FYI, his birthday has traditionally been observed on Dec. 11 — the day it was registered in 1911 — but he was actually born on Dec. 10, at 2:00 am, according to his birth record at Dar al-Mahfouzat. This was fifteen years to the hour after Alfred Nobel's fatal stroke in San Remo in 1896. Though I informed Naguib of this finding, he preferred to stick with Dec. 11: he was always a creature of very fixed habits.
|Stock Visiting Mahfouz after the Stabbing|
But if you mean, who might be the next great writer in Arabic, that is a different question. I doubt it will be Alaa al-Aswany, whose Yacoubian Building is a ripping read that broke many taboos, that came almost literally straight out of his own life. One minor example is the fake article that a tailor — a profile of himself — kept in his own shop window downtown to promote his business: I actually published such an article in Egypt Today magazine in 1997, that was kept in the tailor Samir al-Saqqa's shop window on Abdel-Khaliq Tharwat Street downtown, not far from the actual Yacoubian Building — but this is only one of many such details, apparently. Nonetheless, Al-Aswany certainly made his characters live, and his story really move. His second novel, Chicago, was much less successful. But the third time could be the charm, while he has been more effective, in my view, as a political commentator and critic, especially since the fall of Mubarak, though I don't always agree with his views. Two other writers I have in mind instead are both people I have been fortunate enough to translate. One, Najem Wali, an Iraqi writer living in Berlin, has written a handful of brilliant, very intricate, vivid and powerful novels set in his native country, along with a number of short stories, one of which, "Wars in Distant Lands," I have published in Harper's (in February 2008). I have also translated just under a quarter of his novel, The Journey to Tell al-Lahm (Tall al-lahm), which is now seeking a new publisher after its original home tragically went bankrupt. The other writer, Sherif Meleka, is an Egyptian Copt who has just published his fourth novel (that ends with the start of the January 25th Revolution), in addition to two story collections and three books of poetry (some in colloquial). I have translated two of his stories, and a portion of his novel, Suleiman's Ring (Khatim Sulayman) — the latter about a Jewish father and son in Alexandria, who possess a magical talisman that, when lent to the young Gamal Abdel-Nasser, enables him to launch the Free Officer's coup. [Update by MCD: for more on Meleka, see Raymond's comments in the first comment below.] So far these translations are unpublished, but we hope to change that soon. Incidentally, one thing that both Wali and Meleka have in common (quite coincidentally to my own involvement), is that they both have that rarest of things in Arabic literature — positive Jewish characters —in their fiction. But that is certainly not all that commends them.
Returning to the heart of your question, I also comment on the succession issue in this video obituary of Mahfouz broadcast by the BBC on the day of his death. Though there are a few minor errors in the narrative, I find it very moving.