All the ambiguities and complexities that beset the other formative tropes of identity in the Egyptian novel attend with added force to the problematic of the individual. While some of these inhere in the subject itself, others bear the peculiar marks of modern Arab culture. The term’s endless semantic shuttling back and forth among its numerous metonymic components-person, self, ego, mind, body, soul, voice, and so on-betrays a degree of slippage and indeterminacy that would seem incommensurate with the foundational role of the concept in human civilization and culture.1 Historically, too, the concept has been a perennial site of religious, moral, ethical, ideological, and political contestation and agency. However, the individual remains the single, utterly indispensable constitutive unit of the novel. But that is hardly surprising in a genre whose genesis is literally coeternal with the birth of the sovereign individual, at least according to the tradition that traces the genealogy of the novel to Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719). In so far as this generalization about the genre is valid, the Arabic novel necessarily partakes of it like other novelistic traditions in other languages and national cultures. To note further that Robinson Crusoe was one of the first English novels translated into Arabic is to add historical filiation to generic affiliation.2 We shall see shortly how “translation” of Western fiction informed the dominant idea of the writer at the beginning of the twentieth century. That idea found historical expression in the curious, but highly celebrated, figure of Mustafa Lutf i al-Manfaluti, and was later thematized in Mahfouz’ Cairene Trilogy (1956-1957).