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Nobel-winning Egyptian writer dies

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(CNN) -- Naguib Mahfouz, the legendary Egyptian story-teller who is the only writer in Arabic to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, has died aged 95 in Cairo, his doctor said.

Mahfouz -- whose novels depicted Egyptian life in his beloved corner of ancient Cairo -- was admitted to a hospital more than a month ago for an injury to his head.

His physician, Dr. Hossam Mowafi, said he died Wednesday morning after a sharp decline.

"His wife last night was whispering in his ears and he was smiling and nodding," Mowafi said.

The Nobel Web site, in a short biography, said Mahfouz began writing at the age of 17 and his first novel was published in 1939. He has written many novels, stories, and articles since.

"The appearance of the Cairo Trilogy, "Bayn al Qasrayn," "Qasr al Shawq," "Sukkariya" ("Between-the-Palaces," "Palace of Longing," "Sugarhouse") in 1957 made him famous throughout the Arab world as a depicter of traditional urban life," the Nobel site said.

The 1988 Nobel Prize brought international notice to Mahfouz.

"Mahfouz's great and decisive achievement is as the writer of novels and short stories. His production has meant a powerful upswing for the novel as a genre and for the development of the literary language in Arabic-speaking cultural circles. The range is however greater than that. His work speaks to us all," the Nobel bio said.

He was known for moderation and religious tolerance.

In 1994, an attacker -- inspired by a militant cleric's ruling that a Mahfouz novel written decades before was blasphemous -- stabbed the then-82-year-old writer as he left his Cairo home.

Mahfouz survived, but the attack damaged nerves leading to his right arm and seriously impaired his ability to write. He wrote that he found it a struggle to "form legible words running in more or less straight lines."

Despite the attack, Mahfouz maintained a busy schedule well into his 90s. In his final years, he would go out six nights a week to meet friends at Cairo's literary watering holes.

CNN's Caroline Faraj contributed to this report.

Naguib Mahfouz celebrates his 94th birthday at a hotel in Cairo last year.




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