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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The Terrors of Democracy

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For the Western media and Western policy makers, it seems the story of what’s been happening in Egypt is a simple one. Having deposed and taken into custody a democratically elected president on July 3, the army went ahead and forcibly disbanded two large sit-ins staged in protest of the coup, killing over 500 civilians on August 14, then hunting down the remaining leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and allied groups, whence both president and protesters hail.

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Death makes angels of us all: Fragments

Jim Morrison died on 3 July, as young as most of the casualties of the Egyptian revolution of 2011-13 (let’s assume it’s been one string of events for simplicity’s sake). Play a few Doors songs to honour him while you think of bloodied corpses and try as you might not to, at some point you will begin to picture the killers. And going through who they have been — police, military, thugs, honourable citizens, Islamists — you will soon end up blaming everyone and everything. Not without reason. While comforting at first, the discourse of martyrdom (and it has already been sullied in many ways and on various occasions) does not detract from the absolutely unforgivable horror of unnecessary loss of life. And while death of protest may not be exactly murder, it is.

The reason I’ve been thinking of Jim Morrison is that death of protest has been happening again recently, this time at the hands of Islamist militias or quasi-militias: totalitarian theocrats defending democratic legitimacy against Egypt’s second coupvolution in three years. Such Kafkaesque insanity is perfectly normal in Egypt. But second indeed: considering the army’s role in 25 January, there is no sane reason to set 30 June apart from that initial, equally military-facilitated uprising. Death’s made angels of some more young (and old) people — notably in the Cairo neighbourhood of Al Manyal and the Alexandria neighbourhood of Sidi Bishr – but this time it’s made murderous demons of a new and thus far “revolutionary” sect.

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Her damask cheek: two visions of Syria

Today is the second anniversary of the outbreak of the Syrian revolution on 15 March, 2011

Damask Rose by Vangelis (Blade Runner soundtrack)

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Early one morning in the summer of 2011, a good few months after the ouster of Hosny Mubarak, I received an international phone call. It was an unknown number that began with 00963. I could tell this was the country code of some Arab state, though I didn’t know which. After some hesitation I picked up, and I was greeted by a thin voice speaking with inflections that sounded vaguely Iraqi. “Remember Abu Dhabi,” the voice said eventually, with a warm chuckle. “This is Thaer.”

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Virtual Palestinians: From Sabra and Chatila to Arab Spring

For me, the word “Palestinians,” whether in a headline, in the body of an article, on a handout, immediately calls to mind fedayeen in a specific spot—Jordan—and at an easily determined date: October, November, December 1970, January, February, March, April 1971. It was then and there that I discovered the Palestinian Revolution…

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Virtual Palestinians: From Sabra and Chatila to Arab Spring

On the 30th anniversary of the Sabra and Chatila massacre, it is worth rereading Jean Genet’s song to the beauty of revolutionaries

“Martyrs’ Square”, Beirut, 2005. photo: Youssef Rakha
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For me, the word “Palestinians,” whether in a headline, in the body of an article, on a handout, immediately calls to mind fedayeen in a specific spot—Jordan—and at an easily determined date: October, November, December 1970, January, February, March, April 1971. It was then and there that I discovered the Palestinian Revolution…

***

When I went to Sabra and Chatila in April 2005, I had already read Jean Genet’s “Four Hours in Chatila”—and loved it. It is a rambling meditation on death and revolution, written within a day of the killing of the entire Palestinian and Shia population of the two refugee camps within greater Beirut—ostensibly in retaliation for the killing of the pro-Israeli Kataeb leader Bachir Gemayel after he was elected president. Kataeb militiamen did the work for the Israeli army on 16-18 September 1982.
“Goyim kill goyim,” Prime Minister Menachem Begin told the Knesset, “and they come to hang the Jews.”
In the end neither Jews nor Maronites were hanged. With the PLO already in Tunis, what transpired was the termination of the Palestinian (Arab) Revolution so conceived—the apex of the counterrevolution led by Israel’s allies, and the end of the glorious legend of the fedayeen.
For reasons that had more to do with where I was in my life than sympathy with the Palestinian cause, when I went to Sabra and Chatila, I broke down in tears. It happened at the end of my walk through the site, at once so inside and outside Beirut that, spending time there, you feel as if you’ve travelled in time. It happened when I got to the tiny cemetery where the remains of some victims of the massacre are buried. There was no obvious context for crying in public, and it must’ve looked ridiculous.
But I was in Beirut for the first time to witness the Cedar Revolution: the young, apolitical uprising against the hegemony of the Syrian regime and its sectarian practices in Lebanon, directed at the army and mukhabarat whose personnel had enjoyed arbitrary power over the Lebanese for as long as anyone could remember. After Iraq’s disastrous liberation from Saddam, this was the first ever evidence of an Arab Spring—and, thinking about being “a virtual Palestinian”, as I had been called in Beirut, my tears anticipated another moment almost six years later, here in Cairo.

***

A photograph doesn’t show the flies nor the thick white smell of death. Neither does it show how you must jump over bodies as you walk along from one corpse to the next. If you look closely at a corpse, an odd phenomenon occurs: the absence of life in this body corresponds to the total absence of the body, or rather to its continuous backing away. You feel that even by coming closer you can never touch it. That happens when you look at it carefully. But should you make a move in its direction, get down next to it, move an arm or a finger, suddenly it is very much there and almost friendly. Love and death. These two words are quickly associated when one of them is written down. I had to go to Chatila to understand the obscenity of love and the obscenity of death. In both cases the body has nothing more to hide: positions, contortions, gestures, signs, even silences belong to one world and to the other…
In the middle, near them, all these tortured victims, my mind can’t get rid of this “invisible vision”: what was the torturer like? Who was he? I see him and I don’t see him. He’s as large as life and the only shape he will ever have is the one formed by the stances, positions, and grotesque gestures of the dead fermenting in the sun under clouds of flies. If the American Marines, the French paratroopers, and the Italian bersagliere who made up an intervention force in Lebanon left so quickly (the Italians, who arrived by ship two days late, fled in Hercules airplanes!) one day or thirty-six hours before their official departure date, as if they were running away, and on the day before Bashir Gemayel’s assassination, are the Palestinians really wrong in wondering if Americans, French and Italians had not been warned to clear out pronto so as not to appear mixed up in the bombing of the Kataeb headquarters?

***

I’m pretty sure that circle of sparse vegetation where people are buried is in Sabra, not Chatila. But Sabra and Chatila are so interwoven in my memory it really hardly matters.
The walls and the unpaved ground were white, and white was the dust staining what asphalt there was. As I sobbed uncontrollably before the unmarked graves, what my tears anticipated—unbeknown to me, of course—was the night of 25 January 2011. That evening on my way home from the offices of Al Ahram, having laughed at the concept of revolution-as-Facebook-event, I decided to walk through Tahrir to see if the demonstrations planned for Police Day were any different from endless—useless—protests I had seen since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Then, arriving there, I realised something was happening. The sight and especially the sound of unbelievable numbers of young Egyptians willingly offering up their bodies—not for abstract notions like “resistance” or Islam, not against any greater or lesser devil, but for the right to live like human beings in their own country—made me weep. “It is not Islamist,” I wrote feverishly in my Facebook status later that night. “It is not limited in numbers. And I saw it with my own eyes in Maidan Al-Tahrir.”
After Cedar, it had taken five and a half years for Jasmine to break out in Tunis, driving what would sometimes be called the Lotus Revolution here. Events were not to start for real until 28 January—two days after, hearing the national anthem in a meaningful context for the first time in my life, I sang tunelessly along, tearfully ecstatic. But already, through phone and other communications after midnight, I realised the killing had started. “I want to go out,” I remember telling a Canada-based friend over Facebook chat in the small hours, “but I’m scared.”
At that same moment a younger, renegade-Muslim-Brother friend was running through the streets of Shubra, tattered, soiled and in tears, pursued by armoured vehicles whose siren almost two years later still gives him the shivers. Another, even younger Catholic friend had fielded a load of Central Security pellets at close range; some barely missed his eyes, and he couldn’t get up unassisted; after receiving first aid in the nearest government hospital, he was sneaked through a backdoor to avoid arrest by State Security. During the day, a young woman friend had fainted from an overdose of tear gas and barely escaped being run over. Hundreds were in custody without charge; a good few were beaten up or detained for hours in police cars; some had been haplessly killed, too…
But, on the morning of 26 January, it was as if nothing had happened. The front page of the daily Al Ahram (already notorious for the “expressive” wire picture in which Mubarak was Photoshopped from the back to the front of a group of heads of state) did no so much as mention unprecedented numbers of demonstrators protesting police brutality and corruption in Tahrir. A minor demonstration in Lebanon of all places was highlighted instead. Downtown, I noticed, people went about their business.
What pained me was not “the beautiful young” dead or injured “for nothing”; “nothing” was a condition of their beauty, after all, and perhaps there weren’t enough casualties yet (though in this context what do numbers mean?) What pained me was that a turn of events that promised to yield a voluntary communal purge of society, a sort of post-religion repentance, seemed to come to nothing the next day. It hadn’t, of course; but later when it did come to something that thing very quickly became political, which meant that power would pass into the hands of religion mongers leaving society intact, with all the evil inside it.
By the time Mubarak stepped down on 11 February—not that this is technically true—there was hardly a young or a secular person in Tahrir. There was to be much more death from then on.

***

The statement that there is a beauty peculiar to revolutionaries raises many problems. Everyone knows, everyone suspects, that young children or adolescents living in old and harsh surroundings have a beauty of face, body, movement and gaze similar to that of the fedayeen. Perhaps this may be explained in the following way: breaking with the ancient ways, a new freedom pushes through the dead skin, and fathers and grandfathers will have a hard time extinguishing the gleam in the eyes, the throbbing in the temples, the joy of blood flowing through the veins. In the spring of 1971, in the Palestinian bases, that beauty subtly pervaded a forest made alive by the freedom of the fedayeen. In the camps a different, more muted beauty prevailed because of the presence of women and children. The camps received a sort of light from the combat bases, and as for the women, it would take a long and complex discussion to explain their radiance. Even more than the men, more than the fedayeen in combat, the Palestinian women seemed strong enough to sustain the resistance and accept the changes that came along with a revolution. They had already disobeyed the customs: they looked the men straight in the eye, they refused to wear a veil, their hair was visible, sometimes completely uncovered, their voices steady. The briefest and most prosaic of their tasks was but a small step in the self-assured journey towards a new, and therefore unknown, order, but which gave them a hint of a cleansing liberation for themselves, and a glowing pride for the men…
Here in the ruins of Chatila there is nothing left. A few silent old women hastily hiding behind a door where a white cloth is nailed. As for the very young fedayeen, I will meet some in Damascus. You can select a particular community other than that of your birth, whereas you are born into a people; this selection is based on an irrational affinity, which is not to say that justice has no role, but this justice and the entire defense of this community take place because of an emotional – perhaps intuitive, sensual – attraction; I am French, but I defend the Palestinians wholeheartedly and automatically. They are in the right because I love them. But would I love them if injustice had not turned them into a wandering people?

***

Genet just didn’t know about political Islam, did he? He didn’t appreciate the effects on collective consciousness of nearly a century of social-cultural-sexual—forget political—repression, of systematic misinformation, humiliation and discouragement of initiative, of words denoting things other than what they say even in life-and-death circumstances, actions failing to yield consensual meaning, courage going unnoticed and festering “tradition” prioritised over such birthrights as sense, sensibility and sensation.
It was all through Friday 28 January, from noon to midnight, that I drew my own connections between youth, death and the—revolutionary—identity of the tortured. However partially or peripherally, I had that identity too; and I was no longer scared. Without the leisure of Genet’s macabre stroll, without the mythical underpinnings of the Arab Revolution or the feeling that I was a Frenchman among Palestinians with no more reason to be there than the fact that I “loved” them, I perceived how the human body responds to being run over by a speeding vehicle, the colour of what comes out of the head when it is gashed open against a solid surface, the smell of sweat on a dead young body mobbed by loud mourners and the sound of fear. There was water-hosing, live ammunition, slaughter and many things besides.
People trembling before the murder of others on the side of the road, adolescents taking metal fences apart to use as weaponry, valiant, bare-chested battles with tear gas canisters and the increasingly expert hurling of stones and Molotov cocktails: it was a bonanza of desperation, a grafting onto the scene of “revolution” of all the violence and madness prompted by living for decades under inhuman conditions; fear and loathing in the Maidan.
That day there was plenty of opportunity for political identification with Palestinians—Qasr Al-Aini Street looked and felt like the site of an Intifada against a repressive power less competent or self-respecting and so even more brutishly undiscriminating than the Israeli army—but it wasn’t the sight of stone-throwing children facing armed men in uniform that evoked Palestine.
It wasn’t being Arab, or to the left of a counterrevolutionary, pro-Israeli status quo. As would later be confirmed on finding out about Hamas’s atrocious response to Arab Spring demonstrations in Gaza, it was my social (human or cultural) connection with Palestinians that Friday 28 January made me aware of in a new way. And that was practically beyond tears.
As the Lebanese already knew, the position of the secular Arab as a Palestinian—state- or citizenship-less, disinherited, disgraced, betrayed and blamed for being who they are—is even more pronounced under resistance-mongering regimes like the Assads’ than elsewhere. All Arabs have their little Israels to torture them through their respective Kataeb in full view of the international community; even the Islamist banner—“Death to the infidels,” in which the latter word replaces the conventional Arab nationalist “traitors”—does not prevent that.

***

Many died in Chatila, and my friendship, my affection for their rotting corpses was also immense, because I had known them. Blackened, swollen, decayed by the sun and by death, they were still fedayeen. They were still fedayeen. Around two o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday three soldiers from the Lebanese army drove me, at gunpoint, to a jeep where an officer was dozing. I asked him: “Do you speak French?” — “English.” The voice was dry, maybe because I had awakened it with a start. He looked at my passport, and said to me, in French: “Have you just been there?” He pointed to Chatila. “Yes.” — “And did you see?” — “Yes.” — “Are you going to write about it?” — “Yes.” He gave me back my passport. He signaled me to leave. The three rifles were lowered. I had spent four hours in Chatila. About forty bodies remained in my memory. All of them, and I mean all, had been tortured, probably against a backdrop of drunkenness, song, laughter, the smell of gunpowder and already of decaying flesh. I was probably alone, I mean the only European (with a few old Palestinian women still clinging to a torn white cloth; with a few young unarmed fedayeen), but if these five or six human beings had not been there and I had discovered this butchered city, black and swollen Palestinians lying there, I would have gone crazy. Or did I? That city lying in smithereens which I saw or thought I saw, which I walked through, felt, and whose death stench I wore, had all that taken place?

***

I know Sabra and Chatila was about racism, imperialism and the ugly side of humanity. I know it had to do with the accepted construction of the Palestinian cause and (confirmed by it) the perennial suspicion that minority (as in non-Muslim) Arab communities are potential traitors to the greater nation even when that nation pretends to be other than the Umma (a pretence now backfiring throughout the region in the worst possible ways). What I have learned from the Arab Spring is that Sabra and Chatila may also have been about something else, something like a mirror image of what Genet saw in the fedayeen. Like the sectarian aftermath of the Arab Spring, like the failure of the so called international community to reign in all the little Israels whose existence Nazism’s progeny justifies, like the failure of Arab societies to make use of the sacrifices of the young and the beautiful, Sabra and Chatila was about Arab self-hatred. It was about the ugliness peculiar to revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries in times of grand narratives that, in the absence of societies to support them, are bound to end badly. In the most oblique way imaginable, Sabra and Chatila is about the ugliness of the fedayeen.

Genet’s text (in italics) quoted as is in Daniel R. Dupecher and Martha Perrigaud’s translation

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NAHDA and Co.

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No Renaissance for Old Men
Last week Youssef Rakha questioned the idea of resistance. This week he thinks about the Islamists’ catch phrase
It is the word that Tunisia’s Muslim Brothers chose for their harakah (or movement) and in which the Egyptian jama’ah (or group) couched its presidential programme; it dates all the way back to the late 18th century when, under Muhammad Ali Pasha in particular, it would’ve denoted something significantly different. But in a way it has been the mirror image of European imperialism since then, with its post-Arab Spring Islamist manifestations in Tunisia and Egypt constituting one possible logical conclusion of the region’s political trajectory, and the murderous Arab nationalist dictatorships (whether Gaddafi’s in Libya or the Baath’s in Syria and Iraq) another.
What I want to argue is that, in more ways than one (and despite all the wonderful things it almost did), the so called Arab renaissance has in fact been part and parcel of this immense downward fall of recent history, and that—far from presenting a homegrown alternative to the neoliberal world order, arguably the extension and apotheosis of empire—it has actually aided and abetted the imperialist project.
And well it might: Nahda is to muqawamah (or resistance) what modernism was to imperialism; in some ways, perhaps, it is also what Europe’s Renaissance was to the northern Puritanical values that were eventually more or less subsumed by Enlightenment.
Following this line of thought, one can make surprising connections between past failures of the wannabe independent modern state (Nasser’s “first republic” in Egypt) and present-future failures of Islamism (the Muslim Brotherhood’s proposed “second republic”). One can also make connections between both forms of totalitarianism (top-down in the case of the July regime, bottom-up in the present case) and the negative, inferiority complex-driven motivation that—while making huge room for sloganeering, doublespeak and overt suppression—makes no room at all for the revival or regeneration of a glorious past, be it Arab and purely imagined or Islamic and somewhat real. It is a “renaissance” that denies the very tenets of what it hopes to donner naissance to anew: reason, military and/or economic power, cutting-edge global outlook, joyful aspirations…
So, for example, to underline their belief in a militarily powerful and united pan-Arab nation, an Arab nationalist will by default glorify the one dictator responsible not onlyfor the worst military defeat in Arab history (1967) but also for separating Egypt and Sudan and then setting a precedent for the failure of unification by showing the world exactly how not to unify with Syria, encouraging national as opposed to pan-Arab sentiments and limiting inter-Arab freedom of movement, exchange and initiative in practice. To demonstrate how “Islam honours women”, an Islamist will insist on such allegedly intrinsic “Islamic principles” as niqab and polygamy.
Likewise the material renaissance promised by President Mohamed Mursi (or, more accurately perhaps, by businessman Khairat El-Shatir, the most powerful man in the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office): what is marketed as an alternative to Mubarak’s neoliberal and peace-with-Israel policies is actually a programme for turning the entire expanse of the Arab world into a string of modified Saudi Arabias, not only pro-Israeli and even more ruthlessly capitalist but also disinterested in human rights and inevitably impoverished in the absence of oil reserves.
In its accepted, present formulation democracy originated and continues to operate in wholly secularised and intellectually free societies based on universal rights and freedoms. How the Saudification of the Arab world through such vaguely Ku Klux-like “political” entities as the Salafi Nour Party can be the result of democratic process is a baffling question.
Yet such contradictions are hardly coincidental. Without reviewing the history of the term, I just want to draw attention to the manner in which nahda presupposes such manifestations of death and demise as Nakba, naksa (Nasser’s euphemism for the 1967 defeat) and takhalluf (or backwardness). By stressing the (purely rhetorical) need for self- or identity-assertion, what the Muslim Brotherhood is doing is throwing a sand storm into the eyes of Egyptians, just as the Arab nationalists did before it:
Nahda does not mean the elimination of autocracy and corruption, it means stamping them with the divine seal of “Islam”; it does not mean improving the intellectual and material circumstances of students, teachers and creative people, it means ensuring that they espouse the right slogans—even (or preferably) at the expense of progress and production.
It does not mean instating the principles on which a truly functional democracy can be built (a long term process so far seemingly more successful in Libya), it means liaising with the military dictators and their imperialist patrons, guaranteeing the security of Israel, invoking the revolution and “the will of the people”, monopolising the drafting of a new constitution, replacing state institutions and personnel with their own, buying votes, beating people up and otherwise defying law, order and decency in order to gain recognition through sheer power—in exactly the same way as resistance means not actually opposing the status quo but deploying a certain, negative rhetoric in the struggle to prevail over the competition for it. Nahda just may be the Greater Nakba in the making.
***
In this context it may be worth remembering the initial term in which 25 January was described: as a YOUNG revolution. Notwithstanding all their moral faults, and regardless of individual people’s ages, the Islamists are confirming the suspicion that they are even older than the regime whose ugliness “the people” led by online activists rose up against. No true renaissance is conceivable in the presence of so much moral and material AGE. And perhaps a true renaissance, even the beginning of one, will happen despite (and not because of) Nahda, after all. Such a development would need no rhetoric to support it and no Washington-style marketing to give it impetus. It would not cooperate with the military arbiters who are the post-post-national embodiment of the failure of the independent nation. It would manifest in production, progress and words meaning what they say: a complete break with the lifeless past. Such a renaissance would probably not oppose the global status quo—at least not in the foreseeable future—but neither will it have to pretend to.

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The menace of resistance

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Youssef Rakha, Islamophobe


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Youssef Rakha thinks about the Brotherhood, the military and the modern state

A long time ago — it must have been 2000 — I was briefly in trouble at work for apparently belittling the achievement of Hezbollah against Israel in an article I had written.
The censure came from a left-wing, thoroughly secular editor; and I wasn’t particularly distressed to have to redraft the paragraphs in question. Perhaps, I thought, I had let my Islamophobia get the better of me. (I should point out that, though steadfastly agnostic, I am still Muslim, as eclectically proud of my heritage as any post-Enlightenment individual can reasonably be; so my self-acknowledged Islamophobia refers neither to the religion nor the historical identity but specifically to the far more recent phenomenon — perhaps I may be allowed to say “catastrophe” — of political Islam.) I was to realise that much of the Arab left’s respect for Hezbollah centred on the concept of resistance and, especially, its perceived triumph over a materially superior power, independently of a quasi-commonwealth of incompletely constructed modern states whose majority’s compromised position had rendered it an ineffective rival to “the Zionist entity”.
In the same context though perhaps not from the same time, I remember having mixed feelings about a Moroccan activist in a demonstration on Al Jazeera crying out repeatedly, “I am secular, but I support the Islamic resistance in Lebanon.”
Admittedly, when I wrote that article, what bothered me the most about Hezbollah was its underlying (theocratic) totalitarianism, not its armed struggle per se. But since then, over many years in which I have been exposed to much more historical-political material as well as experiencing regional and local developments first hand — and without losing any of my contempt for Israel or the postcolonial order that sustains it, for which my being an Arab or a Muslim is by no means necessary — I have come to see very major issues with the concept of resistance itself: so much so that, like Jihadism, it sometimes seems to me one of the postcolonial world powers’ less visible instruments.
Notwithstanding how Hezbollah has renounced the moral high ground by supporting Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria — one of the few supposedly uncompromised states whose “resistance” status has allowed it to practice genocide against its own citizens with impunity since the 1980s while in no way improving its situation vis-a-vis Israel — it is of course less about the Arab-Israeli conflict that I am thinking than the confluence of the left (socialist, Arab nationalist or “Nasserist”) and political Islam in the aftermath of January-February 2011 in Egypt: the Arab Spring. I am thinking about how that confluence, perhaps more than any other factor, has emptied “revolution” of any possible import. To what extent did the theory and practice of resistance in what has probably been the most important of the compromised Arab states lead to the perpetuation of both military hegemony and systematic deprivation of basic rights and freedoms, including freedom of belief?
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The current “transfer of power” to the Muslim Brotherhood is not happening as a result of the protests and sacrifices that made regime change possible over 18 months ago. It is not happening against the will of the postcolonial world order. It is happening as a result of West-blessed, SCAF-mediated “democratic” politicising — facilitated precisely by standing in ideological and practical opposition to the former status quo (an advantage the more or less liberal, as opposed to Islamist, protesters who staged “the revolution” never had).
Unlike agents of the modern state but like Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood have helped to provide citizens with services, garnered their tribal loyalty by encouraging their conservatism and fed them an identity-based discourse of heroism, piety or renaissance. Preying on their raw emotions, they have also given them material rewards in return for their votes.
Now, contrary to what the left has been preaching since the start of the presidential elections, the “transfer of power” at hand will keep all the military’s unlawful privileges intact: the enormous military economy will continue to operate unscathed; crimes against humanity committed in the last 18 months will go unpunished; “revolutionaries” who have been subject to military trial will neither be re-tried nor released without high-profile intervention, etc. At the same time, while other beneficiaries of institutionalised corruption may change, the security and judicial apparatus that sustains it will not.
Thus resistance: somewhere in the collective imagination, irrespective of historical fact, the Muslim Brotherhood is not the capitalist, scheming, dictatorial, corrupt and abusive entity that the Mubarak regime was. It is a force of resistance. Never mind that it is sectarian, misogynistic, totalitarian, irrational and just as postcolonially compromised (hence just as capitalist, scheming etc.): as the de facto custodian of a religion and a culture it has only actually acted to humiliate, the Brotherhood is seen as an alternative, in exactly the same way as Hezbollah was seen as an alternative, to the failed state. What is either not seen or purposely overlooked is that the alternative’s existence depends on the failure of the state and modernity, which to one degree or another political Islam has always encouraged or helped to perpetuate.
So, while Islamophobia in the West is fear of the physically violent monster secretly created to combat communism during the Cold War, my own Islamphobia is fear of the morally violent monster covertly spawned by the failure of the postcolonial nation state and increasingly integrated into the world order at the expense not of Western (or communist) lives but of Muslim minds and souls. My Islamophobia is in fact a profoundly Muslim response to “revolution”.
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Yet it is resistance as a concept that seems to hold the key. Not that the Muslim Brotherhood has used the term recently, but it is written into the proposed political formulation of a collective and supposedly efficacious identity that that identity should be against something.
What is required for this is not that the orientation in question should actually be against anything in practice, whether that thing is the world order, Israel or institutionalised corruption in the Egyptian state. It is interesting to note that, while their raison d’être is to be a distinct moral improvement on the corrupt, compromised political status quo, the Muslim Brothers, whether in parliament or beyond, have so far replicated the Mubarak regime’s conduct and mores, from pledging alliance to Washington and guaranteeing Israel’s security to monopolising and abusing power (the Freedom and Justice Party being, in effect, the “Islamic” variation on the now dissolved National Democratic Party).
What is required, rather, is that the resisting entity should espouse a certain degree of (moral if not physical) violence, drawing on both a totalitarian sense of identity and a paranoid conviction of victimhood. This is not to deny that the Muslim Brotherhood had been subject to persecution since its foundation in 1928; it is to say that, in the absence of any holistic vision even for the future of Islam (one that would crucially include ways to eliminate rather than perpetuate those anachronistic and obstructive aspects of the faith that alienate Muslims from the modern world and prevent them from contributing to human civilisation), the victimisation of the Muslim Brotherhood can only mean a justification for getting their own back — not actually changing anything for the majority of Egyptians.
Without any aspiration to reform, let alone revolution, and while they continue to provide cover for less sophisticated Islamists, the Brothers can only remain aspiring Mubaraks.
Even more fascinating, however, is the way in which the apparent triumph of the opposition embodied by the Muslim Brotherhood has automatically resulted in the opposition embodied by the left giving up all that it supposedly stands for in order to be in the seemingly right camp— an ideological paradox resolved with relative ease once what the left actually has in common with political Islam is identified: totalitarian identity, contempt for the modern state, paranoid victimhood, bias for the (class) underdog and, most importantly of all, the resistance imperative.
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Egypt’s recent variation on the confluence of the left with political Islam is particularly ludicrous in that, while what the left supported the Muslim Brotherhood in order to resist was SCAF, it was arguably SCAF that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power. It occurs to me now that, taking this into account, Islamophobia should really also be understood as opposition to the military — a fight on which the left was willing to give up when it allied itself with the Islamists.

(c) Youssef Rakha

M for Manar

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Sunday, June 15, 2008
Youssef Rakha
Al Manar has dragged itself into the future and away from the 1950s sets.

It seems the graphics people at al Manar TV are brushing up their act. NileSat’s most resolutely retro news channel, whose sets used to look like they were out of the 1950s, is suddenly using slick digital transitions to advertise its programmes. It is pacing broadcasts much faster, challenging the competition with colourful plaques, distinctive logos and the full gamut of special effects. The anchors are adopting Jazeera-like voices and the stringers, like al Jazeera’s, report breathlessly from the thick.
It is also screening historical soap operas and serial documentaries on topics like the struggle of the Palestinians, the struggle against colonialism and the struggle to maintain national identity. Many of these are imported from Syria, some are dubbed from Farsi, but all seek to lure the global Arabic-speaking viewer into that world of eternal truth, ruthless justice and ever so punctilious philanthropy dreamt up by Hizbollah.
Contrary to the views of American neoconservatives, Hizbollah is not in fact a bunch of Jew-hating terrorists with Nazi or Qa’eda aspirations (for neoconservatives, either comparison will do). Their televisual mouthpiece need not be automatically identified with a venom-spitting monster, therefore.

Al Manar does provide a mouthpiece for justified Arab and Muslim discontent. Because it focuses on otherwise voiceless victims of Israel (the people of southern Lebanon, the Palestinians, some Syrians) and speaks to all those who feel bad about people being systematically humiliated, denied homes in which to live or simply finished off, because it gives so much airtime to everyday Hizbollah supporters phoning in to exchange emotional moments with representatives of the movement and its political and doctrinal allies, al Manar has a kind of credibility. Combined with the tendency to look and sound like a news channel from an Iron Curtain dictatorship during the Cold War, this used to give it a certain reason-defying appeal.
Then again, al Manar does promote a dodgy piece of theologising in Khomeini’s doctrine of velayat-e faqih, by which the Shia cleric gets to act as “guardian” of the regime, and which even the most pious Shia Iranians believe has proven by far less Islamic, benevolent or just than the pre-1979 Shah’s regime.

Aside from its shameless advocation of theocracy, what is bad about al Manar, and what the graphic revolution has not managed to improve, is its obsessive devotion to ideology. Unlike subtler Lebanese channels with a political agenda – LBC or Future, for example – al Manar has been a more or less avowed propaganda machine since its inception in 1991 (the channel has been transmitting via satellite since 2000). And the new look is clearly trying to build up its image to make it look less like one.
It seems worrying therefore that, however much you may sympathise with Hizbollah, al Manar’s modus operandi is liable to turn you into a Shia-hating, anti-populist Bushophile whatever else you claim to be.

Tickers, almanar.com and archives on DVD have improved neither overblown rhetoric nor partisan orientation: America is an incarnation of the selfsame Satan who first tempted Adam in Paradise; velayat-e faqih is the only form of leadership that could bring order to the chaos of Arab-Muslim politics, retrieving the sovereignty said Satan has appropriated; Iran is ready to take over the entire Muslim world and, without so much as a harsh word or a drop of blood, challenge American hegemony and rebuild the glories of Islam.
Grown up people with respectable beards actually sit down to say these things, with perfectly straight faces, and anchors nod enthusiastically as if to say, “Dah!” Talk show hosts support their guests’ outrageous views – that Khomeini worked just like a prophet of Allah, that he actually was a prophet of Allah – before the guest has expressed them: “So, your samaha the sheikh, how would you comment on Imam Ruhollah’s approach to revolution, which was identical to that of the Prophet Mohammad peace be upon him?” “Well, it was identical…” People phone in to hysterically decry the death of their loved ones under Israeli or Future Movement fire or pronounce Hassan Nassrallah the Redeemer. And atrocities committed against Arabs and Muslims are flaunted to classical verses written in the style of Shia lamentations and set to heart-rending music.
By invoking certain standards of objectivity, the newly introduced, smooth-operating methods only dramatise the misinformation being presented. Those secular Arabs clinging onto the ever more elusive life-raft of critical thinking may very well cheer the resistance Hizbollah has come to embody. But they will still have serious trouble watching al Manar.

أين بيروت من دمشق؟ إلياس خوري

 

لم أر بيروت حزينة كما اليوم.

لم أرها عاجزة عن الكلام، وغارقة في الخجل مثلما هي اليوم.

حتى عندما كانت تحت القصف والخوف، لم تكن بيروت خائفة كخوفها اليوم.

لا، هذه ليست بيروت.

هذه مدينة لا تشبه بيروت، مدينة تختنق فيها الكلمات ولا تجد فيها الحرية زاوية تلتجىء اليها.

هذه مدينة مخجلة ومتواطئة مع القاتل.

بيروت تعرف ان الصمت مشاركة في الجريمة، ومع ذلك تصمت.

في الشام يقتل شعب بالرصاص وتداس وجوه الناس بالأحذية، في الشام شعب كامل ينتفض لكرامته وحريته وحقه في الحياة.

والشام ليست بعيدة عن بيروت، ولكن بيروت تبتعد عن نفسها.

صحافتها نصف صامتة، واعلامها اخرس، واذا تكلمت فالخجل يتكلم من خلالها وليس الحرية.

ساحاتها خالية، واذا جرؤ بعض الشبان والشابات على تنظيم اعتصام صغير صامت، كي يضيئوا الشموع تحية لأرواح الشهداء في سورية، يأتي شبيحة النظام الأمني المشترك ويدوسون الشموع، ويزأرون بهتافات تمجد الديكتاتور.

مثقفوها يدارون خجلهم وصمتهم متعللين بالظروف، وان حكى بعض الشجعان فيهم، فان كلامه لا يبرىء الصمت من صمته.

هذه ليست بيروت.

اما السياسيون فيتصرفون كرجال المافيا. يتغرغرون بكلام سمج عن عدم التدخل في الشؤون الداخلية السورية، بينما يعرقل رجال الأمن قدوم اللاجئين السوريين الهاربين من المذبحة.

الأمن الموازي يهدد السوريين في لبنان، ويتم احصاء النازحين، وتوجه الاهانة الى من اثبت انه شعب على استعداد للموت كي لا يهان.

لن اتحدث عن ابطال ‘الممانعة’، لن اسأل المقاومين كيف يغمضون عيونهم. فأنا اعرف ان الطائفية لا تغلق عيون اللبنانيين فقط بل تحولهم الى عنصريين.

كل طائفي عنصري، وكل بنية طائفية هي شكل عنصري.

لن اسأل زعماء الطوائف عن صمتهم، فالأفضل ان يصمتوا، بعدما استمعنا الى ما قالوه عبر فضيحة وثائق ويكيليكس.

والطائفيون يكررون اليوم خطيئتهم الأصلية.

حلفاء النظام السوري مخطئون في حماستهم لنظام يترنح، لأنهم يخافون من ان يكون سقوطه مقدمة لاسقاط هيمنتهم السياسية التي هي الاسم الآخر لفسادهم ونهبهم.

واعداء النظام السوري مخطئون في انتظاريتهم، لأنهم ينتظرون اشارة لم تأت من سيدهم السعودي، وهم متخوفون من اللا قرار الامريكي حول مصير النظام، ومن التعاطف الاسرائيلي مع نظام شرح لنا المليونير رامي مخلوف معانيه.

كل هذه الحثالة من السياسيين تتلوث اليوم بعار الصمت والتواطؤ.

الشعب السوري في انتفاضته البطولية المجيدة، في صبره وتفانيه وشجاعته، يعلن فضيحة مزدوجة: فضيحة النظام السوري بالقمع الوحشي والدم المراق، وفضيحة النظام اللبناني بالجبن والسفاهة.

نستطيع ان نحلل اسباب هذا الصمت المتذاكي، او اسباب الدعم المتغابي للنظام السوري، كما نستطيع ان نفهم ان لبنان الذي استطاعت الطوائف اجهاض استقلاله وتحجيم مقاومته وتصغيرها، بات عاجزا ومشلولا وفاقد الارادة.

لكنني لا استطيع ان افهم لماذا تنتحر بيروت بالصمت.

المدينة التي قاومت الغزاة الاسرائيليين واحتملت القصف والجوع والحصار، تبدو اليوم خائفة من مجموعة من الزعران والبلطجية الذين يصادرون صوتها.

شارع الحمرا، الذي كان عنوانا ثقافياً للحرية تستولي عليه مجموعة من الفاشيين الذين يروعون الناس بأسلحتهم الجاهزة للاستعمال.

هذه البيروت ليست بيروتنا،

وهذه الصورة الخانعة لثقافة الصمت ليست ثقافتنا،

وهذه اللامبالاة الذليلة ليست لا مبالاتنا.

لا اعرف كيف اداري خجلي من نفسي ومنكم ايها الناس.

السوريون والسوريات يواجهون القمع بالموت، اما بيروت التي استقالت من نفسها، وصارت مجرد زواريب للطائفيين والفاشيين فانها تموت من دون ان تواجه، تنتحر ويُنحر صوتها على مذبح الخوف والمهانة.

لا اعرف كيف انهي هذا المقال، فلقد بدأت في كتابته كرسالة اعتذار من بيروت الى دمشق، وكوعد بأن لقاء الحرية لا بد وان يجمع المدينتين اللتين عانتا كثيرا من القمع والترهيب.

كنت اريد ان استعيد صوت سمير قصير الذي كان اول من زرع ياسمين الحرية في الشام، وروى بدمه ربيع العرب قبل ان يبدأ.

لكنني عاجز عن الكلام.

اشعر بالعار والعجز، واحس ان صوتي يختنق، وان بيروت التي كتبتها وكتبتني تتلاشى امام عيني، وانا ارى كيف تغرق المدينة في الخوف وتفترسها اللامبالاة.

لكن رغم القمع والخوف فان لا شيء يستطيع ان يمحو واقعا مشتركا تعيشه المدينتان المسورتان بالتخويف.

سوف يفي الوعد بوعوده، وسيحملنا الحلم صوب الشام وفلسطين.

اما مرحلة هيمنة الخوف فستنطوي كذاكرة لا نريد لها ان تعود.

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القائمة القصيرة لجائزة الرواية العربية

Ghadames
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الثلثاء 15 كانون الأول 2009

الجائزة العالمية للرواية العربية (البوكر العربية) 2010

الإعلان عن اللائحة القصيرة

www.arabicfiction.org

جمال ناجي، ربعي المدهون، ربيع جابر، عبده خال، محمد المنسي قنديل ومنصورة عز الدين هم الكتّاب الستة الذين اختيروا ضمن اللائحة القصيرة لـِ”الجائزة العالمية للرواية العربية” (البوكر العربية) لسنة 2010، وهي الامتياز الادبي المرموق الذي يهدف الى مكافأة التميّز في الكتابة الروائية العربية المعاصرة والى توسيع دائرة قرّاء الأدب العربي في العالم.

وقد أعلن رئيس لجنة التحكيم الكاتب طالب الرفاعي اسماء اللائحة القصيرة خلال مؤتمر صحافي انعقد في إطار معرض بيروت الدولي للكتاب في البيال، يوم الثلثاء 15 كانون الأول 2009.

اختيرت الأعمال الستة من اصل 115 عملاً تأهلت للمشاركة وهي للكتّاب الآتية أسماؤهم، مع جنسياتهم، وعناوين الروايات، وأسماء الناشرين: (بالترتيب الألفبائي):

العنوان

اسم الكاتب

الناشر

جنسية الكاتب

عندما تشيخ الذئاب

جمال ناجي

منشورات وزارة الثقافة

أردني

السيدة من تل أبيب

ربعي المدهون

المؤسسة العربية للدراسات والنشر

فلسطيني

أميركا

ربيع جابر

المركز الثقافي العربي

لبناني

ترمي بشرر

عبده خال

منشورات الجمل

سعودي

يوم غائم في البر الغربي

محمد المنسي قنديل

دار الشروق

مصري

وراء الفردوس

منصورة عز الدين

دار العين للنشر

مصرية

وعلّق رئيس لجنة التحكيم طالب الرفاعي قائلاً: “جرى نقاش حرّ وموضوعي، وكان الهدف الأهم الوصول الى قائمة متوافق عليها من جانب جميع أعضاء لجنة التحكيم. هذه القائمة تمثّل رأي المحكّمين، مع الاحترام والتقدير لجميع الروايات المشاركة في هذه الدورة”.

وقد أذيعت اليوم أيضاً أسماء الأعضاء في لجنة التحكيم المرموقة، الذين ينتمون الى البلدان الآتية: الكويت وتونس وعُمان ومصر وفرنسا. وهم طالب الرفاعي، روائي وقاص كويتي؛ رجاء بن سلامة، أستاذة محاضرة في كليّة الآداب والفنون والإنسانيات في منوبة، من تونس؛ سيف الرحبي، شاعر وكاتب عُماني؛ شيرين أبو النجا، أستاذة أدب انكليزي ومقارن في جامعة القاهرة، من مصر؛ وفريدريك لاغرانج، باحث أكاديمي ومترجم ومدير قسم الدراسات العربية والعبرية في جامعة السوربون (باريس 4) من فرنسا.

تحتفل الجائزة الأدبية المهيبة هذه السنة بعامها الثالث، وتهدف إلى مكافأة الامتياز في الكتابة العربية الإبداعية المعاصرة، إلى جانب توفير أكبر عدد ممكن من القرّاء العالميين للأدب العربي الجيد. أُطلقت الجائزة في أبو ظبي في الإمارات العربية المتحدة، في نيسان 2007، بالتعاون مع جائزة البوكر البريطانية، وبدعم من مؤسسة الإمارات.

خلال المؤتمر الصحافي الذي عقد اليوم، قال جوناثان تايلور الذي يرئس مجلس الأمناء: “الجائزة العالمية للرواية العربية هي جائزة رائدة في عالم الأدب العربي. تأثيرها بات لا يقبل الجدال، مع اعتبار الفائزين بها وكتّاب اللائحة القصيرة من أهم الأقلام في الأدب العربي المعاصر. والكثر منهم وصلوا إلى العالم اليوم عبر ترجمة أعمالهم، وذلك بفضل الجائزة”.

أما رئيسة برنامج الثقافة والفنون في مؤسسة الامارات سلوى مقدادي، فأضافت: “مؤسسة الامارات فخورة برعايتها هذه الجائزة المتزايد تأثيرها في الحياة الثقافية العربية. ففي غضون ثلاث سنوات فقط، استطاع نفوذها الثقافي واستقلالية مجلس أمنائها ولجان تحكيمها على السواء، صيرورتها الحائزة الأدبية الأبرز والأهم في العالم العربي”.

تأهل للجائزة هذه السنة 115 كتاباً من 17 بلداً عربياً هي: مصر، سوريا، لبنان، الأردن، فلسطين، العراق، الإمارات العربية المتحدة، الكويت، المملكة العربية السعودية، اليمن، البحرين، عمان، المغرب، ليبيا، السودان، تونس، والجزائر. وكانت أعلنت اللائحة الطويلة من 16 عملاً في القاهرة خلال تشرين الثاني/ نوفمبر الفائت.

وعلّقت المديرة الإدارية للجائزة جمانة حداد قائلةً: “نحن فخورون بأن تساهم الجائزة العالمية للرواية العربية في زيادة الاهتمام بالأدب العربي المعاصر قراءةً وترجمة. لم تحظ أي جائزة أدبية عربية بهذا القدر من الانتباه والتأثير من قبل، وقد جاءت البوكر العربية لتلبيّ حاجة ثقافية ملحّة في حياتنا الأدبية”.

يحصل كل من المرشّحين الستة النهائيين على 10000 دولار، أما الرابح فيفوز بـ 50000 دولار إضافية. وينعم كتّابها بالقدرة على الوصول الى جمهور واسع من القرّاء على الصعيدين العربي والعالمي في آن واحد، وعلى تأمين عقود ترجمة لأعمالهم. الفائزان السابقان بالجائزة، بهاء طاهر عن “واحة الغروب”، ويوسف زيدان عن “عزازيل”، لم يُنشر عملاهما بالإنكليزية فحسب في بريطانيا، في داري “سبتر” و”أتلانتيك”، بل حصلا على عدد كبير من عقود الترجمة العالمية جرّاء الجائزة”.

يذكر أخيرا أن هوية الفائز بالجائزة النهائية سوف تعلن خلال حفل رسمي في ابو ظبي، مساء الثلثاء 2 آذار 2010، وهو اليوم الأول من “معرض أبو ظبي الدولي للكتاب”.

*

عندما تشيخ الذئاب، جمال ناجي

منشورات وزارة الثقافة، عمان، 2008

يختار الروائي الفلسطيني الأردني جمال ناجي تقنية تعدد الوجوه والأصوات، فينسحب الراوي العليم ليفسح المجال أمام شخصيات متعاقبة، تروي أحداثا ومشاهد تتكرر وتختلف وتتنامى من شخصية إلى أخرى. رواية تصور الهشاشة البشرية والتعالق المعقد بين الجنس والدين والسياسة، وتقدم لوحة حية عن عوالم الوعاظ والجمعيات الخيرية والساسة، وأسرار الارتقاء الاجتماعي من الحارات الفقيرة إلى مراكز السلطة والثراء في عمان. الشخصية الرئيسية في الرواية لا تتكلم وتبقى لغزا رغم انكشافها الجزئي: عزمي الوجيه. فهل هو الذئب الوحيد الذي لا يشيخ؟

السيدة من تل أبيب، ربعي المدهون

المؤسسة العربية للدراسات والنشر، بيروت، 2009

يتناول الكاتب الفلسطيني ربعي المدهون في روايته قضية الصراع الفلسطيني/ العربي/ الاسرائيلي ويختار لحظة مشحونة بالهواجس والتوتر والريبة حدَّ الانفجار. البطلان هما وليد دهمان العائد من مغتربه الاوروبي بعد سنين طويلة لزيارة أهله في غزة عبر مطار بن غوريون في تل أبيب، والاسرائيلية دانا أهوفا التي تشاء المصادفات أن تجلس في المقعد المجاور لمقعده. هكذا يبدأ التماس بينهما، وما يشبه الحوار المتقطع الذي يأخذ القارئ الى أصقاع نائية في الذاكرة والتاريخ والذات البشرية. رواية تحاول مقاربة الحقيقة في تعقدها ولبسها وغموضها، ولا تركن الى أحكام ايديولوجية جاهزة.

أميركا، ربيع جابر

المركز الثقافي العربي، بيروت- الرباط، 2009

تستحضر رواية اللبناني ربيع جابر ملحمة هؤلاء الذين دفعهم الفقر وروح المغامرة الى ترك سوريا الكبرى في السنوات الأولى من القرن العشرين ليجربوا حظهم في أميركا الناشئة، حاملين “الكشة” عبر السهول والجبال، يندمجون تدريجيا في نسيجها الاجتماعي ويشاركون في حروبها. يركز السردعلى سيرة مارتا التي تقرر الذهاب وحدها إلى نيويورك من أجل العثور على زوجها بعدما انقطعت عنه الأخبار. تأتي الرواية تحيةً من الباقين إلى الذين رحلوا في أراضي المهجر، متخطين ما كانت ظروفهم تقدّره لهم من مصير، حتى يصنعوا هوياتهم الجديدة بأيديهم وعزيمتهم.

ترمي بشرر، عبده خال

دار الجمل، بغداد – بيروت، 2009

يأتي قص الكاتب السعودي عبده خال حاملا تكملة لعنوان الرواية: ترمي بشرر “كالقصر”. قصر بهيج هو جنة جحيمية، ترمي بشررها على جحيم الحارات البائسة في جدة، فيمتد الحكي جسرا بين عالم سيد القصر ومن تحولوا دمى بشرية وعبيداً، من اجتاحهم القصر وسلبهم بحرهم وقوارب نجاتهم. رواية ساخرة فاجعة تصور فظاعة تدمير البيئة وتدمير النفوس بالمتعة المطلقة بالسلطة والمتعة المطلقة بالثراء، وتقدم البوح الملتاع لمن أغوتهم أنوار القصر الفاحشة فاستسلموا إلى عبودية مختارة من النوع الحديث.

يوم غائم في البر الغربي، محمد المنسي قنديل

دار الشروق، القاهرة، 2009

يحيي الروائي المصري محمد المنسي قنديل فترة الاكتشافات الأثرية والنضال الوطني في مصر، ويضمنها ملحمة فتاة تهرب بها والدتها من زوجها المغتصب، وتودعها ديرا في أسيوط بعد أن تغير اسمها وتدق على ذراعها الصغيرة صليبا. ثم يتداخل مصير الفتاة وقد أضحت مترجمة، مع مسيرة شخصيات تاريخية مثل هوارد كارتر واللورد كرومر وعبد الرحمن الرفاعي. ويتداخل القص الشيق مع التوثيق الدقيق في وصف الأمكنة والأزمنة.

وراء الفردوس، منصورة عز الدين

دار العين للنشر، القاهرة، 2009

تتناول رواية الكاتبة المصرية منصورة عز الدين الطبقة البورجوازية في الريف، وذلك من خلال شخصية سلمى التي تعمل محررة في جريدة أدبية وتحاول أن تتخلص من ماض طويل محمّل ذكريات أليمة وصوراً سلبية عن الذات، مما شجعها على كتابة رواية خاصة بها، تسرد فيها تاريخ العائلة، تاريخ الحب، تاريخ الجسد، تاريخ الحراك الطبقي داخل القرية، تاريخ الجنون، تاريخ الكتابة: وكأن الذات قد انشطرت قسمين، قسماً يراقب ويسرد والآخر ينقب بهستيريا عن مكنونه لتخرج الرواية.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction was officially launched in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in April 2007. It is the result of a collaborative effort by the Booker Prize Foundation, the Emirates Foundation and the Weidenfeld Institute for Strategic Dialogue, whose aim was to develop a dedicated prize for Arabic fiction.
A steering committee of Arab literary experts, publishers and journalists was established to advise on the set-up of the Prize and its independent Board of Trustees, whose members have been drawn from across the Arab and Anglophone worlds, and are responsible for the overall management of the prize. The Emirates Foundation pledged its financial and substantive support for the initiative.

The Prize is specifically for the novel literary genre, and it awards $10,000 to each of the six shortlisted authors, with an additional $50,000 to the winner.

About the Booker Prize:

The Booker Prize Foundation is a registered charity which, since 2002, has been responsible for the award of the Man Booker Prize (formally the Booker Prize).

Established in 1968, the Man Booker Prize (formally known as ‘The Booker Prize’) is a prestigious literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.

The judges of the Man Booker Prize are selected from leading literary critics, writers, academics and notable public figures. The judging panel changes each year to maintain the consistent excellence of the prize and its integrity.
A Russian version of the prize was created in 1992. And an African version, the “Caine Prize”, was launched in 2000 .
The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured of international renown and success. It is also a mark of distinction for authors to be nominated for the Booker longlist or selected for inclusion in the shortlist.

About the Emirates Foundation:

Established in 2005, the Emirates Foundation is one of the leading philanthropic organizations in the UAE. It is committed to improving the quality of life for all people in the UAE, through a variety of local and international projects that stimulate intellectual and social growth, as well as increase access to cultural, educational and technological resources, and foster increased participation in civic life.

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تسعة عشر بيتاً من التائية الكبرى

ولا غروَ أن سُدْتُ الألَى سبقوا ، أو قدْ *** تمسَّكتُ ، من طهَ ، بأوثقِ عُروةِ

عليها مجازيُّ سلامي ، فإنَّما *** حقيقتُهُ منِّي إلَّيّ تحيَّتي

وأطيبُ ما فيها وجدتُ بِمبتدا *** غرامي ، وقدْ أبدَى بِهَا كلَّ نذرةِ

ظهوري ، وقدْ أخفيتُ حاليَ مُنشداً *** بها ، طرباً ، والحالُ غيرُ خفيَّةِ

بدتْ ، فرأيتُ الحزمَ في نقضِ توبتي، *** وقامَ بها عندَ النُّهى عُذرُ مِحنتي

فَمنها أماني منْ ضَنى جسدي بِها، *** أمانيُّ آمالٍ سَخَتْ ، ثمَّ شحَّتِ

وفيها تلافي الجسمِ ، بالُّسقمِ صحَّةِ *** له ، وتلافُ الَّنفسِ نفسُ الفتوَّةِ

ومَوتي بِها ، وَجداً ، حياةٌ هنيئةٌ، *** وإنْ لم أمُتْ في الحبِّ عِشتُ بغُصّةِ

فيا مُهجتي ذوبي جَوىً وصبابةً، *** ويا لوعَتي كوني ، كذاكَ ، مُذيبتي

ويا نارَ أحشائي أقيمي ، مِنَ الجوَى، *** حَنايَا ضُلوعي ، فهيَ غيرُ قويمةِ

ويا حُسنَ صبري ، في رِضى من أُحبُّها، *** تجمَّل ، وكن للدَّهرِ بي غيرَ مُشمِتِ

ويا جَلَدي ، في جنبِ طاعةِ حُبِّها، *** تحمَّل ، عَداَكَ الكَلُّ ، كُلَّ عظيمةِ

ويا جسَدي المُضنَى تسَلَّ عن الشِّفَا، *** ويا كبِدي ، مَنْ لي بأنْ تتَفتَّتي

ويا سقَمي لا تُبْقِ لي رَمقاً ، فقدْ *** أبيتُ ، لبُقيا العِزِّ ، ذُلَّ البقيَّةِ

ويا صحَّتي ، ما كانَ من صُحبتي انْقضى، *** ووصلُك في الأحشاءِ ميتاً كهجرَةِ

ويا كُلَّ ما أبقَى الضَّنى منِّي ارتحِلْ، *** فما لَكَ مأوىً في عظامٍ رميمةِ

ويا ما عسَى منِّي أُناجي ، توهُّماً *** بياءِ النّدا ، أُونِستُ منكَ بوحشةِ

وكلُّ الَّذي ترضاهُ ، والموتُ دونَهُ، *** بهِ أنا راضٍ ، والصَّبابةُ أرضَتِ

ونفسيَ لمْ تجزَعْ باتلافهَا أسىً، *** ولو جَزِعَتْ كانت بغيري تأسَّتِ

وفي كُلِّ حيٍّ كلُّ حيٍّ كَميِّتٍ *** بها ، عندَهُ قتْلُ الهوى خيرُ مَوْتَهِ

Ibn al-Farid’s father moved from his native town, Hama in Syria, to Cairowhere he Umar was born. Some sources say that his father was a respected farid (an advocate for women’s causes) and others say that his profession was the allocation of shares (furūḍ) in cases of inheritance. Whichever is the case, Ibn al-Farid’s father was a knowledgeable scholar and gave his son a good foundation in belles lettres.

When he was a young man Ibn al-Farid would go on extended spiritual retreats among the oases, specifically the Oasis of the Wretches (Wadi al-Mustad’afin), outside of Cairo, but he eventually felt that he was not making deep enough spiritual progress. He abandoned his spiritual wanderings and enteredlaw school studying in the shafi’i school of law.

One day Ibn al-Farid saw a greengrocer performing the ritual Muslim ablutions outside the door of the law school, but the man was doing them out of the prescribed order. When Ibn al-Farid tried to correct him, the greengrocer looked at him and said, “Umar! You will not be enlightened in Egypt. You will be enlightened only in the Hijaz, in Mecca…”

Umar Ibn al-Farid was stunned by this statement, seeing that this simple greengrocer was no ordinary man. But he argued that he couldn’t possibly make the trip to Mecca right away. Then the man gave Ibn al-Farid a vision, in that very moment, of Mecca. Ibn al-Farid was so transfixed by this experience that he left immediately for Mecca and, in his own words, “Then as I entered it, enlightenment came to me wave after wave and never left.”

Shaykh Umar Ibn al-Farid stayed in Mecca for fifteen years, but eventually returned to Cairo because he heard the same greengrocer calling him back to attend his funeral. Upon return, he found the greengrocer on the point of death and they wished each other farewell.

Upon Ibn al-Farid’s return to Cairo, he was treated as a Saint. He would hold teaching sessions with judges, viziers and other leaders of the city. While walking down the street, people would come up to him and crowd around him, seeking spiritual blessings (barakah) and try to kiss his hand (he would respond by shaking their hand). Ibn al-Farid became a scholar of Muslim law, a teacher of the hadith (the traditions surrounding the sayings and life of the prophet Muhammad), and a teacher of poetry.

Unlike many other respected poets of the day such as Ibn Sana al-Mulk, Ibn Unayn, Baha al-Din Zuhayr and Ibn Matruh, Ibn al-Farid refused the patronage of wealthy governmental figures which would have required him to produce poetry for propaganda, preferring the relatively humble life of a teacher that allowed him to compose his poetry of enlightenment unhampered. One time al-Malik al-Kamil, who was the Ayubbid sultan at that time, liked sone of his odes so much that he sent the poet an exorbitant amount of money and offered to build a shrine for him. Ibn al-Farid denied both the money and the offer of the shrine, choosing to trust in God to supply for his needs. His position as a teacher at the Azharmosque allowed him to provide for his family, which included three children.

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