From Naguib Mahfouz


from "Beyond the Clouds"
in The Seventh Heaven
Naguib Mahfouz

He took me by the hand and led me through a lush forest to a lake of light, and told me to immerse myself within its waves of rays. I complied with the order--floating for a few seconds, before beginning to sink, slowly and without pause, until I settled in the innermost depths of the lake. The waves penetrated deep inside my being, cleansing me thoroughly. A chain of sins and errors that I had committed during my life stretched out before my sight. Each time a a sin or error would vanish, an accompanying pain would vanish with it. My weight lessened accordingly, so that I rose from my submersion little by little. This bathing went on for hours, or days, or years, until eventually I was floating once more upon the lake's surface. Finally, I alight on the land with nimbleness and glee--then entered my house.

This beautiful vision of purgatory may only have been possible in Egypt--the land that from ancient times gave us the symbol of the weighing of the heart against a feather, combined with the influence of all three of the "Abrahamic" religions. While Dante gave us the "poetic" Purgatory with its whips and goads, it may be that this gentler vision is one that more reflects the mercy and the goodness of the God we know and love.

(Naguib Mahfouz is an Egyptian writer who some years ago won the Nobel Prize in literature. He is no longer with us, but his work lives on--some of it beautiful, some of it vaguely confusing, some of it so wrapped up with concerns central to Egypt as to be nearly incomprehensible in its subtleties. But everything I've read so far has been worth the time.)

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 10, 2009 7:25 AM.

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