Manfouz & Smilansky / Power of First Sentences / Where’s the Novel?

September 2, 2006

Mahfouz and Smilansky Dead
At the age of 94, Naguib Mahfouz died recently. He was the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature. The Associated Press noted: “Mahfouz’s novels depicted modern life in his beloved neighborhood of Islamic Cairo, a teeming district of millennium-old mosques and winding alleyways. He brought to life his city’s traditional families as they faced the 20th Century’s upheavals, including the change role of women.”
The Guardian also writes of the great novelist.

Variously described as a voice of conscience or national traitor, florid stylist or literary genius, the Israeli writer Yizhar Smilansky, known by his penname of S Yizhar, always evoked strong emotions in his native land,” writes Lawrence Joffe of the novelist, who recently died at the age of 89.

The Power of First Sentences
Consider next another famous first sentence: ‘Call me Ishmael.’Far from putting the reader on the track, however, Melville’s first line sets us on a very bumpy course. The hero narrator’s name is, it appears, not Ishmael (but you can call me that). As the notes of the student editions inform us, the nom de plume is freighted with allegorical significance – but who, under his biblical name of convenience, is this Ishmael?” That’s just one of the point’s John Sutherland makes about first lines of a novel.

Where’s the Novel?
“This summer,
Harper’s magazine has been serializing a novel…John Robert Lennon’s Happyland lends itself to publication in installments. But why it’s appearing in Harper’s, and not in book form, is one fo the more intriguing publishing stories of the season,” writes Rachel Donadio.


One Response to “Manfouz & Smilansky / Power of First Sentences / Where’s the Novel?”

  1. The real on-going saga of the village that inspired Happyland is far more intriguing than anything in the novel or in the NYT. See:

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