.  
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Raymond Stock, a doctoral student in Arabic literature at the University of Pennsylvania, is writing a biography of Naguib Mahfouz, with his cooperation, for Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Since December 1999 he has been working on a project with the Nobel Library at the Swedish Academy to improve its collections of non-Western literature. He lives in Cairo, Detroit and Philadelphia.

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