Posted on Literarytraveler.net by Katie Kelleher
The relationship between book and the physical world is one of equal exchange and opportunity. Often we take to the written world to better understand things in the physical world, but just as often we take to the outside world to better understand what we have read. Though some books are enjoyed purely for entertainment, many others instruct us, broaden our horizons, and open our minds (much like travel). To put it more simply: We learn to read, we read to learn.
Reading, like travel, can also occasionally be a confusing activity. It challenges us to view different points of view, to absorb new ways of thinking. In this week’s feature article, Sabil of Naguib Mahfouz in Cairo, Egypt, author Robin Graham engages in both kinds of learning. In my (literature major-informed) opinion, Graham approaches the work of Mahfouz in the best possible way: he both reads to learn about Cairo, and visits Cairo to learn about what he has read.
It doesn’t help that Cairo is not a simple city. Like much of the Middle East and Africa, Cairo is beset with conflict. Understanding this conflict, and the complicated intersections of Islam, tourism, and terrorism that go on throughout the city, is no easy task.
Viewing Cairo through the lens of Naguib Mahfouz, author of the Cairo Trilogy, Graham remarks that the Islamic city is a “changed world.” Coming to Cairo, he is able to see that Mahfouz’s works carried an underlying “dark prescience that eventually cast its shadow into real life.” Cairo is, through all the political turmoil and social change, a city of uncertainties.
Yet uncertainties are what make for some of the best reading – and the best thinking. We invite you to take a moment on this lazy Sunday to broaden your horizons by reading Sabil of Naguib Mahfouz in Cairo, Egypt. It may require a moment of reflection (or two) but we promise you will learn something, because even an expert in foreign relations can glean something from stepping into another’s shoes and walking the busy streets.