Monday, May 1, 2017

Book #65 (Part 2) - Palace of Desire (Naguib Mahfouz)



Sometimes I look at my life and I ask "What the Fuck"? Especially after a delicious Plymouth Gin martini, like I'm drinking now.  I mean, seriously, WTF??  I used to be an avid jogger, but I had to stop last year because my right knee started bothering me.  And by bothering me, I mean that I was barely able to walk up stairs.  "Osteoarthritis" said the doctor, and I was like WTF?!?  That only happens to old people!  So fuck, I'm now officially old and falling apart.  I mean, I knew that already but to have blatant confirmation of the fact from a medical doctor is very unnerving.  Meanwhile two weeks ago I had to "March for Science", because apparently there are lots of idiots in our government who claim they are "not a scientist" and therefore can't evaluate scientific knowledge and therefore decide they can ignore it with impunity when making decisions that affect the future of ourselves, our children, our nation, and the world.  I mean, seriously?  Get with the fucking program!  I'm a scientist with osteoarthritis and I'm telling you that a nation that ignores science is a nation that's going to fuck itself over big time.  If you don't trust science then stop using your computer and your iPhone and your TV and the electric grid and medicine, because all that shit came from the science you don't believe in.  Motherfuckers!  Am I ranting?  Hell yes, I'm ranting!

Whew, that was the gin talking.  Calming down and feeling better now.  Perhaps it's the second martini that's helping.  But you know who's not feeling better?  Our man, Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad (see previous post).  In the second novel of Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy, "Palace of Desire", poor Al is getting old just like I am.  The despotic patriarch is feeling his old age when he courts Zanuba, a lute player.  When he was a younger man he could charm any woman he wanted, with or without a little cash changing hands, but now Zanuba will only get with him if he sets her up in her own place and totally supports her.  Damn, she plays a hard bargain!  But speaking of hard, Al is totally infatuated with her, so he goes for it and plays the part of sugar daddy.  Naturally his wife is none the wiser.  Al enjoys himself for awhile but then finds out that Zanuba is fucking another, younger man.  Whaaa?  "Not cool", thinks Al, but then he finds out that the other man is his own son Yasin!  Al is conflicted.  He's jealous, but he also thinks that well, Yasin is a part of him so it's not really a betrayal, and this helps him calm down.  He's sure Yasin doesn't know he's been fucking Zanuba (he doesn't), and he's not sure Zanuba knows that Yasin is his son (she does), so he's actually cool with it.  But then Yasin marries Zanuba and he is not at all pleased, because his son is marrying a whore.  Is that a double standard?  Hell yes.  But they get married anyway, and then Al has a stroke when he goes back to party with his old friends.  He recovers, but the point is made:  Al is getting old and falling apart.  I wonder if his knees are arthritic like mine?

Meanwhile, Al's other son, Kamal, has totally fallen in love.  Since the last novel ended, Kamal has grown up into a soul-searching intellectual who decides to go to teaching college instead of becoming a lawyer or government official as his father had hoped (in one memorable passage, his father (who is not at all an intellectual) can't decide whether Kamal is an idiot or insane for wanting to go to teacher's college and bypassing other more lucrative career options).  One of Kamal's friends is the son of a rich, cosmopolitan family, and Kamal soon falls madly in love with his friend's sister, Aisha.  Aisha is smart, witty, and beautiful, and a couple of years older than Kamal.  Kamal is completely smitten and falls into a terrible, tortured unrequited love.  This part of the book is a great description of young love, and what it feels like, and the reader develops a great sympathy for poor Kamal.  But at the same time, it becomes a bit tedious as it goes on and on and on for pages and pages and you know that Kamal is never going to get with her, and you're like "Jesus, Kamal, this is not going to happen!".  But yet, isn't that the epitome of unrequited love?  To the person in love it's the entire universe, and they can think of nothing else, but to everyone else it's like "Oh God, just fucking get over it and move on because I'm bored to death of hearing about this crap".  So it goes.  Anyway, of course Kamal ultimately gets disappointed when his love is ignored by Aisha and she marries a mutual friend.  Ouch!

This novel was good, but it didn't quite rise to the level of the first novel in the trilogy, which was amazing.  This seems more like a "middle novel".  But I'm anxious to see what happens next, and thus I'm looking forward to reading the third and final part of the trilogy.  Assuming I don't keel over dead from osteoarthritis before I can finish it.






No comments: