By Muhammad Siddiq
This e-book explores the complicated courting among the radical and identification in smooth Arab tradition against a backdrop of latest Egypt. It makes use of the instance of the Egyptian novel to interrogate the basis causes – non secular, social, political, and mental – of the lingering id trouble that has troubled Arab tradition for a minimum of centuries.
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Extra resources for Arab Culture, Identity and the Novel: Genre, Identity and Agency in Egyptian Fiction (Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Literatures)
Having already mentioned the case of Naguib Mahfouz, I will use for this purpose the very novel on account of which he almost lost his life. Imagining the unthinkable Children of Our Alley thematizes in allegorical fashion the common narrative of monotheistic religion as it unfolded progressively in human history, but with a dramatic final twist that highlights the subversive potential of the novelistic imagination. Mahfouz’ novel concludes with the death of Jabalawi, the figurehead “representing” God, and the passing of the scepter of authority from the line of characters “representing” the familiar chain of monotheistic prophets to a line of scientist-cum-charlatan magicians who literally put the old order to rest before they usher in the modern age.
Empowered in part by that fictional text, Nasser will go on to lead the Revolution that abolishes the monarchy in 1952, expels the occupying British and French forces in 1956, and secures Egypt’s national independence after centuries of domination by foreign dynasties and rulers. But, as I intimated earlier, this vicarious agency of fiction is not gratuitous; it exacts a price in different ways, not least in willful misreading and biting irony: For the call to “national (re)awakening” that struck such a responsive chord in Nasser’s impressionable consciousness is enunciated in al-Hakiim’s novel by a French archeologist who, in a conversation with a British irrigation engineer working in Egypt, predicts the inevitable return of the glorious spirit of ancient Egypt to liberate and uplift modern Egyptians from their debilitating stupor and malaise.
The backlash that almost claimed Mahfouz’ life thirty-six years after the writing of Awlad Haratina assimilates the novel’s defiant gesture into the aforementioned recurrent pattern that has bedevilled Arab culture with exacting regularity for at least two centuries. Periods of relative freedom of expression and creativity are routinely followed by draconian restrictions on thought and the imagination, all, it often seems, in accordance with the imperatives of political expediency. As a result, the trajectory of the course of modern Arabic literature in general, and the Arabic novel in particular, often appears cyclical and episodic, not incremental and linear.
Arab Culture, Identity and the Novel: Genre, Identity and Agency in Egyptian Fiction (Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Literatures) by Muhammad Siddiq