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Encyclopedia > The Search (novel)

The Search is a novel written and published by Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz in 1964. It was translated from Arabic into English in 1987 by Mohamed Islam, edited by Magdi Wahba, and published by Doubleday in 1991 hardcover, ISBN 0385264593, and paperback, ISBN 0385264607.

Saber Sayed has just returned home from the funeral for his mother, a prostitute in Alexandria who had just been released from prison five days before. Sayed reminisces about their last conversation, where his mother revealed that she'd abandoned her husband, Sayed's father, before giving birth to him. With a wedding certificate and their wedding photo from thirty years ago, she tells Sayed to go to Cairo where he might be. From his mother's business, Sayed has been able to live well, but when the money runs out, he must find another source or he will have to turn to a life of crime like she did.

When in Cairo, Sayed checks into a hotel and places a classified ad in the local newspaper seeking the whereabouts of his father and if he's even in Cairo. As his monetary reserves run low, Sayed becomes tempted by Karima, the young wife of the hotel owner, Mr. Khalil. While Sayed and Karima make love every night she can get away from her old husband, Sayed also makes the acquaintance of Elham from the newspaper. The ad is fruitless, and those Sayed speaks to have no knowledge of his father having ever been in Cairo.

Sayed is torn himself; with no marketable skills and his money about to run out, he agrees to Karima's proposal to kill her husband so she can inherit Khalil's fortune and they can start a new life together. With Elham, whom he also loves but does not lust after, Sayed admits that he is truly looking for his father; he can't lie to her. One night, Sayed enters through the window of Khalil's room and kills him. The hotel porter, Aly Seriakous, is arrested for the murder as well as theft. Sayed exchanges news with the hotel doorman Mohamed al-Sawi about Karima's prior marriage to her cousin and her mother's move to twenty Sahil Street in Zeitoun, miles away.

Sayed undertakes the journey by taxi and finds Karima there. Angry that she used him to murder her husband and then finds her with another man, Sayed strangles Karima and is arrested for murder. While awaiting trial and possible death by hanging, Sayed's attorney -- a relative of Elham's -- reveals that he's known a man who resembles Sayed's father but now doesn't know where he is. Sayed shrugs his shoulders and resigns himself to fate; he may never meet his father.

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