Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Naguib Mahfouz


The real malady is fear of life, not of death.

-Naguib Mahfouz

All I knew of Naguib Mahfouz was this quote. These words, this simple sentence, reminds me of something very important: people have a tendency to waste their one precious life by clinging to a pathological fear of it. This quote reminds me to live, and not be afraid to live.

Mahfouz was an Egyptian writer and a bureaucrat who was never afraid to stir up a little controversy. He wrote what he felt moved to write. His books may not even stand a chance of being published in his native country, but he didn’t write with that in mind. He wrote what needed to be written. You don’t need to know more about him than a brief description of his novels and what happened to them to know that.

He pissed off fundamentalists, not only by not following their narrow interpretations of acceptable behavior and thought, but by standing up for Salman Rushdie even though he didn’t like his book. They put him on a death list as well. He called Khomeni a terrorist. He said, “no blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer.” They tried to kill him: he lived. A long life, a brilliant life, a life devoid of wife and kids for a long time because he was married to his writing. A life in which he won a Nobel prize for the words he wouldn’t compromise.

He didn’t fall prey to the malady of fearing life.