Who is Zaabalawi?
How does a popular song represent Zaabalawi? Why does the narrator
need to find Zaabalawi? Is the story dealing with a literal
or a metaphorical illness? What does "that illness for
which no one possesses a remedy" stand for? What are the
causes and the symptoms of this disease? If this story is about
a quest, what is the narrator ultimately looking for? Is the
figure of Zaabalawi an allegory? If so, what does it represent?
this story criticize traditional religion and beliefs? What
is the narrator's attitude toward religion? How is it related
to Mahfouz's attitude toward religion? Is religion sufficient
to heal the narrator's illness or to solve the problems of his
society? Why or why not? What is the alternative to religion
which Mahfouz suggests in this story? How is this alternative
also a form of spirituality? How does Mahfouz define spirituality?
this story criticize modern, secular society? What is the meaning
of the narrator's visits to the religious lawyer, the bookseller,
and the district officer? How do they receive him? What do these
figures represent? Are they close to Zaabalawi? Why or why not?
Is it significant that the offices of the religious lawyer are
located in the Chamber of Commerce Building? What is the main
effect of modern life on human society and relationships? How
do people see and treat each other in the modern, commercial
and business world?
Why is Zaabalawi
said to be in hiding from the police? What is he accused of?
By whom? Are people like the religious lawyer and the district
officer involved in such persecution and driving away of Zaabalawi?
How? Why? What relationship does Zaabalawi have to religion,
business, or politics?
How do the
visits to the musician and the calligrapher compare or contrast
with those to others in the story? How are these characters
different? How do they receive the narrator? How close are they
to Zaabalawi? Why? How about their professions? How is what
they do connected to their relationship with Zaabalawi? How
is art different from commerce, religion, and politics? Why
does the musician tell the narrator that his visit has not been
in vain? What comes out of it? Does that bring the narrator
closer to Zaabalawi?
the significance of the bar scene? Is this the sort of place
where one would expect a spiritual revelation? How about the
figure of the drunk, Hagg Wanas? How close is he to Zaabalawi?
How is this significant? What is the meaning of the place where
he sits in "a corner
behind a large pillar with
mirrors on all four sides"? Is this an allusion to the
"five pillars of Islam"? If so, what sort of a comment
does it make? Why does Hagg Wanas insist that the narrator get
drunk? Why is the narrator reluctant to drink at first? Does
this have anything to do with his religion? What is Muslims'
attitude toward drinking? What is the symbolic meaning of alcohol
and drinking in this case? The wine has initially a fiery effect;
with the second glass he narrator loses "all willpower";
with the third glass, he loses his memory, and with the fourth,
"the future vanished." What is suggested by these
effects? What does each stage of his drinking mean? Are the
four drinks in any way connected to the four mirrors? What does
Mahfouz intend with this scene?
the significance of the dream vision which the narrator experiences
while drunk? What does he see? What sort of a place is it? How
does he feel? What makes those experiences possible? How are
those experiences connected to the figure of Zaabalawi? How
are the narrator's visions and experiences during the dream
connected to human social life and its possibilities?
Hagg Wanas reveal to the narrator concerning Zaabalawi's visit
during his sleep? What does Zaabalawi want? Will he take money?
Anything else? How is that connected to the meaning of the story
and the possible allegorical significance of Zaabalawi? What
is it that the narrator has to understand in order to be healed
of his illness?
the narrator liken the regaining of consciousness after his
dream to "a policeman's grip"? How does the real world
compare to that of his dream visions? How distant is the ideal
from the real? Can that distance be bridged? Is the ending of
the story optimistic or pessimistic?