After the great Egyptian writer late Naguib Mahfouz was subjected to a failed assassination attempt in 1995, the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez sent him a letter in which he said, "The sun's rays always triumph over the clouds, no matter how dark or rainy they are."
Márquez urged Mahfouz to continue his writings under all circumstances. Ten years later, Mahfouz gave Márquez the same advice after he was subjected to a personal ordeal that made him unable to write at the time.
He told him: “You must have nothing to write until you hold the pen, hold the pen in all cases and write.”
Despite the international fame of Mahfouz and Márquez as they both obtained the Nobel Prize in Literature and despite their exchanges of written letters, they never met.
According to the writer Mohamed Salmawy, author of the book “In the Presence of Naguib Mahfouz”, the Egyptian Nobel writer told him that he wished to meet Colombia’s Márquez.
But the wish, which was never fulfilled in the lives of the two, was hypothetically fulfilled after their death at an exhibition that is now being held at the Naguib Mahfouz Museum in Cairo.
The exhibition, which was inaugurated on August 31 and which will last until September 9, has been held every year over the past two decades in the Nahdat Masr hall at the Mahmoud Mokhtar Museum in Cairo.
But now after the Egyptian government opened the first museum dedicated to the Egyptian Nobel prize laureate Mahfouz, the exhibition has moved to Mahfouz’s museum. Minister of Culture Enas Abdel Dayem issued a decision to receive visitors to the Naguib Mahfouz Museum for free for a week, starting August 31.
The exhibition, titled “Naguib Mahfouz in the Eyes of Caricature”, is also held on the occasion of Mahfouz’s 15th death anniversary. The exhibition includes a selection of 40 paintings by caricature artists from different countries of the world.
Fawzi Morsi, the curator of the exhibition, said that Mahfouz is a milestone in the history of world literature and a source of inspiration for creators around the world.
“When I reached out to artists I found a quick response from them as they loved the idea of combining the two Nobel giants. So, many gathered them in one painting, while others chose to express their ideas and vision for each writer separately,” he told Majalla.
The Iraqi artist, Arkan Al-Zaidi, combined the two writers in the cafe where Mahfouz used to sit in Cairo while another painting showed the two writers next to each other while Marquez grabbed his phone to take a selfie picture for the memory and the background highlighted two covers of their novels (Between the Two Palaces) for Mahfouz and (Love in the Time of Cholera) for Márquez.
Morsi said that the message of the exhibition is to remind the world of the great writings of Mahfouz and highlight his friendship with Márquez who is also a great writer.
Mahfouz, born on December 11, 1911, is one of the most famous and prominent Egyptian and Arab writers, and the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988.
Colombia’s Márquez, who was born on March 6, 1927 and who spent most of his life in Mexico and Europe, is one of the most famous writers of miraculous realism. His work “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is considered the most representative of this literary genre and he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.