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Hamid Burhan, a retired government employee, and his loyal wife Saniya have built themselves a home in the quiet southern suburb of Helwan, where they raise their son and two daughters, expecting life to remain as blessed as it was in the photograph of the happy family at a picnic in a Nileside park in the early 1930s. Events in the wider world impinge—wars, revolution, peace with Israel—while Saniya and the old house in Helwan remain the bedrock of the family’s values. But everyone else is buffeted in one way or another by the tumultuous processes of change in Egyptian politics and society.
In this compact novel written in 1982, Naguib Mahfouz again uses a family saga, as he did in his Cairo Trilogy, to reflect on the processes of enormous social transformation that Egypt underwent in the space of a few generations in the twentieth century.