Bicycle Diaries: James Gould & Naguib Mahfouz

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30.8.06

James Gould & Naguib Mahfouz

Both gentlemen died last Saturday. Nearly the same age, they had lived on different continents and in different cultures. Bikes were not a small part of their lives. Because of that they left their particular worlds better places for the rest of us, bikers and cagers alike.

Gould, before settling down in Melbourne, Australia, travelled the world by cargo ship and bike. He remained active in his retirement with regular long walks along the Beach Road. His rucksack contained a bird-guide, camera, and precisely filled-in notebooks. Last Saturday, his daily routine came to a shocking end when a biker participating in the Hell Ride hit him at about 60mph. He died the next day.

Hell Ride is a weekly bicycle race with no organization and fewer rules. Running red lights, hopping sidewalks, and blocking lanes is common. It's a lycra critical mass fueled by amphetamines. After the accident, the bikers gathered, not unlike massers after a bad confrontation with a cager, to blame their irresponsible colleagues and claim that these few idiots don't represent the majority.

That same day, Naguib Mahfouz died. Winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, his books have since travelled the world. In a region overwhelmed by angery piety and righteous hatred, his novels explored the blessings and burdens of Islam in a secular world.

So strong was his voice that in 1994 he was attacked outside his home by Muslim extremists incensed by his treatment of religious themes in the book. One of his last works, The Dreams, begins with a brief story about an impoverished narrator searching for a cheap meal.
I was riding my bicycle from one place to another, driven by hunger, in search of a restaurant fit for my limited means.
Neither Mahfouz, internationally reknowned, nor Gould, locally admired, let their own limited means prevent them from enriching our world.

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