Seventh Heaven, The
by Mahfouz, Naguib
Naguib Mahfouz, famed for his uncanny power to depict the real world, is equally ingenious at capturing the surreal, the otherworldly, and the supernatural. The ghostly side of Mahfouz’s fiction, though less well known than his other works, nonetheless remains a haunting presence. This collection of stories sifted from his later writings brings these restless spirits out of the Mahfouzian shadows together for the first time in English: A murdered man finds himself in the first level of what he mistakes for Paradise – where he faces, along with historical figures such as Akhenaten, Woodrow Wilson, and Gamal Abd al-Nasser, a strange system of earthly probation that may (or may not) get him to the fabled Seventh Heaven. A teenager is warned not to go near the allegedly haunted wood in his neighborhood, only to be drawn into the secret, enchanted life he finds within it. An honest perfume seller is accosted on a night out by angry skeletons, who threaten to march upon his alley as an avenging army if the sinners there do not change their ways. Satan speaks to us directly – to confess that there is still, despite the flood of evil in our times, an honorable man in the land.These and the other startling stories in “The Seventh Heaven” make a vivid contribution to the translated works of Egypt’s – and the Arab world’s – greatest modern author.