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In this sense the entire Palestinian people is exiled through an absence of its story. For others, however, who either remain in their homeland or are finally permitted to return to it, there is another form of imprisonment, not literal but temporal — they, and all those who share their oppression, become prisoners of time, part of a narrative of displacement.
As you might imagine, there is already a vast amount of material on the Arab Spring, even though it only dates from December My own field is Cultural Studies and my interest is in the cultural analysis of conflict, post-conflict and cultural forms. I am not an Arabic speaker so am drawing upon a range of texts either written in English or French or translated into English.
Poetry presents particular problems. Given an interest in a range of cultural forms, I have taken a chance by taking a fairly broad interpretation of writing — poems, novels, short stories, essays, reportage, blogs, tweets and song lyrics — particularly as much of the material available is of an occasional and ephemeral nature, produced for the moment, the here and now. For example, there have recently been published two novels by Syrian writers which use one of the most traumatic events in recent Syrian history — the Hama massacre — but it has taken 20 years or more for this episode to find literary articulation.
My focus is on the relationship between cultural forms, politics, and modes of resistance, a relationship which is rarely direct, or even explicit. Raunig quoted by Stephen Collis. It is this exchange which is my focus and it may well be that that those cultural forms which have an influence upon, or form a context for, resistances are very often not contemporary. In the Egyptian context, the poetry of Ahmed Fouad Negm negem , now 83 years old and, at one time, imprisoned for 18 years, was chanted in Tahrir Square and those poems set to music by Sheikh Imam were sung by protesters: The brave men are brave The cowards are cowardly Come with the brave Together to the Square If there are not many substantial literary works published as yet about the Arab Spring, many well-known writers in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Libya have written about, and actively participated, in the events.
Against a background of censorship, prohibition, imprisonment and exile, all, or most of the writers I shall be referring to had, to varying degrees, written about corruption, cronyism, detention, torture, financial scandals, poverty, unemployment, sexual repression in the regimes in which they live, or were exiled from.
These became a context, if not a prediction, in which the protests were articulated. Interestingly enough, many of the writers have spoken about the difficulty of writing fiction during the uprisings, and of the need to participate actively in them by other means.
Hindsight enables us to see these narratives as bearing witness through the process of writing and in the context of storytelling. Apart from ending the culture of fear, overcoming humiliation, and restoring dignity, the Arab Spring has also opened up spaces and time for narrative, enabling and empowering cultural forms to be recovered, restored and, of course, invented, with writers once more being able to renew their function of narrating the truth to power, not with answers but with questions. At the time of crisis, Ahdaf Soueif says, your talent is to tell the stories as they are and this she attempts to do in her Cairo: My City, Our Revolution, the title of which immediately articulates, with its pronominal shift, a belonging and a solidarity.
One is that while the eighteen days are locked into the past, the revolution and the fight to hold on to it continue, and every day the landscape shifts. The other is that you — my reader — are in a future unknown to me, and yet I want to tell a story that will ease the leap you need to make between where this book stops and where Egypt is as you read.
On the final page she summarises how, and why, Tahrir Square worked: because it was inclusive, inventive, open-source and participatory… communal, unified and focussed. Consciously or not, this is precisely how the structure of the book works. It documents in calendrical form the story of an activist who is also a radio and TV commentator, international figure, organiser and facilitator and, of course, writer. The notes at the back, full of references to youtube, internet, facebook and blogs give the sense of immediacy and urgency.
She keeps the narrative alive by binding together fragments of time and space, archive and history, interruptions and pauses, in a processual text shaped as an intervention and a conversation framed by the 18 days but weaving backwards and forwards in time, always with Tahrir Square as the epicentre — its smells, its sounds, and its anxieties.
The revolution opened up the possibility of dialogue. In Egypt, she says, it was silence or shouting. Now it is a great conservation. It is not a populist text nor does she construct herself as heroic, but in the process of writing she is striving to find forms and structures which echo and reproduce the historicity of the moment. That was our job, the people at the back: we stood and we chanted our declaration of peace: Selmeyya!
The sense of bodily, physical theatre is profound and the section concludes with an enunciative, Miltonic but also Whitmanesque, epic sentence: We sang. The Egyptian novelist, Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building, Friendly Fire, Chicago and other works, is a founder member of the Kefaya movement, one of the fiercest critics of the Mubharak regime, and has written an extensive series of newspaper columns in which he analyses the abuses and violence of the dictatorship. The introduction was written in February He records how, on 25 January, he was working on his novel The Automobile Club as he assumed the call to demonstrate would produce the usual small numbers.
The authority of the regime collapsed and the authority of the people took its place. The style of the columns varies from fairly straightforward critical reflection and observation to allegory and fantasy his dream of meeting with Gamal Mukbarak and reaching agreement on democracy — satire, hyperbole, irony and comic absurdity, and some of the techniques from his fictions are used to produce a complex mix of tone and register.
A permanent resident of Syria, from an Alawite family close to the regime, and a single mother with a 15 year old daughter, she writes on several levels. At one level, the book is an attempt to produce a narrative of self against the grain of ascribed identities but it is also a chronicle of a siege, both private and public.
This is a revolution and not a sectarian war, and my voice as a writer and a journalist must come out in support of the uprising, no matter what the cost. At one point, she begs her mother to appear on State TV to announce her loyalty to the President. Eventually, the pressures, the danger and the threats mount to a point where she and her daughter take flight from Syria in Paris now. The book is organised calendrically, covers the period from March to June , and takes the form of a diary and personal notebook. Armed with nothing but her conscience, she charts the struggle with her silence when confronted with the language of blood.
As a writer her challenge is to craft an alternative language and, as she moves around the city of Damascus in the face of death and constant fear of detention, she is searching for a voice to articulate what she sees and hears in taking on a regime which has colonised sight and hearing. She achieves this through a range of different strategies, combining personal testimony and reflection with the chronicling of extensive interviews with, and testimonies from, activists, media dissidents, doctors, male and female prisoners and friends, some of whom disappear and are never seen again.
Often these testimonies are electronically recorded but sometimes she chooses to transcribe them in colloquial dialect which she feels is fresher than modern standard Arabic.
Writers and Editors - Narrative nonfiction
At times also, she uses one particular interview to represent a range of similar voices. In the face of exhaustion, fears for her daughter, powerless and dependent upon Xanax and nicotine, she is conscious of the need for an evidence base to serve a future purpose beyond the immediate. Although unable to write at times because of the enormity of the events, she is also on occasions able to stand back from the immediate to pause, reflect upon the situation, and speculate.
He is the author of In Praise of Hatred recently translated into English, which is based around the life of a young Islamist woman in Aleppo, at odds with most of her family and torn by inner conflicts of faith and sexuality, who is active in the Muslim Brotherhood struggle with the regime in the late s, early s. Not a writer, of course, in the strict sense — in fact most of his cartoons are captionless — he has through parody and caricature created a space for political satire and presented a diagnosis of oppression and the abuses of power for more than thirty years.
His most recent collection is A Pen of Damascus Steel: Political Cartoons of an Arab Master which, while I have problems with its US marketing, is a representative sample of his work since the late s. Describing what it is like to be an artist in a culture of silence, fear and obedience he speaks of the need to bypass censorship which he did by addressing issues — suppression, dictatorship, lack of rights, hunger — but not identifiable persons.
However, he now does characterise the personalities of the regime in detail. He sees his role now as contributing to the cultural struggle to produce a larger narrative. A number of Tunisian writers wrote critically of dictatorship and injustice during the regime, including Kamel Riahi in The Scalpel and The Gorilla, and Samir Saasi whose Gates of Death registers the atrocities and torture in Tunisian prisons.
While the works of Riahi and Saasi should not be considered predictive as such, they are part of a framework and context whose relevance has been recognised since the revolution.
The first version was started as early as January , then corrected and revised over months as the narrative changed. However, in the afterword to the book, as well as sample storyboards, Borg documents the actual events and real figures — from the deposed President, through the rapper El General to a 16 year old tweeter. These images and sounds give the visceral and physical impact of the events, the emotional and expressive edge of the novel.
Borg chose this particular form because of its popularity with young people — very much the focus of the text — and the book was apparently well received in Tunisia. The narrative is very much driven by the negative circumstances in which Tunisian youth found themselves. While not claiming a facebook revolution, digital technologies are seen as enabling resources for the young activists.
It is beautiful. There were Anu, their father, Valiant Enlil, their counsellor, Ninurta, their herald, Ennuge, their irrigator. Reed-hut, hearken! Wall, reflect! Give up possessions, seek thou life. Despise property and keep the soul alive. Aboard the ship take thou the seed of all living things. The ship that thou shalt build, Her dimensions shall be to measure. Equal shall be her width and her length.
Like the Apsu subterranean waters thou shalt ceil her. But what shall I answer the city, the people and elders?
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To the Deep I will therefore go down, To swell with my lord Ea. But upon you he will shower down abundance, The choicest birds, the rarest fishes. The land shall have its fill of harvest riches. He who at dusk orders the husk-greens,Will shower down upon you a rain of wheat On the fifth day I laid her framework.
One whole acre was her floor space, Ten dozen cubits the height of each of her walls, The dozen cubits each edge of the square deck. I laid out the shape of her sides and joined her together.
I provided her with six decks, Dividing her thus into seven parts, Her floor plan I divided into nine parts. I hammered water-plugs into her. I saw to the punting-poles and laid in supplies. Three sar of the basket-bearers transferred, Aside from the one sar of oil which the caulking consumed, And the two sar of oil which the boatman stowed away. Bullocks I slaughtered for the people, And I killed sheep every day. On the seventh day the ship was completed.
The launching was very difficult, So that they had to shift the floor planks above and below, Until two-thirds of the structure had gone into the water. All my family and kin I made go aboard the ship. The beasts of the field, the wild creatures of the field, All the craftsmen I made go aboard. Understanding Lorrie Moore. Univ of South Carolina Press. Wikipedia has an article about: Novel. Look up novel in Wiktionary , the free dictionary. Category : Literature. Namespaces Page Discussion. Views Read Edit View history.