One Flew Over the Mulla’s Ballot

logo@Sultans_Seal wallows in his lack of democratic mettle

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Time and again, since 30 June last year, I’ve come up against the commitment to democracy that I’m supposed to have betrayed by appearing to endorse the army’s intervention in the outcome of Egypt’s second revolution.
Time and again I’ve had to explain what on earth makes Egyptians think that Washington and Tel Aviv are secretly in league with the Muslim Brotherhood to decimate the Arab world along sectarian lines and bring death and destruction upon innocent Egyptians as much as Syrians and Libyans in the name of human rights—presumably to the benefit of that impeccably democratic and profoundly civilized neighbor state where racist, genocidal, militarized sectarianism does not present the world community with a human-rights problem.

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aBiography: An Exclusive Blog Feature

Sleep-deprivation is like being high. I know because I was high for a long time, then I started sleeping irregularly. It’s supposed to have something to do with lack of sugar in the brain, which is also the theory of what LSD does to consciousness. Things grow fluid and dreamlike, but at the same time there is a paranoid awareness of motion and a heaviness in the heart. Color and sound become a lot sharper, and time feels totally irrelevant. Normal speed is fast but fast can pass for normal. A moment lasts for days, days can fit in a moment. Talking and laughing are far more involving, especially laughing. The grotesque animal implicit in each person comes out, sometimes messing up the conversation. And then it’s as if you have no body. As in the best music, an uncanny lightness balances the overriding melancholy. There is joy in flying when you don’t need to move. All through this, what’s more, every passing emotion turns into an epic experience.

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20 December 2011


We, honourable citizens of Egypt — pioneers in every field, one hundred million nationalists and three great pyramids — declare our absolute support and inexhaustible gratitude for those valiant and chivalrous soldiers of our own flesh and blood who, with knightly dedication and redoubtable bravery, are making of their own unassailable selves the impregnable garrisons with which to protect not only us, their people, but also our most sacred, most xenophobic patrimony. Before we go on to demonstrate, with indubitable argument, the blindingly obvious fact that it is thanks to the wisdom and righteousness of our faithful Council of the Armed Forces (Sieg Heil!), of whose incorruptible grace the word “supreme” is but the humblest designation, that the people and their oil-smeared holy men of fragrant beards will be saved from a fetid galactic conspiracy to which this country has been subject.

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Kali: A Poem


“Oh, the fire of my guts…”

Umar Ibn Al Farid


The Hindus have a goddess who vomits snakes
Who’s wreathed in severed heads (her hair oil:
Brain paste) and lays down mass graves
For fun.
They believe that all that checks her evil
Is waterfalls of blood.

If you approached this goddess,
If you entered her circle,
If you knelt before the sundered limbs,
Hanging at her chin,
You’d see the opening of her mouth beneath her eyes,
two quarries of fire:
A well lined with knives.

And though she is, in origin, a kind goddess,
Tending crops and lovers,
And though this terror is only her angry aspect
(Because the Hindus’ gods, praise God,
Each have more than one
And to each a name)
It’s best you pray to her by this name…

My Lady of Dismemberment and Temptation
I need to be God, if only for a night,
I need to refashion one person in this world
That my existence might stand tall. And when I take possession of that person,
As Night and Famine are thine,
I shan’t make do with standing in a line of believers
Which I saw with my own eyes in Nepal
Most of them poor, without the price of ram or lama,
A sacrifice befitting thy spleen,
(They shall grease thy statues with what their fingers lap
From the sluggish brooks of blood,)
And the offerings they bore did not surpass
A scrawny duck or cat killed by a car,
A monkey, spine broken from an ill-judged leap,
Or a blind rooster seeking feed with his beak.
I shan’t make do with standing in their line
And watching the tiny necks broken between fingers.
I shall be of purity and clarity sufficient
To offer myself to thee true and whole,
Without fear or grief.

My Lady of Dismemberment and Temptation,
For my brain to become a paste to preserve thy hair from split ends,
For my bones to become pikes for thee to tilt at the bodies of innocents
And my heart a bonbon in thy mouth,
I need to be God.


reposting “Consider the Mu’tazilah”

On post-revolutionary Egypt: Youssef Rakha rereads three of the tenets of Mu’tazili Islam

1. Unity: The way Mu’tazili or – roughly speaking – rationalist (as opposed to Ash’ari or, equally roughly, literalist) theology affirmed the oneness of God was to say that His human and temporal attributes are not distinct from His essence. This means that when we talk about God speaking, we are either professing shirk (polytheism) or talking metaphorically. According to the Judge Abduljabbar ibn Ahmad (d. 1025), “it is not possible for Him to get up or down, move about, change, be composite, have a form.”

The Ash’aris, who were to predominate in Sunni Islam and whose approach is thought by many – the late scholar Nassr Abu Zayd (1943-2010), for example – to be the reason Muslims have lagged behind for seven centuries, are rather more tolerant of  anthropomorphism. Still, the most contentious formulation of Mu’tazili tawheed (monotheism) is that the Quran is not eternal. The Quran was created at a certain point in time, it was created in human language, while God (whose word it is) remains beyond both time and language. For a moment under the Abbassi caliph Al-Ma’moun (813-833), Mu’tazili tawheed became state creed and Ash’arites, notably Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855), were persecuted. That was the height of Muslim glory.

Now, notwisthstanding the reported death of renegade CIA agent Osama Bin Laden at what is arguably the lowest point on the temporal graph of Muslim civilisation, some 12 years after Abu Zayd, by exposing the atavistic idiocy to which Islamic discourse had descended, was forced to leave the country – a state-condoned court verdict ruled, ludicrously, that he should be separated from his wife, an unofficial fatwa that he should be killed – what could the ulta-Ash’ari discourses that have swamped the surface of public conscioussness since January, 2011 (Salafi, Jihadi, quasi-fascist or, indeed, moderate) be doing to the future of Islam?


2. Justice: In the Mu’tazili account of the problem of evil, it is the human mind that determines right and wrong; the actions of human beings are not determined by God, otherwise there would be no sense to reward and punishment. God manifests, all good (the kind of evil in which human will plays no part – natural disasters, for example – either exists by way of a test or a hidden prize or it does not emanate from God) and it is up to human beings to respond to Him. For the average Ash’ari, the average “moderate Muslim”, right and wrong consists of a divinely ordained set of dos and donts to be followed regardless of what one thinks of them.

Consider the idea, current in Muslim consciousness as early as the 9th century, that it is because of its appeal to the mind that we accept the faith, that within that faith the law develops out of divinely inspired language according to the mind’s response to it – in the words of the Mu’tazilah, what the mind finds beautiful is good, what it finds ugly is evil. If it is human, if it is in language, and therefore by default historical, part of a particular time and place and a particular framework of meaning, however divinely ordained – and we know that the divine is beyond all such conditions – then it is to be judged by the mind.

Consider the revolution and how it happened. Consider the fact that concepts like the modern state – as much as the automobile, the mobile phone, Facebook – have absolutely no reference in anything divinely ordained. Consider the fact that the mind finds theocratic states like Saudi Arabia and Iran profoundly ugly. Then ask again whether, when they raise the slogan “Islam is the answer”, Islamists are being just.


3. The intermediate position: It is recounted that Wassil ibn ‘Ataa (d. 748), widely regarded as the founder of ‘ilm al kalam, the principal hermeneutical tradition in Islam, walked out of a lesson by his teacher Hassan Al-Bassri (d. 728) and started his own class after the latter failed to answer a question about the Muslim who commits one of the grave sins – al kaba’ir, which incidentally include drinking alcohol and non-marital sex – and dies without repentance.

There were two current views at the time, corresponding to two sects: the Khawarij saw the Muslim in question as a kafir (an apostate), a non-Muslim in effect, whether or not he denied the existence of God; the Murji’ah saw him as a mu’min (a believer), who may require punishment but has not lost his faith so long as he affirms the existence of God. The Ash’ari position on this question, which using the term fasiq (a wrongdoer) is typically neither here nor there, was to develop much later.

Ibn ‘Ataa, by contrast, took the sensible ontological route and developed the concept of al manzilah bayna al manzilatayn (literally, the state between the two states): the Muslim who commits a grave sin is neither a mu’min nor a kafir; he is something else to be judged on its own terms by God. Had this debate been taking place at present, why do I suspect that the state in question – the intermediate position – would have been designated “secular”.

While everyone is clamering to “rebuild Egypt”, ignoring the military as well as the theocratic threat, it is well to remember that – considering irreconcilable contradictions between the original formulation of some kaba’ir and the modern way of life – for two centuries at least all of humanity has been in the intermediate position.

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Catch 25

The (un)culture of (in)difference: a family reunion


At a recent family gathering, someone happened to mention the case of Albert Saber: the 25-year-old proponent of atheism who had been tried and convicted for online “defamation of religion”.

        Albert’s case had begun as an instance of Muslim zealotry “coming to the defence of Allah and His messenger” against “offending” statements from (so far, mostly, foreign or Christian) unbelievers—before being taken into custody, the young man was brutishly mobbed at his house; his mother was later physically assaulted—a tendency that long predates “the second republic” ushered in by the revolution of 25 January, 2011 but enjoys unprecedented official and legal cover under the present (pro-)Islamist regime.

        Despite its sectarian roots, such populist persecution of the irreligious has the blessing of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is both extremely conservative and non-confrontational. Evidently it is no longer safe to be secular in Egypt regardless of official religious affiliation or actual degree of secularism.

        So much so that many Internet-active writers—not excluding this one—are increasingly concerned about some Islamist-sympathetic party purposely misreading political, social or creative remarks of theirs on social networks and filing a complaint about their “apostasy” that results in custody, interrogation or, as in Albert’s case, a court-issued jail sentence.

        Not that there was any lack of such “lawful” politicking under Mubarak, but seculars could in theory count on the regime, unlike “society”, being more or less on their side. Even that is no longer the case.

        The process is neither systematic nor efficient enough to compare to the Inquisition or to well-known 20th-century witch hunts like McCarthyism—which, by “enlightened” cyber activists, it has been—but process and ongoing it remains. And what is worrying about it is society’s readiness to endorse its operation, not just through encouragement or active participation but, more importantly, through silence.

        If not for that chance remark about “the young man called Albert”—uttered in a casual, mildly sympathetic tone—I might never have found out just how zealous members of my own family can be. The conversation, to which I had already decided not to contribute, was abruptly cut short when another relation retorted, “People who insult religion are no heroes; it’s a good thing there are laws being implemented in this country.”

        Though she was literally shaking as she said this, said relation wasn’t looking at anybody in particular; so she can’t have seen my wide-eyed face. Since the moment I was forced to turn to her, however, disbelief has brought on all sorts questions. A week or so and a half dozen or so incidents later, the most apparently disparate things seem suddenly connected.


October evokes the only victory against Israel the Arabs have claimed since 1948—on the 6th, in 1973. It also evokes the assassination of President Anwar Sadat (who, having won the war, went on to instigate a much reviled peace process): the work of Islamist radicals in the army who made use of a commemorative parade at which he was present eight years later to the day. Fresher than any other, however, October brings back the memory of the killing of some 30 protestors at a large pro-Coptic demonstration in Maspero, by both army troops and pro-SCAF “honourable citizens”, on the 9th and 10th last year.


At the time of “the Maspero massacre”, it was not yet clear that the Islamist orientation—one of whose principal problems in Egypt is anti-Christian sectarianism—would be synonymous with power. Protests that drove Mubarak to step down on 11 February 2011 had been instigated by young seculars, and the post-25 January fight of the almost two-year-long transitional period was against a nominally secular military establishment.

        One YouTube video from the aftermath of Maspero, however, highlights some rather obviously sectarian sentiments common not only to Islamists and supposedly anti-Islamist armed forces but also to the kind of civilian to whom SCAF tended to address itself, and whose best interest SCAF supposedly had at heart.

        The video shows a young officer boarding a military vehicle near Maspero, in the wake of the killing spree that involved armoured vehicles literally crushing unarmed protesters’ heads, among other grotesqueries.

        It is clear the officer is in a state of excitement as he turns to address a small group of people who have crowded round the vehicle. Braggingly, he explains how he killed one protester with a single shot; the “honourable” mob heartily cheers. Neither Muslim Brothers nor Salafis are anywhere near.

        Honourable citizens already fed up with protests and demonstrations of every kind—partly incited to come to the defence of “their army” against “marauding Copts” by overzealous pro-SCAF state television—had gone out bearing impromptu weapons in what was truly painfully evocative of a pogrom.

        Little wonder, then, that during the parliamentary elections held within weeks of the event, the sectarian underpinnings of parties like Freedom and Justice and Al Nour ensured their ascendency, partly through propaganda to the effect that “liberal” competitors were actually in the employ of sectarian Christian powers.

        By the time the presidential elections took place, the picture was considerably more complex: pro-revolution forces had become obsessed with eliminating what was called “military rule”, which dated back not to Mubarak’s rise to power but to the July Revolution of 1952. In their blind keenness that “civilian governance” should finally replace the 60-year-old dictatorship, they had wittingly or unwittingly handed over what political weight they carried to the Islamists.

        With greater structural/logistical resources and a clearer message (about Islam, or “honour”), the two potential presidents who finally reached the runoffs were Mubarak’s last prime minister, himself a former military man, and the Muslim Brotherhood candidate; rather than endorsing the boycott campaign that had already started but would prove ineffectual, “revolutionaries” automatically opted for the latter.


Events have been escalating considerably since President Morsi took office just over 100 days ago, aided and abetted by the kind of apathy that had allowed Mubarak to stay in power for three decades, arranging for his son to succeed him, while opposition reduced to “the Islamist threat” and an increasingly Islamised society shed every last vestige of morality, competence or vision. Creative and intellectual pursuits are one thing, but conservatism, superficial religiosity and moral duress—all arguably symptoms of that same apathy—are the only qualities of mind widespread and consistent enough across society to be called “contemporary Egyptian culture”. From children charged with tearing pages out of the Quran in Upper Egypt to armed attacks on and the forced displacement of Christians in Rafah—irrespective of the increasingly silly discourse of “national unity”— sectarian persecution seems accordingly underway.


Most recently, less than a week ago in Faqous, near Zagazig, an 18-year-old Banha University student and her boyfriend—both Muslim—were arrested on charges that include “denying the existence of God”, under the same defamation-of-religion law used to prosecute Albert Saber, which was almost never invoked under Mubarak but since Morsi came to power has been very frequently (ab)used.

        Identified simply as B. R. A. in the press (presumably for her own protection), the girl was officially detained after her mother—a pharmacist educated in the great post-independence universities of “the nation”—reported her to the authorities, requesting that she should undergo a virginity test in a move that recalled one of SCAF’s more notorious abuses of female demonstrators during the transitional period.

        As it later transpired during questioning, said mother, with appropriately zealous help from B. R. A.’s brother and maternal uncle, had reportedly attempted to poison B. R. A. because of the girl’s outrageously unorthodox views.

        The culprit herself was happy to share those views with the police (and, insane as I must be, they don’t sound very criminal to me): that there is nothing wrong with premarital sex so long as contraception is used, that hijab is a bad idea, that atheism makes sense…

        Far from the Chorus of artists and intellectuals screamingly mournfully at the straight-faced lies of fanatics-turned-politicians back in Cairo, it is in a tragedy like this—with a provincial setting and non-privileged protagonists—that concepts of the modern state, the social contract and citizenship rights are put to the test.

        B. R. A., I feel, deserves infinitely more respect than thousands of young women who, in the safe havens of an urban upper middle class, can afford to think of hijab (or premarital virginity, or faith) as a matter of personal choice a la Western multiculturalism, recognising neither its ubiquity and sectarian-misogynist functions nor the fact that not choosing it can totally ruin lives.

        Ideally, the state must protect a young woman like B. R. A. from abuses to which she is already subject in her family home, let alone society at large; at the very least, to be called a modern state at all, it must refrain from adding a legal/official dimension to the social/cultural machinery that victimises her.

        Not that the state ever did so under Mubarak, of course, but the regime’s ostensible conflict with Islamists arguably made it harder for the powers that be, however zealously Muslim, to express “honourable” sentiments against freedom of belief as such.

        For me and many like me, the right and freedom of B. R. A. to live safely as she chooses were precisely what 25 January was about.

        That 25 January should have legitimised and brought on greater formalistion of the objectively deplorable norms whereby B. R. A. is denied any such right or freedom on the pretext of the law or the majority, social consensus or the greater good, prompts just the kind of disbelief with which, during that fateful family gathering, I ended up looking at my female relation who was keen on Albert Saber being punished for his blasphemies.


It would be beside the point to say that individual verbal attacks—whether from Muslims or non-Muslims—cannot be reasonably said to undermine a belief system-cum-former civilisation as solid and established as Islam. It would be equally irrelevant to say that it is the Muslims’ own anachronisms and hypocrisies—not to mention their violence against non-Muslims—that have generated worldwide (including George W. Bush-style/Crusader) Islamophobia. Combined with the grassroots/populist tendency of Egyptians to deny difference and punish those who fail to conform, “Islam” (and, indeed, Coptic Christianity) in the context of contemporary Egypt tends to reduce to a young man or woman being collectively sacrificed for speaking their mind while old, unremarkable Muslim Brothers replicate the roles of Mubarak and his retinue. You would’ve thought this was enough reason for the champions of 25 January, whether “revolutionary” or “oppositional”, to be wary of the consequences of the Muslim Brotherhood replacing the military godhead founded by Nasser in 1952, of which Mubarak, his two predecessors and SCAF were all avatars.


Catch 25: a situation in which, given a choice between the regime you revolted against and political Islam, you really have no choice at all.

        Which brings us to the limits of democratic process in a country where mass political choices reflect quasi-tribal affiliations—and what bigger tribe to win elections and enjoy the attendant benefits, regardless of how undemocratic it may be at bottom, than the one that panders to the hysterics of that relation of mine, the barbarism of Albert Saber’s detractors or the sheer evil insanity of B. R. A.’s mother—all of which find ready justification and effective expression in the conservative religiosity of the kind of “civil state with an Islamic frame of reference” envisioned by the Brotherhood.

        This is the culture to which, as an Egyptian intellectual here and now, I must be party. This is the culture that “seven thousand years of civilisation and three great pyramids” actually refers to—not the novels of Naguib Mahfouz or the songs of Om Kolthoum (neither of whom is looked on very favourably by Islamists anyway), much less the contract that is supposed to bind citizens to the society in which they live through the mediation of a benevolent or at least neutral state apparatus that allows people to believe what they will and adopt the lifestyle they choose.

        It will take far more than “toppling the regime” to change that culture. It will take much more than politics to bring about an Arab Spring.

Please, God, give us books to read

A poem by Mohab Nasr

I was a teacher;
I considered that natural.
For this reason I began to bow
to words I did not say;
and to communicate my respects to my children.
I tried to make them understand that it was absolutely necessary
for someone to read,
to review with his parents—
while he hurls his shoe under the bed—
how exhausting and beautiful respect is:
that they have no future without words.
You yourself, Dad,
are bowed over the newspaper
as if a cloud is passing over you;
and when I call out to you,
I see your temple
stamped with melancholy,
as if it was raining specifically for your sake.
Read, Dad,
and call my mother too to read.
Let the cloud pass over all of us.
Please, God,
give us books to read:
books that smell of glue,
their pages like knives;
that cough out dust in our faces
so that we realise our life is a cemetery;
whose covers bear a dedication from the respected author
to the retired bureau director;
cleanshaven in preparation for being slapped
and others that howl
in the margins
at people who, like us, loved
and, like us, became teachers;
books in the form of Aloha shirts
at the Reading Festival;
books on whose giant trunks we can urinate
to unburden ourselves as we go on walking.

Aw, aw…
because we too are books, God,
flailing blind in our bed of love—
aw, aw—
because we are squeezed in on Your bookshelf
looking on Your miracles:
angels on the wall,
losing gamblers tearing up their bonds;
the despair of hands that strike
and hands that sleep, hurt, on the same pages.
Aw, aw…
Then someone screams: What goes on there?

The desks of the bosses arranged in the form of the Complete Works,
snakes and bears,
crosses and wall magazines,
disgust and rotting bread,
the sound of a distant latch:
Why did You unfasten it, God?

Lost with ideas on wheels,
lost at home
and on the streets,
unseen to You or ourselves,
alone before our bosses
who are also alone,
alone with the sound of a distant latch:
Why did You unfasten it, God?


Translation © Youssef Rakha

The Imam and the Dervish

A Sufi folk tale from the Nile Delta


        The imam of the Friday prayers bumps into a little old dervish at the entrance to the mosque. The dervish, evidently with no intention of joining the others in prayer, is tapping the ground with a stick, again and again intoning, ‘God can create the world in the shell of a hazelnut.’ Enraged as much by idle talk as impious behavior, the imam beats up the dervish; then he rushes into the mosque baths to perform his ablutions in time. But no sooner does he step into the water than he finds himself in the middle of a great lake in some far-away land; touching his wet body, the imam realizes he has been transformed into a woman. The woman is rescued by a fisherman who happens upon her in the water, he takes her in; and when his wife dies, the fisherman marries the strange woman from the lake. First she gives birth to a boy, then another boy, then a girl. One day she goes out to do the washing in the same lake, and as soon as she steps into the water, she finds herself in a mosque baths, in a country she seems to remember: she has been transformed back into the imam, who has just enough time to finish his ablutions before starting the prayers. On his way out of the mosque the imam passes the little old dervish, who has not performed his prayers, tapping the ground with a stick and intoning, ‘God can create the world in the shell of a hazelnut.’ The imam rushes up to him and bends down to kiss his hand, shouting, ‘Truth, truth! You speak the truth!’ And winking at him with a beam, the dervish says, ‘You had to give birth to two boys and a girl before you could believe it, didn’t you.’

Leo and the Tugra


The Revolution for Real: Cairo, 2011

After Allen Ginsberg’s “The Lion for Real”

O roar of the universe how am I chosen

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Sacred genitalia: my graduation essay


Sacred genitalia: the metaphysical inflections of Bataille’s surrealist voice
(Madame Edwarda, 1941; Story of the Eye, 1928)

Man is more than a creature limited to its genitals. But they, those inavowable parts of him, teach him his secret.

This essay will attempt to identify a specific (if arguably minor) aspect of surrealism, and trace its aesthetic and intellectual resonances in Bataille’s major works. The desire to come in contact with the sacred informed not only Bataille but Artaud, who envisaged in the theatre a potential for realizing it, and (despite ‘ideological’ admonitions and the struggle ‘against those who would maintain surrealism at a purely speculative level and treasonably transfer it onto an artistic and literary plane’, a struggle which, among other things, frequently cast Bataille and Artaud in the role of renegade surrealists) this selfsame yearning for the sacred can be deduced from Breton’s quasi-metaphysical pronouncements throughout the vital period of surrealist activity in France. As early as 1922 Breton was defining surrealism in terms of ‘the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association’, and twenty years later he still felt obliged to deny the charge of ‘mysticism’. While the sacred remains at best only a sub-stratum of metaphysics (‘most generally’ defined as ‘the philosophical investigation of the nature, constitution, and structure of reality’), it is not difficult nonetheless to recognise a quasi-religious strain running through the surrealist project from its very inception. In Breton’s demand for a ‘monotonous metaphysic’ that ‘never speaks except of the one being, in which God, the soul, and the world come together, of the one which is the deepest essence of all multiplicity’, there is a clear potential for a form of art—a poetics, dramatics or even erotics of the sacred—whose aim it would be to develop new conceptions of the Ultimate and the Absolute, and ways of experiencing their presence. This potential was taken up by both Bataille and Artaud (the latter choosing a dramatics, the former an erotics of the sacred) and leaves its definitive mark in their concern with the negative, the horrifying, the terrible and the obscene (which constitutes an awareness of mortality that we do not encounter with the same intensity in the work of Breton, whose fundamental priority was the marvellous). Artaud himself alludes to the route chosen by Bataille in quest of the same destination when he says that ‘bringing together two impassioned revelations on stage [...] is just as complete, as true, even as decisive as bringing together two bodies in short-lived debauchery’. His Theatre of Cruelty works ‘like the plague, by intoxication, by infection, by analogy, by magic’; it works like war, in the public ‘ferment of great, agitated crowds hurled against one another’; it is a form of ‘soul therapy’ inflicting on an audience the ‘laceration’ and ‘cruelty’ of the sacred, whose essential function is to teach us that ‘[we] are not free and the sky can still fall on our heads’; and its foremost subjects are ‘love, crime, war and madness’. For Bataille, by contrast, it is the very private anguish of ‘little death’ that tells us our secret: that ‘[nudity] is only death, and the most tender kisses have the after-taste of the rat’; the function of philosophy and literature is to forge the age-old link between eroticism and death; and only at the supreme point of convergence where, correspondingly, pleasure and pain resolve their perpetual dialectic in a terrifying excess, do we catch a glimpse of our spiritual predicament. In either case there is a stress on emptiness and negation that somewhat transcends the surrealist imperative of unlimited ‘marvellous subversion’, and explains Breton’s distaste with Bataille’s particular strand of madness, ‘that he reasons like someone with a fly on his nose (i.e. a corpse)’. But Bataille’s literary endeavours remain profoundly surrealist, and the following will undertake to show this in two stages: first, by exploring Bataille’s metaphysics of the sacred (which finds its clearest, most compressed expression in Madame Edwarda); and second, by looking at his aesthetics of eroticism, the kind of pornographic imagination—in Susan Sontag’s words—that aims ‘at disorientation, at psychic dislocation’ (triumphantly exemplified in Story of the Eye).

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Surat Youssef, 2008


فَلَمَّا سَمِعَتْ بِمَكْرِهِنَّ أَرْسَلَتْ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَعْتَدَتْ لَهُنَّ مُتَّكَأً وَآتَتْ كُلَّ وَاحِدَةٍ مِنْهُنَّ سِكِّينًا وَقَالَتِ اخْرُجْ عَلَيْهِنَّ فَلَمَّا رَأَيْنَهُ أَكْبَرْنَهُ وَقَطَّعْنَ أَيْدِيَهُنَّ وَقُلْنَ حَاشَ لِلَّهِ مَا هَذَا بَشَرًا إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا مَلَكٌ كَرِيمٌ

Chapter and verse
Youssef Rakha

Recently, The New Yorker magazine ran six first-person articles describing encounters with members of the monotheistic clergy, all published under the heading “Faith and doubt”. It is not clear what the occasion was for remembering Knowers of God, as clerics are sometimes honorifically referred to in Arabic. The pieces were engaging, but too short and inconclusive to say much. Four reflected a Christian universe of thought; one was set in a tree outside a synagogue. The only vaguely Muslim piece – about the headmaster of a religious school in Ghana – detailed this man’s unusual belief that no plane could stay aloft if the aviation engineer in charge did not recite the required verses of the Quran during take-off.

It seems right to supplement the latter, if not with the recollections of a memorable cleric – Muslims have students and teachers of theology, not an ordained clergy per se – then with this personal allegory of faith and doubt:

Medical opinion had unanimously declared pregnancy impossible. Some vital channel had been blocked in my mother’s body – some irrevocable fault of physiology. I will spare you the details, which I do not know. All that is clear in my memory is that she was forced to forego the project that had informed her entire life, and which for Egyptian women of her generation was the only real project: she had never had a child. Now she was told she never would. If she conceived, which was extremely unlikely in the first place, she would be unable to keep her foetus for longer than a few days.
But my mother was not devastated; she was not resigned, she simply dismissed medical opinion. She dismissed any opinion, in fact, that agreed with the bogus conspiracy seemingly hatched to deprive her of the one thing she lived for.

Then one day, she conceived. When tests confirmed that it was not a false pregnancy, she was not particularly surprised. After all, for weeks after receiving the initial discouraging medical reports, she claims, she had been convinced it would happen. Also that she would manage to keep the foetus, the miracle foetus, and never have another child.
My mother is an extremely devout woman. But as she has grown older, her spiritual energy has been fossilised in increasingly reductive religious dogma. Only through cautious retellings of her past does the thrill of the unknown – the drama of faith before it has been validated – come through in her religious experience. She will never admit it, but that largely unarticulated faith is the treasure that is buried beneath her religious practice.

There are two very distinct experiences of any religion. On the one hand you have the codified set of beliefs: the dos, the don’ts, the heaven, the hell. And on the other hand there is that mystery. By codifying the unknown, dogma murders the mystery. I have always thought that was the worst thing about it. If you can have both dogma and mystery in one package, then all the better.

So my mother mysteriously believed that she would keep the foetus. Because she wanted it enough, she felt divinely entitled to a child. Seven months after the initial surprise – which, of course, she claims was no surprise – she had turned into a jaundiced, bloated version of herself, perpetually fatigued and more or less immobile. But the foetus was still there and she had no doubt she would keep it.
Family lore has it that, at two separate instances during those seven months, she was on the verge of doubting whether she would have her child when she heard verses of the Quran drift through the window, which quelled her fears. On both occasions, it was a verse from the chapter called Youssef, the Quranic story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, not so very different from its earlier version in the Bible.

I was the unlikely foetus, and I quickly learnt to associate whatever state I was in – the intractable mystery of whatever was happening to me as I grew up – with that Quranic chapter.

Youssef the chapter is a favourite of professional reciters; you are likely to encounter it wherever and whenever you hear Quran in Cairo. (And you are just as likely to hear Quran wherever and whenever you are in Cairo.) Verses of Youssef are often quoted in print, too. You see them inscribed in bold lettering in the most unlikely of places.
So there was never any reason to believe that encounters with that chapter should bear secret messages. If anything, there was reason to believe that the more I paid attention to such messages, the further ahead on the road to madness I would be. And yet I believed it; I believed it deeply and unreservedly, later seeking to decode the messages I was receiving. Whenever I heard or saw a verse of that chapter, it stopped me in my tracks. It still does, somewhat.

At first it was simply a matter of coming in contact with Youssef – that was a good omen in itself. There was never any question about what else it could mean. But sometimes, after hearing a given verse, bad things would happen: an accident, sickness, low examination marks.

I had to pay attention.

Eventually I realised that different verses could mean different things, and I tried to reconstruct my existence based on the storyline, whose basic outline is: a boy dreams that the sun, the moon and the stars have all knelt before him, but he ends up in a ditch on the way to Egypt. He is enslaved, he resists temptation, he goes to jail. Then it turns out he can interpret dreams. He interprets the Pharaoh’s dream and saves the world.
That worked for a while. A specific verse would illuminate a certain incident or exchange: temptation, rise, fall, Pharaoh. It worked until I realised I could replace one verse with another and still have the same illumination. I realised I have my mother’s superstition, but neither her sense of divine entitlement nor a very clear idea of what I might be entitled to, much less the dogma that would bring it all together.

Still, I have the sense of possibility – however vague – that my existence is a blessing to be explained by reference to a chapter of the Quran.

سفر مَرَاثِي إِرْمِيَا

الأصحَاحُ الأَوَّلُ

1كَيْفَ جَلَسَتْ وَحْدَهَا الْمَدِينَةُ الْكَثِيرَةُ الشَّعْبِ! كَيْفَ صَارَتْ كَأَرْمَلَةٍ الْعَظِيمَةُ فِي الأُمَمِ. السَّيِّدَةُ في الْبُلْدَانِ صَارَتْ تَحْتَ الْجِزْيَةِ! 2تَبْكِي في اللَّيْلِ بُكَاءً، وَدُمُوعُهَا علَى خَدَّيْهَا. لَيْسَ لَهَا مُعَزّ مِنْ كُلِّ مُحِبِّيهَا. كُلُّ أَصْحَابِهَا غَدَرُوا بِهَا، صَارُوا لهَا أَعْدَاءً. 3قَد سُبِيَتْ يَهُوذَا مِنَ الْمَذَلَّةِ وَمِنْ كَثْرَةِ الْعُبُودِيَّةِ. هِيَ تَسْكُنُ بَيْنَ الأُمَمِ. لاَ تَجِدُ رَاحَةً. قَدْ أَدْرَكَهَا كُلُّ طَارِدِيهَا بَيْنَ الضِّيقَاتِ. 4طُرُقُ صِهْيَوْنَ نَائِحَةٌ لِعَدَمِ الآتِينَ إِلَى الْعِيدِ. كُلُّ أَبْوَابِهَا خَرِبَةٌ. كَهَنَتُهَا يَتَنَهَّدُونَ. عَذَارَاهَا مُذَلَّلَةٌ وَهِيَ فِي مَرَارَةٍ. 5صَارَ مُضَايِقُوهَا رَأْسًا. نَجَحَ أَعْدَاؤُهَا لأَنَّ الرَّبَّ قَدْ أَذَلَّهَا لأَجْلِ كَثْرَةِ ذُنُوبِهَا. ذَهَبَ أَوْلاَدُهَا إِلَى السَّبْيِ قُدَّامَ الْعَدُوِّ. 6وَقَدْ خَرَجَ مِنْ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ كُلُّ بَهَائِهَا. صَارَتْ رُؤَسَاؤُهَا كَأَيَائِلَ لاَ تَجِدُ مَرْعًى، فَيَسِيرُونَ بِلاَ قُوَّةٍ أَمَامَ الطَّارِدِ. 7قَدْ ذَكَرَتْ أُورُشَلِيمُ فِي أَيَّامِ مَذَلَّتِهَا وَتَطَوُّحِهَا كُلَّ مُشْتَهَيَاتِهَا الَّتِي كَانَتْ فِي أَيَّامِ الْقِدَمِ. عِنْدَ سُقُوطِ شَعْبِهَا بِيَدِ الْعَدُوِّ وَلَيْسَ مَنْ يُسَاعِدُهَا. رَأَتْهَا الأَعْدَاءُ. ضَحِكُوا عَلَى هَلاَكِهَا. 8قَدْ أَخْطَأَتْ أُورُشَلِيمُ خَطِيَّةً، مِنْ أَجْلِ ذلِكَ صَارَتْ رَجِسَةً. كُلُّ مُكَرِّمِيهَا يَحْتَقِرُونَهَا لأَنَّهُمْ رَأَوْا عَوْرَتَهَا، وَهِيَ أَيْضًا تَتَنَهَّدُ وَتَرْجعُ إِلَى الْوَرَاءِ. 9نَجَاسَتُهَا فِي أَذْيَالِهَا. لَمْ تَذْكُرْ آخِرَتَهَا وَقَدِ انْحَطَّتِ انْحِطَاطًا عَجِيبًا. لَيْسَ لَهَا مُعَزّ. «انْظُرْ يَا رَبُّ إِلَى مَذَلَّتِي لأَنَّ الْعَدُوَّ قَدْ تَعَظَّمَ». 10بَسَطَ الْعَدُوُّ يَدَهُ عَلَى كُلِّ مُشْتَهَيَاتِهَا، فَإِنَّهَا رَأَتِ الأُمَمَ دَخَلُوا مَقْدِسَهَا، الَّذِينَ أَمَرْتَ أَنْ لاَ يَدْخُلُوا فِي جَمَاعَتِكَ. 11كُلُّ شَعْبِهَا يَتَنَهَّدُونَ، يَطْلُبُونَ خُبْزًا. دَفَعُوا مُشْتَهَيَاتِهِمْ لِلأَكْلِ لأَجْلِ رَدِّ النَّفْسِ. «انْظُرْ يَارَبُّ وَتَطَلَّعْ لأَنِّي قَدْ صِرْتُ مُحْتَقَرَةً».

12«أَمَا إِلَيْكُمْ يَا جَمِيعَ عَابِرِي الطَّرِيقِ؟ تَطَلَّعُوا وَانْظُرُوا إِنْ كَانَ حُزْنٌ مِثْلُ حُزْنِي الَّذِي صُنِعَ بِي، الَّذِي أَذَلَّنِي بِهِ الرَّبُّ يَوْمَ حُمُوِّ غَضَبِهِ؟ 13مِنَ الْعَلاَءِ أَرْسَلَ نَارًا إِلَى عِظَامِي فَسَرَتْ فِيهَا. بَسَطَ شَبَكَةً لِرِجْلَيَّ. رَدَّنِي إِلَى الْوَرَاءِ. جَعَلَنِي خَرِبَةً. الْيَوْمَ كُلَّهُ مَغْمُومَةً. 14شَدَّ نِيرَ ذُنُوبِي بِيَدِهِ، ضُفِرَتْ، صَعِدَتْ عَلَى عُنُقِي. نَزَعَ قُوَّتِي. دَفَعَنِي السَّيِّدُ إِلَى أَيْدٍ لاَ أَسْتَطِيعُ الْقِيَامَ مِنْهَا. 15رَذَلَ السَّيِّدُ كُلَّ مُقْتَدِرِيَّ فِي وَسَطِي. دَعَا عَلَيَّ جَمَاعَةً لِحَطْمِ شُبَّانِي. دَاسَ السَّيِّدُ الْعَذْرَاءَ بِنْتَ يَهُوذَا مِعْصَرَةً. 16عَلَى هذِهِ أَنَا بَاكِيَةٌ. عَيْنِي، عَيْنِي تَسْكُبُ مِيَاهًا لأَنَّهُ قَدِ ابْتَعَدَ عَنِّي الْمُعَزِّي، رَادُّ نَفْسِي. صَارَ بَنِيَّ هَالِكِينَ لأَنَّهُ قَدْ تَجَبَّرَ الْعَدُوُّ».

17بَسَطَتْ صِهْيَوْنُ يَدَيْهَا. لاَ مُعَزِّيَ لَهَا. أَمَرَ الرَّبُّ عَلَى يَعْقُوبَ أَنْ يَكُونَ مُضَايِقُوهُ حَوَالَيْهِ. صَارَتْ أُورُشَلِيمُ نَجِسَةً بَيْنَهُمْ. 18«بَارٌّ هُوَ الرَّبُّ لأَنِّي قَدْ عَصَيْتُ أَمْرَهُ. اسْمَعُوا يَا جَمِيعَ الشُّعُوبِ وَانْظُرُوا إِلَى حُزْنِي. عَذَارَايَ وَشُبَّانِي ذَهَبُوا إِلَى السَّبْيِ. 19نَادَيْتُ مُحِبِّيَّ. هُمْ خَدَعُونِي. كَهَنَتِي وَشُيُوخِي فِي الْمَدِينَةِ مَاتُوا، إِذْ طَلَبُوا لِذَوَاتِهِمْ طَعَامًا لِيَرُدُّوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ. 20انْظُرْ يَا رَبُّ، فَإِنِّي فِي ضِيق! أَحْشَائِي غَلَتْ. ارْتَدَّ قَلْبِي فِي بَاطِنِي لأَنِّي قَدْ عَصَيْتُ مُتَمَرِّدَةً. فِي الْخَارِجِ يَثْكُلُ السَّيْفُ، وَفِي الْبَيْتِ مِثْلُ الْمَوْتِ. 21سَمِعُوا أَنِّي تَنَهَّدْتُ. لاَ مُعَزِّيَ لِي. كُلُّ أَعْدَائِي سَمِعُوا بِبَلِيَّتِي. فَرِحُوا لأَنَّكَ فَعَلْتَ. تَأْتِي بِالْيَوْمِ الَّذِي نَادَيْتَ بِهِ فَيَصِيرُونَ مِثْلِي. 22لِيَأْتِ كُلُّ شَرِّهِمْ أَمَامَكَ. وَافْعَلْ بِهِمْ كَمَا فَعَلْتَ بِي مِنْ أَجْلِ كُلِّ ذُنُوبِي، لأَنَّ تَنَهُّدَاتِي كَثِيرَةٌ وَقَلْبِي مَغْشِيٌّ عَلَيْهِ».

الأصحَاحُ الثَّانِي

1كَيْفَ غَطَّى السَّيِّدُ بِغَضَبِهِ ابْنَةَ صِهْيَوْنَ بِالظَّلاَمِ! أَلْقَى مِنَ السَّمَاءِ إِلَى الأَرْضِ فَخْرَ إِسْرَائِيلَ، وَلَمْ يَذْكُرْ مَوْطِئَ قَدَمَيْهِ فِي يَوْمِ غَضَبِهِ. 2ابْتَلَعَ السَّيِّدُ وَلَمْ يَشْفِقْ كُلَّ مَسَاكِنِ يَعْقُوبَ. نَقَضَ بِسَخَطِهِ حُصُونَ بِنْتِ يَهُوذَا. أَوْصَلَهَا إِلَى الأَرْضِ. نَجَّسَ الْمَمْلَكَةَ وَرُؤَسَاءَهَا. 3عَضَبَ بِحُمُوِّ غَضَبِهِ كُلَّ قَرْنٍ لإِسْرَائِيلَ. رَدَّ إِلَى الْوَرَاءِ يَمِينَهُ أَمَامَ الْعَدُوِّ، وَاشْتَعَلَ فِي يَعْقُوبَ مِثْلَ نَارٍ مُلْتَهِبَةٍ تَأْكُلُ مَا حَوَالَيْهَا. 4مَدَّ قَوْسَهُ كَعَدُوٍّ. نَصَبَ يَمِينَهُ كَمُبْغِضٍ وَقَتَلَ كُلَّ مُشْتَهَيَاتِ الْعَيْنِ فِي خِبَاءِ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ. سَكَبَ كَنَارٍ غَيْظَهُ. 5صَارَ السَّيِّدُ كَعَدُوٍّ. ابْتَلَعَ إِسْرَائِيلَ. ابْتَلَعَ كُلَّ قُصُورِهِ. أَهْلَكَ حُصُونَهُ، وَأَكْثَرَ فِي بِنْتِ يَهُوذَا النَّوْحَ وَالْحُزْنَ. 6وَنَزَعَ كَمَا مِنْ جَنَّةٍ مَظَلَّتَهُ. أَهْلَكَ مُجْتَمَعَهُ. أَنْسَى الرَّبُّ فِي صِهْيَوْنَ الْمَوْسِمَ وَالسَّبْتَ، وَرَذَلَ بِسَخَطِ غَضَبِهِ الْمَلِكَ وَالْكَاهِنَ. 7كَرِهَ السَّيِّدُ مَذْبَحَهُ. رَذَلَ مَقْدِسَهُ. حَصَرَ فِي يَدِ الْعَدُوِّ أَسْوَارَ قُصُورِهَا. أَطْلَقُوا الصَّوْتَ فِي بَيْتِ الرَّبِّ كَمَا فِي يَوْمِ الْمَوْسِمِ. 8قَصَدَ الرَّبُّ أَنْ يُهْلِكَ سُورَ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ. مَدَّ الْمِطْمَارَ. لَمْ يَرْدُدْ يَدَهُ عَنِ الإِهْلاَكِ، وَجَعَلَ الْمِتْرَسَةَ وَالسُّورَ يَنُوحَانِ. قَدْ حَزِنَا مَعًا. 9تَاخَتْ فِي الأَرْضِ أَبْوَابُهَا. أَهْلَكَ وَحَطَّمَ عَوَارِضَهَا. مَلِكُهَا وَرُؤَسَاؤُهَا بَيْنَ الأُمَمِ. لاَ شَرِيعَةَ. أَنْبِيَاؤُهَا أَيْضًا لاَ يَجِدُونَ رُؤْيَا مِنْ قِبَلِ الرَّبِّ. 10شُيُوخُ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ يَجْلِسُونَ عَلَى الأَرْضِ سَاكِتِينَ. يَرْفَعُونَ التُّرَابَ عَلَى رُؤُوسِهِمْ. يَتَنَطَّقُونَ بِالْمُسُوحِ. تَحْنِي عَذَارَى أُورُشَلِيمَ رُؤُوسَهُنَّ إِلَى الأَرْضِ. 11كَلَّتْ مِنَ الدُّمُوعِ عَيْنَايَ. غَلَتْ أَحْشَائِي. انْسَكَبَتْ عَلَى الأَرْضِ كَبِدِي عَلَى سَحْقِ بِنْتِ شَعْبِي، لأَجْلِ غَشَيَانِ الأَطْفَالِ وَالرُّضَّعِ فِي سَاحَاتِ الْقَرْيَةِ. 12يَقُولُونَ لأُمَّهَاتِهِمْ: «أَيْنَ الْحِنْطَةُ وَالْخَمْرُ؟» إِذْ يُغْشَى عَلَيْهِمْ كَجَرِيحٍ فِي سَاحَاتِ الْمَدِينَةِ، إِذْ تُسْكَبُ نَفْسُهُمْ فِي أَحْضَانِ أُمَّهَاتِهِمْ. 13بِمَاذَا أُنْذِرُكِ؟ بِمَاذَا أُحَذِّرُكِ؟ بِمَاذَا أُشَبِّهُكِ يَا ابْنَةَ أُورُشَلِيمَ؟ بِمَاذَا أُقَايِسُكِ فَأُعَزِّيكِ أَيَّتُهَا الْعَذْرَاءُ بِنْتَ صِهْيَوْنَ؟ لأَنَّ سَحْقَكِ عَظِيمٌ كَالْبَحْرِ. مَنْ يَشْفِيكِ؟ 14أَنْبِيَاؤُكِ رَأَوْا لَكِ كَذِبًا وَبَاطِلاً، وَلَمْ يُعْلِنُوا إِثْمَكِ لِيَرُدُّوا سَبْيَكِ، بَلْ رَأَوْا لَكِ وَحْيًا كَاذِبًا وَطَوَائِحَ. 15يُصَفِّقُ عَلَيْكِ بِالأَيَادِي كُلُّ عَابِرِي الطَّرِيقِ. يَصْفِرُونَ وَيَنْغُضُونَ رُؤُوسَهُمْ عَلَى بِنْتِ أُورُشَلِيمَ قَائِلِينَ: «أَهذِهِ هِيَ الْمَدِينَةُ الَّتِي يَقُولُونَ إِنَّهَا كَمَالُ الْجَمَالِ، بَهْجَةُ كُلِّ الأَرْضِ؟» 16يَفْتَحُ عَلَيْكِ أَفْوَاهَهُمْ كُلُّ أَعْدَائِكِ. يَصْفِرُونَ وَيَحْرِقُونَ الأَسْنَانَ. يَقُولُونَ: «قَدْ أَهْلَكْنَاهَا. حَقًّا إِنَّ هذَا الْيَوْمَ الَّذِي رَجَوْنَاهُ. قَدْ وَجَدْنَاهُ! قَدْ رَأَيْنَاهُ». 17فَعَلَ الرَّبُّ مَا قَصَدَ. تَمَّمَ قَوْلَهُ الَّذِي أَوْعَدَ بِهِ مُنْذُ أَيَّامِ الْقِدَمِ. قَدْ هَدَمَ وَلَمْ يَشْفِقْ وَأَشْمَتَ بِكِ الْعَدُوَّ. نَصَبَ قَرْنَ أَعْدَائِكِ. 18صَرَخَ قَلْبُهُمْ إِلَى السَّيِّدِ. يَا سُورَ بِنْتِ صِهْيَوْنَ اسْكُبِي الدَّمْعَ كَنَهْرٍ نَهَارًا وَلَيْلاً. لاَ تُعْطِي ذَاتَكِ رَاحَةً. لاَ تَكُفَّ حَدَقَةُ عَيْنِكِ. 19قُومِي اهْتِفِي فِي اللَّيْلِ فِي أَوَّلِ الْهُزُعِ. اسْكُبِي كَمِيَاهٍ قَلْبَكِ قُبَالَةَ وَجْهِ السَّيِّدِ. ارْفَعِي إِلَيْهِ يَدَيْكِ لأَجْلِ نَفْسِ أَطْفَالِكِ الْمَغْشِيِّ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ الْجُوعِ فِي رَأْسِ كُلِّ شَارِعٍ.

20«اُنْظُرْ يَا رَبُّ وَتَطَلَّعْ بِمَنْ فَعَلْتَ هكَذَا؟ أَتَأْكُلُ النِّسَاءُ ثَمَرَهُنَّ، أَطْفَالَ الْحَضَانَةِ؟ أَيُقْتَلُ فِي مَقْدِسِ السَّيِّدِ الْكَاهِنُ وَالنَّبِيُّ؟ 21اضْطَجَعَتْ عَلَى الأَرْضِ فِي الشَّوَارِعِ الصِّبْيَانُ وَالشُّيُوخُ. عَذَارَايَ وَشُبَّانِي سَقَطُوا بِالسَّيْفِ. قَدْ قَتَلْتَ فِي يَوْمِ غَضَبِكَ. ذَبَحْتَ وَلَمْ تَشْفِقْ. 22قَدْ دَعَوْتَ كَمَا فِي يَوْمِ مَوْسِمٍ مَخَاوِفِي حَوَالَيَّ، فَلَمْ يَكُنْ فِي يَوْمِ غَضَبِ الرَّبِّ نَاجٍ وَلاَ بَاق. اَلَّذِينَ حَضَنْتُهُمْ وَرَبَّيْتُهُمْ أَفْنَاهُمْ عَدُوِّي».

الأصحَاحُ الثَّالِثُ

1أَنَا هُوَ الرَّجُلُ الَّذِي رأَى مَذَلَّةً بِقَضِيبِ سَخَطِهِ. 2قَادَنِي وَسَيَّرَنِي فِي الظَّلاَمِ وَلاَ نُورَ. 3حَقًّا إِنَّهُ يَعُودُ وَيَرُدُّ عَلَيَّ يَدَهُ الْيَوْمَ كُلَّهُ. 4أَبْلَى لَحْمِي وَجِلْدِي. كَسَّرَ عِظَامِي. 5بَنَى عَلَيَّ وَأَحَاطَنِي بِعَلْقَمٍ وَمَشَقَّةٍ. 6أَسْكَنَنِي فِي ظُلُمَاتٍ كَمَوْتَى الْقِدَمِ. 7سَيَّجَ عَلَيَّ فَلاَ أَسْتَطِيعُ الْخُرُوجَ. ثَقَّلَ سِلْسِلَتِي. 8أَيْضًا حِينَ أَصْرُخُ وَأَسْتَغِيثُ يَصُدُّ صَلاَتِي. 9سَيَّجَ طُرُقِي بِحِجَارَةٍ مَنْحُوتَةٍ. قَلَبَ سُبُلِي. 10هُوَ لِي دُبٌّ كَامِنٌ، أَسَدٌ فِي مَخَابِىءَ. 11مَيَّلَ طُرُقِي وَمَزَّقَنِي. جَعَلَنِي خَرَابًا. 12مَدَّ قَوْسَهُ وَنَصَبَنِي كَغَرَضٍ لِلسَّهْمِ. 13أَدْخَلَ فِي كُلْيَتَيَّ نِبَالَ جُعْبَتِهِ. 14صِرْتُ ضُحْكَةً لِكُلِّ شَعْبِي، وَأُغْنِيَةً لَهُمُ الْيَوْمَ كُلَّهُ. 15أَشْبَعَنِي مَرَائِرَ وَأَرْوَانِي أَفْسَنْتِينًا، 16وَجَرَشَ بِالْحَصَى أَسْنَانِي. كَبَسَنِي بِالرَّمَادِ. 17وَقَدْ أَبْعَدْتَ عَنِ السَّلاَمِ نَفْسِي. نَسِيتُ الْخَيْرَ. 18وَقُلْتُ: «بَادَتْ ثِقَتِي وَرَجَائِي مِنَ الرَّبِّ». 19ذِكْرُ مَذَلَّتِي وَتَيَهَانِي أَفْسَنْتِينٌ وَعَلْقَمٌ. 20ذِكْرًا تَذْكُرُ نَفْسِي وَتَنْحَنِي فِيَّ.

21أُرَدِّدُ هذَا فِي قَلْبِي، مِنْ أَجْلِ ذلِكَ أَرْجُو: 22إِنَّهُ مِنْ إِحْسَانَاتِ الرَّبِّ أَنَّنَا لَمْ نَفْنَ، لأَنَّ مَرَاحِمَهُ لاَ تَزُولُ. 23هِيَ جَدِيدَةٌ فِي كُلِّ صَبَاحٍ. كَثِيرَةٌ أَمَانَتُكَ. 24نَصِيبِي هُوَ الرَّبُّ، قَالَتْ نَفْسِي، مِنْ أَجْلِ ذلِكَ أَرْجُوهُ. 25طَيِّبٌ هُوَ الرَّبُّ لِلَّذِينَ يَتَرَجَّوْنَهُ، لِلنَّفْسِ الَّتِي تَطْلُبُهُ. 26جَيِّدٌ أَنْ يَنْتَظِرَ الإِنْسَانُ وَيَتَوَقَّعَ بِسُكُوتٍ خَلاَصَ الرَّبِّ. 27جَيِّدٌ لِلرَّجُلِ أَنْ يَحْمِلَ النِّيرَ فِي صِبَاهُ. 28يَجْلِسُ وَحْدَهُ وَيَسْكُتُ، لأَنَّهُ قَدْ وَضَعَهُ عَلَيْهِ. 29يَجْعَلُ فِي التُّرَابِ فَمَهُ لَعَلَّهُ يُوجَدُ رَجَاءٌ. 30يُعْطِي خَدَّهُ لِضَارِبِهِ. يَشْبَعُ عَارًا. 31لأَنَّ السَّيِّدَ لاَ يَرْفُضُ إِلَى الأَبَدِ. 32فَإِنَّهُ وَلَوْ أَحْزَنَ يَرْحَمُ حَسَبَ كَثْرَةِ مَرَاحِمِهِ. 33لأَنَّهُ لاَ يُذِلُّ مِنْ قَلْبِهِ، وَلاَ يُحْزِنُ بَنِي الإِنْسَانِ. 34أَنْ يَدُوسَ أَحَدٌ تَحْتَ رِجْلَيْهِ كُلَّ أَسْرَى الأَرْضِ، 35أَنْ يُحَرِّفَ حَقَّ الرَّجُلِ أَمَامَ وَجْهِ الْعَلِيِّ، 36أَنْ يَقْلِبَ الإِنْسَانَ فِي دَعْوَاهُ. السَّيِّدُ لاَ يَرَى! 37مَنْ ذَا الَّذِي يَقُولُ فَيَكُونَ وَالرَّبُّ لَمْ يَأْمُرْ؟ 38مِنْ فَمِ الْعَلِيِّ أَلاَ تَخْرُجُ الشُّرُورُ وَالْخَيْرُ؟

39لِمَاذَا يَشْتَكِي الإِنْسَانُ الْحَيُّ، الرَّجُلُ مِنْ قِصَاصِ خَطَايَاهُ؟ 40لِنَفْحَصْ طُرُقَنَا وَنَمْتَحِنْهَا وَنَرْجعْ إِلَى الرَّبِّ. 41لِنَرْفَعْ قُلُوبَنَا وَأَيْدِيَنَا إِلَى اللهِ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ: 42«نَحْنُ أَذْنَبْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا. أَنْتَ لَمْ تَغْفِرْ. 43الْتَحَفْتَ بِالْغَضَبِ وَطَرَدْتَنَا. قَتَلْتَ وَلَمْ تَشْفِقْ. 44الْتَحَفْتَ بِالسَّحَابِ حَتَّى لاَ تَنْفُذَ الصَّلاَةُ. 45جَعَلْتَنَا وَسَخًا وَكَرْهًا فِي وَسَطِ الشُّعُوبِ. 46فَتَحَ كُلُّ أَعْدَائِنَا أَفْوَاهَهُمْ عَلَيْنَا. 47صَارَ عَلَيْنَا خَوْفٌ وَرُعْبٌ، هَلاَكٌ وَسَحْقٌ». 48سَكَبَتْ عَيْنَايَ يَنَابِيعَ مَاءٍ عَلَى سَحْقِ بِنْتِ شَعْبِي. 49عَيْنِي تَسْكُبُ وَلاَ تَكُفُّ بِلاَ انْقِطَاعٍ 50حَتَّى يُشْرِفَ وَيَنْظُرَ الرَّبُّ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ. 51عَيْنِي تُؤَثِّرُ فِي نَفْسِي لأَجْلِ كُلِّ بَنَاتِ مَدِينَتِي. 52قَدِ اصْطَادَتْنِي أَعْدَائِي كَعُصْفُورٍ بِلاَ سَبَبٍ. 53قَرَضُوا فِي الْجُبِّ حَيَاتِي وَأَلْقَوْا عَلَيَّ حِجَارَةً. 54طَفَتِ الْمِيَاهُ فَوْقَ رَأْسِي. قُلْتُ: «قَدْ قُرِضْتُ!».

55دَعَوْتُ بِاسْمِكَ يَا رَبُّ مِنَ الْجُبِّ الأَسْفَلِ. 56لِصَوْتِي سَمِعْتَ: «لاَ تَسْتُرْ أُذُنَكَ عَنْ زَفْرَتِي، عَنْ صِيَاحِي». 57دَنَوْتَ يَوْمَ دَعَوْتُكَ. قُلْتَ: «لاَ تَخَفْ!». 58خَاصَمْتَ يَا سَيِّدُ خُصُومَاتِ نَفْسِي. فَكَكْتَ حَيَاتِي. 59رَأَيْتَ يَا رَبُّ ظُلْمِي. أَقِمْ دَعْوَايَ. 60رَأَيْتَ كُلَّ نَقْمَتِهِمْ، كُلَّ أَفْكَارِهِمْ عَلَيَّ. 61سَمِعْتَ تَعْيِيرَهُمْ يَا رَبُّ، كُلَّ أَفْكَارِهِمْ عَلَيَّ. 62كَلاَمُ مُقَاوِمِيَّ وَمُؤَامَرَتُهُمْ عَلَيَّ الْيَوْمَ كُلَّهُ. 63اُنْظُرْ إِلَى جُلُوسِهِمْ وَوُقُوفِهِمْ، أَنَا أُغْنِيَتُهُمْ!

64رُدَّ لَهُمْ جَزَاءً يَا رَبُّ حَسَبَ عَمَلِ أَيَادِيهِمْ. 65أَعْطِهِمْ غِشَاوَةَ قَلْبٍ، لَعْنَتَكَ لَهُمْ. 66اِتْبَعْ بِالْغَضَبِ وَأَهْلِكْهُمْ مِنْ تَحْتِ سَمَاوَاتِ الرَّبِّ.

الأصحَاحُ الرَّابعُ

1كَيْفَ اكْدَرَّ الذَّهَبُ، تَغَيَّرَ الإِبْرِيزُ الْجَيِّدُ! انْهَالَتْ حِجَارَةُ الْقُدْسِ فِي رَأْسِ كُلِّ شَارِعٍ. 2بَنُو صِهْيَوْنَ الْكُرَمَاءُ الْمَوْزُونُونَ بِالذَّهَبِ النَّقِيِّ، كَيْفَ حُسِبُوا أَبَارِيقَ خَزَفٍ عَمَلَ يَدَيْ فَخَّارِيٍّ! 3بَنَاتُ آوَى أَيْضًا أَخْرَجَتْ أَطْبَاءَهَا، أَرْضَعَتْ أَجْرَاءَهَا. أَمَّا بِنْتُ شَعْبِي فَجَافِيَةٌ كَالنَّعَامِ فِي الْبَرِّيَّةِ. 4لَصِقَ لِسَانُ الرَّاضِعِ بِحَنَكِهِ مِنَ الْعَطَشِ. اَلأَطْفَالُ يَسْأَلُونَ خُبْزًا وَلَيْسَ مَنْ يَكْسِرُهُ لَهُمْ. 5اَلَّذِينَ كَانُوا يَأْكُلُونَ الْمَآكِلَ الْفَاخِرَةَ قَدْ هَلِكُوا فِي الشَّوَارِعِ. الَّذِينَ كَانُوا يَتَرَبَّوْنَ عَلَى الْقِرْمِزِ احْتَضَنُوا الْمَزَابِلَ. 6وَقَدْ صَارَ عِقَابُ بِنْتِ شَعْبِي أَعْظَمَ مِنْ قِصَاصِ خَطِيَّةِ سَدُومَ الَّتِي انْقَلَبَتْ كَأَنَّهُ فِي لَحْظَةٍ، وَلَمْ تُلْقَ عَلَيْهَا أَيَادٍ. 7كَانَ نُذُرُهَا أَنْقَى مِنَ الثَّلْجِ وَأَكْثَرَ بَيَاضًا مِنَ اللَّبَنِ، وَأَجْسَامُهُمْ أَشَدَّ حُمْرَةً مِنَ الْمَرْجَانِ. جَرَزُهُمْ كَالْيَاقُوتِ الأَزْرَقِ. 8صَارَتْ صُورَتُهُمْ أَشَدَّ ظَلاَمًا مِنَ السَّوَادِ. لَمْ يُعْرَفُوا فِي الشَّوَارِعِ. لَصِقَ جِلْدُهُمْ بِعَظْمِهِمْ. صَارَ يَابِسًا كَالْخَشَبِ. 9كَانَتْ قَتْلَى السَّيْفِ خَيْرًا مِنْ قَتْلَى الْجُوعِ. لأَنَّ هؤُلاَءِ يَذُوبُونَ مَطْعُونِينَ لِعَدَمِ أَثْمَارِ الْحَقْلِ. 10أَيَادِي النِّسَاءِ الْحَنَائِنِ طَبَخَتْ أَوْلاَدَهُنَّ. صَارُوا طَعَامًا لَهُنَّ فِي سَحْقِ بِنْتِ شَعْبِي. 11أَتَمَّ الرَّبُّ غَيْظَهُ. سَكَبَ حُمُوَّ غَضَبِهِ وَأَشْعَلَ نَارًا فِي صِهْيَوْنَ فَأَكَلَتْ أُسُسَهَا. 12لَمْ تُصَدِّقْ مُلُوكُ الأَرْضِ وَكُلُّ سُكَّانِ الْمَسْكُونَةِ أَنَّ الْعَدُوَّ وَالْمُبْغِضَ يَدْخُلاَنِ أَبْوَابَ أُورُشَلِيمَ.

13مِنْ أَجْلِ خَطَايَا أَنْبِيَائِهَا، وَآثَامِ كَهَنَتِهَا السَّافِكِينَ فِي وَسَطِهَا دَمَ الصِّدِّيقِينَ، 14تَاهُوا كَعُمْيٍ فِي الشَّوَارِعِ، وَتَلَطَّخُوا بِالدَّمِ حَتَّى لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ أَحَدٌ أَنْ يَمَسَّ مَلاَبِسَهُمْ. 15«حِيدُوا! نَجِسٌ!» يُنَادُونَ إِلَيْهِمْ. «حِيدُوا! حِيدُوا لاَ تَمَسُّوا!». إِذْ هَرَبُوا تَاهُوا أَيْضًا. قَالُوا بَيْنَ الأُمَمِ: «إِنَّهُمْ لاَ يَعُودُونَ يَسْكُنُونَ». 16وَجْهُ الرَّبِّ قَسَمَهُمْ. لاَ يَعُودُ يَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهِمْ. لَمْ يَرْفَعُوا وُجُوهَ الْكَهَنَةِ، وَلَمْ يَتَرَأ َّ فُوا عَلَى الشُّيُوخِ. 17أَمَّا نَحْنُ فَقَدْ كَلَّتْ أَعْيُنُنَا مِنَ النَّظَرِ إِلَى عَوْنِنَا الْبَاطِلِ. فِي بُرْجِنَا انْتَظَرْنَا أُمَّةً لاَ تُخَلِّصُ. 18نَصَبُوا فِخَاخًا لِخَطَوَاتِنَا حَتَّى لاَ نَمْشِيَ فِي سَاحَاتِنَا. قَرُبَتْ نِهَايَتُنَا. كَمُلَتْ أَيَّامُنَا لأَنَّ نِهَايَتَنَا قَدْ أَتَتْ. 19صَارَ طَارِدُونَا أَخَفَّ مِنْ نُسُورِ السَّمَاءِ. عَلَى الْجِبَالِ جَدُّوا فِي أَثَرِنَا. فِي الْبَرِّيَّةِ كَمَنُوا لَنَا. 20نَفَسُ أُنُوفِنَا، مَسِيحُ الرَّبِّ، أُخِذَ فِي حُفَرِهِمِ. الَّذِي قُلْنَا عَنْهُ: « فِي ظِلِّهِ نَعِيشُ بَيْنَ الأُمَمِ».

21اِطْرَبِي وَافْرَحِي يَا بِنْتَ أَدُومَ، يَا سَاكِنَةَ عَوْصٍ. عَلَيْكِ أَيْضًا تَمُرُّ الْكَأْسُ. تَسْكَرِينَ وَتَتَعَرَّينَ.

22قَدْ تَمَّ إِثْمُكِ يَا بِنْتَ صِهْيَوْنَ. لاَ يَعُودُ يَسْبِيكِ. سَيُعَاقِبُ إِثْمَكِ يَا بِنْتَ أَدُومَ وَيُعْلِنُ خَطَايَاكِ.

الأصحَاحُ الْخَامِسُ

1اُذْكُرْ يَا رَبُّ مَاذَا صَارَ لَنَا. أَشْرِفْ وَانْظُرْ إِلَى عَارِنَا. 2قَدْ صَارَ مِيرَاثُنَا لِلْغُرَبَاءِ. بُيُوتُنَا لِلأَجَانِبِ. 3صِرْنَا أَيْتَامًا بِلاَ أَبٍ. أُمَّهَاتُنَا كَأَرَامِلَ. 4شَرِبْنَا مَاءَنَا بِالْفِضَّةِ. حَطَبُنَا بِالثَّمَنِ يَأْتِي. 5عَلَى أَعْنَاقِنَا نُضْطَهَدُ. نَتْعَبُ وَلاَ رَاحَةَ لَنَا. 6أَعْطَيْنَا الْيَدَ لِلْمِصْرِيِّينَ وَالأَشُّورِيِّينَ لِنَشْبَعَ خُبْزًا. 7آبَاؤُنَا أَخْطَأُوا وَلَيْسُوا بِمَوْجُودِينَ، وَنَحْنُ نَحْمِلُ آثَامَهُمْ. 8عَبِيدٌ حَكَمُوا عَلَيْنَا. لَيْسَ مَنْ يُخَلِّصُ مِنْ أَيْدِيهِمْ. 9بِأَنْفُسِنَا نَأْتِي بِخُبْزِنَا مِنْ جَرَى سَيْفِ الْبَرِّيَّةِ. 10جُلُودُنَا اسْوَدَّتْ كَتَنُّورٍ مِنْ جَرَى نِيرَانِ الْجُوعِ. 11أَذَلُّوا النِّسَاءَ فِي صِهْيَوْنَ، الْعَذَارَى فِي مُدُنِ يَهُوذَا. 12الرُّؤَسَاءُ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ يُعَلَّقُونَ، وَلَمْ تُعْتَبَرْ وُجُوهُ الشُّيُوخِ. 13أَخَذُوا الشُّبَّانَ لِلطَّحْنِ، وَالصِّبْيَانَ عَثَرُوا تَحْتَ الْحَطَبِ. 14كَفَّتِ الشُّيُوخُ عَنِ الْبَابِ، وَالشُّبَّانُ عَنْ غِنَائِهِمْ. 15مَضَى فَرَحُ قَلْبِنَا. صَارَ رَقْصُنَا نَوْحًا. 16سَقَطَ إِكْلِيلُ رَأْسِنَا. وَيْلٌ لَنَا لأَنَّنَا قَدْ أَخْطَأْنَا. 17مِنْ أَجْلِ هذَا حَزِنَ قَلْبُنَا. مِنْ أَجْلِ هذِهِ أَظْلَمَتْ عُيُونُنَا. 18مِنْ أَجْلِ جَبَلِ صِهْيَوْنَ الْخَرِبِ. الثَّعَالِبُ مَاشِيَةٌ فِيهِ. 19أَنْتَ يَا رَبُّ إِلَى الأَبَدِ تَجْلِسُ. كُرْسِيُّكَ إِلَى دَوْرٍ فَدَوْرٍ. 20لِمَاذَا تَنْسَانَا إِلَى الأَبَدِ وَتَتْرُكُنَا طُولَ الأَيَّامِ؟ 21اُرْدُدْنَا يَا رَبُّ إِلَيْكَ فَنَرْتَدَّ. جَدِّدْ أَيَّامَنَا كَالْقَدِيمِ. 22هَلْ كُلَّ الرَّفْضِ رَفَضْتَنَا؟ هَلْ غَضِبْتَ عَلَيْنَا جِدًّا؟

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حوار محمد شعير في الأخبار البيروتية

يوسف رخا: الحياة في خدمة الأدب

تصالح متأخّراً مع التراث ويكتب خارج هاجس السلطة

لعلّ «الذاتية» هي كلمة السرّ لولوج عالم هذا الكاتب الذي ينتمي إلى حساسيّة خاصة في الأدب المصري الراهن… كتابه الجديد يجمع بين النثر والشعر، والمفاجأة المقبلة باكورة روائيّة بعنوان «الطغري»

القاهرة ــــ محمد شعير
خمسة كتب لا يسهل تصنيفها: بين رواية وشعر وأدب رحلات وتصوير فوتوغرافي. هكذا يبدو يوسف رخا (1976) «خارجاً على دولة الأدب» على حدّ تعبير القاصّ هيثم الورداني. يفرح رخا بالتوصيف: «فيه بلاغة. لأنّ الأدب بالفعل تحوّل إلى دولة أو مؤسسة فيها كل الملامح القمعية». يحاول صاحب «أزهار الشمس» كسر حالة التخصّص في الكتابة. «لا أجد فرقاً بين القصة والشعر. حتى حين أكتب للصحافة. المهم أن يكون لديك شيء تقوله. أن تجد إيقاعاً مناسباً للكتابة وتترك فراغات يملأها القارئ». بدأ رخا الكتابة بمجموعة قصصية هي «أزهار الشمس» (1999). ثم توقف خمس سنوات، كان يكتب خلالها نصوصاً بالإنكليزية، قبل أن يعود ليكتب «بيروت شي محل» (كتاب أمكنة ـــــ 2005)، و«بورقيبة على مضض» (رياض الريس ـــــ 2008)، ثم «شمال القاهرة غرب الفيليبين» (الريس ـــــ 2009). تنتمي الكتب الثلاثة إلى أدب الرحلة. وأخيراً، أصدر رخا نصوصاً نثرية وشعرية في«كل أماكننا» الذي صدر منذ أيام (دار العين ـــــ القاهرة). لكن لماذا كانت فترة الكتابة بالإنكليزية؟ يجيب: «بعدما صدرت «أزهار الشمس». كنتُ أشعر بأنّ هناك كتّاباً أكثر مما ينبغي في الثقافة العربية». في تلك الفترة، سافر إلى بيروت لكتابة نصّ لمجلة «أمكنة»، فإذا به يكتب نصاً ليس قصة أو قصيدة أو رواية، بل ينفتح على كل ذلك، ويستفيد أيضاً من منهجية الصحافة. نص بيروت أراد من خلاله رخا فهم الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية، وهو ما قام به قبلاً صنع الله إبراهيم في روايته «بيروت بيروت»، فما الفرق بين العملين؟ يجيب رخا: «لم أفهم نص صنع الله. كان دافعي للكتابة أن أفهم حكاية الحرب. لكن في نصه المكتوب كرواية، كان لدى صنع الله قناعة بأنه يؤدي دوراً سياسياً. والوظيفة السياسية والاجتماعية للأدب، ليست في ذهني تماماً». يوضح: «عند صنع الله، الشكل محدد قبل الكتابة. وهو يستخدم الشكل للوصول إلى الهدف. أما أنا، فهدفي بسيط، هو مجرد الفهم، بعد ذلك، تأتي التقنية. أنا أوظف الحياة لصالح الأدب، بينما هو يوظف الأدب لصالح أشياء أخرى». لكن هل يمكن الكتابة أن تفارق السياسة؟ يجيب «الدور السياسي الحقيقي للكاتب هو تجنّب أن يكون سلطة».
لكن هل يعدّ ما كتبه ينتمي إلى أدب الرحلة؟ يجيب: «الروائي إبراهيم فرغلي كتب مقالاً عن كتابي «شمال القاهرة غرب الفيليبين» وصف فيه رحلاتي بأنّها «سياحة روحية» في المدن. وهذا التصور هو نقيض لما أعنيه. ليس لديّ ادعاءات كبيرة. لكن أدب الرحلة على تعدد أشكاله، مثل ابن بطوطة، أو الأميركي بول ثيرو، مختلف عن النصوص التي أكتبها، وإن تقاطع معها في بعض الأشياء». يضيف «أعتقد أنّ أهم شيء هو «الذاتية». عندما كتبت عن الإمارات، لم أكتب سيرة لي أو للمدينة، بل كتبت عن إماراتي. الأهم هو النظر إلى الأشياء بعمق لا الاكتفاء بالسطح». كتابه «شمال القاهرة غرب الفيليبين» يختلف عن كتابيه السابقين عن بيروت وتونس. لا نقع فيه على ذلك التشظّي، أو على العناوين المكررة، كما في النصين السابقين. لذا يمكن اعتبار الكتاب نصاً انتقالياً، قاده إلى الرواية التي يعمل عليها الآن بعنوان «الطغري»، وهي أيضاً رحلة في القاهرة «واستحضار خيالي للقاهرة بعد عام 2001، وتأملات في انحدار الحضارة الإسلامية».
يُشغل رخا في روايته الأولى بموضوع الهوية، ويستخدم فيها لغة تراثية من كتب الثرات العربي مثل «بدائع الزهور» ونصوص الجبرتي… عن تلك المقاربة يقول: «علاقتي بالتراث ليست أصيلة، جاءت بعد بحث وعناء ومحبة. الكارثة الحقيقية أنّ الديماغوجيّة القومية نجحت في جعلنا نكره كل ما هو جميل في تراثنا». ويضيف: «موضوع الهوية ضاغط وحاضر عندي. أعتقد أنّه سيكون موجوداً في كلّ كتاباتي. فأنت في بلد فقير، وثقافة استهلاكية، ومناخ لم ينتج فكراً ولا فلسفة على مدى مئات السنوات، ولديك تطلّع إلى العالم الأقوى والأعلم. لا بد من أن تطرح سؤالَ ماذا

روايته المقبلة رحلة خياليّة في القاهرة، وتأمّلات في انحدار الحضارة الإسلامية

لديك لتقوله للإنسانية؟». ويقارن الكاتب المصري بين عمارات القاهرة الحديثة وعمارتها في العصور السابقة: «في شارع ممتد مثل فيصل، لا يمكن أن تقف أمام مبنى واحد وتقول إنه جميل، على عكس عمارة العصور السابقة». الهوية ليست أزمة بالنسبة إليه، هي مجرد موضوع يفرض نفسه وليست شرطاً تاريخياً… أزمته الحقيقية يراها في «الفكر القومي عموماً».
لكن لماذا لم يكن الغرب حاضراً بقوة في كتاباته، هو الذي قضى سنوات طويلة في لندن؟ يجيب: «ذهبت إلى إنكلترا حين كنتُ في الـ17من العمر. كنت أكره كل شيء هنا: العروبة ومصر والدين. لكن هناك حدثت صدمة حضارية بالمعنى المعكوس. كنت أتوقع أن أجد درجة عالية من التحضّر والحرية. لكن لم أجد ذلك، بينما فقدت أشياء بسيطة كنت أجدها هنا مثل الود والمشاعر». هل حدثت المصالحة مع الشرق بعد عودته؟ «حدثت بشكل طبيعي وليس بناءً على قرار مسبّق».

«أقرب إلى ميكانيكي»!ضحك يوسف رخا حين قالت له الصحافية منى أنيس لدى نشر صورته في إحدى الجرائد: «تبدو في الصورة أقرب إلى ميكانيكي منك إلى أديب». لم يغضب من التشبيه: «أحاول أن أتجنّب أفكار الجماعة عن شكل الأدباء». لذا، يرفض ما قاله القاصّ محمد المخزنجي بأن الأديب يجب أن يكون محترماً. يوضح: «أهمّ أدب لم ينتجه كتّاب يجلسون على مكاتب. وأعتقد أنّ أهم أديب عربي في القرن العشرين هو المغربي محمد شكري، الذي كان متشرّداً. وجزء من أهمية ما كتبه أنّه كشف ذلك في كتابته. ويستهويني أيضاً جان جينيه». ويوضح: «أنا لستُ كذلك، لكن هذا نموذج يختلف تماماً عن الأديب الذي يصبح وزير ثقافة لاحقاً. من الطبيعي أن يكون لدى الكاتب الجرأة على المغامرة بروحه، وعيش تجارب لا يمكن الآخرين أن يعبّروا عنها مثله إذا عاشوها».

عدد الثلاثاء ٩ شباط ٢٠١٠ 

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حوار مع أحمد يماني لمدونة بيروت 39

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An Open Window: Interviewing Ahmad Yamani

حاورته سوسن حماد

أحمد يماني, شاعر و مترجم مصري نشر أربعة دواوين في الشعر. ولد في القاهرة عام 1970 و حصل على شهادة البكالوريوس في الأدب العربي من جامعة القاهرة في العام 1992.ترجم قصيدته المسماه بـ “يوتوبيا المقابر” الى الإنجليزية المترجم سنان أنطون, و ستنشر في مجموعة بيروت39 الأدبية.

ويذهب يوسف رخا المشارك في مهرجان بيروت 39، في مقال نقدي له، إلى أن يماني – ومعه إيمان مرسال – أعادا اختراع اللغة في قصيدة النثر. “لقد جردت هذه الأصوات [التسعينية] الخطاب من شوائب الأدلجة، وعبرت عن هموم إنسانية دون التقيد بأية ملامح قومية، كما أبرزت هوية فردية تستعيض بالصدق عن الأصالة”.

فلنبدأ من عنوان قصيدتك, “يوتوبيا المقابر”. غالبا ما أشعر بالراحة حين أسير في مقبرة, لعل سبب ذلك يعود إلى اليقين في معرفة أين سأكون بعد موتي. و لكن بالنسبة لك تبدو المقبرة كمساحة مثالية, أو يوتوبيا إلى حد ما, لماذا؟

أود أن أذكر بداية أنني كتب هذه القصيدة منذ أعوام طويلة وأنا في الثانية والعشرين من عمري وكنت مشغولا للغاية بفكرة الموت ومرتعبا منه إلى درجة نفيه في القصيدة وجعله حياة أخرى أو بيتا جديدا، كان علي أن أتصالح مع الموت وأن أراه بسيطا. ربما حررتني شخصيا هذه القصيدة من الرعب إلى حين.

جميع مقاطع قصيدة “يوتوبيا المقابر” تحكى من منطلق اللاوجودية .في مكان ما من بين ظلال الله التي تخيم على عظامك و التفكير في الإحتجاج على إستبداد الملائكة, نجد سلاح الطرافة و السخرية. السخرية: هل ماتت؟

لا أعرف، إن كنت تقصدين موتها في الفن فلا أظن ذلك ولا في الحياة عموما، على أن السخرية فن صعب للغاية كما هو معروف. يفرق عبد السلام بن عبد العالي بين التهكم والسخرية فالمتهكم ينطلق من مكان أعلى ويصدر تهكمه عن إحساس بالقوة ولذا لا يتهكم على نفسه بينما السخرية متواضعة تسخر من نفسها أولا، ويرى أن سقراط متهكم وأن نيتشه ساخر.

المقطع رقم 5 أشبه ما يكون بطقس جنازة. هل فكرت يوما بكتابة رثائك الخاص؟

لا أستسيغ شعر الرثاء عموما وخصوصا في الأدب العربي وأراه من أضعف الحلقات لأنه أحادي الرؤية أو هكذا يخيل لي. ربما أرى في سطر واحد لفرناندو بيسوا أمرا يتجاوز فكرة الرثاء كلية:

“من نافذة بيتي وبمنديل أبيض أقول وداعا لأشعاري التي تسافر نحو الإنسانية، ولست سعيدا ولا حزينا فهذا هو مصير الأشعار”.

بينما أقرأ المقطع رقم 8, خطر لي خاطر أن أقوم بنبش قبور الموتى فأحيي عظامهم لأستمع لمزيد من مناجاة المقابر التي تحكيها بسلاسة. يا للأسى في تلك القصيدة, فحتى عندما نرقد بأكفاننا نحاول فهم مغزى الحرية و كيفية الحظيان بها. لكن ماذا عن الدفتر الأحمر؟أين نجد الموت في تلك القصة؟

للدفتر الأحمر حكاية أخرى، هي مصادفة مركبة تعرضت لها وأنا أقرأ كتابا صغيرا لبول أوستر يسمى “الدفتر الأحمر” يتناول مصادفات واقعية حدثت له شخصيا. فقط أردت تدوين الحكاية.

انت الآن بصدد الحصول على درجة الدكتوراه من جامعة كومبوليتينسه في مدريد في إسبانيا. عمّا تحوي رسالة تخرجك؟

أود القول بداية إنني لا أزال أشتغل على رسالة الدكتوراه وهي تتناول “قصيدة النثر العربية“. والمثير في الأمر أن قصيدة النثر المكتوبة بالإسبانية تعاني بشكل ما من المشكلات نفسها التي تعانيها القصيدة العربية من حيث خلطها مع “أشكال أدبية” أخرى كالشعر الحر والنثر الشعري إلخ… والمحزن أن هذا ينطبق أيضا على المستوى الأكاديمي وقليلة هي الدراسات الجادة التي تغوص في هذه القصيدة وإن كان هناك جهد معتبر يقوم به البعض مثل “بدرو آؤيون دي آرو” وهو منظر هام يقوم بمقاربة الموضوع خارج الكليشيهات المعروفة وكذلك البروفيسورة “ماريا بيكتوريا أوتريرا”. وبالطبع لك أن تتخيلي خلو المكتبة الإسبانية من أي مرجع يتناول قصيدة النثر العربية.

ما الذي تتوقع أن تخرج به من مشاركتك بمهرجان بيروت39؟

ثمة مستويات عديدة لهذا اللقاء منها ما يتعلق ببيروت المدينة التي تمثل لي الكثير بشعرائها وكتابها وفنانيها وحضورها الكبير وحلمي بزيارتها والذي دائما ما تأجل، ومنها ما يخص اللقاء مع الأصدقاء الكتاب المختارين، وبعد بوجوتا 39 عام 2007 أتوقع أن تكون بيروت 39 مناسبة هامة للإسهام بشكل ما في التعريف بالأدب العربي والذي للآن لم يصل إلى الكثيرين مثلما وصلتهم آداب أخرى لا أحسب أن الأدب العربي عموما يقل عنها في شيء

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بلا حماس من 2006

رسالة صديقي على شاشة الجوّال: “نحن هنا نستمع إلى الطائرات الإسرائيلية” ــ وباللهجة المصرية التي يحبها ــ “ربنا يستر”.
قالت رفيقتي: “الاحتشاد للدفاع عن نانسي غير بيروت. من يعطينا نانسي؟” كانت تضحك، لكن يأساً في صوتها يجاور البكاء. “حقيقة، ماذا يمكن أن يعبّئ الشعب المصري للدفاع عن لبنان سوى نانسي عجرم؟” أومأت. أمسكت بالهاتف مرة أخرى، ثم أزحته ببرود. ماذا يمكن أن يعبّئ الشعب المصري للدفاع عن الأهرام، مثلاً؟
منتصف ليل الزمالك، شاب خليجي يقيمنا ــ ثلاثتنا ــ حتى يجلس وحده إلى الطاولة التي حجزها. مَن غير فيروز تقول “كيفك إنت” في مطعم “أبو السيد”؟ عشاؤنا “الخفيف” سيحرق صدورنا. من الشباك ــ على صوت أذان الفجر ــ أرى بدراً معوقاً بدلاً من قمر شبه كامل. وعلى الإنترنت ــ لم نسمع بما حدث حتى منتصف الليل لأننا بلا تلفزيون ــ جسر مقسوم كأنه مثلث، حفرة هائلة يملأها سائل بنّي، عجوز وطفلان يعبرون أطلالاً. لا أحد ينام في بيروت… حسن نصر الله يقول “نحن مغامرون” والإسرائيليون يؤكدون أنهم سيفعلون أي شيء للحفاظ على “الحياة الإنسانية”.
قبل أسابيع، لم يتردد مبارك في استقبال رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي بعد مقتل مصريين بريئين تماماً برصاص إسرائيلي على الحدود. قال ــ في صدد جندي واحد عند “حماس” ــ: “مأنا كنت حلتها، لكن فيه جهات ضغطت على الحكومة الفلسطينية فانسحبت من التسوية…”.
حين خرج الإسرائيليون من جنوب لبنان، تشاجرت ومدير تحريرنا “اليساري” لرغبته التي رأيتها مبالغة في امتداح حزب الله. أومأت لامرأة منقّبة في لندن. وسلمت أمري لله حين أسفرت الديموقراطية، مؤخراً، عن حماس.
الحقيقة أنني لا أحب الإسلاميين أبداً، ولا أحب نانسي عجرم، ولا أغتاظ بالقدر الكافي من العجرفة الدموية لدولة عنصرية مصابة بالبارانويا تساندها، بلا منطق أو ضمير، أقوى حكومة في العالم.
فقط ــ والدموع تداعب جفني من أن أصدقائي “البيارتة” يشكرون لي سؤالي عنهم ــ تراودني الرغبة في تفجير نفسي، لكن من دون حماس.

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