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Abstract

In her article "A Moral Reading of Mahfouz's Fountain and Tomb (Hekayat Haretna)," Amal Al-Leithy analyses Naguib Mahfouz's Fountain and Tomb. In Al-Leithy's reading, Mahfouz delineates a gloomy picture of modern humanity still living in a struggle against destitution, ignorance, squalor, and the power of superstition. Society is portrayed as seeped in hopelessness as Mahfouz stresses the physical and moral degradation of his protagonists. He draws a dismal picture of life as swinging between two poles: the fountain of life and the tomb of death. In a symbolic alley in 1920s Cairo, Mahfouz describes humanity's predicament swaying between meaningfulness and absurdity and between the belief in God and belief in science. Through the episodes of the text, Mahfouz does not only refer to the implausibility of maintaining the sanctity previously associated with institutionalized religion if humanity wants to get rid of absurdity, but he also demythologizes the idea of an all-controlling, omnipotent God. Since he is not a dispassionate bystander, but, rather, a committed thinker with a clear stance, he asserts his belief in the dethronement of religion by modern science represented by the demolition of the famous takiya (a special building for mystic Sufis) in the alley and by the end of the myth of the High Sheikh, a God-like figure that has never been seen by any of the residents of the alley.

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