The son of a Cairo merchant, Najib Mahfuz studied philosophy at Cairo University. He spent many years in government posts, retiring from that career in 1971. His writing career began with several historical novels, the first of which appeared in 1939. In 1945, he completed the first of his novels depicting the life of Cairo's Egyptian middle class, and during the 1950's, he gained fame with the publication of his "Cairo trilogy." The three volumes, which follow the 'Abd al-Jawad family through the first half of the twentieth century, are "Bayna al-Qasrayn" (Between the Two Palaces) (1990) (translated as Palace Walk), "Qasr al-Shawq" ( Palace of Desire) (1991), and "Sukkariyah" (Sugar Street) (1992). Mahfuz's earlier work is realistic but later work shows a more abstract or allegorical style, as well as exploration of new ideas. The later work also makes heavier use of dialogue and omniscient narration. While most famous as a novelist (he has written more than 30 novels), Mahfuz has written over 100 short stories, as well as some plays. Winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988 only reinforced the primary place Mahfuz already held among Arabic speakers. It did have the effect, however, of stimulating him to new work after a period of producing very little. Even now, past 80, he is active. Even before he was awarded the Nobel Prize, Najib Mahfuz was better represented in English and other translations than any other Arab writer. American University in Cairo (AUC) Press has been issuing his complete corpus in English translation. The number of titles is growing, and almost all are available. Three Continents Press has also issued many of Mahfuz's works over the years in readily available and inexpensive editions. Also, since 1989 Doubleday has been regularly issuing hardcover editions of his work, which are usually the same as those issued by AUC Press.