The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Understanding a Thief

Washington, DC


Midaq Alley / The Thief and the Dogs / Miramar by cdrummbks via flickr

This month on The Big Read blog, we'll be taking a look at how language and style influence select novels and poems.

In The Thief and the Dogs, Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz spins a dark psychological thriller about a released convict intent on revenge. While the man reveals little to those he associates with, Mahfouz's use of stream-of-consciousness grants readers access to the character's innermost thoughts. This modernist technique offers a unique, highly intimate way to explore the protagonist?s personal history and beliefs, and gives readers a deep psychological understanding of the character.

The narrative style of The Thief and the Dogs, which is set in Cairo, also marked an important milestone in Arabic literature. In our audio guide, writer Mohamed Salmawy notes that, ?As some critics like to think, it was perhaps the beginning of the really modern novel in Arabic literature. And it was a great influence on many writers who came up after him.? Mahfouz continued to experiment with structure throughout the 1960s, eventually writing dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories. Considered by many to be the father of the Arabic novel, Mahfouz presented the stories of his generation in a form that resonated with a rapidly changing era.

To learn more about Mahfouz and The Thief and the Dogs, please visit The Big Read website.

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