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Naguib Mahfouz, who became the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and who was later stabbed by an Islamic militant who accused him of blasphemy, died Wednesday, said his doctor, Hossam Mowafi. He was 94.
Mahfouz, whose novels depicted Egyptian life in his beloved corner of ancient Cairo, was admitted to the hospital more than a month ago for injury to his head. 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 prize, awarded in 1988, brought to notice a man who had already established himself as one of the Middle East's finest and most beloved writers and a strong voice for moderation and religious tolerance. But fame had its perils.
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 Mahfouz as he left his Cairo home.
Mahfouz survived, but the attack damaged nerves leading to his right arm, seriously impairing his ability to write. A man who had once worked for hours at a time - writing in longhand - found it a struggle to "form legible words running in more or less straight lines," he wrote in the aftermath.
Still, 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, trading jokes, ideas for stories and news of the day.