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the Complete Review
the complete review - dream diary


The Dreams

Naguib Mahfouz

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Dreams

Title: The Dreams
Author: Naguib Mahfouz
Genre: Dreams
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 132 pages
Original in: Arabic
Availability: The Dreams - US
The Dreams - UK
The Dreams - Canada
The Dreams - India
Rêves de convalescence - France
Das Buch der Träume - Deutschland
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Raymond Stock
  • Written between 2000 and 2003

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Our Assessment:

B : appealing, but only to a certain extent

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 18/1/2008 Catherine Newmark
NZZ . 8/10/2007 Angela Schader
The New Yorker . 1/8/2005 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Es ist ein radikal subjektives Werk, wie es wohl nur jemand mit der moralischen und ästhetischen Autorität des 1911 Geborenen schreiben darf, der quasi im Alleingang den arabischen Roman geformt und durch mehrere literaturhistorische Epochen geführt hat (.....) Nacherzählen lassen sich die Träume kaum, dazu fehlt es ihnen an narrativer Geschlossenheit. Die Bilder aber, die sie herstellen, sind von hoher Suggestivkraft." - Catherine Newmark, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Was im «Buch der Träume» von der ersten Seite an frappiert, ist die Knappheit und Dichte, mit der das Traumgeschehen gefasst und vergegenwärtigt wird. Machfus leistet dies, indem er auch das Diffuse, das Sprung- und Rätselhafte frontal angeht, es sozusagen zur Selbstverständlichkeit erklärt und nie mit der Eigenart eines Traumbilds kokettiert, indem er es schildernd oder reflektierend vor dem Leser ausstellt. (...) Das Wunderbarste aber, um dessentwillen allein sich die Lektüre des Buches schon lohnt, ist der Horizont, der sich dem Hochbetagten in den Begegnungen mit Verstorbenen auftut." - Angela Schader, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Presented without interpretation, the hundred and four sketches are cryptic, haunting, and brief -- none more than a few paragraphs, some only a few sentences." - The New Yorker

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Dreams is a collection of 104 of Naguib Mahfouz's dreams, first published 2000-2003. In short pieces -- generally a page or so in length -- Mahfouz relates his night-thoughts, often quite elaborate scenes. They are varied, many involving scenes and people from earlier in his (very long) life, others more abstract. Often there is -- as is often the case with dreams -- no resolution to a scene, merely description. Some are surreal, many vividly realistic.
       In his introduction translator Raymond Stock says that:

     More than anything, however, The Dreams are a monument to the women that Mahfouz loved early in life, and whose images have never left him.
       Equally prominent, however, are the many dominated by threat and menace: death sentences, muggings, and attacks crop up repeatedly,
       The more distant past also lingers; among the most poignant is dream 6, in which a teacher of his who died 60 years earlier announces himself and tells Mahfouz:
Over there, I have dwelt with many reciters of ancient verse, as well as experts on religion. After talking with them, I realized that some of the lessons I used to give you were in need of correction. I have written the corrections on this paper I have brought you.
       Some of the dreams are elaborate scenarios -- like summaries of completely thought-through stories or novellas -- like dream 36, in which he sees himself as a candidate for a general director post, but his inability to handle his own affairs properly disqualifies him, leading him to conclude:
     I became a peculiarity, an example of what not to be for my fellow employees.
       Much in The Dreams is interesting and has some appeal, from autobiographical connexions to some nicely described scenes, but it is still only a dream-diary. Other people's dreams -- especially without more of a key to what the dreams might have meant to the dreamer -- rarely make for the most riveting reading, and while these are quite interesting (and nicely presented) this collection does not transcend the genre.

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The Dreams: Reviews: Naguib Mahfouz: Other books by Naguib Mahfouz under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz (نجيب محفوظ, Nagib Machfus) was born in 1911 and died in 2006 He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1988.

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