Egyptian literary critics seem to be hard put to define Najīb Mahfūz's role as a historiographer (mu'arrikh) of contemporary Egypt. Except for the three historical novels, 1 most of his works revolve around events and situations of contemporary Egyptian history, more specifically of the period since the second half of World War I. It appears, however, that some Egyptian readers fail to see in this writing anything more than a straightforward record of events, situations and personalities. Thus, on the occasion of the writer's 50th anniversary, a well-known literary critic asked him directly: “I have heard a great critic describe you in a debate as more of a historiographer than an artist because your works are devoid of any definite viewpoint from which you present the story, events and people; and he pointed particularly to the /Cairoy trilogy. 2 What do you think of this description”? 3