Adonis Diaries

The voices of Arab Spring uprising: They have been sounding for decades!

Posted on: April 27, 2011

The voices of Arab Spring uprising: They have been sounding for decades!

For three decades, hundreds of “Arab” authors have been publishing poignant novels, describing accurately and harshly the social and family conditions in their particular countries.  Wrong! The intelligentsia and public activists have been very engaged: It is the world community that was ignoring the upheaval among the youth of the Arab World, by not getting committed in translating the works extensively.

You hear that foreign politicians were taken aback by this “Arab” mass upheavals, and are unable to comprehend the new dynamics.  It has been proven that novels and stories (narratives in movies and documentaries) are the best medium to break through “cognitive dissonance”, which  totalitarian regimes and media oriented “democratic” regimes educate citizens on the proper political positions to taking. 

The “Arab” masses have been liberated from their despotic indoctrination and they assimilated the indignities that novels have been sharing and exposing clearly, boldly, colorfully, and brightly.

Before mass printing in the 20th century, people mass uprising needed a century of novel swapping to understanding the big picture.  Nowadays, a decade is enough to getting people up in arms and demanding regime change.  What the politicians could not comprehend is “How many of these changes happened by peaceful means of mass determination”.

You might hear skeptics saying: “Any Arab author could not expect more than 3,000 books to be purchased, much less to be read.  How can you account for the masses to have assimilated the problems in their countries?” 

First, maybe entire books are not read, but essential extracts are disseminated on the internet.  Second, people know their own situation: All they need is to hear that someone else is sharing their plight by telling their stories. I guess that is what I have been doing in the last three years: I have been reviewing books and commenting them in my blog; you may check my category Book Review, of hundreds of translated manuscripts from Arabic, French, and English.

The first novel of the Libyan Hisham Mattar “In the country of men, 2007)” is about a young boy who lived during the Qadhafi regime in the 1970’s, in the shadow of the “Guide”.   The father, an opposition personality is sent to jail, never to reappear.  The second novel of Hisham “Anatomy of a disappearance, 2011” recounts the story of Nouri El Alfli, a young boy of 12 year-old, who fled with his family from Tripoli (Libya) to Cairo in the 70’s.  The young boy recollects his love for Mona, an Anglo-Egyptian, that he met with his father in Alexandria.  Mona was to become his step-mother.  Nouri had this Oedipal rivalry with his dissident father relative to Mona.  The father is kidnapped by the Qadhafi security in Cairo, and Nouri is never to see him again.  The story is how sadness build an identity, how absence transforms relationship, and how loss in young age affects sexual behavior in adulthood. 

In this novel, Hisham Mattar celebrates the father who disappeared 21 years ago in Qadhafi jails and how despots ravage the normal lives of normal families and individuals, for “we cannot live outside History!”

Raja Alem, a female Saudi author, published “The pigeon collar” (Tawq al hamama).  This novel depicts the Sacred City of Mecca as a hotbed of delinquency and religious fanaticism, where foreign workers are exploited by the mafia of Real Estates development enterprises that are destroying historic quarters.  These stories are told in letters sent to her German lovers, another taboo of foreign relationship not appreciated by this Wahhabi obscurantist theocracy/absolute monarchy.

Mohammad Achaari is a Moroccan author: He published “The Arc and the Butterfly” (Al Qawss wa Al Farasha).  This novel treats the relationship between Islamism and terrorism from the perspective of their consequences on the lives of family members.  It is the story of a leftist activist who receive a letter from Al Qaeda informing him that his son is a martyr.  The father was under the impression that his son was studying in Paris  and not in Afghanistan, fighting with the Al Qaeda. How this revelation impacted on the family life, father and mother.

Raja Alem and Mohammad Achaar received the “Arab Booker” laureate of best Arabic book of the year by the International Award for Arabic novels held in Abu Dhabi this year.  For the last four years, the British Booker institute has been awarding prizes for best Arabic novels.

The three taboo themes of sexuality, politics, and religion are now wildly approached and dissected in Arabic novels.  The government censure is exacerbated by Islamist threats:  A situation that forces the Arab authors to publish in Europe, Russia, and the USA, and most of the time in foreign languages for wider dissemination.

In the last three decades, Arab authors have been emulating the Soviet dissident authors and doing their best to break through tight censorship and rounding up of entire families for punishing a single author.  For example, the Lebanese author Hanane El Cheikh published “London my love” as a message to highlighting the divergences between western life-style and Arabic conditions and what our society lacks in means of reform and change.

You may read the novel of the Egyptian Alaa el-Aswany “The Yacoubian building”; the Libyan Ibrahim Al Koni “Gold dust” and “Angel, who are you?”; the Egyptian Ahdaf Soueif “Lady Pacha”, and many women authors from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen…

You may also read my post:

Note:  I translated part of an article in The Courrier International#1067

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April 2011

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