The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz

The Thief and the Dogs is a little, compact novel by the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz. It is not hard to read as such, but if you are not used to the literary style Mahfouz uses (and I am not) then it might feel a little too compact and heavy. Happy it isn’t by any chance!

Main character is the thief Said Mahran, who, after being released from prison finds that he is alone. He is utterly and completely alienated and that knowledge creates a deep furrow in his haunted soul. His wife has married another man, his daughter doesn’t recognise him and even his old mentor, the former thief Rauf Ilwan, has turned his back to him. Rauf Ilwan has become a succesful businessman and has nothing more to say to a simple con man such as Said.

The only place Said can find a bit of piece of mind is with an old sheikh in the mosque where also his father used to go. But the sheikh cannot help Said as long as he will not help himself and in the course of a few intense days, everything disintegrates for Said. One tragic and unfortunate incident follow the other and it is only during short moments with a prostitute, another unwanted soul in the Egyptian society, that Said can find peace and think about the future. The Thief and the Dogs is a very good novel, but it does leave you thinking if there is any hope for mankind at all.