34 | LAPHAM’S QUARTERLY
burning, titillating, inspiring, raging drunken-
ness the moment the woman sang:
You who are going to see him
Take a kiss from me as a pledge for my
His companions kept pace with him or
surpassed him as the wine made its ultimate
impact on them. They were so agitated by desire they seemed trees dancing in the frenzy of
Slowly, gradually the time came for the
song to close. Zubayda ended by repeating the
same phrase that began it: “I’m an accomplice
against myself,” but with a spirit that was calm,
reflective, and valedictory, and then final. The
melodies vanished like an airplane carrying a
lover over the horizon. Although the conclu-
sion was greeted by a storm of applause and
clapping, silence soon reigned over the hall, for
their souls were worn out by all the exertion
and emotion. A period passed when nothing
was heard except the sound of someone cough-
ing, clearing his throat, striking a match, or ut-
tering a word that required no reply. The guests
realized it was time to say good night. Some
could be seen looking for articles of clothing
they had stripped off in the heat of their mu-
sical ecstasy and placed behind them on the
cushions. Others were having too good a time
to leave until they had sipped every possible
drop of this sweet wine.
Naguib Mahfouz, from Palace Walk. As a col
lege student, Mahfouz tried to learn to play the
zither, believing the study of music was central to
understanding the philosophy of beauty; he practiced
for a year before concluding there was no connection.
Mahfouz set this first novel of his Cairo Trilogy in
the years preceding the Egyptian revolution of 1919.
He became, in 1988, the first Arab writer to receive
the Nobel Prize in Literature. The author of more
than thirty books, he died in 2006 in Cairo.
The Musicians, by Caravaggio, c. 1595.