Arab Culture, Identity and the Novel: Genre, Identity and by Muhammad Siddiq

By Muhammad Siddiq

This ebook explores the complicated courting among the radical and identification in sleek Arab tradition against a backdrop of up to date 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 identification problem that has Arab tradition for no less than centuries.

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Extra info for Arab Culture, Identity and the Novel: Genre, Identity and Agency in Egyptian Fiction (Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Literatures)

Example text

Do not worry, says one of them, when Kamal grows up and leaves home he will realize that (other) human beings hail from Adam and Eve. ”37 The autobiographical connection between Kamal and Mahfouz is compelling here. But it is doubtful that it would have been able to carry the avowedly secular import of this episode to successive generations of Arab and Muslim readers without the enabling aid of fictional disguise. Either way, it is probably safe to surmise that more Arab readers learned about Darwin’s theory of evolution from Mahfouz’ Trilogy than any other Arabic source.

The above-mentioned book by Al-Qarni, for example, was introduced by none other than the late ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. Baz, the highest ranking official of the religious establishment in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the book was recorded on audio-tapes and distributed widely throughout the world, free of charge. 80 Interestingly, until the erratic seventies, the paradigm of “authenticity” was more literary and cultural than religious in nature. Thus, in the first half of the twentieth century, prominent writers like ‘Abbas Mahmud al-‘Aqqad and Mustafa Sadiq al-Rafi’i could and did berate the novel as inferior, not only to poetry, but also to literary criticism and expository writing.

Here, too, the example of Egyptian novelists, and of Mahfouz in particular, is fairly representative of the experience of Arab novelists elsewhere. Like all Arab novelists, Mahfouz made a conscious decision early on in his writing career to address not only the Egyptian but also the wider Arab reading public and calibrated the language and style of his fiction to that end. 41 It is not uncommon among Arab readers of Egyptian fiction, most of whom are familiar with the Egyptian dialect as a matter of course (thanks to the ubiquitous presence of Egyptian cinema, radio, and television), to mentally “translate” back into the Egyptian vernacular, in the act of reading, jokes and humorous scenes that can be enjoyed fully only in their native dialectal milieu.

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