Libmonster ID: KG-678

V. N. KIRPICHENKO, Doctor of Philology, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

modern Egyptian fiction Keywords: Naguib Mahfouz"Dreams of the Healing Period". "Echoes of autobiography"surrealismsufism

The publication of the book "Echoes of Autobiography" * directly precedes the writing of "Dreams of the Healing Period", but the bitter experience of the decade separating them and the awareness of the approaching end changed the writer's mood. Turning over his memories, Naguib Mahfouz looks not only into his inner world, but also, with special attention, into the external world, in which he lived a long life and with which he so does not want to part. He often returns to the same motifs, finding new words and images for them, and in this way he resembles the medieval Arabic poet, who sought a more perfect embodiment of the traditional motif (ma'na), choosing the best expressions (alfaz).

In " Dreams..." you can even select individual cycles of repetitive motifs, although they are not grouped in one place, but are scattered throughout the text. In the first "dream" there is a motif of the transience of time and hunger, which can not be satisfied, the inability to get enough of life.

These motifs are repeated repeatedly: now in the image of a boat rushing along the Nile (walking along the beloved river was Mahfuz's favorite vacation), at the helm of which a beautiful girl was just standing, and now she was replaced by an old gloomy sailor (18)**, then a glass filled with a "sweet drink", which is no longer necessary to drink. if health permits (92), then a sparkling jewelry store, where a young beautiful saleswoman is replaced after a short moment by a middle-aged woman (128).

Death appears to the dreamer either as a "nurse" who, for some unknown reason, hates the patient and wants to see him " breathless "(16), or as an" official "who regularly picks up" extra "tenants from overcrowded apartments and takes them, without asking their consent, to a" suitable " place (143).

Such dreams inspire sadness and fear in the "dreamer". Their motives - the brevity of human life with its joys and pleasures, the inevitability of death-are traditional not only for the medieval Arabic poetic genre "zuhdiyyat" ("ascetic" or "pious" poems), but also for the entire world poetry.

Fond memories of his youth are often associated with the al-Abbasiyyah neighborhood and the "old house" in which Mahfouz lived from the age of twelve until his marriage at forty-two. Here he returns in dreams to visit his relatives (and the house is empty and the stairs to the top are broken) (70), wanders the streets and meets with long-dead friends, because "death cannot separate lovers", they are alive as long as the memory of them is alive (104). The "old house" and the old quarter, this is the whole of old Cairo - the old way of life and the old concepts of moral and immoral, about the relationship between men and women (54), the lifelong worship of the "leader of the nation", founder of the Wafd party Saad Zaghlul (73) and children's love (99). But the "old quarter" has become decrepit, dilapidated, and it is now dominated by the mores of the "black market"


Ending. For the beginning, see: Asia and Africa Today, 2012, No. 10.

* "Echoes of Autobiography" (Asda al-sira al-zatiyya, 1995).

** Individual plots - "dreams" - in the book" Dreams of the healing period " have their own sequence number.

page 69

(33), and the "old house" cannot be repaired, it is unsuitable for "modern life" (141).

Among the motifs of dreams about today, along with "ikhvaniyat" (messages to friends), we can distinguish cycles that appeared in Arabic poetry already in modern times, in the sofas of neoclassical poets: "ijtima'iyyat" (poems on social topics) and "siyasiyyat" (political poems). The motives are very diverse, but most of them are disturbing and unpleasant.

Life in general seems to the dreamer like a circus - on all the streets there are ropes, trapezes, cages, animals, pagliacci. Once he liked it all, but now he runs away from this circus, but even at home, where he hoped to hide from the clowns, a clown is waiting for him (5). The "Dreamer" is robbed in his own house (17), young guys undress a woman right on the street, in front of passers-by, and the dreamer experiences feelings of helplessness and shame for themselves and for people who do not resist rapists (21).

He is also helpless before the sharpers in the gambling house (28) and even before the "lovely children", brother and sister, who also turn out to be scammers (40). Adult thieves who attacked him with knives, the dreamer soon meets traveling in a luxury car, bringing up the rear of a long official motorcade (94). The thief is also a well-known businessman, whose recommendation is given to the dreamer by an old friend who became the Minister of Internal Affairs (44). The judge and the accused "leaders" agree among themselves, and the sentence is passed to the dreamer who accidentally finds himself in the courtroom (100).

Robbers led by the leader of the gang, who have just deprived the dreamer of his education diploma, watch and wallet, are transformed into worshippers and an imam when the police appear (42). In this" transfiguration "there is a hint of Mahfouz's relationship with the official religious authorities, who in 1959 imposed a ban on a separate publication of the novel "Sons of our Street"1. A similar "transformation" (like the transformation of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde) occurs with the sheikh, i.e. the main representative of the authorities on "our street", who sometimes turns into a monster (59).

At a dinner party, the literary "elite" exclaims the improvement of the "tourist village of Christopher" (the name of the "village" is a clear allusion to the name of Christopher Columbus and the" discovery "of America by the Egyptians), and the" old-fashioned " dreamer alone nibbles a mutton bone presented to him by the famous comic actor of the 1930s, the scoffer Shikoko (61He is also" old-fashioned "in his tastes: the candy store is surprised that he still likes "baklava and kunafu", and street boys mock him (47).

The situation in modern Egyptian culture is ironically played out in anecdotal "dreams" about the creation of a company for the implementation of art projects (49), about the opening of a private " cultural institute "(93):

"On the flat roof of a neighboring house, I saw beautiful furniture neatly arranged and asked what it meant. I was told that the owner of the house arranged a free cultural institute in it, and he moved to live on the roof. I was surprised by his generosity and decided to attend one of the classes. The crowd was packed. The lecturer announced that today we will talk about a bull that holds the earth on its horn. His words startled me, and I couldn't help laughing. Everyone turned to look at me, glaring at me. And the lecturer frowned and silently pointed me to the door." *

About tailoring a fashionable suit from a tailor (95):

"Consent was obtained for the trip. My family took the news with joy and hurried to provide me with money. I went at once to the tailor and ordered a suit of the latest fashion. The tailor did his best, made a beautiful suit. But he did not stop there, he brought me a magnificent turban, put it on my head and said: "Now I will have a suit in the latest fashion!".

The" dreams " of winning a villa in the lottery (36) and the return home of a son who became a "star" (101) seem to reflect the reaction of some public and literary circles to the writer's Nobel Prize, and this reaction is different from the "unspeakable joy" mentioned in "Echoes of Autobiography". About how the prize" backfired "to him, it appears from a dream about "the lady and the winner of her prize": "the lady" pulls a pistol from her bodice and points it at the winner (81).

Quarrels with young literary friends (such quarrels occurred due to their disagreement with the teacher's position in the Arab-Israeli conflict, with his attitude towards President Nasser), as well as the mores of the literary environment serve as motives for" dreams " 29, 48, 89, 107.

Their own weakness, indecision, inaction often give rise to a sense of shame and fear in the dreamer, a desire to be alone, to isolate themselves from everyone. Although sometimes he would like to take a stick and beat it on this " pile of garbage "(76). But more often he restrains himself, prefers to "wait" and not lose "hope "(31), because the manifestations of "anger" are disastrous for the "angry person" and for his environment (3, 127).

You will not find a decent person in the daytime with a fire, there is no one to entrust even the improvement of the inherited land plot (read, the country), but even here the dreamer hopes that such a person will be found if you search for him long and hard (142). Decent people who appear in dreams-school teacher of Arabic and religion Sheikh Muharram (6), university professor Sheikh Mustafa Abd al-Raziq (123), Dr. Hussein Fawzi (86)-all belong to the generation of teachers of Naguib Mahfouz.

Yet, comparing the past "sleepy" life in the backwoods with its traditional pespyaut-mawvals and the present life with its rumbling and crazy rhythms, he prefers the latter - "At least those who slept woke up, and those who dozed were ashamed "(131).


* Here and further translated from the Arabic by V. N. Kirpichenko by: Naguib Mahfuz. Dreams of the healing period (Ahlam fatrat al-naqaha, 2005).

page 70

A lot of dreams (22, 52, 62, 72, 82, 113) It is dedicated to the official environment in which Mahfouz served for many years. Officialdom and bureaucracy are eternal (he described the mentality of an Egyptian official in the novel "Dear Sir" 2). Regimes change in the country, revolutions and coups take place, but officials always remain and always hurry to congratulate the new government (106, 126).

The "dreams" do not do without topical political motives. The dreamer's attitude to political events and to the modern situation is revealed in bizarre, but mostly decipherable pictures. He sympathizes with the leader (Sadat) who "disappeared" behind a dead-end door, although he recognizes the course chosen by him as "wrong" (4). Mahfouz described the discontent of the majority of Egyptians with the economic and political course of President Sadat in the novel "The Day of the leader's Murder" (1985). Mahfouz sees Egypt as a mother "devoured" by her own children (11), and also as a boat racing across the lake from one shore to the other (45).:

"My boat is racing across the lake. And the other boat is following me, or I think it is. I increase my speed, and the second boat also increases its speed. I feel uneasy. What does he want from me?

I approach the pier, drop anchor, climb the ladder to the wide deck and find out that the pier belongs to the Russian Embassy. There are a lot of people here who have come to express their condolences in connection with the death of the dear deceased.

I greet the ambassador and sit down to listen to what they say about the deceased. I look out at the lake and see no sign of the second boat. I'm calming down.

After choosing a convenient moment, I get up, go back to my boat and sail in the direction of the other shore. I turn around and see an unfamiliar boat rushing after me. I'm already in the middle of the lake, and I decide it's best not to go back to the embassy, but to continue on to the shore. There, on the shore, the situation will become clear and all forces will have to be strained."

A plot of land enclosed by a wall, from behind which a motorcade of cars occasionally leaves for the city street (63), illustrates, as you can understand, the relationship between the authorities and the people. In the Middle Ages in Cairo, the magnificent cortege of the Sultan also left the gates of the citadel. The funeral of an unknown "righteous man of Allah" and the arguments of those who bury him about which way to carry him is a transparent allegory of the activities of modern politicians, who interpret the "precepts" of the departed leader in different ways (78).

The "better tomorrow" that Mahfouz hoped for in the Bein al-Qasrain trilogy and in Sons of Our Street is not mentioned in Dreams.. Everything bright and good turns out to be in the past, gone along with "old friends" who appear only in dreams.

The heroine of most "dreams" is a woman who appears in various images - a co-worker, a friend, a random counter, a prostitute, an "eternal lover", but always alluring and attracting. Having lost a friend through his own fault - he ran to the supermarket, went out for a minute to buy cigarettes-the dreamer rushes after her, searches for her all his life (2, 132). He hears the voices of friends of his youth, reminding him of failed and already impossible dates (130). When a woman gives him a sign, he is ready to follow her, forgetting all his deeds and previous intentions (7, 79, 172), risking his good name (50). The dreamer admits this with obvious self-mockery. However, most often they cannot tie the knot, either for material reasons (15, 19), or when faced with a choice - love or vocation, and they choose a vocation, although they know that the price for refusing love will be loneliness (25).

Sometimes a female friend and companion, "plunging into conversation", with whom the dreamer "forgets everything in the world", personifies the" muse " of the writer. But communication with her is not safe: then suddenly there is a threat of an explosion of "a bomb planted somewhere on the hillside" (69), then, when the dreamer is ready to take his girlfriend in his arms, "the noise of a fight on the street approaches the house" (96). But he continues to think about it, even when he is in danger of being shot without trial (51).

The famous Egyptian short story writer Muhammad al-Mahzangi estimated that in Mahfuzov's "dreams" a woman appears more than sixty times, including repeatedly in the image of the mother, but never the image of the father3. The image of the father, indeed, occupied a central place in many novels (written before 1970), personifying the power and authority of the patriarchal world, and in some even acting as an allegory of the Creator. According to al-Mahzangi, the preference given in " Dreams..."the image of a woman mother, which traditionally symbolizes fertility, love for all her children and condemnation of discord between them, indicates that Naguib Mahfuz is "the most civilized of all Egyptians." 4

A special place in dreams belongs to the image of the "eternal beloved". Dreams about her are a constant fluctuation between the hope of meeting and doubts that the meeting will take place. He longs to see her at least once in a dream, to " make sure that she existed in the flesh, and was not one of the fruits of my youthful imagination." And when the beloved appears, she is convinced that she is only a ghost - her flesh has crumbled, turned into nothing (14). But the beloved remains for him a "shining star" in the dark night sky (83). He remembers her as he wanders through the old quarter, where not a trace of the palace where she once lived remains, and a beautiful mosque rises in its place. He prays for a long time in the mosque, but when he leaves it, he discovers that his shoes are missing and does not know what to do next (84). There is an ancient Arabic saying "go back in Hunayn's shoes", i.e. barefoot, meaning "to be left with nothing". Wasn't that the proverb the dreamer had in mind? However, he returns again and again to the old tram stop and wanders around it, casting furtive glances at the empty windows of the house lit by the moon, until one day he hears two girls talking from one window:

page 71

"...One voice asks:

"Who is that man standing under the window?" The other responds with a laugh:

- He weeps when he remembers his beloved and her home " (85)*.

This scene brings to mind the late-night conversation Prince Andrew overheard between Natasha and Sonya at the window in War and Peace, Naguib Mahfouz's favorite novel. And the next time you visit the tram stop, the dreamer does not even find a trace of rails (121). He is constantly shifting from despair to hope. Here he sees the "lady of the heart" in the garden, behind an iron fence, she "distributes chocolates to lovers", but she is unattainable (98). When he himself arrives at the place where "the most beautiful garden in the universe" was supposed to be, which, as he hoped, would connect him with his beloved, as in his youth the quarter where they both lived connected them, he learns that work on the garden has not yet begun (108). Yet the face of the beloved shines before him in the darkness of the past, and he addresses her with a" message "full of love, but revealing in the author, as the beloved" notes "from his handwriting," the disease of fear of life, and especially of love and marriage "(144).

The last sentence in this "dream":" Because I was stricken with the same disease, I changed my mind about coming to you and chose to escape", is deliberately ambiguous. Who does it belong to - the dreamer-the author of the message or Mahfuz-the author of the book? And does he mean to say that for the sake of life and creativity, he is ready to sacrifice even a meeting with the "eternal beloved"?

The two final "dreams" are read as a testament of the writer to his compatriots. The" Golden ball "he received" as a gift at a celebration " is not only a Nobel Prize in its monetary equivalent (Mahfouz gave most of the prize to charity), but, above all, an award for creativity, for the writer's huge, living and integral artistic world, which cannot be divided, cannot be "sawed". with a saw" (145).

Mahfouz explicitly declares his pride in the national culture, namely the new, modern culture of Egypt, an integral part of which is his work, in his last, 146th "dream":

"The enemy won a victory and made it a condition of the cease-fire to hand over the golden monument of Ennahda**, stored in the treasury of history. I went with the others to get the key to the treasury, which was kept in a strong chest. When we lifted the lid of the chest, we saw in it a terrible snake that threatens death to anyone who approaches it. Everyone ran away, and I, hiding my joy, began to call a blessing on the snake, wishing it to safely and successfully guard the key."

He bequeaths to his descendants to preserve the treasury of culture from any encroachments on the part of the "enemy" and uses the word "preserved" (mahfuz) twice in the text, as if to seal the will with his signature.

The mosaic of lapidary disparate texts forms a panorama of modern Egyptian reality, such as the author-artist sees it, and conveys his existential reflections and doubts.

* * *

Of course, the above-mentioned interpretations of some "dreams" are not the only possible ones. Discrepancies are unavoidable due to the ambiguity of allegories, allusions, and even individual words, in some cases, and due to the connection of "dreams" with some specific circumstances of the writer's life or unsuspected literary sources, in others.

All that can be said for certain is that in the Dreams of the Healing Period, Mahfouz repeats in the most concise form much of what he has already written in detail, directly or using various forms of allegory in novels. At the same time, the assessments of people, phenomena, and events in history do not change, from which we can conclude that the author needed the form of "dreams" not in order to express some previously hidden thoughts, but, on the contrary, to confirm loyalty to his moral ideals and the immutability of the position dictated by these ideals.

At the same time, in a conversation with his closest friends, who, after the publication of the book, meticulously asked him what his "dreams" were, he said: "Our dreams are very strange, they come from everywhere, from the past and from the present. It often seems that the dream does not seem to say anything, but if you think about it, you find something in it"5. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that Mahfouz chuckled to himself more than once, creating the world of his "dreams" and setting a difficult task for future readers and critics who want to comment on them. Humorous, ironic, including in relation to oneself, even satirical intonations are present in many "dreams".

The artist's vision, encompassing all aspects of the life of the fatherland, is clear and sober, and the picture created by him, for all its metaphorical nature, remains on the whole a realistic, "authentic" picture of reality. The mind remains active even when the" dreamer " is in a state of passion or panic. Despite the plot "breaks", shifts in time, sudden changes of location, moving the dreamer in space, jumping from a tower, flying in the air and other "deformations" of reality, " Dreams of the healing period "are still not surreal" dreams "and not the product of the"unconscious". And when trying to understand the writer's latest book, one cannot ignore the entire context of Mahfouz's work, although he sometimes used the techniques of absurdist writing (displaying events and phenomena that he refused to recognize as intelligible by reason, which were repugnant to his moral sense), but always decide-


* The traditional beginning of the pre-Islamic qasida.

** Ennahda (ar., awakening, rise) - the period of formation of the Arab national identity and new and modern literature (XIX-XX centuries).

page 72

He rejected the idea of the meaninglessness of human existence-from this point of view, he is a principled opponent of surrealism. The artistic deformations of reality in his book reflect, most likely, the irreconcilable conflict between reality and dream.

As for the Sufi subtext seen in "Dreams..." by Zaki Salim, a close friend and student of the writer, a researcher of his work, let us turn to the specific examples given by him. Z. Salim believes that the school teacher of Arabic language and religion Sheikh Muharram, who appears in "Dream 6", in order to make corrections to the once taught by him by his students receive lessons " in accordance "with the Sufi doctrine, according to which the Sufi relies on intuitive knowledge drawn from his spiritual and personal experience. He is not satisfied with the knowledge that is passed down to generation after generation of students unchanged. One Sufi said: "You take your faith from the dead from the dead, and we take our faith from the living, who does not die." This is called Sila al-futuh ("the science of revelation"), because Allah opens the hearts of his saints to understand some of the secrets of his sayings and the reasons for his commands. " 6

Nevertheless, a person's recognition and correction of his mistakes is the norm of modern universal ethics, and in this case it can only be linked with Sufism, assuming that Mahfuz means the realization of mistakes by intuitive knowledge or revelation, whereas in the question of knowing reality Mahfuz is a rationalist. In "Dream 27," the math teacher who uses a stick to keep the dreamer from jumping overboard after the "eternal beloved" clearly represents reason - the only support in the face of a "maddened" (but not in the absurdist sense) world.

Zaki Salim sees Sufi overtones in "Dream 34", where "old friends" met on the street after a long separation promise the dreamer to take him "to a beautiful place", where he will be rewarded a hundredfold for the almost "beggarly" life that he led for many years. Friends take the dreamer to an "influential person", who warns him that "hijra requires a lot of effort and patience", and suggests that they meet "at dawn near the cathedral mosque". Z. Salim offers the following comment: "What does hijra mean here? Moving from one place to another or getting rid of your sins, misdeeds, and passions? The musician is told that hijrah requires a lot of effort and a lot of patience. This is exactly what the Sufi's long journey requires, leading to the release of the narrow materialistic view and to access the expanse of divine mercy. " 7

With old (long-dead) friends, the dreamer meets in many dreams, he is preparing to follow them. It is clear that "hijrah" in this context means a transition to the "other world", the existence of which Mahfouz has serious doubts. The designated meeting place-at the cathedral mosque, the place of Friday collective prayer-indicates that Mahfuz still did not completely lose hope of meeting with "old friends". But is it Sufism?

Finally, the release of the hero of "Dream 36" from the property (villa) and from the position of Z. Salim interprets it as the first step of a Sufi to the state where "he owns nothing and nothing owns him." But "this does not mean abandoning life and giving up the great jihad 8 - the hand does and finds, and the heart is at peace and trusts (in Allah)"9.

Note, however, that the hero of "Dream 36" is guided by less lofty motives. He would like to own a villa, but he is deceived and robbed, seeks a position, but does not get it. Like the "old house in al-Abbasiyya", it is not adapted to "modern" life.

Nevertheless, Zaki Salim finds in the "Dreams" quite a few situations, expressions and words that can be interpreted, if not in a Sufi, then in a metaphysical sense. The texts of some "Dreams" can be read at different levels, depending on how to interpret their key expressions.

Regardless of Mahfouz's personal faith, the "Sufi" style and images often serve him both as a means of artistic representation, and to express his understanding of the meaning of being and the moral justification of human life.

Naguib Mahfouz expressed in his" dreams " all that he thought in the last days of his stay on earth about life and death, about his country and compatriots. He could have ended the book with the word dixi (lat.) - I said, said everything I wanted to say and could say. But the above proves that he never managed to "heal" from earthly worries and passions, from the greedy interest in everything that happens in the world, from the love of life.


1 The novel was published in Egypt only in 2006, and Mahfouz himself, when negotiations for publication were conducted with him, put forward as mandatory conditions for obtaining prior consent from the al-Azhar Muslim University and writing a preface to the novel by the Muslim thinker Ahmad Kamal Abd al-Magd.

2 "Dear Sir" - Russian. trans. by T. Demina, L., 1990.

Al-Mahzangi Muhammad. 3 Dreams of Naguib Mahfuz. Akhbar al-adab, 15.5.2005.

4 Ibid.

5 If dreams end... life ends. Akhbar al-adab, 15.5.2005. G. al-Ghitani, Naim Sabri, Zaki Salim, Yusuf al-Quayyid, Magdi Saad participated in the conversation with Mahfuz. Publication of Hasan Abd al-Mawgud.

Zaki Salim. 6 A matter of life and death (Sual al-hayat wa-l-maut). Akhbar al-adab, 11.12.2005.

7 Ibid.

8 Great Jihad - spiritual self-improvement. This interpretation of the concept of "great jihad" is given in Sufism. See: Ibragim Tawfiq, Sagadeev A.V. Islam: Encyclopedia, Moscow, 1991.

Zaki Salim. 9 Decree. Op.


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