For Mahfouz, the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature, life after a revolution is necessarily cantankerous; while a polyphony of voices shouts for attention, none are heard to the extent they desire. That's at least the case in Miramar. In this 1967 novel, Mahfouz's characters grapple with the aftermath of a different revolution: the political and economic idealism of Gamal Abdel Nasser's policy of "Arab Socialism." Four of these characters, each representing a different ideology, come to stay at the eponymous Pension Miramar and narrate the same series of events from their respective points of view, Rashomon-style. They are Amer Wagdi, an octogenarian ex-journalist with sympathies for the Wafd Party; Hosny Allam, a young, wealthy nihilist cut off from his educated family; Mansour Bahy, a Marxist radio announcer prone to bouts of melancholy; and Sarhan al-Beheiry, a socialist, cynic, opportunist, and lothario.
Mahfouz characterizes this diverse political lot with texture absent from most contemporary news analyses: Following last week's coup, some networks have reduced the Egyptian political landscape to a clash between the Muslim Brotherhood and everyone else. But in the next presidential election (that is, should there be one), expect a Miramar-esque struggle among a number of fissiparous political parties. "Where once they were barely heard," the BBC wrote last year, "now some Egyptians are starting to complain of the cacophony of competing voices." The four narrators of Miramar predict a post-revolutionary descent into political dissensus, as they contradict, complicate, and interfere with each other's stories. But unlike some modern takes on the matter, their interactions reflect the Egyptian political sphere for its nuanced, imperfect self.