The Seven Days Of Man ($24.95; June 1996; 220 pp.; 0-8101-1415-1). A richly detailed picture of Egyptian village life, framed within a rigid structure that drains away some of its energy even as it reinforces the novel's meaning. Narrator Abdel-Aziz chronicles the (seven) stages of a pilgrimage to a religious shrine, occupying a different successive stage of his own life in each installment. The connections thus made depict man's life as a pilgrimage, and suggest that this pilgrimage (and, by extension, all others) constitutes an imitative homage honoring the seven days in which God created the world. Western readers may, accordingly, respond less enthusiastically to this novel's meditative symbolic form than to the incidental pleasures offered by its (thankfully) more mundane subplots and vivid secondary characters.