The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English: The Politics of Anglo Arab and Arab American Literature and Culture 9780748685554

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The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English: The Politics of Anglo Arab and Arab American Literature and Culture
 9780748685554

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The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English

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To Adnan Husain

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The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English The Politics of Anglo Arab and Arab American Literature and Culture

Edited by

Nouri Gana

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© editorial matter and organization Nouri Gana, 2013 © the chapters their several authors, 2013 Edinburgh University Press Ltd 22 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LF www.euppublishing.com Typeset in 11 on 13 Ehrhardt by Iolaire Typesetting, Newtonmore and printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 0 7486 8553 0 (hardback) ISBN 978 0 7486 8555 4 (webready PDF) ISBN 978 0 7486 8557 8 (epub) The right of the contributors to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 (SI No. 2498).

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Contents

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Acknowledgments Notes on the Contributors Introduction: The Intellectual History and Contemporary Significance of the Arab Novel in English Nouri Gana

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Part I: Constellations: Modernity, Empire and Postcoloniality 1. The Rise of the Arab American Novel: Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid Waïl S. Hassan

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2. Beyond Orientalism: Khalid, the Secular City and the Transcultural Self Geoffrey Nash

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3. The Incestuous (Post)Colonial: Soueif ’s Map of Love and the Second Birth of the Egyptian Novel in English Shaden M. Tageldin

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4. Drinking, Gambling and Making Merry: Waguih Ghali’s Search for Cosmopolitan Agency Deborah A. Starr 5. Mobile Belonging? The Global “Given” in the Work of Etel Adnan Mary N. Layoun

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6. Burning, Memory and Postcolonial Agency in Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits Ahmed Idrissi Alami

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7. Zenga Zenga and Bunga Bunga: The Novels of Hisham Matar and a Critique of Gaddafi’s Libya Christopher Micklethwait

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Part II: Force-fields: Ethnic Ties and Transnational Solidarities 8. In Search of Andalusia: Reconfiguring Arabness in Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent Nouri Gana 9. Europe and Its Others: The Novels of Jamal Mahjoub Jopi Nyman 10. Space, Embodiment, Identity and Resistance in the Novels of Fadia Faqir Lindsey Moore 11. The Arab Canadian Novel and the Rise of Rawi Hage F. Elizabeth Dahab 12. The Arab Australian Novel: Situating Diasporic and Multicultural Literature Saadi Nikro 13. Identity, Transformation and the Anglophone Arab Novel Maysa Abou-Youssef Hayward 14. Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine: A Druze Novel as World Literature? Michelle Hartman

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Part III: Prospects/Challenges: Authority, Pedagogy and the Market Industry

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15. Invisible Ethnic: Mona Simpson and the Space of the Ethnic Literature Market Mara Naaman

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16. The Challenges of Orientalism: Teaching about Islam and Masculinity in Leila Aboulela’s The Translator Brendan Smyth

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17. Teaching from Cover to Cover: Arab Women’s Novels in the Classroom Heather M. Hoyt

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18. Perils and Pitfalls of Marketing the Arab Novel in English Samia Serageldin

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Bibliography Index

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A c k n ow l e d g m e n t s

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The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English has been several years in the making. It would be impossible to list all those who contributed—in one way or another, directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally— to its conception, development and completion. First and foremost, I thank all the authors for their excellent contributions and for their exemplary patience throughout the publishing process. Initially, the idea for this project started while I was a SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada) Postdoctoral Fellow at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada (2004–6). For my two-year tenure at Queen’s I remain indebted to the mentorship, friendship and intellectual generosity of my colleagues in the Department of English, particularly Patricia Rae, Asha Varadharajan, Chris Bongie, Helen Tiffin, Ariel Salzmann and Margaret Pappano. This book is dedicated to Adnan Husain for his support of this project at an early formative stage. When I moved to the University of Michigan, Dearborn, by mid-2006, I de facto started collaborating with other colleagues interested in diasporic Arab literature written in English. I organized a special session titled The Rise of the Arab Novel in English, held at the MLA’s 122nd Annual Convention, Philadelphia, PA (December 27–30, 2006). Special thanks go to the panelists—Hamid Bahri, Shaden M. Tageldin and Waïl S. Hassan—for presenting their work in that crucial panel. I would like to take this opportunity as well to thank all the members of the then MLA Discussion Group (now Division) on Arabic Literature and Culture, especially Anouar Majid, Amal Amireh, Mohja Kahf, and Nabil Matar. The enthused reception and productive discussion that followed the panel, formally and then informally, convinced me that the time was ripe for a volume of essays on the Arab novel in English. This conviction grew stronger after yet another panel I organized,

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The Preoccupations of the Arab American Novel, for RAWI (the Radius of Arab American Writers, Inc.) 2nd National Conference, held at the Arab American National Museum, Dearborn, MI (May 17–20, 2007). I thank Carol Fadda-Conrey, Mara Naaman, Heather M. Hoyt, and Maysa AbouYoussef Hayward for their thoughtful papers which helped to shape and enrich the project. I also thank the audience in that panel for their insightful comments and questions during the discussion that followed, especially Fady Joudah, Gregory Orfalea and Khaled Mattawa. In the meanwhile, the project developed over the years through the many undergraduate lectures and graduates seminars taught around these issues at Queen’s University, Ontario, University of Michigan, Dearborn, and the University of California, Los Angeles. Such courses included “Contemporary Literature: Multilingual Diasporic Arab Literature and Culture,” “Anglophone Arab Women Writers,” “The Political Turn: Arab and Arab American Literature and Culture 1967–9/11” and “Between Modernity and Empire: The Multilingual Arab Novel.” Warm thanks go to all the students who took these courses. I have been in conversation with several friends and colleagues about the project and I would like to acknowledge their work and support. They include Dima Ayoub, Carol Bardenstein, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Fadia Faqir, Salah Hassan, Laila Lalami, Atef Laouyene, Lisa Suhair Majaj, Hisham Matar, Khaled Mattawa, Deborah Julia Al-Najjar, Firat Oruc, Steven Salaita and Pauline Homsi Vinson. I am immensely thankful to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback and to Nicola Ramsey for her continuing support of this project through the years. Thanks also to the EUP staff with whom I have been in contact, including Michelle Houston, Jenny Peebles and Rebecca Mackenzie. My deepest thanks go to Reem for her help and support, especially in the final and crucial editorial stages of the book manuscript. I am grateful to Nja Mahdaoui for his superb “Graphemes,” which is featured as the book cover. Molka Mahdaoui has been remarkably helpful in facilitating the transmission of the piece in the right format.

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N o t e s o n t h e C o n t r i bu t o r s

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F. Elizabeth Dahab is Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department of Comparative World Literature and Classics at California State University, Long Beach. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from McGill University and her Master’s from the University of Alberta (Canada). She received her doctorat de littérature comparée in Comparative Literature from the Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne. Dahab published extensively on the topic of Arab Canadian literature, including a monograph entitled Voices of Exile in Contemporary Canadian Francophone Literature (2009/2011). Voices in the Desert: An Anthology of Arabic-Canadian Women Writers, her edited anthology, appeared in Toronto in 2002. Nouri Gana is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature & Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. He published numerous articles and chapters on modernist and postcolonial studies as well as on the literatures and cultures of the Arab world and its diasporas in such scholarly venues as Comparative Literature Studies, PMLA, Public Culture and Social Text. He also contributed op-eds to such magazines and international newspapers as The Guardian, El País, The Electronic Intifada, Jadaliyya and CounterPunch. Author of Signifying Loss: Toward a Poetics of Narrative Mourning (2011), he is currently completing a book manuscript on the politics of melancholia in the Arab world and another on the history of cultural dissent in Tunisia prior to the revolution. Michelle Hartman is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University. Her research has focused on the politics of language use in literatures written in Arabic, French and English, the construction of race in Arab American and African American poetry, and more recently on the politics of translating Arabic women’s literature into English. Her work has appeared in journals such as the

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International Journal of Middle East Studies, Feminist Studies and Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature. Waïl S. Hassan is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction (2003) and Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature (2011); co-editor of Approaches to Teaching the Works of Naguib Mahfouz (2012); and translator of Abdelfattah Kilito’s Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language (2008). He is currently writing a book on Arab-Brazilian literary and cultural relations. Maysa Abou-Youssef Hayward is Dean of E-Learning at Ocean County College where she heads programs in Global Initiatives and Distance Learning. Her degrees are from Cairo University (BA), the American University in Cairo (MA), and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (PhD). Her research interests and publications are in Arabic studies, Arab American literature, and translation. Heather M. Hoyt teaches English literature and composition at Arizona State University. Her scholarly interests include Arab and Arab-American literature, rhetorical and linguistic approaches to literature, and curriculum development. Ahmed Idrissi Alami teaches Arabic studies and comparative literature at Purdue University. In his research, he explores questions of cultural identity and constructions of subjectivities through North African, Middle Eastern and Arab diasporic writings. Besides his forthcoming book Mutual Othering: Islam, Modernity, and the Politics of Cross-Cultural Encounters in Pre-Colonial Moroccan and European Travel Writing (2013), he has published articles in the Journal of North African Studies, Journal of Contemporary Thought and Middle Eastern Literatures. Mary N. Layoun is Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her research interests, teaching, community work, and publications focus on the intersections of politics and culture; transnational regimes and constructions of citizenship; “terror” and human security; the World Trade Organization and cultural property; visual culture, comic books and history; community-building and social movements for justice and co-habitation. Publications include Wedded to the Land? Gender,

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Boundaries, Nationalism in Crisis (2001) and Travels of a Genre: Ideology and the Modern Novel (1990). She is currently working on two projects: “Worlds of Difference: Graphic Narratives and History” and “Occupying the National Family: Sexuality, the Family, and Citizenship in Early Occupation Japan and Post-WWII U.S. (1945–47).” Christopher Micklethwait has a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Texas at Austin and has taught courses on Arab American literature, third world literature and the Arab Uprisings at the University of Texas at Austin, the American University in Cairo, and St Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. Lindsey Moore is Lecturer in English at the University of Lancaster, U.K. She is the author of Arab, Muslim, Woman: Voice and Vision in Postcolonial Literature and Film (2008) and various articles and book chapters on Arab/ Arab diaspora and South Asian diaspora creative work, particularly literature. Mara Naaman is an Assistant Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Williams College in Williamstown Massachusetts. Her book Urban Space in Contemporary Egyptian Literature: Portraits of Cairo (2011) treats the relevance of downtown Cairo to the production of modernity and national identity in contemporary Egyptian literature. Her academic fields of interest include modern Egyptian and Iraqi literature and culture, theories of space and social geography, post-colonial theory, Arab women’s literature, and Arab American literature and culture. Geoffrey Nash is Senior Lecturer in English, University of Sunderland, U.K. He graduated from Oxford with a BA in English and holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of London. His research specialisms are nineteenth-century British and French orientalists, travel writing on the Middle East, Arab Anglophone fiction and autobiography, and Islamic themes in contemporary English fiction. Recent publications include the monographs Writing Muslim Identity (2012), The Anglo-Arab Encounter: Fiction and Autobiography by Arab Writers in English (2007), and From Empire to Orient: Travellers to the Middle East, 1830–1926 (2005). He has edited (translator Daniel O’Donoghue) Comte de Gobineau and Orientalism: Selected Eastern Writings (2008) and Travellers to the Middle East: From Burckhardt to Thesiger: An Anthology (2009). Saadi Nikro has a Lebanese-Australian background, and is currently a Research Fellow at Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. He previously held the position

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of Assistant Professor at Notre Dame University in Lebanon, 2001–7. He is the author of The Fragmenting Force of Memory: Self, Literary Style, and Civil War in Lebanon (2012). His work has been published in numerous journals as well as in an edited volume titled Politics, Culture and the Lebanese Diaspora (2010). Jopi Nyman is Head of English at the University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu. He is the author and editor of almost twenty books on various aspects of literary and cultural studies in English. His most recent volumes include the monograph Home, Identity, and Mobility in Contemporary Diasporic Fiction (2009) and the co-edited collections Locality, Memory, Reconstruction: The Cultural Challenges and Possibilities of Former Single-Industry Communities (2012) and Mobile Narratives: Travel, Migration, and Transculturation (2013). His current research interests include human-animal studies, border narratives, and transcultural literatures. Samia Serageldin is the author of three novels: The Cairo House, The Naqib’s Daughter, and Love is Like Water, as well as of several essays in edited volumes on Islam, women, and terrorism. She is an editor of the magazine South Writ Large. Serageldin left Egypt to study at London University, where she earned her MS degree in Political Science, before emigrating to the United States in the early 1980s. She has taught French and Arabic, including at Duke University, before devoting her time to writing, journalism, and public speaking. She lives in North Carolina but spends part of the year in her native Egypt, and is currently working on a first-hand narrative of the Egyptian Revolution of January 25, 2011. Brendan Smyth is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. His research interests include Indigenous literature, postcolonial literature, and globalization studies. Deborah A. Starr is Associate Professor of Modern Arabic and Hebrew Literature and Film in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. She is the author of Remembering Cosmopolitan Egypt: Literature, Culture, and Empire (2009). She is also the co-editor, with Sasson Somekh, of Mongrels or Marvels: The Levantine Writings of Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff (2011). She is currently at work on a new project about minorities in Egyptian cinema from the 1930s to the 1950s. Shaden M. Tageldin is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. She earned her

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PhD in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley. A specialist in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literatures in Arabic, English, and French, her research and teaching engage empire and postcolonial studies, critical translation theory, and the politics and ideologies of language and literature. Author of Disarming Words: Empire and the Seductions of Translation in Egypt (2011), for which she was awarded the Honorable Mention for the 2013 Harry Levin Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association, Tageldin has published articles in the Journal of Arabic Literature, Comparative Literature Studies, International Journal of Middle East Studies and other scholarly volumes. Her PMLA (2011) essay, “Secularizing Islam: Carlyle, al-Sibaʻi, and the Translations of ‘Religion’ in British Egypt,” won the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Essay Prize for 2011. Tageldin is currently at work on a second book, provisionally titled Empire, Empiricism, and the Vernacular Turn: Toward a Transcontinental Theory of Modern Comparative Literature.

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I n t ro d u c t i o n : The Intellectual History and C o n t e m p o r a r y S i g n i fi c a n c e o f t h e A r a b N ove l i n E n gl i s h Nouri Gana

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The novel is a largely imported European genre yet a profoundly resonant latecomer into the history of Arab letters which had traditionally found in poetry its major and most enduring form of literary and artistic expression.1 It might not be surprising, therefore, that the first novel ever to have been written by an Arab novelist was arguably written in a language other than Arabic. Indeed, the publication of Ameen Rihani’s 1911 The Book of Khalid, a highly experimental and avant-gardist novel written in English, preceded by more than two years that of Muhammad Husayn Haykal’s Zaynab, a work that has consistently been prized as “the first real Arabic novel.”2 Even Haykal’s novel, one might argue—if one were indeed to adhere to this conventional line of historicizing—would not have been possible without the mediation of Europe, where it was conceived and written in different capitals (Paris, London and Geneva) before it was published in Cairo. It could not have been more fitting, not to say symptomatic, for The Book of Khalid to have been written in English even though what is ironic in this case is that Rihani’s Anglophone novel relied more on local Arabic forms than Haykal’s Zaynab, which constituted, as one commentator put it, “the first imitation of the European form virtually unmediated by the influence of any indigenous Arabic literary forms.”3 The early rise to prominence of the Arab novel in English was soon eclipsed by the proliferation and consolidation of the Arab novel in Arabic—a process of development that reached an acme when, in 1988, the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz became the first Arab litterateur to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.4 Similarly, while inaugurated by Mohamed Ben Chérif ’s 1920 novel, Ahmed Ben Mostapha, goumier, the Arab novel in French flourished steadily, producing in the process two Prix Goncourt

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winners (the Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun in 1987 and the Lebanese Amin Maalouf in 1993), not to mention Assia Djebar, the first Arab woman novelist to join the prestigious Académie Française (aka the immortals club). In the meanwhile, the Arab novel in English did not develop beyond the publications of occasional novels in the 1960s such as Jabra Ibrahim Jabra’s Hunters in a Narrow Street (1960) and Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club (1964), both of which were not accorded any critical attention until very recently.5 The brutality of European imperialism in the Arab world, the decline of the project of nahda (Arab renaissance) and the rise of Arab nationalism and later anti-colonial struggles, along with the clampdown on Arab immigration to the U.S. in the 1920s, among other factors, must have combined to impede the continuation, let alone the consolidation, of the Anglophone novelistic venture initiated by Rihani (in concert with his illustrious contemporaries, namely Khalil Gibran and Mikhail Naimy, both of whom composed poetry and wrote in various genres but not in the novel genre of the novel).6 Over the last three decades, however, the Arab novel in English seems to have been experiencing nothing short of a second coming after Ameen Rihani’s pioneering work. The Anglo Egyptian Ahdaf Soueif was hailed by many critics, including Edward Said, as “one of the most extraordinary chroniclers of sexual politics,” and as an insightful commentator, translator and dramatizer of the disquiet between Arab/Eastern and Western cultures.7 Her 1999 novel, The Map of Love, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and her earlier novel, In the Eye of the Sun, about inter-racial marriage created heated debates in the Arab world upon its translation into Arabic. Similar debates have followed the publication in Arabic of Crescent—one of the earliest and most widely popular post-9/11 novels written originally in English by the Jordanian American novelist Diana Abu-Jaber. More recently, Libyan novelist Hisham Matar emerged as one of the most exciting new talents with In the Country of Men, a Bildungsroman of sorts about growing up in Gaddafi’s Libya, which was short-listed for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. In the same year, Lebanese Canadian Rawi Hage launched in Toronto his début novel, De Niro’s Game, an engrossing chronicle of the Lebanese civil war, which went on to win the prestigious 2008 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, along with several other accolades. The list of contemporary Arab novelists writing in English is expanding steadily given the phenomenal and continuing rise of début novelists; in fact, more than half of Arab novelists writing in English today wrote their début novels after September 11, 2001, and the number of new novelists will continue to proliferate exponentially. Apart from the names I mentioned above

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(i.e., the Lebanese Ameen Rihani and Rawi Hage, the Egyptian Ahdaf Soueif and Waguih Ghali, the Jordanian Diana Abu-Jaber, the Libyan Hisham Matar and the Palestinian Jabra Ibrahim Jabra), there are numerous other novelists, new or old, promising or established, Arabs or of Arab descent, Muslim or Christian, neither Muslim nor Christian, living or have lived in, among others, the U.S., Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa and/or the Middle East; these include the Sudanese Leila Aboulela and Jamal Mahjoub; the Palestinian Shaw J. Dallal, Yasmine Zahran, Soraya Antonius, Ibrahim Fawal, Kathryn Abdul Baki as well as Consuelo Saah Baehr, Ghada Karmi, Susan Abulhawa, Randa Jarrar, Alia Yunis, Selma Dabbagh and Randa Abdel-Fattah; the Egyptian Saad Elkhadem and Samia Serageldin as well as Gini Alhadeff and Alicia Erian; the Moroccan Anouar Majid and Laila Lalami; the Tunisian Sabiha Khemir and the Syrian Mohja Kahf as well as Mona Simpson and Robin Yassin-Kassab—not to mention the formidable Lebanese contingent, which boasts more than half of the entire number of Arab novelists writing in English, ranging from the most established to the most promising, including Etel Adnan, Samuel John Hazo, Rabih Alameddine, Laila Halaby, D. H. Melhem, Marwan Hassan, Jad El Hage, Abbas El Zein, Nada Awar Jarrar, Loubna Haikal, Nathalie Abi-Ezzi as well as Nabil Saleh, Zeina B. Ghandour, Emma Farry, Dimitri Nasrallah and Zee Saliba. While the trickle of novels produced by these writers can hardly be placed on a par with the established novelistic writings in Arabic and French, the resurgence of the Arab novel in English and its potential expansion in a post-9/11 world both deserve a measure of critical attention and commentary at a time when the amount of attention that diasporic Arab writers have garnered has shifted from the tragedies of September 11 to the promises of the Arab uprisings.8 The purpose of this book is twofold: theoretical and critical. Theoretically, it seeks to develop provisional historical frameworks that can help us understand the unruly and unorderly development of the Arab novel in English—its erratic rise, demise, and current re-rise. Critically, it seeks to particularize this overriding historicizing impulse by means of close readings of particular novels, attending thus to the specificities of each novelistic endeavor and to the diverse geopolitical and diasporic contexts from which these novels are produced as well as to the sociopolitical urgencies to which they seek to respond. While deploying a largely comparative and polydirectional approach, the chapters included in this book undertake historical and comparative forays in an economized way, and particularly in order to unravel critical latencies with which to illuminate the specific texts at hand and generate practical

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and classroom-oriented conclusions about the cultural and political forcefields of the Arab novel in English.

Novel Formations: Transnational Collaborative Entanglements The first Arab novel may have appeared in a language other than Arabic. Yet, before he wrote The Book of Khalid, Rihani was an established writer in Arabic. It is hard to speculate on the pressing reasons that prompted Rihani to write The Book of Khalid in English even though his immigration to the U.S. should offer a good enough entry point; what matters, however, is that he wrote in English with an entire career of writing in Arabic under his belt. Rihani’s case is symptomatic perhaps of the ways in which the novel evolved, broadly speaking, out of the shimmering influences of cultures (both European and non-European) before it was relocated, perfected and claimed as a European genre par excellence. In order to understand the transnational context from which the Arab novel in English emerged, it might be necessary to start with a brief detour into the formation of the novel in light of the Arabic rehearsals that preceded Rihani’s crowning achievement. The aim here is not to hijack the Anglophone Arab novel from its most immediate national and ethnic settings in Arab American, Arab Canadian, Arab British or Arab Australian milieus, all of which exert enormous contextual pressure, but, rather, to discern the broad strokes of the profoundly transnational and collaborative entanglements of which it is a product and which it so remarkably continues to foreground. The Arabic novel owes its beginnings, in good part, to East-West intellectual and crosscultural encounters, transmissions and exchanges through, among other factors, travel, colonial contact, adaptation and translation. While the different motives behind these encounters can be discerned retrospectively through, for instance, the lenses of orientalism or occidentalism, the literary and cultural entanglements they (must have) produced remain hardly mappable into a master historiographical narrative from which a genealogy of the novel proper can be reconstructed. Early Arab literary narratives—such as the eighth-century Kalila wa Dimna, a volume of animal fables of Indian origins, which Ibn al-Muqaffa‘ translated from Persian into Arabic; the maqamat or chivalric tales of Badi‘ al-Zaman al-Hamadhani and Muhammad al-Qasim al-Hariri in the tenth and eleventh centuries, respectively; the twelfth-century philosophical tale Hayy Ibn Yuqzan (Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yuqzan: A Philosophical Tale) by the Andalusian physician and philosopher Ibn Tufayl; and, particularly, Alf layla wa-layla (The

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Thousand and One Nights), an authorless narrative that spans geographies and centuries—had variably informed the rise of the novel in Europe from Cervantes’s Don Quixote (1605, 1615) and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) to Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759–67) and beyond. As one commentator, among several, noted about Alf layla wa-layla (aka The Arabian Nights) in a recent article titled the “History of the Novel”: this text, which had been borrowed enthusiastically in Europe and later on made representative of the romance that Western realism left behind, became evidence (having travelled eastward again in modern and postmodern times) refuting the premise that in the Middle East fiction could not possibly be anything but a borrowed form.9 I will come back to this point below but suffice it to say for now that the early Arab novels (at least in their ostensibly formless or searching forms in the second half of the nineteenth century) were, in turn, informed by the gradual development, translation, and dissemination of the novel in and outside Europe from the eighteenth century onward. As such, the novel emerges less as the propriety of one geopolitical or sociocultural sphere of production and influence than as the materialization of transformational and generative entanglements—really, the crystallization of transcultural and transnational collaborative endeavors. The Arab novels that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century were wittingly or unwittingly inclined to reconcile between the westward and eastward or inward strains and constraints by which they were shaped and to which they in turn gave concrete shape. This bidirectional impulse has largely animated the various novels of this period, namely: Khalil Khoury’s Oui … idhen lastu bi-Ifranji (1859, Yes … So I am not a Frank); Salim alBustani’s Al-Hiyam fi Jinan al-Sham (1870, At a Loss in the Levantine Gardens); Francis Marrash’s Ghabat al-haqq (1865, The Forest of Truth); Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Al-Saq ‘ala al-saq (1855, Leg upon Leg); and Muhammad al-Muwailihi’s Hadith ‘Isa ’ibn Hisham (1907, Isa ibn Hisham’s Tale). In addition to Khalil Gibran’s Al-Ajniha al-mutakassira (1912, Broken Wings) and Muhammad Husayn Haykal’s Zaynab (1914), almost each of the above novels has at one point or another been reclaimed as the first Arabic novel,10 which goes to suggest that the Arabic novel emerged from several rehearsals and multiple beginnings rather than from one single origin. Given that the very Arabic word riwaya, which is now used exclusively in reference to the “novel,” has traditionally conjured up a tangle of narrative genres such as hadith (prophetic tradition), sira (prophetic biography), hikaya

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(tale), and maqama (in which authorial transmission or riwaya of speeches, stories, reports, and news, or akhbar, is central), it might not be unfair to contend that the Arabic novel owes its early formation not only to the recent appropriation of the novel genre from Europe—a widely, albeit variably, accepted view by Edward W. Said and Mohamed Berrada, among several others11—but also, and more importantly, to the revival and transformation of traditional narrative genres in the wake of Napoleon’s 1798 expedition into Egypt and the Arab world’s first-hand encounter with industrialized imperial Europe. The pioneers of the Arabic novel were part and parcel of the experimental ventures of the nineteenth-century nahda—the largely intellectual movement that sought to revive and reinvigorate Arab culture by assimilating European modernity and resurrecting forgotten Arab modernity (following, as it were, three centuries of Ottoman rule). Little surprise, then, that Nasif al-Yaziji, al-Shidyaq, al-Muwailihi, and Hafiz Ibrahim, to name only a few, returned to the maqama in order to write novels. While for Abdelfattach Kilito al-Muwailihi’s Hadith ‘Isa ’ibn Hisham concludes the transition of Arabic prose from the maqama to the novel, ridding the latter of the stylistic adornments and constraints of the former,12 it can be argued that the Arabic novel has not fully abandoned all the formal aspects of the maqama.13 Elias Khoury’s experimental novels, for instance, rely heavily on episodic narration across orality and textuality, and Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s trilogy is an exercise in saja‘, or rhymed prose, weaving together idiomatic neologisms and elaborate rhetoric across poetry and prose (aka prosimetrum). It might be the case that the colonial scramble for the Arab world in the long nineteenth century pushed some Arab novelists to turn to traditional forms of expression such as the maqama as acts of resistance to European cultural hegemony, but the fact remains that the Arabic novel as such never quite flourished at the time when major parts of the Arab world had been under unchallenged colonial rule. Poetry, that oldest form of Arab literary expression, continued to reign supreme. It was not until decolonial struggles gained momentum across the Arab world that Arab novelists felt warranted not only to appropriate the novel as a form of decolonial expression but also the very language of the colonizer itself. This is most noticeably the case with the Levant and especially the Maghreb, whose placement in the Arab Muslim world and submission to a very long French (and, to a lesser degree, Italian and Spanish) colonial domination produced a rich tradition of novel writing, along with some of the most compelling debates about the postcolonial or Third-World novel in relation to questions of language, ethnicity, modernity, culture, nation, decolonization, and a host of other

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issues. Could it be the case then that colonial Europe impeded the development of the (Arabic) novel as a spontaneous and local form and imposed it instead as a European form (or insofar as it is recycled, relocated and reclaimed as such), suppressing in the process the untidy, uncoordinated but largely collaborative transnational endeavors at the origin of the novel (and to which, as aforementioned, diverse Arabic narrative forms, antecedent to the novel per se, have contributed)? Reading Franco Moretti reading Frederic Jameson, it might be safe, not to say tempting, to argue that the rise of the novel in the Arab world (as is the case in other parts of the Third World) arises from the collision between the wave-like travels of a Western narrative form and the tree-like profundity, richness and specificity of local reality. In a rhetorically seductive yet latently circular logic, Moretti propounds: a law of literary evolution: in cultures that belong to the periphery of the literary system (which means: almost all cultures, inside and outside Europe), the modern novel first arises not as an autonomous development but as a compromise between a western formal influence (usually French or English) and local materials.14 Moretti describes the tree-wave metaphorical movement that produces formal compromises as follows: The tree describes the passage from unity to diversity: one tree, with many branches: from Indo-European, to dozens of different languages. The wave is the opposite: it observes uniformity engulfing an initial diversity: Hollywood films conquering one market after another (or English swallowing language after language).15 The circular logic of this dyadic movement cannot be overstressed: the tree begins there where the wave ends and back. What is interesting, however, is that Moretti conjures up language and Hollywood film to press his tacitly Eurocentric rule of novel formation: “Four continents, two hundred years, over twenty independent critical studies, and they all agreed: when a culture starts moving towards the modern novel, it’s always as a compromise between foreign form and local materials.”16 Moretti is not unaware of the underlying assumption that allocates pride of place (albeit not without a whiff of equivocation) to “those independent paths that are usually taken to be the rule of the rise of the novel (the Spanish, the French, and especially the British case),” which evoke (yet not quite) an exception to the rule of

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compromise and compositeness: “well, they’re not the rule at all, they’re the exception. They come first, yes, but they’re not at all typical.”17 Rather than being the standard of novel formation, these independent and exceptional novelistic traditions stand outside the frying pan of history and, in a lordly manner, produce and reproduce the standard. I have no wish to push this discussion any further but I find Moretti’s wave-tree metaphoric dyad quite insightful in a very specific way, namely what he refers to as the “initial diversity” of the wave and the eventual plurality of the tree. One may of course understand readily the allegorical correspondence between the “many branches” of the tree and the plurality and proliferation of national novelistic traditions as composite compromises, yet where does the “initial diversity” of the wave come from? This question leads me back to my inaugural conjecture that the rise of the novel (insofar as the Arabic contributions to it are concerned) should be understood in more polycentric, polydirectional and comparative ways as the materialization of transnational collaborative entanglements. By “collaborative,” I do not only refer to the many different forms of cultural exchange from the crusades, at least, to the European Renaissance and afterwards into the post-Andalusian and unbendingly imperial world through war, colonialism, pillage, plunder, translation, circulation and adaptation, but I also have in mind the cumulative effect of local, isolated, fragmented, uncoordinated, non-collaborative and non-collective narrative forms of the creative imagination out of which the novel took shape. Besides, and as Efraín Kristal argues in his spirited response to Moretti, “strategies of transfer in any direction may involve rejections, swerves, as well as transformations of various kinds, even from one genre to another”18 and “in ways that have little to do with the centre.”19 The novel must have emerged in medias res—in the meanwhile of such dispersed, fragmentary and transnational negotiations; many antecedent forms from multiple and diverse traditions (including, Chinese, Japanese, European and Arabic) must have contributed to its formation. Deirdre Shauna Lynch cautions against any linear history of the novel which proceeds causally from predecessors to successors, foregrounding movement through time but not through space, mistaking in the process the “relocation” from the Orient of various imaginative narrative forms such as the romance for their “origins” in the West.20 For, at the very same time that linear history “bestows a transhistorical identity, a singularity on a form remarkable for its formless plurality,”21 “the international dialogism that also shaped the literary past receives short shrift.”22 In the very same way that the history of the Arabic novel might conventionally or contentiously be considered as a history of compromises between

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local realities and an encroaching European form (especially, in light of the asymmetrical power relations between imperial Europe and the Arab world), the history of the European novel can no longer be considered as an autonomous development without the “interference” of non-European imaginative and narrative forms, antecedent to the novel form as such, including the Arabic ones.23 Perhaps the history of the novel must productively be understood in the manner of a chain novel whose various chapters have been written collaboratively through time and space and has undergone in the process numerous operations, transformations and reformulations, dislocations and relocations, deterritorializations and reterritorializations depending on several variables (including the contingencies of cultural contact and the disjunctive temporalities that inform modes of intelligibility). The inherent and unruly plurality from which the Arabic novel developed in the Arab world necessitates the development of singular-plural methods of reading that would attend to the specificity of each novelistic endeavor while discerning the plurality that constitutes it and the plurality that it constitutes. This holds true as well for the Arab novel in English. Certainly, and as I mentioned earlier, some irony resides in the fact that Haykal’s Zaynab was written in Arabic but relied heavily on the form of the novel as developed in Europe while Rihani’s The Book of Khalid was, inversely, written in English but relied heavily on indigenous Arabic literary forms such as the maqama, or episodic narration. That irony explains, at least in part, why the history of the Arab novel in English cannot be fully understood without a discussion of both the transnational dynamics and the geopolitical contexts from which the novel and the Arabic novel in particular emerged. Hilary Kilpatrick was right on target when she raised the question more than two decades ago about the “literary affiliations” of Arab fiction in English. She distinguished between two categories: the first is “multicultural literature, which addresses two or more audiences each with their own distinct culture and exploits certain linguistic resources in each culture,” and the second category is left unnamed but she describes it as follows: “those scattered works which cannot even be organized into a minority tradition because there are so few of them.”24 I take the first category to refer to what is generally known as ethnic literatures and those would include such fictional varieties as Arab American, Arab Canadian, Arab Australian and Anglo or British Arab. It is worth mentioning here that there have been quite spirited debates about the definition and scope of each of these ethnic or multicultural literatures, especially insofar as Arab American literature is concerned. For instance, Steven Salaita has recently offered the following definition: “Arab American literature consists of creative work produced by

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American authors of Arab origin and that participates, in a conscious way or through its critical reception, in a category that has come to be known as ‘Arab American literature’.”25 Of course, Salaita is not unaware of the limitations of this tentative definition and he so admirably and diligently points them out. The point, however, is that this definition ought to be supplemented by a more comparative, transnational and multidirectional framework if it were to be fully applied to the entire phenomenon of Arab fictional writings in English, specifically the novel, which is starting to insinuate itself among established traditions of the novel, providing its recent boom is not followed by a slowdown but by steady growth. All the more so, given that Kilpatrick’s second category addresses such 1960s Anglophone Arab novels as Jabra Ibrahim Jabra’s Hunters in a Narrow Street (1960), Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club (1964) and Isaak Diqs’ A Bedouin Boyhood (1967). “Because there is no tradition of Arab writing in English, as there is in French, the question arises,” Kilpatrick points out, “as to their literary affiliations, that is, the writings to which they can be meaningfully related.”26 While one can surely now claim that there is an emergent tradition of Arab writings in English, the question of the literary affiliation of these works of the middle period in the development of the Anglophone Arab novel has not been (and might not be) settled any time soon. Kilpatrick decides to situate these books “within the Arabic literary tradition,” and shows (1) how Jabra’s Hunters can best be read in relation to his other writings in Arabic, the 1960s experimental phase of the Arabic novel and the Tammuzi tradition of Arabic poetry; (2) how Diqs’ A Bedouin Boyhood cannot be understood properly without “some acquaintance with the Arabic narrative tradition and cultural heritage” such as “akhbar”27 or anecdotal narratives and motifs such as standing by the ruins or buka’ ‘ala al-atlal; (3) how Ghali’s Beer derives its strength from its contextual placement in the post-1952 Egypt, which is not an argument about its form as such but about the milieu of the novel—a point that could be made about each of the three novels. Kilpatrick concludes her argument in a manner that is worth citing in full: Until now books like these which, in my view, possess a dual literary nationality have not received the attention they deserve. With the worldwide migrations which characterise the present time their number may be expected to increase. A new approach to them needs to be evolved, an approach which takes full account of their complex and sometimes hidden affinities. I have taken a one-sided attitude to them here, but my excuse is that it runs counter to the conventional one, in which language is the

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all-important factor. A proper study of them, however, requires familiarity with both (or all) the literary traditions on which the individual work draws. It is a task par excellence of comparative literature.28 Kilpatrick resists reading these novels against the traditions of the language (English) in which they were written, which is not to minimize the importance of language, but to pinpoint instead to the cultural traditions in which they are situated and which do not necessarily coincide with the language in which they were written. By “traditions in which they are situated,” I do not only refer to the specificities of the geopolitical and local contexts of these novels, which goes without saying, but also to their formal idiosyncrasies which would not be fully discerned if these novels were to be read solely in relation to other traditions of the Anglophone novel.29 The comparative literary approach seems to be the answer for Kilpatrick here because it straddles at least two important—and potentially all relevant—arenas: (1) the arena of the language in which the work is written and (2) the arena of the traditions from which it derives its idiosyncratic formal aspects or “hidden affinities.” By solely focusing on the latter, Kilpatrick’s essay is, as she avows, “one-sided.” Clearly, however, there is only so much one can do in any given essay. What I hope to have made clear so far is that Anglophone Arab novels cannot be fully understood without taking into consideration the composite literary affiliations that inform them; those relate not only to the manifest language in which they are written but also to the latent or “hidden affinities” with Arabic literary traditions and with the history of the Arabic novel I so briefly charted above. There is nothing much to be gained by passing over in silence either of the demarcations of these two contexts, not to mention, of course, the pressures of the geopolitical constellating powers which continue to produce and reproduce almost all aspects of Arab contemporaneity, perhaps even more dramatically so for the Arab novelist writing in English rather than in Arabic. The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English examines how several (but not all) of the most established and most promising Anglophone Arab novelists have negotiated the multidirectional and transnational exigencies that inform their writings. The book is divided into three parts, each of which highlights different aspects of the transnational dynamics and geopolitical contexts of the rise and contemporary significance of the Anglophone Arab novelistic venture. Part I is titled “Constellations: Modernity, Empire and Postcoloniality” and is devoted to a cluster of chapters that variably historicize the trajectory of the Arab novel in English by exploring different aspects of the confluences and tensions between, among others, modernity and empire, cultural translation and transculturation, narrative form and colonial desire, as

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well as local and global or cosmopolitan constellations of power and influence. Part II is titled “Force-fields: Ethnic Ties and Transnational Solidarities” and brings together a set of chapters that continue the discussion of the diverse multicultural, transcultural or transnational forces that inform the Anglophone Arab novel but focus instead on the cultural politics of a number of representative novels at a time when the intensifying imperial schemes in the Arab world matches only the growing hardships of Arab subjectivities in Europe, Australia and North America. Of particular interest in these two parts of the book is the ways in which the contributors engage in close examination of the narrative, rhetorical and formal devices and techniques whereby Arab writers tread the fine line between cultural translation and transculturation—thereby transforming the novel into a performative space of competing affiliations and affinities, a space in which identities can no longer be fixed to monolithic master narratives but are in fact unconditionally actuated by the compelling urgencies of worldwide responsible identifications and solidarities. All chapters included in Part III, titled “Prospects/Challenges: Authority, Pedagogy and the Market Industry,” are cognizant of the overarching issues discussed in the preceding parts and aim therefore to synthesize and discern their implications for more practical and pragmatic questions that have to do with the ethnic contours of the Anglophone Arab novel and the politics of communal formations in relation to such inextricably related issues as the politics of production, marketing and teaching. Not only do all contributors make connections throughout the book between questions of linguistic, racial and ethnic affiliations; politics, production, and marketing; exile, diaspora, and the rhetoric of multiculturalism and/or assimilation, but also between recurrent issues of class, gender and sexual politics, which are invariably interrogated and scrutinized from counter-intuitive and multidirectional perspectives. The cumulative effect of all the chapters in this book bring into the limelight the aesthetic, political, agentive and educative values of the Arab novel in English—how it challenges the rampant (particularly, post-9/11) politicization and racialization of Arab and Muslim cultures—and how it reconfigures the multicultural in terms of an ethics of sameness rather than in terms of an elusive (and eventually mutually exclusive) rhetoric of recognition.

The Preoccupations of the Arab Novel in English The rise of the Arab novel in English can be located, or relocated, at the juncture between the legacy of British colonialism and the ascendance of American imperialism. The chiastic but asymmetrical convergences and

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overlaps of Britain in the Arab world and of Arabs in the U.K., Australia and North America has fostered the cultural dynamics of proximity and distance that have made possible the emergence of a heterogeneous group of Arab novelists adopting English as the language of their literary expression. At least three of the main destinations or locations of Arab novelists writing in English are the U.S., Canada and Australia—three settler colonies. The questions of migration, indigeneity, and belonging remain a source of national anguish, dilemmas, disenchantments and one of the main engines of coercive and discriminatory policies (and inversely affirmative action) in all of these host nations, in addition to the U.K. Because Canada and the U.S. are and have historically been the main location of the majority of Anglophone Arab novelists, and because the first Anglophone Arab novel happened to be an Arab American novel, I will treat Arab immigration to the U.S. as a paradigm for the discussion of the preoccupations of Arab novelists writing in English. Having said that, I cannot stress enough the extent to which the heterogeneity that characterizes the places of birth of Anglophone Arab novelists or of their parental descent across the Arab world was further deepened by the places of relocation, dislocation or birth (in the case of first, second, third, etc. generation Arab Americans, Arab Canadians or Arab Australians). The early Syro-Lebanese Arab writers and immigrants to the U.S. fled from the intensifying Ottoman clampdown on free expression and the sectarian animosities in late nineteenth-century Levant only to be met with a harsh racial milieu in the U.S., perhaps most notoriously exemplified by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. These immigrants were not usually classified as whites but as Asians or Turks and were therefore oftentimes denied the right to citizenship. By 1909, for instance, and because of clear directives form the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization to check the eligibility of certain immigrants for naturalization, a number of American courts began to question the whiteness of Syrians until, by 1910, the U.S. Census Bureau categorized Syrians as “Asiatic”—a precedent that reached its apogee when a district judge from South Carolina attempted to apply to Syria the 1917 Restrictive Immigration Act, which denied naturalization rights to immigrants from countries east of the Persian Gulf.30 Even though early Arab immigrants had been classified as white at times and treated as less than white at other times, the vast majority of them did benefit from the Naturalization Act of 1790 and earned the honorific status of “free white persons” as well as the naturalization privileges attendant upon it. Early Arab immigrants, however, were mostly Maronite Christians, which spared them religious scrutiny even though it hardly spared them the pitfalls of

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whiteness and the volatility of their citizenship rights, not to mention the tacit and manifest limits on thought and imagination exerted by orientalism, a rechargeable battery of demeaning and dehumanizing metaphors and misconstrued representations of the Orient, which Wail Hassan accords pride of place in his work and in his chapter, “The Rise of the Arab American Novel: Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid,” included in this book.31 The venture of Rihani’s inaugural Anglophone Arab novel, according to Hassan, lies at the crossroads of cultural translation and orientalism: Rihani “accepted some of the basic tenets of Orientalism but pursued the ideal of a Hegelian synthesis of East and West” in which “translational strategies are part of the effort to forge a new language that would serve as the vehicle of a new genre, the Arabized English novel, or the Arabic novel written in English.” Unlike Khalil Gibran who, for Hassan, readily “conformed” to orientalist modes of perception, reception and representation, Rihani “wrote against the grain of Orientalism,” “estranging the English language by confronting its native speakers with linguistic difference within a deliberately hybridized discourse, instead of leaving them in a comfort zone that does not challenge their assumptions and expectations.” But Rihani’s cold critique of orientalism and his reactivation of the literary Arabic form of maqama instantiated a mode of resistance rather than compromise, let alone compliance, to market and critical reception. No wonder therefore that, unlike the commercially successful Gibran, Rihani remained an obscure figure, hovering at the margins of American and Arab American literature (until quite recently). This much is true, yet the search for approval and acceptance that propelled early Anglophone Arab writers into compromised (Gibran) or somewhat resistant (Rihani) creative endeavors ought not to appropriate our critical attention away from their parallel critique of their cultures of origin. Such critique might overlap with some of the premises of orientalist dogma but is not identical with them. In his chapter, “Beyond Orientalism: Khalid, the Secular City and the Transcultural Self,” Geoffrey Nash argues that “Rihani’s response to America, specifically at the level of spiritual culture, was both inventive and less incarcerated within the prison-house of orientalist discourse.” For Nash, Rihani’s protagonist Khalid “negotiates the new set of intellectual and spiritual problems facing twentieth-century man, ultimately seeking a space between the pitfalls of American materialism and the backward obscurantism of the East.” In other words, Khalid finds in the secular city the space to escape both tribe and town and refashion his spiritual resources according to his own grasp of the needs of modernity. Nash concludes as follows: “The multitude of narratives, themes, and discourses constructed into The Book of Khalid can still

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provide ample inspiration for the post-modern Arab novel in English, with its implicit project of crossing boundaries, and its endeavor to respond to the denuding of the spiritual capital of contemporary societies by Westernled globalization’s export of the impoverishing dogmas of fundamentalist secularism.” Clearly, Rihani’s inaugural novel, as discussed by Hassan and Nash, sets the stage for much of the preoccupations of the Anglophone Arab novels that came after it. This is due, on the one hand, to the longevity and consistency of orientalism as a discourse of apprehending and dominating the Orient and, on the other, to the paradoxes of secular modernity as something that Arabs have sought and resisted at one and the same time—sought as a demand for progress, democratic governance and social justice and resisted as a vehicle for or an outright embodiment of Western imperialism. The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between England and France to recolonize the Ottoman Empire’s Arab territories and nip in the bud any form of nascent Arab nationalism went hand-in-hand with the support of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 on territory belonging to historical Palestine, and resulted in utter distrust of European modernity, religious and sectarian animosities and genocidal campaigns of various populations and ethnicities. By the time of the 1952 Egyptian revolution, the promise of Arab nationalism gained spectacular momentum but created renewed problems of identity, affiliation and critique, especially for those Arab Anglophone novelists who were at pains to express, on the one hand, their allegiance to English culture but opposition to British colonialism, and, on the other, their allegiance to the Egyptian revolution but their opposition to the repressive domestic policies of Nassar’s regime. In her chapter titled, “Drinking, Gambling and Making Merry: Waguih Ghali’s Search for Cosmopolitan Agency,” Deborah A. Starr discusses the ways in which Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club (1964) “explores the nature of a negotiated national identity that would disrupt the prevailing ethno-national parochialism” in the service of a cosmopolitan identity. Ghali’s protagonist, Ram, offers three hedonistic models of Egyptian identity construction: drinking (beer), gambling (snooker), and making merry (jokes). This construction of Egyptianness, Starr concludes, “is inherently performative, both in the literal performance of jokes and in the performance of identity through the acts of joking, drinking and gambling.” Ghali’s Beer is the first Anglophone Arab novel written by an Egyptian but because it was mainly concerned with the fate of Cairo’s cosmopolitan elite in the 1950s and 1960s, it did not garner much critical attention and Ghali’s visit to Israel as a journalist for the British press in the wake of the

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1967 Arab-Israeli war was detrimental to his reputation. The first birth of the Anglophone Egyptian novel might be seen therefore as abortive but the second birth (with Ahdaf Soueif ’s 1992 In the Eye of the Sun) was much more celebrated by critics such as Edward Said (who was puzzled in his essay on Soueif ’s novel by the thinness of the “roster” of Anglophone Arab novels compared to the impressive roster of Francophone Arab novels).32 Unlike the alienated and disenchanted Ghali, Soueif suffers no such disenchantment with the Egyptian revolution. In fact, and as Shaden M. Tageldin argues in her chapter titled, “The Incestuous (Post)Colonial: Soueif ’s Map of Love and the Second Birth of the Egyptian Novel in English,” Soueif is an unabashed child of the Nasser generation. Yet, Soueif leaves nothing unproblematized. Focusing on The Map of Love (1999), a novel that weaves together historical accounts of past British dominion and ongoing U.S. hegemony in Egypt with the sagas of two love affairs across imperial and temporal divides, Tageldin carefully teases out the intertwined questions of language, empire and desire and examines how the novel tries to reclaim the Arabic language from English hegemony. While cognizant of the ways in which Arabic resisted and continues to resist the pressures of empire, Tageldin concludes that Soueif ’s novel “exposes the notion of Arabic’s ‘unbrokenness’ as at best fictive, hinting that there is no such thing as a modern Arabic outside imperialism,” and “using the figure of incest to defamiliarize (and refamiliarize) normative genealogies of empire, nation, and postcolony and the languages ‘proper’ to those political states.” At a time when processes of Arabicization and Arabism went hand-inhand across the postcolonial Arab world, the lessons of Soueif ’s novel cannot be overstressed. There is no such a thing as an intact, pure and precolonial Arabic to return to without the intractable interferences of colonial languages, cultures and systems of thought. Soueif ’s The Map of Love brings us back to the question of the literary affiliation of the Anglophone Arab novel; all the more so since this category indicates, as Mary Layoun points out, a language (English) but not a specific location. In “Mobile Belonging?: The Global ‘Given’ in the Work of Etel Adnan,” Layoun reads Adnan’s epistolary novel, Of Cities and Women, and traces the outlines of “Adnan’s rewriting of narrative form and, within that reconfigured form, of stories of gendered citizenship on a globalized twenty-first century landscape lacerated by uneven access, uneven mobility and differentially situated violence.” The writings of the multilingual and itinerant cosmopolitan Adnan necessitate transnational and comparative approaches that do away with singular literary affiliations and open the novel to the constellating global forces of which it is a product and to which it delivers a response. For Layoun, Of Cities and Women is:

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a powerful address and challenge to the reading proclivities of the Anglophone and the Arab/ic worlds, to the boundaries of narrative form, to the histories embedded in those reading proclivities and boundaries, and to a global, “postcolonial” world for which mobility and multiplicity of location have generated imponderable obstacles to social connection, to apprehension of a larger map, to comprehension of both mobility and situatedness. Yet, not only is mobility not always a “given,” but even when it is so, it is hardly inconsequential. At a time when Israel was established and its checkpoint infrastructure was well underway and when the prospects of Arab nationalism were briskly dashed in the wake of the 1967 war—resulting in the creation of thousands of refugees, exacerbated and multiplied only by the Lebanese civil war, the two Gulf Wars, etc.—countries like the U.S. responded with more and more aggressive immigration policies. With the onset of another wave of Arab immigration to the U.S. following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Arab immigrants started to face renewed challenges that had to do less with their (by then) officiated whiteness than with the nature of their faith and political agendas. Since these new immigrants were largely composed of Arab Muslims—refugees, students, young and old lefties, exiles and political dissidents—religious and political affiliations have quickly come to assume the functions of racial categories and thus become the touchstones for the conferral or denial of citizenship to Arab immigrants. Later Arab immigrants—whether escaping the brutality of the Lebanese civil war and the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982 or the 1980–8 Iraq-Iran war and the 1990–1 U.S. war on Iraq—were equally embittered by the U.S.’s oil-coveting involvement in the region following the oil crisis of 1973. No wonder then that these more recent immigrants—who were composed not only of displaced persons as a direct result of wars, but also of professionals and technical workers, culminating in an enormous brain drain from the Arab world to the U.S.—were more educated, politicized and outspoken.33 They would come to form the basis for the formation of Muslim and Arab American political activism in the U.S. from the 1960s onwards. The U.S. government was not oblivious to the new dynamics of the post-WWII immigrants and moved gradually but steadily toward an ex-appropriation of race into religion and politics. Alarmed by the potential infiltration of communist spies and leftist activists in the context of a widening and intensifying cold war, Congress passed a string of stringent immigration laws, including the Internal Security Act of 1950 which targeted communists and later leftists

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who opposed the Vietnam war, as well as the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 which excluded immigrants of undesirable political beliefs and which was used in 1987 to arrest and incarcerate seven Palestinians and one Kenyan woman—dubbed as the “LA 8” by the media—for their support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The LA 8 case dramatizes the ways in which U.S. government’s experimental policies vis-à-vis Muslim and Arab Americans emanated wittingly or unwittingly from a faulty strategy of racing Islam and politicizing race in an attempt to translate into domestic policy America’s partisan entanglement in Middle Eastern geopolitical power struggles. After the Iranian revolution in 1979 and the collapse of the communist block a decade later, Islam, defaced, was projected as the face of the enemy. As Edward Said argues in Covering Islam, entire corps of columnists, polemicists, corporate media pontificators—or “careerist publicists who found a new field for their skills in demonology”34—joined forces with such experts as Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama, not to mention the Hollywood film industry, to paint Islam as the new threat. The clampdown on Arabs and Muslims reached its most foreboding conclusion in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The question that traverses a multitude of U.S. government’s anti-terrorism policies and initiatives launched since 9/11 is not whether Arabs are black, brown or white but rather whether blacks, whites and browns are Arabs and, above all, whether they are Muslims and therefore potential terrorist threats to homeland security. The Patriot Act, enacted in October 2001, gave free rein to governmental agencies such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to shift their focus and procedure from prosecuting crimes after they have been committed to preventing potential terrorist acts from taking place. Preemption has become ever since the government’s biggest buzzword and it is therefore the primary motor-force of racializing and simultaneously politicizing belief, Muslims and Arabs alike. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was, for instance, amended to allow for “roving surveillance authority” that relies not only on wiretaps but also on whatever means of communication suspects might make use of, including cell phones and e-mail accounts.35 Perhaps what is so depressingly unfortunate about the Muslim and Arab American cultural scene, at least since its post-9/11 mapping into prominence, is that it was colored and distorted at the outset by the ensuing backlash, the fanaticisms of the moment of exception and the vengeful exigencies of the nationwide work of mourning. Small wonder, then, that Muslim and Arab American literary and cultural productions have been

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remarkably counter-narrative, reactionary, and corrective in their overall propensity—in short, products of the coerced imagination. The subject matter of these products has been charted not only by sanctioned racism and licensed visual and cultural vilification of Muslims and Arabs, but also by a residual neo-orientalist political economy of publishing and reception that conceives of Muslim women’s or men’s writings almost exclusively along the lines of what Mohja Kahf suggestively calls “victim” or “escapee” narratives.36 Take, for instance, the works or oral diatribes of self-professed secular Muslims such as Ibn Warraq, Irshad Manji, Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, as well as Hirsi Ali, among others; they have all become hot commodities in mainstream media, and have therefore not only cast a picture of Islam as patriarchal and tyrannical and of Muslim women as submissive victims or rebellious escapees, but also undermined the credibility of the decolonial Muslim and Arab voice in the West. Perhaps Norma Khouri’s tailor-made memoir à la victim-cum-escapee narrative is most expressive of the vagaries of the complicity between the self-serving bashers of Islam and the publishing industry, not to mention the largely neoconservative readership they have produced, catered for and expanded.37 If anything, the immigration lawmaking trajectory I briefly described, subtended as it is by the geopolitics of suspicion and the all-out war on terror, produces the conditions of possibility of racing Islam and Islamplifying race all the while politicizing Muslims and Arabs alike—conferring on them, by virtue of their religious and cultural affiliations or differentials, a capacious political significance where the stakes are quite high. Edward Said and Jack Shaheen have both shown the central role that the media and popular culture play in pitting Islam against the West and staging the disposability of Muslim and Arab lives on screen, preparatory to derealizing the human toll of the war on terror and of every other war that preceded it, including the Gulf War of 1990–1. Similarly, recent studies by, among others, Susan Akram, Steven Salaita, Moustafa Bayoumi and Nadine Naber have convincingly demonstrated the everyday reach of anti-Arab racism in the U.S.38 The Anglophone Arab novels that appeared in the decades before and after September 11 have in many ways sought to educate Euro-Americans about Arabs and Muslims by dramatizing the yawning gap between, on the one hand, the quotidian experiences of everyday Arabs and Muslims and, on the other, the free-floating and intransigent mainstream discourses of Arabness and Islam. In my own contribution, “In Search of Andalusia: Reconfiguring Arabness in Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent,” I examine how Diana Abu-Jaber has appropriated and reconfigured the sociocultural and now largely metaphorical significance of Andalusian conviviality to rethink the multicultural in a

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post-9/11 Arab American community in Los Angeles. Abu-Jaber’s Crescent is, I argue, a refreshing reminder of the sociocultural idioms of conviviality that marked the Andalusian past and that are never more to be desired than in a post-9/11 Zeitgeist of cultural paranoia. Abu-Jaber succeeds in drawing a complex tableau of Arab American subjectivities—attending thereby to their daily lives, traumata, and joys, and harnessing their histories and aspirations with those of multiple other ethnicities. The active forces of such banal but telling tropes as cooking, romance, and storytelling are mobilized in the process of depoliticizing Arabness while opening it up to the energies, tensions, and influences of the Andalusian modus vivendi. Crescent was published at a time when the war on Iraq was well underway and Abu-Jaber sets some of the action in Iraq and the plot of the novel moves chiastically between the shadow of war and the threshold of sociocultural coexistence, dramatizing thus the notion of “split vision,” which Lisa Suhair Majaj evoked more than a decade ago, and which has not ceased to hijack the decentered gravity of Muslim and Arab American literatures.39 In many of the post-Lebanese civil war novels, the dramatization of the lived experiences of everyday Arabs during the war is chiastically juxtaposed to the preoccupation with Arab subjectivities in the Diaspora. At times, this happens in one single novel (as in Rabih Alameddine’s I, The Divine) and at others in successive novels (as is the case with Rawi Hage’s De Niro’s Game and Cockroach, respectively). The vision is not necessarily split here but rather composite or multidirectional. At times, of course, the novelist foregrounds the affairs of his homeland but it is rare for an Arab novelist writing in English to situate his novels in a single geopolitical entity, his country of origin. In “Zenga Zenga and Bunga Bunga: The Novels of Hisham Matar and a Critique of Gaddafi’s Libya,” Christopher Micklethwait examines Matar’s In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance through the lenses of “bunga bunga,” which lays bare the orgiastic rapprochement between Gaddafi and the West, especially Italy, and “zenga zenga,” which conveys the power of the state apparatuses to penetrate the lives of Libyans and extend its rule over them with their own consent and collaboration. For Micklethwait, the singularity of Matar’s novelistic venture is to articulate the variably complex layers of victimization, complicity and resistance that characterize the lives of his protagonists in Gadhafi’s Libya. The preoccupation with Libya and Libyans, however, should not be understood separately from a more worldly pursuit of justice, human dignity and narrative reckoning for the disappeared under Gaddafi’s regime as much as elsewhere in the (Arab) world. The same can be said about Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous

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Pursuits, which zeroes in on the lives of other disappeared and marginalized subjectivities, in this case the irregular migrants from Morocco to Spain. In “Burning, Memory and Postcolonial Agency in Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits,” Ahmed Idrissi Alami studies how the novel explores the complex economy that structures illegal emigration by Moroccans to Spain and simultaneously dramatizes it through the stories of several individuals who experience corrupt and inhumane conditions on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar. Along with Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which is ultimately concerned with irregular migration as both a provincial and a global issue, Secret Son bespeaks more of a composite— rather than a split—vision that oscillates back and forth between North Africa and North America. In the work of other Arab American novelists such as Mohja Kahf, this composite vision converges with a dramatization of the historyies of entanglements of Islam with other cultures. Underlying her overall creative project is the unrepentant urge to take Western and Muslim readers by surprise, stripping away their ownmost cherished illusions. Kahf wagers on the poetics of suddenness, tilting an unrelenting scourge at America’s flattering self-image (faddish and superficial as it is) and at Muslims’ unscrutinized pieties. While surely educating about Islam, as is the case with the novels of Abu-Jaber and Aboulela, among others, Kahf ’s work seeks to forge transnational connectivities at the interface of singular plural sociopolitical imaginaries. Literally, but not quite, her call for prayer, whether in her poetry or fiction, is a call for solidarity. In her chapter, “Identity, Transformation and the Anglophone Arab Novel,” Maysa Hayward reads Mohja Kahf ’s The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, Ahdaf Soueif ’s The Map of Love and Samia Serageldin’s The Cairo House through an integrated matrix that combines theories of translation, performance and Bakhtinian dialogics. For Hayward, the carnivalesque nature of Anglophone Arab writings invites a consideration of conflictual interpretations; after all, these novelists operate from a multiplicity of centers—or at least, temporary positions (East/West, Arab/non-Arab, male/ female, Muslim/Christian and so on)—that are not, strictly speaking, dialectical (in the sense of orientalism), but are at once foundations and pivots, dogmas or beliefs, and perspectives or hypotheses. Lindsey Moore’s chapter, “Space, Embodiment, Identity and Resistance in the Novels of Fadia Faqir,” focuses on Faqir’s Pillars of Salt (1996) and My Name is Salma (2007, aka The Cry of the Dove) in order to explore the location of the female subject within concentric sites of patriarchy, ethnicity, prison and asylum. For Moore, the importance of Faqir’s fiction lies not only in its ability to debunk the “scattered hegemonies” and complicities of local patriarchies

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and misguided feminisms, but also, and more important by far, in its potential to generate transformative and collaborative tactics and transnational solidarities between underprivileged and dislocated subjects. The aim is at once to challenge imperial hegemonies and systemic racisms and to affirm cultural conviviality and coexistence. Perhaps the unclassifiable novelistic career of Sudanese British author, Jamal Mahjoub, synthesises quite seamlessly the variable pleas for cultural tolerance and coexistence that characterized the venture of the Anglophone Arab novel since the 1980s. As Jopi Nyman demonstrates in his chapter, “Europe and Its Others: The Novels of Jamal Mahjoub,” while Mahjoub’s early novels (i.e., the 1989 Navigation of a Rainmaker and the 1994 Wings of Dust) tended to emphasize questions of exile in a nearly existentialist manner, presenting us with protagonists hovering between Europe and Africa, his later novels (i.e., the 1996 In the Hour of Signs and the 1998 The Carrier) engage with contemporary concerns and seek to construct a historical understanding of the hybrid roots and routes of modern European identity and its many-layered history. Nyman’s survey of Mahjoub’s oeuvre ends with a focused reading of his recent road-novel, Travelling with Djinns (2003), a veritable achievement that crowns Mahjoub’s search for a history of Europe and Europeanness beyond pure origins. Here is how Mahjoub puts it in a nutshell: The face of this continent is scarred by the passage of people. From east to west, north to south. From the earliest neolithic wanderers to the Mongol hordes, from the Huguenots to the Calvinists, pilgrims, refugees, gypsies. It is a history of railway tracks and roads. A history of transgression, of frontiers and border lines being crossed and recrossed. The Romans, the Visigoths, the Jews, Bosnians, Albanians, Kosovans, the blind, the sick, the old, the crippled. These are the people upon whose sacrifice the history of Europe is written, and our collective history is written in the course of those migrations.40 Not unlike the history of the novel, the history of Europe is also the history of transnational collaborative entanglements. As Nyman concludes, “by unveiling the link between the historical Saracens and Moors on the one hand, and the contemporary Arabs and Muslims on the other, the novel seeks to call attention to the historical constitution of Arab identities [... and to reveal in the process] the mutual dependence of Europe and its Others.” By disentangling the historical ties, convergences and intermixing that have gone into the making of modern Europe, Mahjoub makes not only a plea

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for cultural coexistence but also for transnational belonging and solidarity. His novels do not lend themselves easily to a specific literary affiliation as they lie outside the jarring poles of European and Arabic literatures. As I mentioned before, the multidirectional compositeness of the Anglophone Arab novel is irreducible to monolithic approaches of literary and critical analysis. At times even the most specifically ethnic novel could productively be read through the lenses of world literature. This is precisely the task that Michelle Hartman sets herself in her chapter titled, “Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine: A Druze Novel as World Literature?” Hartman reads comparatively four novels, one in Arabic (Iman Humaydan Yunis’s Toot Barri), one in French (Leïla Barakat’s Sous les vignes du pays Druze) and the other two in English (Nada Awar Jarrar’s Somewhere, Home and Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine) in order to determine what the appellation “Druze novel” might mean and how it might help to historicize elements of the English-language Arab novel originating in diverse locations. Hartman focuses her reading, however, on I, the Divine and on the intersections of gender and Druze identity as a point of departure to elaborate a counterintuitive vision of world literature. She sets herself the challenge of showing “how what seems to be the narrowest identity for the text and protagonist—as Druze—actually allows them to claim a worldly, broader meaning.” Going beyond the conflictual latencies of the notion of hybridity, Hartman argues that “I, the Divine allows us to conceive of multiple identities differently—not as opposed parts that are fused together but rather as simultaneously coexisting within the protagonist, overlaying each other at the same time.” She reactivates the formal complexity of Alameddine’s novel, and conceives of the abandoned first chapters of the putative memoir of the protagonist, Sarah Nour al-Din, as a metaphor for identity construction: the chapters coexist side-by-side and are labeled as opening chapters, and are all of equal importance to the novel’s progression. Hartman notes that while the chapters “are ordered in a hierarchy because one numbered page follows another, they are meant to exist simultaneously, at least in artifice.” What is of particular importance, however, is that “identities are inscribed in the text in much the same way—offering us a definition of Druzeness, Americanness, Lebaneseness and so on, that is open, fluid and constantly in the process of constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing itself.” This formal resistance to homogeneity, Hartman concludes, “allows the novel to help us think through the possibilities for multiple coexisting identities in literary works, offering a new framework for thinking about the Arab novel—and the Druze novel—in English as world literature.” Hartman’s chapter exemplifies the ways in which the Anglophone Arab

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novel can benefit less from critical approaches that either zero in on its particularities or its worldliness than from approaches that navigate simultaneously its ownmost singularity and its worldly valences. Each novel, however, encodes an implied method of reading in the very same manner its author encodes an implied reader. The Anglophone Arab novel in the U.S. has since Rihani’s The Book of Khalid gradually reached a level of maturity that would permit, if not call for, placing it under the sign of world literature as Hartman does. Other contributors, however, do not feel the same holds true of other Anglophone novels, especially those produced in Australia and Canada. Such novels encode and demand other methods of reading, given not only the geopolitical differentials of these two countries but the very styles and preoccupations of the novels and novelists themselves. In “The Arab Australian Novel: Situating Diasporic and Multicultural Literature,” Saadi Nikro, for instance, makes an important distinction between diasporic and multicultural literature, which could be applied to a number of the Anglophone Arab novels that appeared in the wake of the multiculturalist turn in Australia and Canada. Nikro contrasts between Loubna Haikal’s 2002 Seducing Mr Maclean, which he calls a multicultural novel, and El Hage’s novel of the same year, The Last Migration, which he calls a diasporic novel. He elaborates the distinction as follows: “while El Hage’s narrative obsessively traverses a number of countries and geographical locations, Haikal’s is embedded in, and embodies, the particular tensions of political/public culture and sensibility in multicultural Australia. Both novels are intercultural in scope, although where one structures an existentially concentrated movement across space, the other is more preoccupied with inhabiting a certain place.” At a time when the White Australia Policy collapsed in the wake of the successive waves of non-English speaking immigrants to Australia in the 1960s and 1970s, Nikro is not unjustified in making this distinction between what is diasporic and what is multicultural; all the more so given the governmental emphasis since the 1970s on the production of cultural difference by foregrounding ethnic rather than racial markers. The same can be said, albeit differently, about Canada: the 1910 Immigration Act, which unabashedly prohibited “immigrants belonging to any race deemed unsuited to the climate or requirements of Canada” from landing in the country,41 was overturned by a Multiculturalism Policy adopted in 1971 and later enforced by the Multiculturalism Act of 1988. The first large wave of Arab immigrants set foot in Canada (in the late 1960s and early 1970s) and was followed by another wave during the Lebanese civil war (1975–90) and yet another in the wake of the Gulf War (1990–1). Given that Canada’s immigration policy vis-à-vis incoming and exiting immigrants or

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permanent residents had recently shifted from a multiculturalist purview of selective and calculated openness into a frantic policy of preemption and retrospective deportation in the name of national security, Arab Canadians have imaginatively formulated contestatory narratives of the racist subtext of state multiculturalism and went on to articulate alternative modalities of sociocultural coexistence. In “The Arab Canadian Novel and the Rise of Rawi Hage,” F. Elizabeth Dahab surveys the Anglophone Arab Canadian novel in relation to the multilingual and particularly Francophone corpus of Arab Canadian literature and offers a reading of Rawi Hage’s novel, Cockroach (2008). Like its Franco-Arab twin, the Anglophone Arab Canadian novel originates mostly in the early 1970s at a time of intensifying immigration from the Arab world to Canada following the setback of 1967 and the Lebanese civil war that raged in the mid-1970s. At the time, there still has not been an Arab Canadian novel as such, since the novellas that the Egyptian Canadian Saad Elkhadem started publishing in 1971 were later called “micro-novels” rather than fullyfledged novels. Moreover, these micro-novels were published in bilingual (Arabic-English) editions as soon as Saad Elkhadem founded York Press in 1974. Similarly to Saad Elkhadem, Marwan Hassan, one of very few Arab novelists born in Canada, situates his very compelling twin début novellas, The Confusion of Stones and Intelligence, in between the Arab world and Canada. Hassan went on to write The Memory Garden of Miguel Carranza, a novel about immigrant experience, and two more recent crime novels set in the city of Ottawa where he lives, but his first two novellas remain the more important artistic achievements, as if writing about the Lebanese civil war and migrant life in Canada were destined to be the themes in which an Arab novelist can excel and rise to prominence.42 This might not be at all an irrelevant remark given that Dimitri Nasrallah and Rawi Hage published their début novels about the Lebanese civil war and its lasting ramifications even in geopolitically removed locals. Dimitri Nasrallah’s novel, Blackbodying, is a promising first novel, but while its mixed form is not incongruous with its thematic concerns, the excess of experimentation throughout the novel proves alienating and oftentimes comes at the expense of narration proper. The worldwide success of Hage’s De Niro’s Game is a testament to the enduring resonance of the memories of the Lebanese civil war in the Anglophone Arab novel, especially for novelists of Lebanese origins. But, while De Niro’s Game is set mostly in Lebanon, and to a lesser extent in Paris, Cockroach is set in Montreal with intermittent flashbacks to Beirut. As one of the characters in the novel points out, the nettlesome connections between East and West are always there: “we

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come to these countries for refuge and to find better lives, but it is these countries that made us leave our homes in the first place.”43 Half cockroach and half human, Hage’s protagonist stylizes the economy of the shifting viewpoint to stage the experiences of marginalization and underdog status of a growing segment of immigrant Canadians. As Dahab points out, “Hage brings into collision the opposing layers of stereotype versus reality by portraying the despair and violence experienced by some (mostly members of a marginalized, Anglophone enclave of Iranians) in a Montréal unfamiliar to those who connect it solely with beauty, charm, and culture.” “By giving his mentally deranged protagonist the lowest denominator’s vantage point, Hage,” Dahab observes, “cleverly manages to co-opt the image of the dangerous Other with the various stereotypes it entails, giving it back full-fledged, in the shape of the underground man, the insect-protagonist with perverse antisocial attributes.” While Hage’s novel should normally qualify as an immigrant or ethnic novel by virtue of its dramatization of the hardships of immigrant experience, Dahab pinpoints that Hage cringed at these labels and argued that it just happened that his protagonist and characters were immigrants but the experiences recounted in the novel could apply to anyone else. While a number of Arab Canadian writers have similarly resisted the easy classification under the ethnic umbrella; the question remains for Dahab and us: would it be desirable to give Arab Québécois/Canadian writing a permanently fixed status, one that would place it outside Canadian literature, or to assimilate it to the latter, thus naturalizing it by force? Such a provocative question does not only invite us to reflect on the status of Arab Québécois/Canadian writing within Canadian literature—and, by implication, the status of Arab American, Arab Australian and Arab British literatures within American, Australian and British literatures, respectively—but ultimately prompts us to revisit the question about the literary affiliations of the Anglophone Arab novel as such, a question with which I have been preoccupied all along and to which I have tried to regain fresh entry in light of the specificities of each chapter included in this book. The last four chapters of The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English make it patently clear that any discussion of the status of Arab Canadian, Arab American, Arab Australian and Arab British literatures in relation to Canadian, American, Australian and British literatures must confront a number of intertwined issues that have to do not only with the “out-of-print” status of much of Arab literature within these countries and the preexisting hierarchical layers that inaugurate and sustain its continuing invisibility, but also with the oftentimes hairsplitting relations between ethnic recognition

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and the political economies of publishing, circulation and curricular development or designation. Even the fairly recent but quite unprecedented post9/11 upsurge of (market) interest in all things Arab and Muslim should be approached—if judged against a long history of market censorship, editorial manipulation and curricular marginalization—with a measure of educated skepticism. Not infrequently, the dire need of the United States and its allies for expert knowledge about the Arab world prompts no more than intelligence-gathering approaches to the literature and culture of the region and its diasporas. The joined-up forces of Arabophobia and Islamophobia might explain, at least in part, the appetite for fictions produced by Arabs and Muslims, especially when these fictions confirm rather than upset the negative myths about Islam and Arabs. No wonder there is a virtual Islamic industry evident in popular, academic, media and commercial production, and which purports to make Islam known. Perhaps one of the intransigent challenges of orientalism in our commodity-oriented world is that it sells. In his chapter titled “The Challenges of Orientalism: Teaching about Islam and Masculinity in Leila Aboulela’s The Translator,” Brendan Smyth pinpoints the political valences of Aboulela’s novel, illustrating how The Translator challenges and interrogates persistent orientalist representations of Islam and Islamic masculinity and imagines modes of crosscultural contact that destabilize an often unexamined faith in a narrative of multiculturalism that privileges the desirability and inevitability of assimilation and Westernization. Aboulela’s The Translator (2001) and Minaret (2005) contest predictable interpretive frameworks that gloss over the more subtle intertwinements of postcoloniality, gender, class, race and religion. The novels explore and contribute to the dialogue between Islam, feminist discourse and modernity, strategically utilizing in both cases the veiled woman, usually a symbol of Islam’s incompatibility with the West. Aboulela’s novels compel us to expand our interpretive frameworks to more fully appreciate and contribute to the trans-historical transactions between Islam and modernity that take place at the heart of Western modernity, which, it bears mentioning, has hardly been insulated from the ancient and challenging modernity of Islam. The discussion of Aboulela’s “halal fiction” locates the significance of the Anglophone Arab novel in its ability to intervene in mainstream discourse in ways that are more educative and informative than combative or defensive.44 Yet, even novels whose content expresses dissonance with regard to the publically held image of Arabs/Muslims are oftentimes packaged (irrespective of the types of publishers: small or independent ones, large trade presses or university presses) in such a way as to confirm the stereotypes and

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catchwords rather than to subvert them. In her chapter, “Perils and Pitfalls of Marketing the Arab Novel in English,” Samia Serageldin builds on her first-hand experience with publishers as a novelist to make the following statement: Packaging, with all its connotations, including editing, cover image, branding, and media marketing, is the first point at which the vision of the author and that of the publisher are most likely to diverge. This is particularly true of the Anglophone Arab novelist published in the West, who might well find her work recast, and visually translated, so to speak, into a nearly unrecognizable, often exoticized, and somewhat discomfiting idiom. Serageldin relates the curious history of the publication of her novel, The Cairo House (2004), under six different covers and moves on to discuss the covers of other Anglophone Arab novels, collections of short stories and anthologies. Serageldin concludes by making two interrelated remarks: (1) “The matter of authenticity remains premium for publishers and gains an added dimension of importance in the case of ‘Arab’ writers, at a time when that ethnicity is perceived as the subject of civilizational conflict” and (2) “classification under a label such as ‘Arab-American’ may be limiting, but it is a useful marketing strategy to brand a specific literature at a time of bewildering over-supply and diminishing attention spans.” Serageldin’s remarks about authenticity on the one hand, and ethnicity on the other, open up a host of other issues, not least of which is the economy of labeling in the U.S. and the challenges it poses not only to Arab American critics as they ponder the scope of Arab American literature but also to teachers in the classroom. Not long ago, David Hollinger posed a key question about communal, ethnic and identity formation in the U.S.: “Who decides what your identity is?” The answer he offered is no less revealing than the question: “The United States has always practiced identity-ascription, that is, the ascribing of identity to individuals whatever their own personal preferences may be. That’s why it makes sense to speak of a ‘political economy of identity,’ according to which identity is a kind of commodity distributed by authority.”45 Both notions of commodity and authority, in addition to the aforementioned notions of authenticity and ethnicity, are central to the theoretical compass of Mara Naaman’s chapter, “Invisible Ethnic: Mona Simpson and the Space of the Ethnic Literature Market,” in which ethnic identity becomes not so much a matter of choice and comfort as of ascription and discomfort (if not of ethnic embattlement and resentment).46

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Contrary to Abu-Jaber whose novels, according to Naaman, lay claims to the sensualized Orient and by implication to the Arab American community, the novels of Mona Simpson deal with less savory and palatable subjects and have as a result cost her membership to the community. She remains the invisible ethnic, unclaimed by the community, even though her novels venture into paths yet to be taken by other Arab American novelists. This raises the question about authority and assignation of communal identity: who claims who in Arab America. Did Mona Simpson even claim her Arab Americanness or “unclaimed it by implication” and to what extent that process of “unclaiming by implication” becomes central to the claims of Arab American identity? Or, is the Arab American community, by virtue of its vulnerability and exposure, not ready yet for the taxing work of autocritique that the novels of Mona Simpson prompt? This might well be the case, as Naaman suggests, even though when foiled against the more marketable Abu-Jaber, the issue of Mona Simpson becomes an issue about the inextricable ties between ethnic identity and the market economy of publishing. The question remains: should ethnic identity or solidarity be distributed on the basis of ethnic marketability? Perhaps not. In fact, Naaman seeks “to problematize the value and legitimacy of the notion of the ‘ethnic novel’ (or those that are marketed as such) as a viable lens for reading and thinking about contemporary American fiction.” She concludes by calling for an Arab American literature that is “bold enough to speak and in so doing to write against the market—against nostalgia for a static homeland (that familiar refrain of the immigrant), and against the fetishizing of the romance of ethnic difference—is not easy, but it is a task/challenge to which Arab American writers must rise.” This might never be more desired than at a time when the institutionalization of the Arab American label has become, following Hollinger, “a kind of commodity distributed by authority” and in accordance to which “the political economy of identity has been internalized”47 to such an extent that Arab Americans “voluntarily identify themselves in exactly the terms that a prejudiced white person might.”48 Not surprisingly, it has become quite common to approach Muslim and Arab American creative endeavors in a homogenous fashion, and hardly in terms of nuanced struggles to break out of the ethno-racial, identity/solidarity matrix, and confessional molds of production and reception. This identity-imposition-disposition is frustratingly symptomatic of the publically held image of diasporic Muslim and Arab American littérateurs since the pioneering work of Kahlil Gibran who played along with the orientalist horizon through which his work was shaped and perceived. What muddies the waters is that Arab American scholars and

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critics have not yet resolved their differences on the issue of labeling and while several have called for lifting the siege on the identities of diasporic writers, others pointed toward the necessity of reinventing and expanding rather than refusing the ineluctability of labeling.49 Even though I have so far pushed for a more capacious and comparative understanding of the transnational collaborative ventures of the Anglophone Arab novel as a whole, these debates about ethnic and literary affiliation are perhaps not meant to be resolved, only worked out and reworked until they may be eventually transformed on the cusp of something new. In the meanwhile, the ways in which each scholar/teacher goes about these issues may not be inconsequential, since it will determine how he or she will approach the Anglophone Arab novel in the classroom. In her chapter, “Teaching from Cover to Cover: Arab Women’s Novels in the Classroom,” Heather Hoyt reactivates the forgotten virtues of reader-response theory, namely Louise Rosenblatt’s transactional theory, to elaborate a pedagogical strategy and a classroom-based approach to Ahdaf Soueif ’s The Map of Love, Laila Halaby’s West of the Jordan and Diana Abu-Jaber’s Arabian Jazz. Of course, the transactional pedagogical strategy is meant as well to be applicable to other novels. Hoyt diligently details how she unpacks her transactional theory in the classroom at the very same time that she unpacks how Anglophone Arab women novels are packaged. In the process, she gradually deconstructs the saturated horizon of expectations of students, their assumptions that Arab and Muslim women are oppressed, veiled, exotic and erotic subjects with little or no voice. Not only is the Arab world as a geopolitical entity saturated in the American imaginary with orientalist images, but most students come to class, not as blank slates, but with their imagination already informed or misinformed with those very orientalist images. What would teaching mean in this case when the teacher is put at a considerable remove from the task of teaching at the very outset? How much time should teachers spend offering correctives and would they ever be done doing that? In short, when do they get to teaching proper? The transactional strategy Hoyt develops is threefold: the first step is to determine students’ expectations; second, to complicate them; and, finally, to transform them. Note here that “transaction” is, according to Rosenblatt, different from “interaction” in that the former implies “an ongoing process in which the elements or factors are, one might say, aspects of a total situation, each conditioned by and conditions the other” while the latter is more of a dualistic phrasing of different factors that are “separate, self-contained, and already defined entities acting on one another—in the manner, if one may use a homely example, of billiard balls colliding.”50 Far from being a one-way

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relation where either the reader acts on the text by interpreting it, or the text acts on the reader by producing a response in him, the literary transaction is a dynamic and multidimensional relationship between, among others, the reader, the text, the student and the teacher, in which “each element conditions the other.”51 As Hoyt concludes: “Each reading challenges us to rethink our perceptions of Arab women and to consider the ways in which U.S. media have influenced our views before reading these texts. Students need to be able to situate their understanding of American cultures as they learn about Arab cultures.” The pedagogical ruse here lies, I think, in inviting students to entertain the habits of mind characteristic of the orientalist imaginary without inciting them to inhabit them. The ruse, in other words, is how to use imaginative works to work on and transform the tight grip of the orientalist imaginary without coercion or intimidation. It is to arrive with the students at the point at which they feel compelled to voluntarily redistribute their sensibilities, identifications and, hopefully, commitments. By situating, complicating and transforming horizons of expectations, a transactional pedagogical strategy cannot perhaps be more befitting for teaching a heterogeneous body of Anglophone Arab novels whose emergence is invariably marked by transnational collaborative endeavors.

Notes 1. Poetry was called the register of Arabs (diwan al-‘arab). So entrenched and powerful was the position of poetry in the Arab psyche that it survived the advent of Islam which did not only disclaim any affinities between the Qur’an and poetry beyond negligible resemblances, but also recast poetry in the realm of falsehood, magic, myth and empty verbiage. Intransigent and defiant, poets responded to the theological doctrine of the inimitability of the Qur’an through various satirical verses. See Nadia Al-Bagdadi, “Registers of Arabic Literary History,” New Literary History 39.3 (2008): 456. 2. Mahmoud Taymour and Yahya Haqqi, among others, accorded Zaynab pride of place in the developmentalist history of the Arabic novel; see Sayyed al-Bahrawi, Bawakir al-Riwaya [The Early Novels] (Cairo: Al-Haya al-Masriyya al-‘Amma lil-Kitab, 2007), 9–10. See also Roger Allen, “Literary History and the Arabic Novel,” World Literature Today 75.2 (2001): 205–13. See Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Zaynab (Cairo: Maktabat Nahdat Misr, 1963). 3. See Dwight F. Reynolds, “Prosimetrum in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Arabic Literature,” in Prosimetrum: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Narrative in Prose and Verse, ed. Joseph Harris and Karl Reichl (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1997), 284. 4. Many critics hailed Mahfouz’s unprecedented achievement with manifestos declaring the novel as the new diwan or register of the Arabs. See, for instance,

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5.

6.

7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h Jabir Asfour, Zaman al-Riwaya [The Time of the Novel] (Damascus: Al-Mada, 1999). While novels proper were scarce or amateurish (including Rima Alamuddin’s 1960 Spring to Summer or even Isaak Diqs’ 1967 A Bedouin Boyhood), there were a few autobiographies, including Edward Atiyah’s An Arab Tells His Story: A Study in Loyalties (1946), Salom Rizk’s Syrian Yankee (1943), George A. Hamid’s Circus (1950), Vance Bourjaily’s Confessions of a Spent Youth (1960) and William Peter Blatty’s Which Way to Mecca, Jack? (1960)—all of which are variably reminiscent of the earlier autobiographical writings of, among others, Khalil Gibran, Abraham Rihbany and George Haddad. This book is entirely devoted to the literary novel because the novel form goes beyond documenting experience to transforming its conditions of possibility; for considerations of these and later autobiographies as well as other genres of Arab writings in English, see, among others, Gregory Orfalea, “On Arab Americans: A Bibliographical Essay,” American Studies International 27. 2 (1989): 26–41; Geoffrey Nash, The Anglo-Arab Encounter: Fiction and Autobiography by Arab Writers in English (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007); Evelyn Shakir, “Arab-American Literature,” in New Immigrant Literatures in the United States: A Sourcebook to Our Multicultural Heritage, ed. Alpana Sharma Knippling (Greenwood Press, 1996), 3–18; Wail S. Hassan, Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature (New York: Oxford, 2011); Layla Al Maleh, ed., Arab Voices in Diaspora: Critical Perspectives on Anglophone Arab Literature (New York: Rodopi, 2009); Steven Salaita, Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures, and Politics (New York: Palgrave, 2007) and Modern Arab American Fiction: A Reader’s Guide (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011). Gibran, Rihani and Naimy formed the Pen League (al-Rabita al-Qalamiyya) in the 1920s, which played a pioneering role in Arab American cultural production and prominence, especially with the publication of Gibran’s The Prophet, one of the most celebrated and successful Arab American books in terms of sales; but most of the writings of the League members were in Arabic and the little that was produced in English was under the aegis of orientalism. See Hassan’s chapter in this book. See Edward Said, “The Anglo-Arab Encounter,” in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 409. Most chapters included in this book were written entirely prior to the Arab Uprisings. Deirdre Shauna Lynch, “History of the Novel,” in Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Novel, ed., Peter Logan (Blackwell Publishing, 2011), 369–90. See, for instance, Radwa Ashour, Al-Hadatha al-Mumkina [A Possible Modernity] (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruk, 2009). See Edward W. Said, “Arabic Prose and Prose Fiction After 1948,” in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, 42; and Mohamed Berrada, Al-riwaya dhakira maftuha (Cairo: Afaq, 2008).

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12. Abdelfattah Kilito, “Qissa,” in Novel, vol. 1, ed. Franco Moretti (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 262–8. 13. For a good overview of the rootedness of local form in the early Arabic novel, see Mohamed-Salah Omri, “Local Narrative Form and Constructions of the Arabic Novel,” Novel 41.2/3 (2008): 244–63. 14. See Franco Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature,” New Left Review 1 (2000): 58 (italics in original). 15. Ibid., 67. 16. Ibid., 60, italics in original. 17. Ibid., 61. 18. Efraín Kristal, “ ‘Considering Coldly …’: A Response to Franco Moretti,” New Left Review 15 (2002): 74. 19. Ibid., 73. 20. Deirdre Shauna Lynch refers to John Moore’s 1797 work, “A View of the Commencement and Progress of Romance,” which offers abundant information about the westward journeying of several oriental artistic forms at the time of the Crusades. See “History of the Novel,” 388. 21. Ibid., 387. 22. Ibid., 388. 23. In a follow-up article, Moretti has slightly modified his position: “The central morphological point of ‘Conjectures’ was the contrast between the rise of the novel in the core as an ‘autonomous development’, and the rise in the periphery as a ‘compromise’ between a Western influence and local materials. As Parla and Arac point out, however, early English novels were written, in Fielding’s words, ‘after the manner of Cervantes’ (or of someone else), thus making clear that a compromise between local and foreign forms occurred there as well. And if this was the case, then there was no ‘autonomous development’ in western Europe, and the idea that forms have, so to speak, a different history at the core and at the periphery crumbles,” in “More Conjectures,” New Left Review 20 (2003): 78–9 (italics in original). When we consider the Arabic influence on Cervantes, the transnational collaborative endeavors of which the novel is a product come full circle. 24. Hilary Kilpatrick, “Arab Fiction in English: A Case of Dual Nationality,” New Comparison 13 (1992): 46. 25. See Steven Salaita, Modern Arab American Fiction, 4. Insofar as his definition of Arab American studies is concerned, Salaita argues that “Arab American studies is best developed within the framework of various American landscapes and should therefore avoid becoming a mere subset or branch of Middle East studies. By making this argument,” he goes on to add, “I am stating an ethical position that Arab Americans are fundamentally of the United States” (6). While I perfectly see that Salaita’s point might work well with first, second, third, fourth or fifth generation Arab Americans, I am not fully sure this is the case with recent immigrants (including myself). I definitely agree with Salaita

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26. 27. 28. 29.

30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36.

37. 38.

39.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h that Arab American studies must not be subsumed under Middle East studies but I am not completely sure that subsuming it under American studies as such will necessarily provide a good-enough immunity against the pitfalls of area studies that Salaita is so carefully aware of. Insofar as the phenomenon of the Arab novel in English is concerned, though, I think it might be inevitable that any given framework might have eventually to yield to specialists of comparative ethnic or multicultural literature but there is nothing to be gained by passing over in silence the transnational dynamics and geopolitical contexts that inform the Arab novel in English and for which a multidirectional and comparative transnational approach can prove of paramount pertinence and importance. Kilpatrick, “Arab Fiction in English,” 46. Ibid., 49. Ibid., 54. Note that Moretti admits that “The world-system model [or core and periphery, of autonomous development and compromised forms, respectively] may be useful at other levels, but has no explanatory power at the level of form.” See “More Conjectures,” 79. Helen Hatab Samhan, “Not Quite White: Race Classification and the ArabAmerican Experience,” in Michael W. Suleiman, ed., Arabs in America: Building a New Future (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1999), 216–17. See Hassan, Immigrant Narratives. See Said, “The Anglo-Arab Encounter,” 406. Gregory Orfalea, The Arab Americans: A History (Northampton: Olive Branch Press, 2006), 152. Edward Said, Covering Islam (New York: Vintage, 1997), xxvii. Amitai Etzioni, How Patriotic is the Patriot Act? (New York and London: Routledge, 2004), 28. Mohja Kahf, “Writing on Muslim Gender Issues in the Western Trade Book Industry: Slipping Past the Pity Committee and Dodging the Defensive Brigades,” paper presented at the MLA’s 122nd Annual Convention, Philadelphia, PA (December 27–30, 2006). See Steven Salaita’s chapter on Khouri in Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures, and Politics. See Steven Salaita, Anti-Arab Racism in the U.S.A.: Where It Comes from and What It Means for Politics Today (London: Pluto, 2006); Moustafa Bayoumi, “Racing Religion,” The New Centennial Review 6.2 (2006): 267–93; Amaney Jamal and Nadine Naber, eds, Race and Arab Americans before and after 9/11: From Invisible Citizens to Visible Subjects (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2008); Susan M. Akram and Kevin R. Johnson, “Race and Civil Rights, and Immigration Law after September 11, 2011: The Targeting of Arabs and Muslims,” NYU Annual Survey of American Law 58 (2002): 295–356. Lisa Suhair Majaj, “New Directions: Arab American Writing at Century’s

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40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49.

50. 51.

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End,” in Post-Gibran: Anthology of New Arab American Writing, ed. Munir Akash and Khalad Mattawa (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999), 74. Jamal Mahjoub, Travelling with Djinns (London: Chatto and Windus, 2003), 173. Erin Kruger, Marlene Mulder, and Bojan Korenic, “Canada after 11 September: Security Measures and ‘Preferred’ Immigrants,” Mediterranean Quarterly 15.4 (2004): 73. Steven Salaita accords the Lebanese civil war pride of place among the enduring themes of Arab American fiction. See Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures, and Politics. Rawi Hage, Cockroach (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 223. See Ferial J. Ghazoul, “Halal Fiction,” Al-Ahram Weekly On-Line 542 (12–18 July 2001), accessed November 20, 2006, http://weekly.ahram.org. eg/2001/542/bo4.htm. David A. Hollinger, “Identity in the United States,” in Keywords: Identity, ed. Nadia Tazi (New York: The Other Press, 2004), 44. See Nouri Gana, “Arab Despise Thyself,” Counterpunch, February 17, 2010, accessed October 20, 2012, http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/02/17/ arab-despise-thyself/. Ibid., 45. Ibid., 44. See, for instance, and by way of contrast, Iman Mersal, “Eliminating Diasporic Identities,” PMLA 123.5 (2008), 1581–9; and Khaled Mattawa, “Writing Islam in Contemporary American Poetry: On Mohja Kahf, Daniel Moore, and Agha Shahid Ali,” PMLA 123.5 (2008): 1590–5. Louise Michelle Rosenblatt, The Reader, The Text, The Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994), 17. Ibid., 16.

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Chapter 1 T h e R i s e o f t h e A r a b A m e r i c a n N ove l : Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid Waïl S. Hassan

t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h ameen rihani’s the book of khalid

While the history of Arab immigration to the United States is well documented, the genesis of Arab American literature has only recently begun to be adequately charted.1 The aim of this chapter is to highlight the historical and discursive conditions that shaped the intellectual, political, and literary projects of the first Arab American novelist, Ameen Rihani (1876–1940), and his contemporaries, and how those projects converged in his major novel, The Book of Khalid (1911). In addition to that first Arab American novel, Rihani is also the author of the first Arab American poetry collection, Myrtle and Myrrh (1905), and the first Arab American play, Wajdah (1909); those three texts are the first English-language literary works by an Arab writer anywhere. Subsequently he published another poetry collection, A Chant of Mystics (1921), a treatise on The Descent of Bolshevism (1920), and a volume of essays, The Path of Vision: Essays of East and West (1921). His first English-language publication, however, was a translation of selected poems by tenth-century Arab poet Abu al-‘Ala’ al-Ma‘arri (1903), with another volume to follow in 1918. Rihani was also the author of an important study on The Lore of the Arabian Nights (written in 1928–30 and unpublished until 2002) and three books on the Arabian Peninsula and the founder of the Saudi dynasty (1928, 1930, 1931). In Arabic, Rihani published poetry, literary criticism, essays, history, books on his travels throughout the Arab world, and studies of nearly all of its heads of state. In fact, he was already a celebrated writer in Arabic before he published anything in English. His Nabdha f i al-thawra al-firansiyya (Treatise on the French Revolution) appeared in 1902, and numerous articles, speeches, short stories, and poems established his literary reputation in the Arab world by the turn of the century. He introduced prose poetry for the first time into the Arabic language and spearheaded an important

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literary movement known as Mahjar (immigrant) poetry, which introduced European Romantic themes into Arabic. His collected Arabic works fill twelve substantial volumes (1980–6).2 What unites this prolific output in Arabic and English is an overarching project of cultural translation that ambitiously aimed at reinterpreting the “East” and the “West” to each other and bringing about a civilizational synthesis, coupled with a tireless pursuit of Arab political unity and independence, first from the Ottoman Empire then from European colonialism. Although Rihani shared those twin objectives with many of his contemporaries, his approach was shaped by his location in the United States. The first objective dates back to the beginnings of the Arab nahda (or renaissance) in the 1830s. In the wake of the French occupation of Egypt (1798–1801), it became all too clear to Egypt’s ruler Muhammad Ali (1805–48) that Europe’s strength was the result of modern scientific knowledge, and it was in the interests of acquiring that knowledge that he began sending educational missions to France in the 1820s. In 1831, an Egyptian Islamic scholar called Rifa‘a al-Tahtawi returned from one such mission in Paris to establish a school for translation that aimed at disseminating modern European science and ideas. The core of nahda reformism was selective appropriation of those modern European ideas, sciences, and institutions that would strengthen Arab societies while rejecting those aspects of Europe that did not harmonize with Arab Islamic mores and values. Christian Levantine intellectuals who played an important role in the movement from the 1860s onward, and to whom Rihani was heir, contributed to the rise of secular Arab nationalism as an anti-Ottoman ideology.3 But this impulse was not sectarian per se, for it was shared by many Muslim intellectuals and political leaders from the early part of the nineteenth century, and translated into the Arab Revolt of 1916, led by the Sharif Husayn of Mecca and coordinated with the British invasion of Palestine in the final phase of World War I. In the McMahon-Husayn correspondence of 1915–16 leading up to the Revolt, the British encouraged Arab aspirations to independence, only secretly to conclude the Sykes-Picot agreement with the French in 1916 that effectively divided the Arab world into spheres of influence, and issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917 promising the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.4 None of this could have been seen by Arab nationalists as anything but a betrayal by the British, something that deepened the mistrust felt by many toward Europe and further complicated the task of social and political reform predicated on cultural translation and synthesis. Some Arabs hoped that the U.S. would play a more positive role in the region than the European powers, whose colonial ambitions there had become obvious, and some even called for a U.S. mandate in it.5

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The Syrian Christian intellectuals who came to the United States in the late nineteenth century and established a number of Arabic-language newspapers in the 1890s were influenced by the nahda.6 They wrote in Arabic and many of them were outspoken in their criticism of the Ottomans and of social conditions back home, especially religious superstition and the power of the clergy. Although many of those early immigrants imported with them local sectarian biases, espoused by the various newspapers at the time,7 gradually and under pressure from the larger society in which they became a racialized minority,8 those biases began to be fused into a “Syrian” identity in the U.S. and a nationalist politics with respect to events back home. In his early speeches and essays published in those papers, often against the grain of their sectarian biases, Rihani was so critical of the Maronite church of his background that he was excommunicated in 1903, an event dramatized in The Book of Khalid. Similarly, Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931), also of Maronite background, wrote a number of short stories in Arabic dramatizing the corruption and tyranny of the clergy, stories that were directly influenced by Rihani.9 The latter was also a nationalist in that he advocated Arab unity and independence from the Ottomans and later from European colonialism, a goal which he hoped would be achieved with the aid of the United States. He believed that because of its historical experience as a former colony and the ideals expressed in its Declaration of Independence, the U.S. would be a natural ally in the Arab struggle for national liberation, which he hoped would come to fruition with the creation of the United Arab States, on the U.S. model, after the demise of the Ottoman empire. The task, therefore, was to explain both this historical affinity between the United States and the Arab world and the advantages of their forging an alliance. His freelance diplomacy in the 1920s to 1930s aimed at cementing the relations between ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa‘ud, founder of the Saudi dynasty, on whom Rihani set his hopes for unifying Arabs, and the U.S. government. Rihani’s Arabic travel books aimed at bringing the Arab world closer together, while his English travel books of the same period (self-translations from the Arabic originals) sought to familiarize readers with ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and his kingdom.10 Rihani’s literary, intellectual, and political project is captured in the title of the published proceedings of a symposium held a few months after 9/11 to celebrate his life work, Ameen Rihani: Bridging East and West.11 Heir to two literary and cultural traditions, Rihani not only contributed to both but also tried to fuse them together. That he wrote in two languages throughout his life meant that such “bridging” involved constant literary and cultural translation. That process immediately collided with the discourse of Orientalism. Rihani, Gibran (who also wrote in Arabic and English), and

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Abraham Rihbany (a Syrian-American Protestant minister who wrote the first Arab American autobiography, A Far Journey, and several other wellreceived books in English in the 1910s and 1920s) knew that addressing American readers required more than just the ability to write in a foreign language. They had to situate themselves in relation to a powerful discourse through which their readers had already formed their ideas about that distant culture. The shift from Arabic to English meant that Anglophone Arab American literature was to be constrained by that antecedent discourse, in relation to which the nascent literary tradition must constantly define itself. Obviously, when writing in Arabic, Rihani and Gibran not only had a different agenda, but also enjoyed greater discursive latitude in that, first, they did not have to explain Arab culture to Arab readers; second, they were not expected by their readers to pose as Oriental spokesmen; and third, they did not have to abide by discursive strictures imposed on their cultures by a conquering knowledge system, with its stereotypes, typologies, culturalist and racialist frames of reference, privileged texts and modes, and so forth—even when they could not free themselves entirely from its powerful imprint. They wrote within Arabic cultural discourse and could ignore or dismiss simplistic or offensive Orientalist descriptions, or they could boldly and directly challenge their imperialistic underpinnings. When writing in English, however, they had to couch their message in ways that guaranteed or at least increased the likelihood of its acceptance—of their acceptance as writers—by American readers. As Evelyn Shakir points out, the first generation of Arab-American writers (as might be expected of immigrants in an age of rampant xenophobia) dressed carefully for their encounter with the American public, putting on the guise of prophet, preacher, or man of letters. They could not hide their foreignness, but they could make it respectable.12 Some of those roles (such as Gibran’s posture as a mystic or Oriental sage) are, of course, among the stereotypes circulating within Orientalism’s regime of truth, while others (Rihani as a man of letters and Rihbany as a Protestant minister) were carefully calculated to challenge aspects of it, in an effort not only to “make foreignness respectable,” but also to redefine the relationship between “East” and “West.”13 The implied message was, “Here we are, we can produce literature that draws upon the most distinguished Western writers, and we can minister to American Protestant congregations, but we, too, are Orientals.” Edward Said described the stance of the Orientalist as that of a translator:

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The relation between Orientalist and Orient was essentially hermeneutical: standing before a distant, barely intelligible civilization or cultural monument, the Orientalist scholar reduced the obscurity by translating, sympathetically portraying, inwardly grasping the hard-to-reach object. Yet the Orientalist remained outside the Orient, which, however much was made to appear intelligible, remained beyond the Occident.14 Early Arab American writers in English tried to appropriate that stance of Orientalist translator and, in fact, their implicit claim was that they were better equipped to interpret the Orient than European Orientalists. Immigrating to the U.S. in childhood like Gibran and Rihani (both at age twelve), or in youth like Rihbany (age twenty-two) out of economic necessity, they were intermittently educated in Arabic, French, or American schools in Lebanon and the U.S., and their self-education was eclectic. Like Said, most of them came to Arabic studies belatedly.15 It was not surprising, therefore, that they subordinate their experience to the systematic, authoritative, and widely dispersed Orientalist knowledge. They nevertheless felt the kind of tension between that knowledge and their own lived experience which was to spur Said’s critical project, but they did not have the benefit of the privileged family background that afforded him a first-rate education, or the conceptual tools with which to interrogate Orientalism as he would do seven decades later, or the historical advantage he enjoyed (or suffered) of witnessing the decolonization and Civil Rights movements, the catastrophic events in Palestine, and the rising tide of anti-Arab racism in the U.S. over the course of the twentieth century, all of which in different ways motivated and inspired the oppositional thrust of his work. In the early twentieth century, by contrast, it was still possible for Gibran to see British and French colonialism in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon as a civilizing force.16 It was also possible for Rihani to see the United States as a potential ally in the Arab struggle for independence. Rihbany went even farther; by an eerily familiar and thoroughly disturbing logic to us today, in books like Militant American and Jesus Christ (1917), he provided a religious argument for the intervention of the United States in WWI, and in America Save the Near East (1918), he advocated U.S. stewardship over the region: “I do not say that America is the best ‘colonizer,’ nor that Syria’s real need is to be ‘colonized’ by being tied to the chariot of a strong and conquering nation. The cry is rather for a big-hearted, disinterested helper, whose motives shall be above suspicion, and whose reward, the joy of helpfulness.”17 Arab American writers’ attempt to replace the Orientalist as interpreter or translator of the Orient was a way of claiming cultural space and voice,

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countering the negativity associated with the Orient, and mediating between it and the West for the sake of greater cross-cultural understanding. Said’s book and the polemics it initiated, together with the areas of inquiry it opened up, such as postcolonial studies, represent a watershed moment in that contest over voice, representation, and discursive power in which early Arab Americans engaged. Said’s critique of Orientalism and of the concept of the Orient puts into question the antithetical construct of the Occident or the West: “if it [his critique of Orientalism] eliminates the ‘Orient’ and ‘Occident’ altogether, then we shall have advanced in the process of what Raymond Williams has called the ‘unlearning’ of ‘the inherent dominative mode.’ ”18 Early Arab American writers did not go so far, however, for they accepted the Orientalist distinction between the contrasting essences of East and West, the former seen as passive, mystical, spiritual, traditional and backward, and the latter correspondingly as aggressive, rational, materialistic, modern and progressive. What they wanted to contest was the hierarchy of values attached to the poles of this dichotomy. They were angry at, and rebellious against, the oppressive rule of the Ottoman Empire and highly critical of social and political conditions in Syria and the rest of the Arab world, and they likewise correspondingly admired the social, political, and technological advances of Western European countries and especially the United States. But they were also very conscious and proud of a great civilizational past and a rich cultural and literary heritage, to which they made a considerable contribution through their Arabic prose and poetry, written in the United States.19 They could not, therefore, accept the idea of the East’s inferiority. Moreover, the prevailing attitude toward Europe within what Hourani calls the “liberal” school of Arabic thought from the 1830s onwards emphasized critically selective borrowing from Europe; only those ideas and sciences deemed compatible with Arab culture and necessary for the reform of its social institutions were to be adopted, while much else that characterized Western social customs and values that were deemed decadent, overly materialistic, or spiritually anemic by both Islamic and Levantine Christian standards were themselves in need of reform, if not rejection altogether. Given the balance of power and the challenges of social reform in their countries, intellectuals in the Arab world of course never imagined themselves on a mission to reform the West, but they discriminated sharply between what they considered to be the advantages and disadvantages of modern Europe, and advocated selective borrowing from it. Because of their location in the U.S., Arab immigrant intellectuals at the turn of the twentieth century saw themselves as reformers of East and West. The discursive challenge facing them was to replace Orientalist valuations

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with a model of duality without hierarchy, whereby the contrasting essences were seen as existing in a sort of metaphysical equilibrium and reciprocity: East and West complement, need, and have something to teach each other. Rihbany puts it succinctly: “The world needs a characteristic Oriental civilization as it needs a characteristic Occidental civilization.”20 Reform of the East depends on inspiration and material assistance from the West, but “if it is to be of significant value to either the East or the West, a new Eastern civilization must be genuinely Eastern. It must not be a replica of Western civilization, which itself needs a hundred reforms.”21 A “better East”22 would be more suitable to Western business interests,23 yet would remain free from the material and spiritual ravages of industrialization discernible in “New York, Chicago, and London.”24 By the same token, “the Oriental must never cease to teach his Occidental brother, nor ever allow himself to forget his own great spiritual maxims which have guided the course of his life for so many centuries.”25 At the end of the day, East would still be East, and West West. Others like Rihani (and less explicitly Gibran) envisioned a Hegelian dynamic that would eventually blend East and West into a higher civilizational synthesis, and saw themselves in the role of two-way reformers and facilitators of that process. Like Rihbany, they accepted the Orientalist distinction between East and West but rejected its historical immutability in favor of a conception of East and West as values and attitudes of mind that are not geographically determined and which can, therefore, circulate among cultures over long historical periods. This more plastic form of Orientalism can explain the erstwhile historical ascendancy of Phoenician and Arab civilizations. Thus, pride in an illustrious cultural and civilizational heritage that has much to offer their new country is the content of Gibran’s address “To Young Americans of Syrian Origin,” which appeared in the inaugural issue of The Syrian World, the first English language literary and cultural magazine in North America, launched specifically for the benefit of second-generation Arab Americans whose native language was English. Pride in Syrian heritage (or the “Syrian Race,” as it was often described at the time) is also the theme of a series of articles by the Reverend W. A. Mansur, published in The Syrian World throughout its six-year life (1926–32). Rihani clearly articulated this reconstructed Orientalism in the June 1927 issue of the same magazine. In an address originally delivered at the American University of Beirut two months earlier and titled “Where East and West Meet,” Rihani argued that despite superficial differences, East and West share in “the highest ideal of the prophets and the poets—the ideal of the soul—which includes the ethical and the practical aspects of life, and which is neither Oriental nor exclusively Occidental. It is supremely human. … In the Orient and in the

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Occident the deep thinkers are kin, the poets are cousins, the pioneers of the spirit are the messengers of peace and goodwill to the world.”26 This transcendentalist metaphysics of the spirit, prophecy, and poetry trivializes Orientalist hierarchies, but also overlooks the material conditions of cultural and ideological production.27 In its conciliatory, non-confrontational stance, it offers itself as an alternative to the dominant discourses of difference, but without exposing their internal inconsistencies or their affiliations with power. In fact, it offers an illusory sense of freedom that sublimates the dialectics of history. The same idea is expressed in Rihani’s poem, “A Chant of Mystics,” published in 1921 in a collection bearing the same title: Nor Crescent nor Cross we adore; Nor Budha [sic] nor Christ we implore; Nor Muslem [sic] nor Jew we abhor: We are free. We are not of Iran or of Ind, We are not of Arabia or of Sind: We are free. We are not of the East or the West; No boundaries exist in our breast: We are free.28 This passage is frequently quoted to illustrate the nobility of Rihani’s endeavors to reconstruct a human community free from religious, ethnic, and cultural chauvinism. Such an ideal is indeed admirable, yet the fact that the entire collection contains not a hint of the historical and political conditions that were radically transforming the map of the Middle East in 1921, and in which Rihani himself was fully embroiled as a speaker, writer, nationalist, activist, and delegate to post-war conferences, points to the unbridgeable chasm between this rarefied metaphysics and material reality. Rihani’s negotiation of Orientalism vacillates between this Sufi ideal that transcends dualism and the material, worldly transactions that confront it—that is, between metaphysical unity and cultural translation. This tension defines Rihani’s work as a whole, especially The Book of Khalid in which Rihani attempts to fuse Arabic and Western literature thematically, linguistically, formally, and structurally. This inaugural text of Arab American fiction and of the Anglophone Arab novel more generally remains relatively unknown, in part because of its baffling admixture of philosophy and mysticism, its paradoxical tone at once solemn and ironical, its confusingly overwrought web of literary allusions, its alternation

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between utopianism and cynicism, and its enigmatic protagonist who seems at once to embody and to satirize Rihani’s own ideas. Like other immigrant narratives, it is a story of coming to America; but like numerous fictional and autobiographical travel accounts of Arab intellectuals from Rifa‘a alTahtawi’s Takhlis al-’ibriz f i talkhis bariz (Paris Abstracted, its Essence Extracted), the text that inaugurated the project of nahda in the mid-1830s, to the novels of Tayeb Salih and Ahdaf Soueif in the late twentieth century, it is also a story of returning home, of migration rather than immigration. And while immigrant narratives tend, for obvious reasons, to be written in English, migration narratives are, with few recent exceptions, written in Arabic. In one sense, therefore, The Book of Khalid situates itself outside of two traditions: in the one, it is the wrong kind of story; in the other, it is written in the wrong language. Furthermore, its English is both archaic and at times nearly unintelligible to readers unfamiliar with Arabic and its cultural frame of reference because of its infusion with Arabic words, expressions, proverbs, and even rhetorical strategies characteristic of nineteenth-century Arabic literature, such as parallelisms and rhymed prose, in addition to the verbal humor and ironic tone characteristic of the Arabic maqama genre.29 It is a language radically deterritorialized, in Deleuze and Guattari’s terms, availing itself liberally of the resources of another language with different cultural, rhetorical, and literary norms. Those strategies anticipate the emergence, in the work of our contemporary bilingual writers, of what I have elsewhere called “translational literature”—texts that dramatize the process of translation and foreground the limits of translatability.30 Whereas such strategies in the novels of writers like Ahdaf Soueif and Leila Aboulela participate in the post-Saidian project of undermining Orientalist claims to authoritative knowledge, of “translating” the Orient and making it accessible, in the work of Ameen Rihani, who accepted some of the basic tenets of Orientalism but pursued the ideal of a Hegelian synthesis of East and West, translational strategies are part of the effort to forge a new language that would serve as the vehicle of a new genre, the Arabized English novel, or the Arabic novel written in English. This genre would represent a literary synthesis of East and West that heralds the cultural and political synthesis he envisioned. The Book of Khalid embodies this quest in its style, its language, its intertextual references, as well as its themes. Unfortunately, this also meant that the ideal readers for this novel do not yet exist on any wide scale; only those bicultural hybrids like Rihani himself would be able to decipher the endless cross-linguistic word play, in-jokes, untranslated Arabic vocabulary, and literal translations of Arabic phrases that are sometimes accompanied by their idiomatic equivalents but mostly

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stand alone, and to follow the large number of meandering allusions across fourteen centuries of Arabic literature and 400 years of European texts (after all, it is only modern Europe that interested nahda intellectuals). As Geoffrey Nash observes, Rihani’s language in many of his Anglophone works: is framed in a discourse clearly borrowed from the western Romantics, and at others in an idiom that reads like a literal translation from Arabic. What can be said of most of these writings is that in foregrounding the Arab and Oriental constituency, they make little accommodation for a western readership in the sense of diluting or acculturating Oriental idioms to suit Occidental pre-dispositions and expectations.31 This has the effect of estranging the English language by confronting its native speakers with linguistic difference within a deliberately hybridized discourse, instead of leaving them in a comfort zone that does not challenge their assumptions and expectations. Readers are called upon to engage in a difficult task, the end result of which is a new cultural awareness. Nevertheless, the novel is formally, and quite explicitly, patterned after European models, principally Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Voltaire’s Candide, and Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus. The central characters in those works, like Rihani’s titular character, are idealistic, naïve, and/or out of synch with their times, and are treated with a great measure of irony by their respective narrators. All three texts involve travel, cross-cultural exchange, or translation: the fictional “real author” of Don Quixote is a North African who wrote the story in Arabic; after wandering throughout Europe and South America, Candide and his companions settle near Constantinople and are taught what in the discourse of the novel is the ultimate wisdom by a Muslim Turk; and Carlyle’s narrator edits a German manuscript that has the potential to infuse British pragmatism with German idealism. Cervantes’s and Voltaire’s texts depict a cultural exchange between Arab or Muslim (“Eastern”) sources and European ones; Carlyle fits in this company because of his highly appreciative assessment of the prophet Muhammad in Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History, which made a great impression on Rihani, and because Sartor Resartus constructs the kind of cross-cultural discourse that Rihani himself sought to achieve.32 In all three texts, satire of social conditions is clothed (to use Carlyle’s metaphor) in the caricatured depiction of an idealistic protagonist who pursues an elusive utopia. In two of those novels, that pursuit leads to a series of travel adventures of the episodic, picaresque kind. The picaresque closely resembles the Arabic maqama genre; indeed, some critics speculate that the picaresque originated in the maqama by way of

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Muslim Spain.33 In those formal and thematic ways, Cervantes, Voltaire, and Carlyle serve as antecedent examples that authorize Rihani’s cross-cultural discourse. The title character and protagonist is young, naïve, idealistic, and something of a Romantic rebel against social conventions and institutions in Lebanon. “Just like Candide, caught kissing the baron’s daughter (rumored to be his cousin), is set upon by the baron and literally kicked out of the ‘terrestrial paradise’ of Westphalia, so—in a cockeyed echo of that scene—Khalid, in love with his cousin, is beaten from the door by her father, whereupon he sets out on a journey not away from, but in search of, ‘the Paradise of the World,’ ” America.34 He leaves with a close friend called Shakib, the counterpart to Carlyle’s Hofrath Heuschrecke in Sartor Resartus or Cervantes’s Sancho Panza. However, Shakib is the educated one among the two, and the inverse relationship between formal education and intuitive wisdom in the characterization of Khalid and Shakib indexes Rihani’s indebtedness to Rousseau and the Romantics. Khalid’s education is like that of biblical and Qur’anic prophets: shepherding animals, wandering in the open, and meditating, or as Shakib puts it, “he loafs … after the manner of the great thinkers and mystics: like Al-Fared and Jelal al-Din Rumi, like Socrates and St. Francis of Assisi.”35 By contrast, Shakib, whose biography of Khalid is full of “ecstasies about his master’s genius,”36 recounts: When we left our native land … my literary bent was not shared in the least by Khalid. I had gone through the higher studies which, in our hedge-schools and clerical institutions, do not reach a very remarkable height. Enough of French to understand the authors tabooed by our Jesuit professors,—the Voltaires, the Rousseaus, the Diderots; enough of Arabic to enable one to parse and analyse the verse of Al-Mutanabbi; enough of Church History to show us, not how the Church wielded the sword of persecution, but how she was persecuted herself by the pagans and barbarians of the earth … Now, of this high phase of education, Khalid was thoroughly immune. But his intuitive sagacity was often remarkable, and his humour, sweet and pathetic. Once when I was reading aloud some of the Homeric effusions of Al-Mutanabbi, he said to me, as he was playing his lute, “and in the heart of this,” pointing to the lute, “and in the heart of me, there be more poetry than in that book with which you would kill me.”37 This is only one instance of what Evelyne Shakir describes as “name-dropping” on the part of Rihani—“Dickens, Tennyson, Balzac, Shakespeare,

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Dante, Paine, Arnold, Montaigne, Epictetus, Swinburne, Diderot, Pascal, Ibsen, Homer, Marx, Spencer, and Rousseau,” among others—apparently intended to establish Rihani’s credentials: “here is an ‘Oriental’ who can run with Western writers, who can match their erudition, their tone, their wordplay, the particular favor of their philosophical flights.”38 Yet equally implicit is the claim that Western writers are not enough, for Rihani also references a host of Arab writers, poets, and scholars who would be known only to Arabists: al-Zamakhshari, al-Mutanabbi, Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyyah, Ibn al-Farid, al-Makrizi, al-Auza‘i, and others, so that even highly educated readers who may be familiar with European writers would still feel inadequate vis-à-vis the author’s bicultural frame of reference. The passage also registers Rihani’s attitude toward the Jesuits, who persecute Khalid in the novel (among other things on the charge that he translated Carlyle’s essay, “On Jesuitism,” into Arabic), and toward classical Arabic poetry, of which Abu al-Tayyib al-Mutanabbi (d. 965) is a chief representative. A decade earlier, Rihani pioneered prose poetry in Arabic and introduced Romantic themes and language, so al-Mutanabbi here represents what ought to be jettisoned in the Arabic tradition. Significantly, in this context, “alMutanabbi” is not a real name, but a title by which the poet became known and which means “one who falsely claims to be a prophet” (he boasted that he could imitate the style of the Qur’an, which is believed to be the literal words of God and, therefore, inimitable as a matter of doctrine). Rihani’s attack on al-Mutanabbi is an attack on the established canon of classical Arabic poetry. Instead, the novel offers the latter-day Romantic, visionary, and iconoclastic leadership of Khalid, which holds the potential for cultural, religious, and political reform—and here we can see the influence on Rihani of Carlyle’s ideas on heroism, particularly “the hero as prophet,” exemplified by Muhammad. The Book of Khalid thus begins with an introduction titled “Al-Fatihah” (the opening), which is the name of the first chapter of the Qur’an, clearly drawing a parallel between Khalid and Muhammad as prophets and nation builders. But Khalid is also a Christ figure whose “voyage to America is a Via Dolorosa of the emigrant; and the Port of Beirut, the verminous hostelries of Marseilles, the island of Ellis in New York are the three stations thereof. And if your hopes are not crucified at the third and last station, you pass into the Paradise of your dreams.”39 As the structure of the plot suggests, however, America proves to be a harrowing experience from which Khalid returns home to retreat to the forest like the Buddha, or like Thoreau at Walden, for a period of meditation and introspection, before he emerges to preach social, political, and religious reform. The novel is divided into three parts, each corresponding to a stage of Khalid’s life: “In

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the Exchange” depicts his early life and journey to the U.S., “In the Temple” his involvement in the U.S. political machine and subsequent retreat into nature back in Lebanon, and “In Kulmakan” (Everywhere) his emergence to spread his message, his escape from his persecutors to Egypt, which had served as a haven for Syrian intellectuals fleeing Ottoman persecution since the nineteenth century, and his disappearance there. The ending evokes the idea of the Messiah, the Mahdi, or the twelfth imam in Shiite doctrine, who returns to save the world after a period of absence from it. But this hagiographic structure of the novel and all the explicit and implicit attributions of prophecy to the protagonist are parodied in the text. The intoxicated customers of a Cairo hashish den sarcastically describe Khalid as a “prophet” and a “Muhdi” [sic] between loud peals of laughter,40 and his most devoted (and only) disciple is the ludicrous Shakib. Kahlid’s naïve idealism and outlandish behavior do not escape the narrator’s satire, either. In a perceptive reading of Carlyle’s use of irony and satire in Sartor Resartus that applies to Rihani’s novel, Wolfgang Iser argues that “as far as the [fictional] Editor [in Sartor] is concerned, poking fun at German transcendentalism implicitly asserts a British attitude which allows transcendentalism to be channeled into empiricism.”41 That attitude privileges experiential knowledge over transcendental abstraction, but asserting the value of experience through humor allows the Editor to temper empiricism with transcendentalism, and vice versa, in the act of editing the chaotic manuscript of the German philosopher.42 The philosophy that emerges from the Editor’s labors, therefore, represents a higher synthesis reached through cultural cross-fertilization, and the novel thus becomes “a paradigm of translatability rather than an actual translation.”43 A similar strategy is at work in The Book of Khalid. The narrator presents himself as an editor who discovers an Arabic manuscript written by Khalid in the Egyptian state library. Intrigued by the manuscript, he searches for the author and is led to Shakib, who has written in French a gargantuan biography of Khalid. The narrator-editor presents the novel as a historical account and not a work of fiction, based on two original manuscripts: the Arabic Kitab Khalid, Khalid’s spiritual autobiography, is short on facts and rich in abstractions and meditations, and the French Histoire intime, Khalid’s biography written by Shakib, which provides a chronological account of Khalid’s life but is full of exaggeration, rhetorical flourishes, and tedious, pointless digressions. The English text, then, is presumably a soberly edited account that draws upon, or synthesizes, the best qualities of its Arabic and French sources. If Khalid’s Arabic account is too mystical and abstract, true to the prophetic character of its author, and Shakib’s French

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manuscript is too mired in romance and poetic excess characteristic of both medieval Arabic historiography and the European chivalric romance, The Book of Khalid is a narrative that embodies an evolved and discerning consciousness that is able to discriminate, select, and synthesize. Both original manuscripts, which are the counterpart to Cide Hamete Benengeli’s Arabic manuscript in Don Quixote and Diogenes Teufelsdröckh’s Die Kleider ihr Werden und Wirken in Sartor Resartus, represent Oriental and Occidental excess, supposedly displaying the quintessential characteristics of the mystical East and the decadent West—or at least as it is mimicked by Shakib, a French-educated Oriental. The first paragraph of the novel expresses this vision of synthesis somewhat differently: In the Khedival Library of Cairo, among the Papyri of the Scribe of Amen-Ra and the beautifully illuminated copies of the Korân, the modern Arabic Manuscript which forms the subject of this Book, was found. The present Editor was attracted to it by the dedication and the rough drawings on the cover; which, indeed, are as curious, if not as mystical, as ancient Egyptian symbols. One of these is supposed to represent a New York Skyscraper in the shape of a Pyramid, and the other is a dancing group under which is written: “The Stockbrokers and the Dervishes.” And around these symbols, in Arabic circlewise, these words:—“And this is my Book, the Book of Khalid, which I dedicate to my Brother Man, my Mother Nature, and my Maker God.”44 The location of the manuscript is highly significant, for it evokes the entire cultural history of Egypt: from Pharaonic times, represented by the papyri of the supreme god Amen-Ra to the illuminated Qur’ans of medieval Islamic Egypt, all housed in a library built in modern Egypt. If those markers designate the narrative past and present, the “modern Arabic Manuscript” in question looks to a future in which the civilization of Egypt, captured in the iconic image of the pyramid, fuses with modern American civilization, epitomized by a New York skyscraper. Those two symbolically charged structures are synthesized into the image of a skyscraper in the shape of a pyramid. The other image on the cover of the manuscript drives the idea home. The materialism of the West and the spirituality of the East combine in a dancing circle of stockbrokers and dervishes that evokes Sufi gatherings for dhikr, or trance-inducing rituals intended to bring mystics closer to God. The dedication fuses all distinctions between East and West, materialism and spirituality, past, present and future, into transcendental,

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universal, masculinist values that would presumably sustain an evolved form of civilization. In New York, Shakib and Khalid live in a damp cellar and practice peddling, selling trinkets that they claim to be relics from the holy land, a common occupation for impoverished Lebanese immigrants at that time. Although he abhors formal education, Khalid voraciously reads second-hand books (representing second-hand knowledge not based on personal experience, introspection, or meditation), each of which he burns immediately after reading. This burning of books recalls the burning of Don Quixote’s library, which was blamed for causing his insane delusions; in Rihani’s case, burned books stand for the weight of tradition that threatens to ossify the mind. Khalid asks: “does not a systematic education mean … that a young man must go through life dragging behind him his heavy chains of set ideas and stock systems, political, social, or religious?”45 Therefore, his search for the Truth involves internalizing—or consuming—the content of books while discarding their dogma, an ambivalence vis-à-vis the past that reverses the classic scene of censorship in medieval times, when subversive books were burned to suppress their content. Khalid here burns the books after absorbing their content, as though to assert the primacy of his own experience and to preempt the hegemonic potential of tradition that turns into the dogma of “social and political guides, moral and religious dragomans,” as he puts it46—false knowledge like the contents of his peddling box. “We are pestered and plagued with guides and dragomans of every rank and shade … a Tolstoy here, an Ibsen there, a Spencer above, a Nietzsche below. And there thou art left in perpetual confusion and despair,”47 but “the time will come, I tell thee, when every one will be his own guide and dragoman. The time will come when it will not be necessary to write books for others, or to legislate for others, or to make religions for others.”48 In the meantime, apparently, he himself must write a book: “And so, the Book of Khalid was written. It is the only one I wrote in this world, having made … a brief sojourn in its civilised parts, and I hope to write other books in other worlds.”49 Rihani’s satirical framing of his themes—a principal strategy in Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus—is once again evident here in the simultaneous evocation and dismissal of European writers who influenced his craft, and equally in Khalid’s contradictory stance of condemning and burning books, yet writing one of his own, and discrediting translators while posing as one himself. Rihani’s depiction of Khalid as both a prophet and a laughably Quixotic madman is of the same order, as is the treatment of the central trope of translation, which Khalid brings up in equating writers with “dragomans.” According to Iser, Carlyle’s novel is more of a paradigm of translation than

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the actual translation it claims to be. Likewise, Rihani’s novel claims to be a double translation from original sources in two languages, yet translation is dismissed as inherently deceptive. Such paradoxes make sense only in light of mystical thought, which sees truth as an inner quality (batin), hidden by outward forms (zahir)—garments, in Carlyle’s sartorial metaphor, explicitly and repeatedly used by Rihani in this novel and his other writings. It is only by intuition that a seeker can reach the hidden truth, which cannot be expressed in formulas and dogmas, taught, or translated. Hence the burning of books and discrediting of translators apply also to Khalid and his autobiography; indeed Kitab Khalid lay abandoned in the Egyptian Library until discovered by the editor, and even then it saw the light of day only as a pre-text for the editor’s own book, The Book of Khalid—an outer garment on top of another outer garment, a veil upon a veil. In that sense, for Rihani, cultural translation is a chimera because it is a worldly transaction, a trafficking in forms not essences—especially when “genius everywhere is one” and “poets are cousins.”50 Poets, prophets, and gurus can only ultimately try to give their disciples an intuition of “Truth,” but they cannot communicate it because it is inexpressible; those who come after them turn it into dogmas and books fit for the furnace. Rihani’s entire philosophy and life work swing on this dialectic of the mystical and the political, the worldly and the otherworldly. Eventually, Khalid burns his peddling box and abandons his trade based on deception. Living on Shakib’s income, Khalid is drawn to the lecture circuit of atheists, with whom he becomes disillusioned. He works in a lawyer’s office (in the service of Morality, as he tells himself), but is “fired” (in the narrator’s ironic pun)51 for dilly-dallying, absenteeism, and suggesting to his employer that he burn the Register’s Office. Khalid then frequents the cultic milieu of New York and enters into liaisons with bohemian women (“huris,” as he calls them [83]) who are drawn to his exotic background.52 Disenchanted with that brand of spirituality, he is then introduced to the corrupt world of Tammany Hall (this time in the service of Democracy), only to be literally kicked out and then imprisoned on trumped-up charges when he accuses a powerful politician of hypocrisy and deception. Shakib contrives to free Khalid and together they return to Lebanon. Khalid’s rude introduction to the workings of American politics is recounted in the first chapter of the second part of the novel, “In the Temple”—the temple of Mammon, and then after his release from prison (where he rereads Rousseau’s Emile and Carlyle’s Hero-Worship), the temple of nature. His experience with American politics convinces him that “Americans are … true and honest votaries of Mammon, their great God, their one and only God.”53 Nevertheless, he declares that

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my faith in man … is as strong as my faith in God. And strong, too, perhaps, is my faith in the future world-ruling destiny of America. … In this New World, the higher Superman shall rise … but he shall not be an American in the Democratic sense. He shall be nor of the Old World nor of the New; he shall be, my Brothers, of both. In him shall be incarnated the Asiatic spirit of Poesy and Prophecy, and the European spirit of Art, and the American spirit of Invention. Ay, the nation that leads the world to-day in material progress shall lead it, too, in the future, in the higher things of the mind and soul. And when you reach that height, O beloved America, you will be far from the majority-rule, and Iblis [Satan], and Juhannam [Hell]. And you will then conquer those “enormous mud Megatheriums” of which Carlyle makes loud mention.54 How such Hegelian/Nietzschean evolution can come about, Khalid does not explain, nor does the editor, who actually satirizes this prophecy in the immediately following chapter, titled “Subtranscendental,” in which he compares Khalid’s jail-time pontification to “Hamlet’s player, or even like Hamlet himself—always soliloquising, tearing a passion to rags.”55 Back in Lebanon, Khalid retreats to the woods after more skirmishes with the Jesuits that lead to his excommunication and imprisonment, and now he takes on the Muslim establishment. In “the Kaaba of solitude,” a chapter in which nature is described as a “glorious Mosque”56 and which evokes Emerson, Baudelaire (“La nature est un temple …”), Wordsworth, and Thoreau, Khalid conceives of himself as a prophet and refers to “MY Holy Book.”57 The message he preaches when he emerges from the woods is the core of Rihani’s philosophy: “I am equally devoted both to the material and the spiritual. … For the dervish who whirls himself into a foaming ecstasy of devotion and the strenuous American who works himself up to a sweating ecstasy of gain, are the two poles of the same absurdity, the two ends of one evil.”58 The editor further explains “the gist of Khalid’s gospel”59 this way, To graft the strenuosity of Europe and America upon the ease of the Orient, the materialism of the West upon the spirituality of the East,—this to us seems to be the principal aim of Khalid. But often in his wanderings and divigations of thought does he give us fresh proof of the truism that no two opposing elements meet and fuse without both losing their original identity.60 This truism clashes with the principle of absolute opposition that structures Orientalist discourse, which posits both the undesirability and the

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impossibility of precisely such fusion. This is exactly where Rihani’s project falters in its philosophically Quixotic attempt to graft the Hegelian dialectic onto Daoist complementarity, and then to superimpose both onto Orientalist Manichaeism: The Orient and the Occident, the male and female of the spirit, the two great streams in which the body and soul of man are refreshed, invigorated, purified—of both I sing, in both I glory, to both I consecrate my life, for both I shall work and suffer and die. My Brothers, the most highly developed being is neither European nor Oriental; but rather he who partakes of the finer qualities of both the European genius and the Asiatic prophet.61 In a classic Orientalist gesture, the Orient is reduced to mysticism (feminine) and the Occident to science (masculine); but despite this culturalist and masculinist hierarchization, both also represent the harmonious yin-yang of humanity; and yet again, despite the eternal nature of those principles, they are somehow capable of evolving into a higher synthesis. The tension noted above between Rihani’s resistance to and investment in Orientalism is hidden within that formulation. This dubious philosophy yields the political vision of an Arab empire, to be built by “a Saladin of the Idea, who will wage a crusade not against Christianity or Mohammedanism, but against those Tartaric usurpers who are now toadying to both … the Turks,”62 an empire built on “American arms and an up-to-date Korân [sic].” The reformed Islam he champions is that of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab, “the Luther of Arabia”63 and founder of Wahabism, the puritanical movement that eventually collaborated with Abd al-‘Aziz Al-Saud in founding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Historical hindsight permits us now to appreciate the ironies that allowed a cosmopolitan and progressive thinker like Rihani to set such high hopes on, and actively to lobby on behalf of, a conservative regime that forged an alliance of convenience with a fundamentalist movement, not to mention Rihani’s total miscalculation of the role that the United States would play in the region. When Khalid airs his views in the grand mosque of Damascus, he predictably incurs the wrath of the Ottoman authorities and the conservative Muslims, who attack and nearly kill him. He emerges from that mêlée “like Don Quixote after the Battle of the Mill”64 and escapes to Egypt, where he eventually disappears after creating quite a legend for himself. The comparison to Don Quixote’s hilarious adventure rescues the utopian vision that Rihani puts into the mouth of his character from ridicule; as with Carlyle’s

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satirical treatment of Teufelsdröch that, in Iser’s reading, preempts the reader’s ridicule of German transcendentalism, allowing it to infuse British empiricism, Rihani’s framing of his protagonist makes the message palatable to American readers: here is an Oriental madman/prophet with fantastic dreams—but they are marked indelibly by his American voyage, and they do, in a way, hold a mirror up to America. The image reflected in that mirror is not always a flattering one, not the image of an immigrant’s success story that confirms the American Dream. Nonetheless, it is an image contoured by American ideals and gravid with America’s potential as a world leader, even as America’s faults and shortcomings are diagnosed, and the remedy to them is prescribed. Because of these discursive deviations from the norms of immigrant narratives, Geoffrey Nash contends that “Rihani’s biculturality is not of the kind that can be considered ethnic American … Rihani’s writings do not fully register the ‘cultural doubleness’ ” or the “ ‘divided allegiance’ ” found in “those writers who chose to address themselves to the ethnic situation in America.”65 This judgment is unconvincing because it posits divided allegiance and identity crisis as a condition for ethnic American writing, and makes no allowance for a more self-confident stance like Rihani’s, which provides an alternative paradigm that ought to be considered in ethnic studies. Rihani accentuates or exaggerates the “Orientalness” of Khalid to the point of caricature, but it is a caricature that forms part of American consciousness and, consequently, that of Arab Americans. This is more than a discursive performance, for even as he wrestled with Orientalism, Rihani himself accepted its basic premises, including the essentialist concepts of “Orient” and “Occident,” which continue to frame the discussions of Rihani’s interpreters even today.66 The novel raises some interesting questions such as: how would a writer like Rihani, who is self-consciously Oriental because he is so defined in the dominant discourse of his time, imagine an Oriental character in an American setting? How would he (for this is, after all, a deeply and unself-consciously masculinist stance, totally in line with the gendered assumptions of Orientalism) conceive of cultural translation and of the possibility of a cross-cultural discourse? How would he regard his native tradition and its relationship to that of Europe and the United States? However flawed, Rihani’s project was a valiant effort that indexes the historical, ideological, and discursive conditions of the Arab world, Europe, and the United States during that period. His questioning of Orientalism and his efforts at cultural translation that aimed at a two-way reform did not resonate in a culture that did not sense itself to be in crisis, at least not the kind of crisis Rihani diagnosed. As Iser argues, “as long as there is an

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overriding conviction that a culture rests on a firm foundation, the necessity for a cross-cultural discourse does not arise. For such a self-understanding of culture, a cross-cultural discourse can only mean a foreign intrusion.”67 A cross-cultural discourse was an urgent necessity for nineteenth-century Arab leaders and intellectuals who looked to Europe, and to their early twentieth-century counterparts who turned to the United States, in search of models for cultural and political survival. That sense was not reciprocated, since neither Europe nor the U.S. felt the need to learn anything from the Arabs or any non-Western peoples; indeed, Orientalism was, as Said argued, an expression of mastery over weaker peoples, and not a manifestation of cultural sympathy or desire for dialogue. Orientals who wrote against the grain of Orientalism, as Rihani did when he challenged its modes of representation, were bound to be ignored, their works regarded as “cultural oddit[ies],”68 while those who conformed to those modes, as Gibran did, could become immensely successful. Gibran delivered to America a thoroughly domesticated Orient that hardly challenged its modes of perception or its self-image. Ultimately, however, both Gibran’s evasion and Rihani’s sublimation of Orientalism led Arab American literature to a dead end. In the internationally isolationist and domestically assimilationist decades of American ideology following World War I, reflected in the immigration law of 1924 that practically suspended Asian immigration to the U.S. until 1965, U.S.-born Arabs simply hoped to pass.69 The work of Rihani and Gibran was pioneering, but their literary projects were hopelessly unsustainable for those who came after them. The works of writers like William Blatty, Salom Rizk, and Vance Bourjaily are haunted (literally so for the author of The Exorcist) by a sense of burdensome, shameful, “fractional” (as Bourjaily puts it in Confessions of a Spent Youth), dislocated past, rendered all the more acute by the rising crescendo of anti-Arab racism in the U.S. that accompanied the unfolding of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At that juncture, and in concert with historical developments like the Civil Rights Movement and the advent of multiculturalism and poststructuralism, Edward Said’s unmasking of Orientalism’s historical affiliations with power and his courageous critique of U.S. involvement in the Middle East represented a discursive breakthrough that enabled countless other writers—new Arab immigrants, Americans, and generations of Arab Americans—to reconfigure the terms of cultural translation and cross-cultural discourse beyond the limitations of Rihani and his contemporaries.

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Notes 1. This chapter was first published in American Literary History 20.1/2 (Spring/ Summer 2008): 245–75, under the title, “The Rise of Arab-American Literature: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in the Work of Ameen Rihani.” A shorter version of it appears here by permission of Oxford University Press. Since then, a somewhat expanded version has appeared as chapter 1 of my Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). On Arab American literature, see also Evelyn Shakir, “Arab-American Literature,” in New Immigrant Literatures in the United States: A Sourcebook to Our Multicultural Literary Heritage, ed. Alpana Sharma Knippling (Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1996), 3–18; Lisa Suhair Majaj, “Arab American Literature and the Politics of Memory,” in Memory and Cultural Politics: New Approaches to American Ethnic Literatures, ed. Amritjit Singh, Joseph Skerrett, Jr., and Robert Hogan (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1996), 266–90, and “Arab-Americans and the Meaning of Race,” in Postcolonial Theory and the United States, ed. Amritjit Singh and Peter Schmidt (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2000), 320–37; Geoffrey P. Nash, “Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid and the Voice of Thomas Carlyle,” New Comparison 17 (1994), 35–49; Steven Salaita, Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures, and Politics (New York: Palgrave, 2007); Ottmar Ette and Friederike Pannewick, eds, Arab Americas: Literary Entanglements of the American Hemisphere and the Arab World (Frankfurt: Verlag and Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2006). Additionally, special issues of Studies in the Humanities 30: 1–2 (June–December 2003) and MELLUS 31: 4 (Winter 2006) were devoted to Arab-American literature. On Arab immigration to the United States, see Elizabeth Boosahda, Arab-American Faces and Voices: The Origins of an Immigrant Community (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003); Philip Hitti, The Syrians in America (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1924); Philip Kayal and Joesph Kayal, The Syrian-Lebanese in America: A Study in Religion and Assimilation (Boston, MA: Twayne, 1975); Ernest McCarus, The Development of Arab-American Identity (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994); Beverlee Turner Mehdi, The Arabs in America 1492–1977: A Chronology and Fact Book (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1978); Alixa Naff, Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985); Gregory Orfalea, The Arab Americans: A History (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2006); Evelyn Shakir, Bint Arab: Arab and Arab-American Women in the United States (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997); Adele Younis, The Coming of the Arabic-Speaking People to the United States, edited by Philip Kayal (New York: Center for Migration Studies, 1995). 2. For a complete list of Rihani’s published and still unpublished works in Arabic and English, see www.ameenrihani.org. 3. See Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798–1939 (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), 51–102.

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4. See Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1991), 315–19. 5. Rashid Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2004), 32–3. 6. On the Arabic-language press in North America, see Alixa Naff, “The Arabic Language Press,” in The Ethnic Press in the United States, ed. Sally M. Miller (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), 1–14. 7. Naff, “The Arabic Language Press.” 8. Majaj, “Arab-Americans and the Meaning of Race.” 9. Nadeem Naimy, The Lebanese Prophets of New York (Beirut: The American University of Beirut Press, 1985), 21–2, 25–6. 10. For a more detailed discussion of Rihani’s Arabism, see Geoffrey Nash, The Arab Writer in English: Arab Themes in a Metropolitan Language, 1908–1958 (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1998), 46–78. On his relationship with the Saudi monarch, see Shahid, “Amin al-Rihani and King ‘Abdul-‘Aziz Ibn Sa‘ud,” in Arab Civilization: Challenges and Responses, ed. George N. Atiyeh and Ibrahim M. Oweiss (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988), 231–40. 11. The symposium was sponsored by the Ameen Rihani Institute (Washington, DC) and the American University Center for Global Peace, Washington, DC, April 19–20, 2002. 12. Shakir, “Arab-American Literature,” 6. 13. On Gibran’s self-Orientalizing, see Nash, The Arab Writer in English, 32–45, and chapter 2 of my Immigrant Narratives. 14. Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Penguin, 1978), 222. 15. Rihani and Rihbany attended college briefly in the U.S. and did not finish their degrees. Although his Arabic seems to have been good, Rihbany did not write in that language. Rihani struggled to master literary Arabic early on in his career, while Gibran’s Arabic works were often criticized for their stylistic weakness and even ungrammaticality. Naimy argues that Rihani’s “break with ‘classic formulas’ and ‘authoritative grammarians’ … seems not to represent a genuine new development, being in reality more of a necessity for him than a deliberate artistic choice,” The Lebanese Prophets of New York (Beirut: The American University of Beirut Press, 1985), 20. This is also true of Gibran, but it is also the case that the revolutionary fervor of romanticism very much suited their temperament and their sociopolitical agenda. 16. Khalil Gibran, Nusus kharij al-majmu‘ah, ed. Antoine al-Qawwal (Beirut: Dar Amwaj, 1993), 60–5. 17. Abraham Mitrie Rihbany, American Save the Near East (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1918), 52; original emphasis. 18. Said, Orientalism, 28. 19. On the influence of the Mahjar (immigrant) writers on Arabic literature in the early twentieth century, see M. M. Badawi, A Short History of Modern Arabic Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 41–7.

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20. Rihbany, Wise Men from the East and from the West (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1922), 159. 21. Ibid., 299–300. 22. Ibid., 289. 23. Ibid., 299. 24. Ibid., 300. 25. Ibid., 301. 26. Ameen Rihani, “Where East and West Meet,” The Syrian World 1.12 (June 1927): 9–10. 27. See Walter Edward III Dunnavent’s study of Rihani and American transcendentalism, “Ameen Rihani in America: Transcendentalism in an Arab-American Writer,” (diss., Indiana University, 1991). 28. Ameen Rihani, A Chant of Mystics and Other Poems (New York: James T. White & Co., 1921), 84. 29. An immensely popular narrative genre that emerged in the tenth century and continued till the beginning of the twentieth, involving the adventures of a wandering rogue who lives by his wits. For a brief introduction to the genre, see Roger Allen, The Arabic Literary Heritage: The Development of Its Genres and Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 268–78; for a more detailed study, see Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, Maqama: A History of a Genre (Wiebsbaden: Verlag, 2002). 30. Hassan, “Agency and Translational Literature.” 31. Nash, The Arab Writer in English, 18. 32. See Wolfgang Iser, “The Emergence of a Cross-Cultural Discourse: Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus,” in The Translatability of Cultures, ed. Sanford Budick and Wolfgang Iser (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), 245–64. On the influence of Sartor Resartus on The Book of Khalid, see Nash, “Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid.” 33. Allen, The Arabic Literary Heritage, 270. 34. Shakir, “Arab-American Literature,” 6. 35. Rihani, The Book of Khalid (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1911), 11. 36. Ibid., 19. 37. Ibid., 27. 38. Shakir, “Arab-American Literature,” 6. 39. Rihani, Book, 29. 40. Ibid., 8. 41. Iser, “The Emergence of a Cross-Cultural Discourse,” 252. 42. Ibid., 253. 43. Ibid., 254. 44. Rihani, Book, v. 45. Ibid., 70. 46. Ibid., vii. 47. Ibid.

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48. 49. 50. 51. 52.

Ibid., viii. Ibid., vii. Rihani, “Where East and West Meet,” The Syrian World 1.12 (1927): 10. Rihani, Book, 82. Rihani here anticipates a long tradition in Arabic fiction of the “East-West romance,” the best-known example of which is Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North. I have written extensively on this theme in Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction (Syracuse University Press, 2003) and “Agency and Translational Literature: Ahdaf Soueif ’s The Map of Love,” PMLA 121.3 (2006): 753–68. Rihani, Book, 112. Ibid., 113–14. Ibid., 115 Ibid., 190. Ibid., 191. Ibid., 237–8. Ibid., 240. Ibid., 239. Ibid., 245–6. Ibid., 302–3. Ibid., 303. Ibid., 327. Nash, The Arab Writer in English, 24. Nash, who is probably the most theoretically fluent of Rihani scholars, does not escape that binarism, despite his avowed indebtedness to Edward Said, nor do the contributors to the Funk and Sitka collection, nor for that matter those scholars who have written about Rihani in Arabic, notable among them Rihani’s own nephew, biographer, editor, and namesake Ameen Albert Rihani, author of an important book on his uncle, Faylasuf al-Freike (The Philosopher of Freike). The categories of “East” and “West,” which have no analytical validity whatsoever, continue to govern much of the discussion even today. Iser, “The Emergence of a Cross-Cultural Discourse,” 261–2. Nash, The Arab Writer in English, 25. Shakir, “Arab-American Literature,” 6.

53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66.

67. 68. 69.

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Chapter 2 B e yo n d O r i e n t a l i s m : K h a l i d , t h e S e c u l a r C i t y a n d t h e Tr a n s c u l t u r a l S e l f Geoffrey Nash

c o n s t e l lat i o n s k h a l i d, t h e s e c u la r c i tY a n d t h e t ra n s c u lt u ra l s e l F

No; the time will come, I tell thee, when every one will be his own guide and dragoman. The time will come when it will not be necessary to write books for others, or to legislate for others, or to make religions for others: the time will come when everyone will write his own Book in the Life he lives, and that Book will be his code and his creed—that Life-Book will be the palace and cathedral of his Soul in all the Worlds. Ameen Rihani1 Nearly 100 years separate Rihani’s earliest English writings from the work of the current complement of writers with Arab backgrounds who use English as their language of composition. Yet the sense of innovation still attaching to a novel such as Hisham Matar’s In the Country of Men, or a book of poetry like Khaled Mattawa’s Amorisco, makes The Book of Khalid, Rihani’s pioneering achievement, all the more striking given that he was largely self-educated in English and that, relatively speaking, this experimentation occurred so early in the development of the Arab novel in English. While at the time of the work’s composition Rihani opted to write in English, he would continue to use both English and Arabic for “parallel cultural comparison,”2 a feat which is rarely matched today by Arab writers in English. There are of course multiple ways of reading Ameen Rihani’s Book of Khalid. We might start by approaching it as a work of autobiographical fiction, pass on to its qualities as an American immigrant narrative, a parable of East-West encounter, the earliest Arab novel (though its “editor” claims it is not a novel), an announcement of the Arab awakening, the list goes on. Thematically and stylistically The Book of Khalid yields a rich harvest that ranges through its linguistic innovation as an English text incorporating Arabic and Turkish lexis, its abundant intertextual connections with

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English, French and Arabic literatures, its original references to the early twentieth century American cultic milieu, not to speak of messianic PanArab imaginings linked to the birth of Arab modernism, its deconstruction of Arab Christian sectarianism in the Middle East, diagnosis of American materialism as against eastern religious obscurantism, its value as a hymn to transcendentalism and Sufism, or as an exploration of the theme of the universal city. There are so many perspectives to adopt, so many linkages to take up, all of which in their totality urge this unique piece of writing on us today, 100 years after it first appeared in print. So if I propose yet another, it isn’t out of despair at finding scope to enlarge upon any of the above, it is simply in the hope of demonstrating my belief that Khalid can still teach us new things in the twenty-first century. Before turning to the main focus of this essay I wish to say something about the issue of the politics of Rihani’s choice of writing The Book of Khalid in English. In his important study of Anglophone Arab writing, Waïl S. Hassan categorizes Ameen Rihani as an Arab American immigrant writer engaged in the ‘translational’ activity of representing his native culture to America.3 Such a classification, however, can only be partial in Rihani’s case. I argued some years back on the basis of the length of time he spent in his native home in Freike, Lebanon, and on the political dimension to his later writings, that a bicultural designation is more suitable for Rihani.4 Nevertheless, the closest he probably gets to being an immigrant writer is in The Book of Khalid, a work that Todd Fine compares to the classic ethnic American bildungsroman in its adoption of a coming of age template set by the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.5 Furthermore its revival in the events surrounding its centenary (2011) drew comparisons with the ‘Arab Spring’ and aimed to establish its continuing relevance as an English text in which national awakenings in different Arab countries are in part inflected by Western political ideas.6 The Book of Khalid’s composition in English raises issues related to orientalism which I shall discuss in the context of my main argument later in this essay. I propose to develop an approach that moves beyond the discourse of binaries and some would argue facile syntheses imposed on Rihani by orientalism. My method will be to scrutinize modern secularism’s challenge to traditional culture in North America and the Middle East and the opportunities it provides for the transcultural Arab to create a new identity for himself. First of all, I shall engage with the modern, secularized, spiritually emancipated Arab as he appears in Rihani’s Book of Khalid. As a point of comparison I shall be referring to Harvey Cox’s seminal work of modern theology, The Secular City, adopting this as a guide through the

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godless urban metropolis of twentieth-century America. What Cox calls the “twin tendencies” of “urbanization and secularization” impact on Rihani’s alter ego, Khalid, in such a way as to bring him to an understanding of the need for an internal revolution in the human psyche. Cox’s stress on the deconsecrated values of secular man, “shorn of any claim to ultimate or final significance” finds an echo in Khalid’s revolt against the religious rules and rituals of his native Lebanon.7 In the secular city he finds the space to escape both tribe and town and refashion his spiritual resources according to his own grasp of the needs of modernity. Khalid negotiates the new set of intellectual and spiritual problems facing twentieth-century man, ultimately seeking a space between the pitfalls of American materialism and the petrified obscurantism of the East. Forgoing the temptation of falling prey to secularism as an atheist ideology, Khalid makes use of the freedoms on offer in the secular city passing through the inane occultism of the epoch before moving on to propose new spiritual projects of his own. In the latter part of the book especially, after he has returned to the Middle East, he engages with a new revelation, arrogates the role of prophet for himself, and promotes a new beginning for his own people. For an American readership, as Waïl Hassan puts it, “here is an Oriental madman or prophet with fantastic dreams, but those dreams are indelibly marked by his American voyage, and they do, in a way, hold a mirror up to America.”8 The topoi inscribed into The Book of Khalid may be tracked down to analogues in Thoreau, Emerson and Carlyle, among others, but due credit has still to be given to Rihani’s innovation in moving beyond them. Khalid’s project of writing a new Qur’an, probably derived from Renan, may be satirized by the author; but it is also valorized as the prerogative of the adaptive modern Arab, above all the transcultural figure Rihani himself became.9 I intend to excavate the exhilaration and ingenuity of Khalid, the Eastern town-dweller at large within what Cox terms the (Western) technopolis. “In the anonymity of urban culture, far from the fishbowl of town life, modern man experiences both the terror and the delight of freedom more acutely … urbanization can be seen as a liberation from some of the bondages of preurban society… deliverance from enforced conventions makes it necessary to choose for himself.”10 While he admittedly flattens out Western man’s literary and philosophical “repugnance” and “metaphysical horror” of the modern city,11 Cox’s upbeat emphasis on the liberation afforded by its anonymity and multiplicity of choices is precisely what Khalid celebrates in New York.

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Khalid, Migration and the Arab Experience of Secularization If the secularization of the Arab soul begins in the great urban centers of the Middle East (Cairo and Beirut) in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Christian Syrian migration moved almost simultaneously beyond these two cities to the Americas, especially to New York.12 At the same time the crisis of Islam came to a head with the European expansion into and colonization of the Middle East. All that was needed to complete the Arabs’ experience of secularization was the Muslim migrations of the twentieth century. It is against these contexts that the work of Ameen Rihani, who came to New York as a youth in 1888, is to be located. After a decade in America he returned to his native Lebanon, but the next, the first of the twentieth century, saw him established as a significant Arab American literary figure both within the predominantly Arabic-writing mahjar group and as a writer of English essays.13 Recent criticism has defined the response of the migrant Arab artists and writers of the mahjar in terms of their engagement with Western modernity and orientalism. Sheehi locates Rihani alongside Khalil Gibran within an Arab romanticism that operated in turns as a reaction to the new Arab bourgeoisie, an endorsement of modernist rebellion and individualism, and rejection of Western positivism. Sheehi sees their “self-Orientalizing” as “a crucial tact for Arab Romantics to assert subjective presence in the age of colonialism.”14 Hassan, exposing what to post-modern readers must seem the tired dialectic of Eastern intuition/spirituality versus Western positivistic materialism, blames orientalism for the failure of both in their project of synthesizing East and West. While it is fashionable to theorize Rihani’s writings, especially those emanating from America in the early 1900s, according to orientalist and postcolonial structures, I have chosen initially to read The Book of Khalid alongside Cox’s admittedly teleological schema as a measure to set against Khalid’s playful engagement with master-narratives, most of which he discards. At the beginning Khalid has outgrown his native Baalbek. After satisfying his first ideal “to own the best horse in Baalbek, and to be able to ride to the camp of the Arabs; and be mistaken for one of them,” he sells the horse to a European tourist and then embarks on his journey to America. However, Rihani complicates Cox’s chronological and spatial schema, which is all about the move from town to city, with the Western metropolis as the pre-ordained destination. Khalid’s chosen destination is fortuitous: he has the wanderlust and, we are told, could equally have ended up “in Mecca,

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in India, or Dahomey.”15 At this point the New World holds no particular significance for him, indeed the Eastern town and the Western metropolis are bizarrely conflated: “From the City of Baal to the City of the Demiurgic Dollar is not in fact a far cry.”16 Such undermining of the teleological purpose (if we understand Cox’s schema as focused on the spiritual ascent of Christian Western man) underwriting the journey to the technopolis is the first instance in The Book of Khalid of the East interposing itself within the West’s notions of its own self-importance. The poet Shakib, Khalid’s biographer and travel companion, has a grandiose project for his friend including an all-embracing Asiatic descent: pagan, Christian and Muslim. However Khalid seems to demonstrate no allegiance to any of them as he smashes the icon of the Holy Virgin and by disparaging the poet Mutanabbi slights classical Arabic culture. When the family frustrates his love for his cousin Najma, Khalid is given the opportunity to burn the first of his ideals. At this point Shakib discerns in his friend “only the dominating traits of a hard-headed, hard-hearted boy, stubborn; impetuous, intractable.”17 According to Cox’s terminology, Khalid has bidden goodbye to the town, but not the town of puritan civic culture and textual, propositional metaphysical belief that Cox identifies as “a stage between the tribe and the technopolis, between two forms of communal-collective existence, pre-literate man of the cave painting and the post-literate man of the electronic age.”18 Instead Khalid’s departure from the Eastern town adds a new dimension to Cox’s theorization as I shall argue below. Initially Khalid, like any other immigrant reaching his destination, registers a momentary nostalgia for home. On approaching New York his dreams seem to tell him he “should not have followed the setting sun [i.e. gone to the West]. He should have turned his face to the desert.” Nonetheless he responds to the heroic challenge of the migrant “propelled by that inner self that demands of him a new life.”19 Khalid and Shakib soon become acculturated to the city by working as peddlers in the main occupation available to young Arab immigrants of the period. They gain bank accounts and the chance to ogle women in Battery Park. At this stage they live in a cellar, at once a realistic detail of the migrant narrative, and a trope that expresses the materialism of the urban metropolis. Like everyone else bent on survival in America the young men are preoccupied with the cellar of the self; that is their material natures. But Khalid’s thoughts invariably tend upwards and he becomes attuned to the opportunities (and lacks) around him. His method of self-education is, as one critic has noted, that of the instrumentalist, non-deferential immigrant, as he consumes and then burns the great books of European civilization.20 But Khalid’s learning process

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like Rihani’s own is bicultural. He and Shakib fall out when Khalid cuts up his Arabic grammars and disregards the authority of Arab grammarians. However his preference for the English language is utilitarian: he sees it as richer and more functional than Arabic on account of its more extensive verb tense system. At the same time it becomes seminal: in opting to use it he will claim the mantle of the pioneer Arab writer in English.

Khalid and the Spiritual Challenges of the Secular City If Khalid at this point in his career in America exemplifies the characteristics of the secular rebels of Arab modernism who reject classical Arabic culture,21 he is no less a skeptic as far as both Western culture and Arabic culture are concerned. Instead of allowing his “Eastern” personality to be wholly overtaken by the “Western”, mindset he comes “out of that chaos of contending spirits without a scratch… he sided with no one.” In negating Jeremiah and Pascal’s pessimistic views of man he rejects Christian traditionalism, finding in them evidence for Darwinism instead; but he also consigns Tom Paine to ashes along with Jeremiah. “To him education was a sport, pursued in a free spirit after his own fancy, without method or discipline.”22 This freedom of thought, rather than incarceration within the forms of communal traditionalism which Rihani attacks in his early 1900s Arabic journalism,23 nonetheless does not incline Khalid to embrace atheistic materialism. Khalid’s criticism of the contemporary advocates of atheism as exponents of “cant,” “sham,” and ruses “to catch the dollar” is for some critics an indicator of the limitations of Rihani’s free-thinking. Alongside Khalid’s delineation of the social evils attending the gospel of “Success” (which he reproduces in Arabic in his Rihaniyat), it could be cited as proof of Rihani’s membership in the ranks of Arabs and Easterners who deliver homilies against the godless West.24 But it can also be taken as an indicator of the sureness of Khalid’s spiritual vision: he eschews the trap Cox points out of pushing the secular to extremes and deifying secularism. Equally, nonetheless, the socio-spiritual messages Khalid delivers are strongly informed by a secular vision. His experiences in New York have taught him the value of detachment from all kinds of authorities: especially religious, academic, and political ones. Live thine own life; think thine own thoughts; keep developing and changing until thou arrive at the truth thyself. An ounce of it found by thee were better than a ton given to thee gratis by one who would enslave thee. Go thy way, o my Brother.

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And if my words lead thee to Juhannam, why, there will be a great surprise for thee. There wilt thou behold our Maker sitting on a flaming glacier waiting for the like of thee. And he will take you in his arms and poke you in the ribs, and together you will laugh and laugh, until that glacier become a garden and thou a flower therein.25 If an Emersonian note can be discerned in Khalid’s free-thinking here it is set, pari passu, alongside Khalid’s dalliance with the “houris”26 and behavior that, though it might not be taken too seriously by twenty-first century readers, emphasizes the ease with which Khalid can play the oriental card to escape the penury of the immigrant’s cellar. Nowadays it would be read as a form of self-orientalizing that ultimately degrades the Arab subject more than it does his occidental mistresses. (But the topic has remained a temptation for Arab novelists of both sexes.) Khalid’s expedition into “Stump Democracy” (Carlyle’s phrase which Rihani imitates) does however represent more dangerous play with fire: “The orator-dream of youth, ye gods, shall it be realised in this heaven of a draycart with its kerosene torch and its drum, smelling and sounding rather of Juhannam?” Khalid discovers (while in prison under a false charge of embezzlement of party funds) that American democracy is in fact in slavery to the national religion of “Mammon, their great God, their one and only God,” a recycling of Carlyle’s indictment of the materialism of Victorian England.27 At this juncture I want to summarize Rihani’s response through his Khalid persona to the collapse of town values and the challenges thrown up by the secular city. Cox defines secularization as “the liberation of man from religion and metaphysical tutelage, the turning of his attention away from other worlds and towards this one.”28 Khalid, I have suggested, embraces secularization for the space it offers to confirm his rejection of classical Arabic culture and the Catholic theology on which his ancestral Maronite religion is based. In addition, the secular city forces Khalid both to confront and to de-center his “Eastern” tendency to “loaf ” and engage in impractical dreaming. The lowest levels of his experience in New York may be seen as tests of his moral creativity in the sense that they emerge because, as Cox phrases it: “In our terms, God’s action today, through secularization and urbanization, puts man in an unavoidable crisis. He must take responsibility in and for the city of man, or become once again a slave to dehumanizing powers.”29 Khalid’s short period in jail and the year he spends pushing a handcart though the Bronx selling oranges have built in him a strong desire to return home, where he feels he is impelled to fulfill a messianic destiny. He lives

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within the tension of his need to be nearer to nature and at the same time in the thick of the city; hence his removal to the Bronx “between City and Country, nearer to Nature, and not far from the traffic of life, [where] he fares better both in health and purse.” Khalid’s desire for the country and his imaginings of home are sutured to the material realities of the great metropolis, such that America becomes the “Mother of prosperity and spiritual misery,” holding out the perpetual temptation were he to be “strenuous enough” of becoming materially well off, that is “contentedly miserable.” He is, in short, “afraid of success overtaking him”. In the city he learns that if he earns enough money he can be both economically secure and, for all his fulminations against the demiurgic dollar, free to behave as he wishes (“my purse, like my stomach, is my own”). He knows he can earn enough money to mobilize himself to return to Baalbek should he wish, or go to any place he wants.30 Whatever Khalid (mimicking Carlyle again) may preach about the ubiquitous corruption of the “cash register” (and the editor reminds him that he carries the profit-seeking gene from his Phoenician-Syrian ancestors), the city has given him the opportunity to be among the first “who revolted against the ruling spirit of his people and the dominant tendencies of the times, both in his native and his adopted Countries.”31 In short, the secular city has helped make Khalid one of the first modern Arabs.32 Cox equates the secular impulse with the “age of ‘no religion at all.’ It no longer looks to religious rules and rituals for its morality or meanings.”33 Khalid finds that he likes this very well. Where we might have expected him to condemn the atheistic Western metropolis out of hand, we have seen that he hasn’t. In fact, he actually tries atheism out before finding it doesn’t fit the cut of his Arab personality. While appreciating the full implications of the godless twentieth century, Khalid does not lose his equilibrium in the way the European agnostics of the nineteenth century did. Unlike Carlyle and Renan he does not bemoan the loss of the propositional metaphysical religion of the town. In this, despite his liberal quotation from Carlyle, Khalid is probably more at home with the New World, with Whitman and Emerson, than the Victorian European agnostics. But while he adopts a Sufi idiom and plays dalliance with the reformed Islam of Bahaism,34 Khalid does not seek a surrogate replacement for the Christianity he has given up. Later he will direct his energies into the secular faith of Pan-Arabism, which is one of the genuinely innovatory ideas of The Book of Khalid. At this juncture we can say that, at the time he wrote it, Rihani had accommodated to and clearly revelled in the intellectual freedom made available by the secular status quo. In fact, well before Cox, Khalid seems to have understood that the lack of a

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firm theological footing was the price to be paid for the human oneness the stage of the technopolis brings within our reach. The precise manner in which Khalid’s endorsement of secular modernity becomes specifically Arab – before it is in part relinquished on account of its spiritual void – is articulated back in the Middle East in the second and third parts of The Book of Khalid. The return home gives Rihani the opportunity to assault head-on the taqlid of an oriental Church enwrapped by medieval flounces, puppeted by the unpatriotic machinations of Jesuitism, and prey to the levers of a duplicitous Ottomanism. On his return to Baalbek Khalid writes his pamphlet on Jesuitism precisely with the aim of promoting freedom from imitation of ecclesiastical authority. His refusal to pay for a dispensation to marry his cousin calls forth the opprobrium of the Church in the form of a Bull, “tricked with the stock phrases of the Church of the Middle Ages, such as ‘anathema be he,’ or ‘banned be he,’ who speaks with, deals with, and so forth.”35 Rihani’s argument with the obscurantism of the early twentieth-century Middle East, penetrated as he sees it is by the outreach of the burgeoning new global capitalism emanating from the New World, can be construed in Cox’s terms as the migrant returning from the technopolis and revolting against the now anachronistic spiritual values of the town. However, Khalid’s Baalbek, as I have already suggested, is a variant on Cox: it is an Eastern town of ancient ruins, claustrophobic familial control, languid charm and creeping, vulgar modernity. The non-Western dimension, perhaps not unsurprisingly, is mostly absent from Cox’s thinking at the time of The Secular City.36 This complicates his theory; but it is precisely the part we want to know about in postcolonial times, and is another important reason why Rihani’s work repays our attention. Arguably, the entire Syrian episode, including the politicking engaged in by Khalid in Damascus, par excellence in the speech he gives at the Umayyad Mosque during the halcyon days of the Young Turk revolution, bespeaks an Arab modernist agenda linked to an off-stage secular city (Cairo, where Rihani had visited in 1905 to take in Egyptian nationalist circles, and New York as well if we consider his reading into British orientalist travel writing in the New York City Public Library). Khalid however acts more radically than Cox’s urban man who has only to jump to the new stage of Western modernity in the supposedly linear development of Judeo-Christian civilization. When Khalid returns to the Middle East, he develops his philosophy of the unity of the dervish and the stockbroker, and also procrastinates on and briefly acts out a messianic role for himself in an “Arab/eastern awakening.”37 We might agree that the Sufi/transcendentalist philosophy Rihani has Khalid deliver (and which he

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subsequently worked up for The Path of Vision) is too artificial, syncretistic, and derivative of both Western and Eastern pantheistic and monistic modes to enthuse a contemporary readership. Khalid’s vision of the future probably tends toward vagueness and lacks a center (in these respects, it is a true forerunner to Gibran’s message in The Prophet). At the same time, however, Khalid is also in sympathy with Cox’s diagnoses of the charybidis of the modern urbanized world in a number of its aspects. He appreciates that “various cultures have their ways of encouraging some neuroses while punishing others.”38 He engages with a vision of the revolutionized Church’s “work of social exorcism” to rid men and society “from the narcotic vagaries through which they wrongly perceive social reality around them, and from habitual forms of action and inaction stemming from these illusions.” The sufferings Khalid endures in his hometown convince him of the need not to be “burdened by the constriction of an archaic heritage.” Finally, his experience of American’s frenetic economic activity convinces him of the spiritual danger of “compulsive patterns of behaviour based on mistaken images of the world.”39 These insights, both Rihani and Cox agree, at first individually arrived at then collectively upheld, could be the catalyst by which “a new and inclusive human community emerges.”40 The hallmark of Khalid’s philosophy, such as it is, can indeed be summed up in Cox’s apothegm: “secularization signifies the emancipation of man first from religious and then from metaphysical control”; it also allows Christians (and others) to be “free to struggle alongside people of many persuasions to devise a way of living together which allows man to be man.”41

Khalid and Orientalism Khalid’s importation of the Arab East into Cox’s discussion of the secular city means that we now need to stop to consider where orientalist and postcolonialist approaches to Rihani’s work might deliver us. A Saidian contrapuntal reading of Khalid (the Said of Culture and Imperialism rather than Orientalism) would aid us in de-centering the West-centric narrative of modern man supplied by Cox, so as to find a place for the “Third World” migrant writer and his “voyage in” to the Western metropolis. There is a problem however: for Said what we would now consider to be postcolonial writing gathers steam in the period immediately after decolonization. Hence he proposes figures such as Chinua Achebe, Tayeb Salih and Ngugi wa’ Thiongo, all of them writing on the cusp of decolonization or after, as those who appropriate the terrain of the metropolitan center of the former imperial powers. If Aijaz Ahmad is to be believed, Said has little to say concerning

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the resistance role a “Third World” writer might have played in the colonial period in which Rihani was writing.42 True, in Culture and Imperialism Said does discuss Arab nationalism in the first third of the twentieth century as embodied in the figure of George Antonius. Though admiring of the inscriber of an Arab nationalist narrative in The Arab Awakening, Said sees Antonius’s nationalist discourse as filiated to Western paradigms of liberalism and democracy.43 Rihani, had Said written about him, might well have emerged as an Arab migrant intellectual and writer of limited role and status in the Western metropolis, caught within the matrix of orientalism, or as a frustrated actor on the Middle Eastern stage tied to a doomed colonialinflected national narrative. That would mean consigning Khalid to an ineffectual mimicry of orientalist discourse. Waïl Hassan also delimits Rihani’s role in a restrictive manner in his application of orientalism and postcolonial theory in his chapter “The Rise of Arab American Literature”. Critiquing the traditional Lebanese view of Rihani and Gibran as geniuses and great émigré sons of Lebanon, he reads them as ethnic minority figures in America who tried to create a niche for themselves within the hegemonic discourse of the West: Arab American writers’ attempts to replace the Orientalist as interpreter or translator of the Orient was a way of claiming cultural space and voice, countering the negativity associated with the Orient, and mediating between it and the West for the sake of greater cross-cultural understanding … The discursive challenge facing them was to replace Orientalist valuations with a model of duality without hierarchy, whereby the contrasting essences were seen as existing in a sort of metaphysical equilibrium and reciprocity: East and West complement, need, and have something to teach each other.44 A theoretic perspective such as postcolonialism, which draws a good proportion of its emphases from Said and Foucault, would argue (as Hassan does) that advocacy of East-West reciprocity in early twentieth-century America was necessarily a flawed project, even more so now that notions of “East” and “West” are discredited. The lofty idealism of Rihani and Gibran was not rooted in the cultural politics of the period; they envisioned themselves as mediators in a “Hegelian dynamic that would eventually blend East and West into a higher synthesis of civilizations,” but such “transcendentalist metaphysics of the spirit, prophecy, and poetry … overlooks the material conditions of cultural and ideological production … [there was an] unbridgeable chasm between this rarefied metaphysics and material

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reality.”45 Given the massive power asymmetry between Western and Arab culture of that time (and indeed today) a synthesis of the kind proposed by the mahjar writers would have been very unlikely. Rihani’s apparently ineffectual intellectual position is constituted as “wavering between the impulse to deconstruct Orientalism and the temptation to play the game of cultural one-upmanship—his wanting to have it both ways.”46

Khalid and the Authentic Transcultural Self Hassan has effectively demonstrated his argument about “the tension … between Rihani’s resistance to and investment in Orientalism” at play in The Book of Khalid.47 However I want to argue that, in the last chapters of the text where the secular frame of New York and the deracination of the immigrant experience have receded and Rihani toys with the implications of Khalid’s revolution in the Middle East, there is space for an authentic transcultural Arab self to emerge. The question we might ask in respect of Khalid’s bizarre foray into Middle Eastern religio-politics is the extent to which it proffers a foil to the experiences of Khalid the secular Arab set free in New York City. For Waïl Hassan, reading The Book of Khalid as an immigrant narrative, “Rihani accentuates or exaggerates the ‘Orientalness’ of Khalid to the point of caricature, but it is a caricature that informs the consciousness of Americans.”48 It is however to be doubted that at the time the book was written many Americans had any idea at all of the Young Turk Revolution that began in 1907, or the past or future significance of Wahhabism, or that the Baha’i movement was attracting Western acolytes to its center in Palestine, or that an Arab nationalist party was in the offing (indeed very few in the Middle East itself would have been aware of that in 1911). The speech delivered by Khalid in the Umayyad Mosque and the colloquy he conducts with an American “Bahaist” (Baha’i) female convert are the products of Rihani’s engagement with topical trends of the day: together they move Khalid’s thinking into a new dimension focused on his vision for a reformed Middle East. Central to this is Rihani’s re-working of the nahda using the Young Turk revolution as his in medias res. “It is the beginning of Arabia’s Spring, the resuscitation of the glory of Islam” as Khalid says in the pulpit of the Umayyad Mosque.49 His Pan-Arabism embraces Islam in the political and cultural sense but goes further than the Christian propagandizers of Arab nationalism because of its spiritual, Sufi-oriented connection with Islam. (To this is added the, to our eyes inimical, leaven of Wahhabism, “Islam in its pristine purity … the Islam of the first great Khalifs.”) The other movement that engages Khalid’s reformist impulses

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is a revelation that renews the perennial message of religion: “B[a]haism … the old torch, relighted after many centuries, by Allah” and mediated through Mrs Gotfry, an American woman who has, among other oriental characteristics, rich black hair: “an Oriental gem in an American setting.”50 The tension that emerges between the specificities of Pan-Arabism and Bahaism is caused by Khalid envisaging himself as the prophet (“m[a]hdi”) of the former, whereas the latter already has [A]bbas Effendi as its leader in Haifa. On one key point, however, both movements are worthy of Khalid’s endorsement. Their respective discourses of Arabian and religious renewal are still inscribed within the terms of an East/West dichotomy, a fact not altered by Khalid’s desire to embed within his Arabism the transcendentalism of the German “Idea” as mediated through Carlyle. What they possess, however, is the qualification of being authentically Eastern: The Orient, the land of origination and prophecy, must yet solve for itself this eternal problem of the Old and New, the False and True. And whether by Revolutions, Speculations, or Constitutions, ancient Revelation will be purged and restored to its original pristine purity.51 Looking beyond the East/West binaries that appear in Rihani’s writing, Christoph Schumann argues that Rihani was a “marginal man” whose writings were shaped by transcultural experiences rather than specific ideologies, belief systems or intellectual schools … [He was] marginal to Western and Eastern civilization, or Anglo-Saxon and Arab culture, or to Lebanese Christendom and Islam. From a different perspective, however, he appears as a central and “authentic” expression of the transcultural space itself that opened up between all these entities …52 We have seen ample evidence so far to sustain the proposition that Khalid is a transcultural Arab who can not only negotiate the plural spaces of secular New York and the Arab Spring of revolutionary Damascus (though here his transcultural prognostications for a reformed Islam bring him close to destruction), but a worthy and “authentic” denizen of a twentieth century with global consciousness in the making. To stretch the claim of Rihani’s authenticity further I will turn to Robert D. Lee’s monograph, Overcoming Tradition and Modernity: The Search for Islamic Authenticity. The attraction for me of testing Lee’s notion of authenticity against Rihani’s Book of Khalid resides in it proffering an alternative to orientalism and the postcolonial, and an opportunity of instead scrutinizing

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Khalid as a figure who transmigrates cultures, so probing the conditions of possibility for his forging a new self (as well as new societies in North America and the Middle East). For Lee, the concept of authenticity is comprehended in four main categories:53 1. The uniqueness of the self. Authentic thought “begins from a concept of the self as unique … there is something called the ‘self ’ … that seeks by making choices to distinguish itself from that which is other than self. These choices, to be authentic, must reflect the particularities that constitute the context.” 2. Authentic human activity. “Authentic thought, in all its forms, insists that human beings fashion their history and, therefore, themselves … Authentic thought presumes human autonomy.” 3. Revolt against tradition and modernity. “Authentic thought constitutes a revolt against modernity and tradition”; in particular, “tradition suppresses human choice and saps human initiative”. Practitioners of authenticity from Rousseau and the German historicists onward have also “challenged the secular rationalism of the Enlightenment, so essential to the concept of modernity. In its drive for universal explanations … They regard myth and mysticism as elements of a truth that probes beyond the reach of reason.” 4. Radical individualism and common endeavor. Since authentic thought rejects universalizing, it must face up to the danger of particularism; if all are products of unique cultures this would severely limit “values that span cultures.” However, “all advocates of authenticity, having demonstrated the discreteness of the self, seek to reestablish some element of community and association … All variants of authentic thought contain an impulse towards unicity to counterbalance the underlying particularistic drive.” Lee’s commentary on authenticity has strong applicability to the ArabAmerican mahjar school of writing, which, on account of its imbrication in Rousseaurian romanticism and fin de siècle Nietzscheism, in key respects fails to conform to its contemporary cultural counterpart, Western modernism. The note of rebellious individualism battling against tradition, a prominent feature of mahjar writing (one thinks of Gibran’s madman), receives through the voice of Khalid its most strident articulation. Here we encounter a strong sense of the uniqueness of the self, a revolt against tradition and modernity, and an autonomous activism steeped in a re-envisioning of Lebanese and Arab historical contexts. Also, if we decide not to read it through the

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prism of orientalism, Khalid’s synthesis of American “strenuousness” and Eastern mysticism can be see in the light of an impulse toward unicity, an attempt to co-enjoin two particularisms so as to promote “values that span cultures.” Ultimately, while rehearsing several of the grand narratives of the early twentieth century, Khalid rejects the universalizing, modernizing tendency of the Enlightenment. Mysticism remains vital to the transcultural voice of Khalid, signposting an alternative to the pull toward atheism of the Western secular city. In contradistinction, postcolonial criticism, from the perspective of a telescoped historical materialism and ersatz secular radicalism which draws on post-Marxism and post-structuralism, is tone deaf to the dimensions of “mysticism and myth … that probe beyond the reach of reason” and which, while they proved capable of plunging the twentieth century into dark irrational abysses, might in a reconstituted form (as advocated, for example, by Bahaism) still carry the hope of a unified humanity.

In Conclusion: The Book of Khalid as Pioneer Arab Anglophone Novel Rihani’s experimental novel holds important intertextual value for our readings of later Arab novels in English. I have suggested above that Rihani’s response to America, specifically at the level of culture and social ideology, was both inventive and less incarcerated within the prison-house of orientalist discourse than some contemporary criticism would lead us to believe. Dismissing a postcolonial view of Rihani as failed Eastern visionary and practitioner of colonial mimicry, and in place of the ineffective Arab writer struggling to throw off the burden of orientalism, I have proposed an “authentic” transcultural Khalid. In this reading Rihani emerges as an Arab writer who demands that we reject the inauthentic selves produced by traditionalism and modernity. Rejecting the traditional Middle Eastern town, Khalid embraces the secular city in so far as it provides the conditions for him to nurture a rebellious, anti-traditional self. However he has no truck with the corrupting atheistic materialism of secular modernity, but rather seeks, in connection with movements of renewal in the Middle East, the space to create an enfranchized, transcultural Arab self. By this process Rihani’s fictional creation of Khalid opens up spaces for later Anglophone Arab writers. In the self-transforming protagonists of Jamal Mahjoub’s African-Arab fiction and the migrant neo-Muslim characters of Leila Aboulela, we can continue to find linkage with Rihani’s character. Mahjoub’s fiction of the late 1980s and 1990s focuses on Arab/African and Anglo-Arab/African individuals who seek to transcend the limitations

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of their individual genetic and sociocultural make-up by reaching out to broader spiritual horizons. On the face of it Leila Aboulela’s migrant novels, The Translator and Minaret, represent a return to the traditional religiosity of the East, and therefore may be said to be reacting against the freedom Khalid discovers in America. In fact, the case is far otherwise. Aboulela’s characters find space in the urban Western metropolis, and the opportunity to activate an authentic, neo-Muslim identity they could not have done at home.54 The multitude of narratives, themes, and discourses constructed into The Book of Khalid can still provide ample inspiration for the post-modern Arab novel in English, with its implicit project of crossing boundaries, and its endeavor to respond to the denuding of the spiritual capital of contemporary societies by Western-led globalization’s export of the impoverishing dogmas of fundamentalist secularism.

Notes 1. Ameen Fares Rihani, The Book of Khalid (New York: Dodd Mead & Co., 1911), viii. 2. Ameen Albert Rihani, Multiculturalism and Arab-American Literature (Washington, DC: Platform International, 2008), 23. 3. Waïl S. Hassan, Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). Hassan applies Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of minor literature together with the perennial presence of orientalism to the work of both Arab immigrant and non-immigrant writers choosing to write in English. See ibid., 4–7. See also Geoffrey Nash, Introduction, The Anglo-Arab Encounter: Fiction and Autobiography by Arab Writers in English (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007), 11–43. 4. Geoffrey Nash, The Arab Writer in English: Arab Themes in a Metropolitan Language, 1908–1958 (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1998), 30–1. For an in-depth analysis of Rihani’s Arabic political thought see Nijmeh Hajjar, The Politics and Poetics of Ameen Rihani: The Humanist Ideology of an Arab Intellectual and Activist (London: I. B. Tauris, 2010). 5. Todd Fine, “The Book of Khalid and The Rise of David Levinsky: Comparison as Ethnic American Bildungsroman,” in Ameen Rihani’s Arab-American Legacy: From Romanticism to Postmodernism, ed. Naji Oueijan (Louaize: Notre Dame University Press, 2012), 196. 6. On the relationship between The Book of Khalid and the “Arab Spring” of 2010–11 see Jane O’Brien, “Century-old Book of Khalid Sheds Light on Arab Unrest”, BBC, April 9, 2011. 7. Harvey Cox, The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective (London: SCM, 1966), 167, 31. If I have mainly left out the theological distinctions Cox makes, it is certainly not with the intention of mutilating the

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8. 9.

10. 11. 12.

13.

14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21.

22. 23.

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religious dimension that underpins his argument. Not unsurprisingly, Khalid shows little interest in liberal Protestant theology, but the spiritual choices New York has on offer certainly engage him. Hassan, Immigrant Narratives, 57. On the influence of these figures on Rihani see Walter Dunnavent, “Ameen Rihani in America: Transcendentalism in an Arab-American Writer”(PhD diss., Indiana University, 1991), and “Rihani, Emerson, and Thoreau,” in Ameen Rihani: Bridging East and West: A Pioneering Call for Arab-American Understanding, ed. Nathan Funk and Betty J. Sitka (Maryland: University Press of America, 2004); Geoffrey Nash, “Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid and the Voice of Thomas Carlyle,” New Comparison, 17 (Spring 1994). On Renan’s idea about a new Qur’an see Renan, The Future of Science: Ideas of 1848 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1891), 469, n. 44. Cox, The Secular City, 47. Ibid., 39. In his discussion of early twentieth-century Arab romanticism’s response to modernity, “Modernism, Anxiety and the Ideology of Arab Vision,” Discourse, 28 (Winter 2006), Stephen Sheehi considers “cities such as Beirut and Cairo were the hubs for the ideological justification of these transformations – indeed for modernity itself,” 73. For an overview of the mahjar in the context of Arab romanticism (which however focuses largely on Gibran and Nu‘ayma and elides Rihani’s contribution) see Paul Starkey, Modern Arabic Literature (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), 61–4. Sheehi, “Modernism, Anxiety and Ideology,” 75. Rihani, The Book of Khalid, 24. Ibid., 23. Ibid., 33. Cox, Secular City, 12. Rihani, Book of Khalid, 31, 37. “Khalid here burns the books after absorbing their content, as though to assert the primacy of his own experience and to pre-empt the hegemonic potential of tradition,” Hassan, Immigrant Narratives, 54. On the rebellion of Arab Christians in particular see Hisham Sharabi, Arab Intellectuals and the West, 1875–1914 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970), 15–18; on the channeling of Rihani’s rebellion into Pan-Arabism see Eli Kedourie, “Religion and Politics,” in The Chatham House Version and other Middle-Eastern Studies (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970), 321–5; on how this fed into The Book of Khalid, see Nash, The Arab Writer in English, ch. 1. Rihani, Book of Khalid, 55–6, 58. See Henry H. Melki, “The Place and Influence of Ameen F. Rihani in Arab-American journalism,” in Khalil Gibran and Ameen Rihani: Prophets of

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Arab-American Literature, ed. Naji Oueijan (Louaize, Lebanon: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999). 24. On nineteenth and early twentieth-century Arab attitudes towards the West see Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). 25. Rihani, Book of Khalid, 71. 26. See Geoffrey Nash: “Mediums, Mystics and Messiahs: Ameen Rihani, Khalil Jibran, and the East-West Cultic Milieu,” in Kahlil Gibran and Ameen Rihani: Prophets of Arab-American Literature, ed. Naji Oueijan (Louaize, Lebanon: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999). 27. Rihani, Book of Khalid, 102, 112; Thomas Carlyle, The Latter-Day Pamphlets (London: Chapman and Hall, 1899). See Nash, “Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid.” 28. Cox, Secular City, 17. 29. Ibid., 132. 30. Rihani, Book of Khalid, 121, 128, 125, 120, 124. 31. Ibid., 131. 32. According to S. B. Bushrui, in “Arab American Cultural Relations in the Twentieth Century,” Khalid was “possibly the most complete account of the modern liberated Arab.” 33. Cox, Secular City, 3. 34. On Rihani and Bahaism see Nash, “Mediums, Mystics and Messiahs.” 35. Rihani, Book of Khalid, 174. 36. In the 1980s, however, Cox took part in the liberal Protestant interest in and dialogue with world religions. See Harvey Cox, Many Mansions: A Christian’s Encounter with Other Faiths (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1988). 37. See Geoffrey Nash, The Arab Writer in English, 69. 38. Cox, Secular City, 152. 39. Ibid., 154–5. 40. Ibid., 145. 41. Ibid., 182, 161. Cox’s future “eschatological community,” derivative of the radical Protestant theology of Tillich, Bonhoeffer and Bultmann, is however still Christ-centric in comparison with Rihani’s utopia in the sense that Khalid engages a broader spiritual landscape than that of Western Christendom. In fairness Cox at this stage concedes: “The Christian Church has the opportunity to help forge a new spiritual fabric … one which will be truly humanistic and urbane, but in which the Christian faith, instead of supplying the ruling ethos, will provide one of the living options in a genuinely pluralistic culture” (ibid., 92; my italics). 42. See Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory, Classes, Nations, Literatures (London: Verso, 1992), ch. 5. 43. See Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Chatto & Windus, 1993), ch. 3 sect. II–IV; Nash, Arab Writer in English, ch. 5.

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k h a l i d, t h e s e c u la r c i tY a n d t h e t ra n s c u lt u ra l s e l F 44. 45. 46. 47.

48. 49. 50. 51. 52.

53. 54.

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Hassan, Immigrant Narratives, 42–3. Ibid., 43, 45. Ibid., 47. Ibid., 57. This may be applicable to Rihani’s stance in The Book of Khalid where Khalid’s sense of his Arab cultural inheritance is capable of resisting subordination to America. But it says little about Rihani’s political and cultural nationalism during the 1920s and 1930s when his nationalist politics moved him away from filiation to the West toward an increasingly virulent opposition, as seen in his pronouncements on the Zionist colonisation of Palestine. See Nash, The Arab Writer in English, 75–6. Hassan, Immigrant Narratives, 58. Rihani, Book of Khalid, 316. See note 5 above. Rihani, Book of Khalid, 308, 307, 285. A number of prominent, wealthy female Baha’i converts of this period were Jewish, though Khalid links Mrs Gotfry to Arab Andalusia via the Hispanic south. Ibid., 287; my italics. Christoph Schumann, “Within or Without? Ameen Rihani and the Transcultural Space between the ‘West’ and the ‘East’,” in Liberal Thought in the Eastern Mediterranean: Late 19th Century Until the 1960s, ed. Christoph Schumann (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 243. Schumann goes on to argue that Rihani’s transculturalism can be seen in the context of the Syro-Lebanese emigrant experience. Robert D. Lee, Overcoming Tradition and Modernity (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997), 15–18. See Hassan, Immigrant Narratives, ch. 8; Nash, The Anglo-Arab Encounter, chs 3 and 5. Like Rihani, Aboulela also experiments with utopian Sufi tropes.

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Chapter 3 T h e I n c e s t u o u s ( Po s t ) C o l o n i a l : S o u e i f ’ s M a p o f L ov e a n d t h e S e c o n d B i r t h o f t h e E g y p t i a n N ove l i n E n gl i s h Shaden M. Tageldin

c o n s t e l lat i o n s soueiF’s map of love

Few literary phenomena evoke the ambiguity of “post”-colonial revolution as vividly as the Egyptian novel in English. Hamid Dabashi has argued that the 2011 Arab Spring represents the end of the condition of postcoloniality: an end to the power of Western colonialism to dictate the political self-determination of the worlds it once dominated.1 I am less optimistic. Revolution at once revokes and returns the past. By the latter I do not mean that revolution repeats the abuses of the past in new guises. However valid that charge, it is all too often invoked to equate revolutionary forces with their colonial or neoimperial antagonists, the better to discredit the revolutionary impulse itself. Rather, I suggest a more involved relation between revolution and the regimes it seeks to overthrow. While the 2011 Egyptian revolution appears to be a purely homegrown eruption of grassroots anti-authoritarianism, it is also the upshot of post-2001 U.S. democracy promotion and its effects on local opposition. The irony of that conjuncture seems lost on those who dub the current revolution a new nahda—that is, a reincarnation of the nineteenth and early twentiethcentury Arab intellectual “awakening” or “renaissance.” For the first nahda, which unfolded in the shadow of French hegemony and British occupation, itself was entangled in as many intimacies as enmities with the colonial regimes it opposed, and the Arabic voice of the nationalist revolution of 1919 was inlaid with English. So too the revolutions of 1952 and 2011. It is to the ambiguous “language” of revolution and the specter of the foreign in the native that the Egyptian novel in English speaks. As a literary phenomenon that emerges only after Egypt’s independence from Britain in 1952, it embodies the paradoxical new life of a colonial language in postrevolutionary, postcolonial time.

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The belated emergence of a sustained tradition of Egyptian fiction in English testifies to the continuity of Arabic as a literary language in Egypt, despite that country’s subjection to French and British imperialisms and, more recently, to the hegemony of the United States. Like their contemporaries elsewhere in the Arabic-speaking world, the exponents of the Egyptian nahda pursued a paradoxical strategy of cultural revitalization. In the wake of the French and British occupations of 1798 and 1882, they called on Egypt to emulate the modes of literary production, philosophical thought, and scientific inquiry that seemed to underpin Europe’s imperial dominance in their country and elsewhere in the world. Yet they marshaled these emulations of Europe to renew local cultural heritages—Pharaonic, Coptic, Arabic, Islamic—and in so doing restore Egypt to pride of place in modernity. For most of the Egyptian intellectuals of the nahda, becoming modern was never a question of abandoning Arabic and writing in French or in English. The nahda unfolded in translation: it transported French or English into Arabic. Thus it appeared to “preserve” Arabic—all the while remaking it.2 Modern literary Arabic, then, concealed its radical transformation during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in an unchanged script, in the morphological Arabization of many European loan-words, and in the innocence of “native” words that seemed to mean what they had always meant yet in fact carried new, at times Europeanized, connotations. Egypt could hide language loss, then, in the illusion of unbroken Arabic—could render loss superfluous to the emergence of its modern Arabic literature. It could, to cite the words of the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, “love” Western literature “too much”—emulate its forms—and pretend that it lost nothing to that excessive love.3 Superfluous love of the West (love taken to excess) and superfluous loss of self (loss banished to the excess of irrelevance) are thus twin faces of one aesthetic and political problem. That Arabic in Egypt internalized the pressures of modern European imperialism—and survived as a fundamentally translational literary idiom— explains, in part, why no such thing as an Egyptian novel in English appeared until the publication of Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club in 1964, and why that novel remained a singular event until four others appeared by the turn of the twenty-first century: Ahdaf Soueif ’s In the Eye of the Sun (1992) and The Map of Love (1999), Samia Serageldin’s The Cairo House (2000) and The Naqib’s Daughter (2008), and Gini Alhadeff’s Diary of a Djinn (2003).4 Equally to blame—perchance to thank—for the paucity of Anglophone fiction are the early twentieth-century language policies of Britain in Egypt, policies that reflect what some call the “associationist” tenor of British imperialism. While English became a language of instruction in Egyptian

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schools in 1889, seven years after the British occupation, its fortunes shifted in 1906, when the first British Consul-General of Egypt, Evelyn Baring, Earl of Cromer, appointed the Egyptian nationalist Saʻd Zaghlul Minister of Education.5 Zaghlul proved less pliable than Cromer imagined, and by 1907 the colonial administration of Eldon Gorst was compelled to change the language of instruction in Egyptian schools to Arabic.6 Still, we would be wrong to infer from this fact alone that English made few inroads into early twentieth-century Egyptian cultural life. Rather than invoke “association” to describe British cultural imperialism in Egypt, which too neatly distances English from Arabic, we might speak of a more complex politics of insinuation that assimilated English into Arabic. It is, paradoxically, by writing Egyptian novels in English that Ahdaf Soueif confronts the occluded excesses of self-loss and Other-love that haunt the modern Egyptian novel in Arabic. Coming three decades after Ghali’s pioneering novel—the abortive first birth of a postcolonial Egyptian literature in English—and almost fifty years after the end of British occupation, Soueif ’s In the Eye of the Sun and The Map of Love mark the second birth of the Egyptian novel in English.7 Born in Cairo in 1950, Soueif was educated in Egypt and twice in England—in early childhood and again in adulthood, when she returned to England to pursue a doctorate in linguistics. She now lives between London and Cairo. Certainly, as Jenine Abboushi Dallal, Hala Halim, Joseph Massad, Waïl Hassan, and other critics have pointed out, Soueif ’s fiction remakes English by Arabizing it, by assimilating Arabic into English.8 Although Soueif is occasionally uncomfortable with the notion that her novels “write back” to empire, such may be her sneaky response to the British Empire’s equally sneaky language politics in Egypt: to insinuate Arabic into English as English insinuated itself into Arabic.9 But to write of Egypt and “in” Arabic from diaspora and in English, as Soueif does, is also to expose the deafness of “mainland” Egyptian literature to the ways in which Western languages and literatures have intercepted and colonized Arabic—to expose what one character in The Map of Love calls the fallacy of assuming that “because we use the same words, … we mean the same things.”10 In openly taking up with English, Soueif recognizes Egyptian attachment to Western literature as excessive and produces fiction that announces itself as a symptom of that excess. Her Anglophone fiction thus performs an autocritique of Egyptian literary production. One of the first British commentators on Soueif ’s Map of Love—published in the U.K. and short-listed for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the Commonwealth’s most prestigious literary award—noted that “[a] renaissance in Arabic literature has left little precedent for an Egyptian writing in

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English, which is still regarded by some as the language of imperialism.”11 In the eyes of scholars of Arabic literature, in turn, who tie ethnos to logos, race or ethnicity to language, Arabness to the fact of writing or speaking in Arabic, the Egyptian novel in English remains ineluctably foreign—indeed, foreign not only to “Arabic” but even to “Arab” literature. In a 2002 conference at the Supreme Council for Culture in Cairo, the Egyptian-born scholar Sabry Hafez is said to have “argued that Ahdaf Soueif ’s novels were not part of contemporary Arab literature but of English literature, since the Anglophone Egyptian novelist writes in English.”12 While Hafez stops short of declaring that whoever speaks English is English—of rewriting the notion that whoever speaks Arabic is Arab, derived from a saying weakly attributed to the Prophet Muhammad—he intimates that whatever is written in English belongs only to English, renounces (as it were) its “citizenship” in Arab letters. The foreign tongue plays no part in the native. The opposition that these pronouncements imply—of English as the language of imperialism to Arabic as the language of resistance—is precisely what Soueif ’s corpus challenges. Arabic resisted and continues to resist the pressures of empire, yes, but resistance is not the language’s only response to empire. If Soueif ’s Map of Love, the focus of this essay, enlarges English literature to include Arabic, it also decodes the colonial genome of modern Arabic literature—and controverts its nativism—through English. The novel exposes the notion of Arabic’s “unbrokenness” as at best fictive, hinting that there is no such thing as a modern Arabic outside imperialism. I argue that The Map of Love does so by using the figure of incest to defamiliarize (and refamiliarize) normative genealogies of empire, nation, and postcolony and the languages “proper” to those political states. Interweaving historical accounts of past British dominion, ongoing U.S. and U.S.-backed Israeli hegemony, and Egyptian responses to these forces with the sagas of two love relationships that cross imperial divides, The Map of Love figures the repetition of colonial Egyptian-English relations in (post)colonial time in recursive ties of both blood and language. Sex intertwines with translation to reveal the incestuous circuitry of colonial–(post)colonial–neocolonial politics in Egypt. To detangle time and kinship in Soueif ’s novel, I will begin by mapping her Map. In 1997, Isabel Parkman, an American journalist, meets ‘Omar al-Ghamrawi in New York City. ‘Omar, a world-class Egyptian-Palestinian conductor and a political and cultural critic, clearly recalls Soueif ’s reallife friend, the Palestinian intellectual Edward Said. Isabel is writing an article on the impending Gregorian millennium and wants to find out what people in a “really old country” like Egypt think about it; ‘Omar sends his

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new acquaintance, who is fast falling in love with him, to his sister Amal in Cairo for “answers.” There Isabel and Amal become friends, and on her second visit to Cairo, Isabel brings Amal a trunk containing the papers of her British great-grandmother Anna Winterbourne, who traveled to Egypt in 1900 and married Egyptian nationalist Sharif Basha al-Baroudi. Coincidentally (or not), Sharif Basha is ‘Omar’s and Amal’s great-uncle, and Anna’s trunk turns out also to contain the Arabic memoirs of her sister-in-law, Layla al-Baroudi, who happens to be ‘Omar’s and Amal’s grandmother. Isabel’s eventual love affair with ‘Omar in the late 1990s, on the verge of the new millennium, echoes Anna’s marriage to Sharif Basha in the first decade of the twentieth century. And the translational relationship between Isabel and ‘Omar’s sister Amal echoes the equally translational one between Anna and Sharif Basha’s sister, Layla, in an earlier time: in both instances, an Arabic-speaking woman teaches an English-speaking one (the first British, the second American) how to translate herself, linguistically and culturally, into the world of Egypt—and how to win the heart of an Egyptian brother not initially disposed to “wed” an imperialist regime he combats politically. Over all of these family relations, specters of incest hover, contaminating present and future with the past: Isabel’s mother, Jasmine Chirol Cabot, took the young ‘Omar as her lover many years earlier, as it turns out, because ‘Omar reminded her of her dead son, Valentine; ‘Omar is consequently terrified that Isabel, his lover, might also be his daughter; both Isabel and Amal see ‘Omar’s face in old portraits of Sharif Basha; and Amal finds herself half in love with—and even imagines herself making love to—this great-uncle she knows only from the narratives that have survived him. These lurid accidents of love, which seem more appropriate to the “lowbrow” checkout-counter bestseller than to a Booker Prize finalist, have provoked Bruce King to opine that The Map of Love is a mere “Harlequin Romance for the anti-Western intelligentsia,” and Clarissa Burt to protest that the “question of incest” in Soueif ’s novel “seems superfluous.”13 Arguing that Soueif fails to work politics and history “through the fates of her characters,” Diran Adebayo insists that “[t]his perfunctoriness robs the book of a dramatic or emotional core, and renders Soueif ’s people … conduits of information.”14 Even when Soueif writes of passion, her prose is too “swoony.”15 Such critics suggest that the doubling of relations in The Map of Love is sensational and gratuitous, testimony to Soueif ’s descent from the imaginative heights of her first novel, In the Eye of the Sun—where, as she herself admits, the political imperative is subordinated to the fictional—to the aesthetic lows of her second, where “history and politics are as much

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players as the characters—maybe even more so.”16 Yet however much the overwrought romance plots of The Map of Love may baffle Soueif ’s critics, their remarks betray the sense that she is up to something political beneath the “swoony” language of sentimental, even tawdry love.17 And on that score they are right.

Past or Post? The Problem of Generation Why, then, does incest reign in The Map of Love? If the dominant ideologies and practices of the Egyptian literary “renaissance” and indeed of the Egyptian cultural arena today maintain a paradoxical relationship to modern Western imperialism—making love to Western literature and culture even as they make war on other forms of Western domination—incest metaphorizes that paradox. Incest is willful intimacy with a tabooed relation in spite of the fact that such intimacy could kill one’s own posterity—weaken one’s line and precipitate its extinction. Incest disrupts the teleological march of history and confounds generation: where the offspring of a “normal” coupling ordinarily propel time forward, the offspring of an incestuous one redouble the past. The time of incest is thus a “post”—a future—that perversely repeats the “past.” For the colonized and even for the post-independence subject, the colonizer is a tabooed relation. To “love” the colonizer, then, even as one seeks liberation from colonial rule and perhaps especially after one supposedly has liberated oneself from colonialism, is to enter an incestuous relationship with history. It is to risk returning the past as the future, to risk rebirthing the colonizer’s power and resubmitting oneself to it. It took decolonization—the rise of the independent Egyptian nationstate in the wake of the Free Officers’ Revolution of 1952 and the 1956 nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt’s second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser (henceforth Nasser)—to kindle an Egyptian literature in English. Nearly all of the Egyptian novelists who have chosen to write in English were disenfranchised by the revolution: Waguih Ghali, the leftist “poor relation” of a well-to-do Coptic family, ran afoul of the Nasser government and lived in exile in Germany and in England, where he committed suicide in 1969; Samia Serageldin, from a landed and politically prominent Muslim family, belonged to an upper class stripped of its holdings by postrevolutionary land redistribution and no longer welcome in Nasser’s Egypt; and Gini Alhadeff, born in Alexandria to a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family, joined the exodus of foreign minorities who lost their fortunes to nationalization and of Jews who found themselves unwelcome in the wake of the creation of the state of Israel. These novelists’ turn to English may well be a measure of their social

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and political exile from post-independence Egypt. Soueif, however, stands apart. Born to a professional-class, Muslim, Nasserist family, she suffers no such disenchantment with the politics of the revolution. Yet curiously like the leading figures of the Arabic-language literary renaissance in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Egypt, who criticized European domination with one tongue yet translated European literature with the other, she sees no contradiction between the politics of writing in English and the ideals of the revolution that ended British occupation. In fact, Soueif suggests that she can write in English as an Egyptian only because she has grown up free to use it, a child of Egyptian independence. “I have often been asked whether I have a problem with English as the ‘language of my oppressor,’ ” she writes. “I understand the question but I do not feel it; the British occupation was out of Egypt before I was born. English was the language of my first reading and I love it.”18 Yet the British were not quite “out of Egypt before” Soueif ’s birth, and certainly the legacies of British imperialism—and its U.S. heir apparent—were and are not. Soueif ’s “love” of English, then, cannot be so politically unconditional. Indeed, her engagements with English smack of incest: she writes in English because she finds it impossible to separate her post-independence consciousness from the pre-independence past. Like her parents and their forebears, she loves English in spite of its imperial associations.19 In explaining her decision to write in English despite the largely Arabiclanguage education she received in Nasser’s Egypt, Soueif does not immediately address the question of language. Instead, she refers that question to the incestuous nature of history—both political and personal—and to the problem of generation. Elsewhere Soueif remarks that “the use of English by Arab authors is expanding at a faster rate than the use of French,” a fact that attests to the rise of English as a global lingua franca with the shifting politico-economic winds of empire and globalization, as British dominance eclipsed French and U.S. dominance ultimately overshadowed both.20 While she concedes that many Arab writers choose English in the hope of a global market for their work, she claims that she has not “chosen” English.21 English, she insists, chose her—early exposure made English her only possible language of literary expression.22 “I find myself,” she says, whenever I begin to narrate any event, going back [in time] and beginning from an even earlier point, then earlier still, and so forth. Thus all matters appear related and interconnected to me, … and here I find myself compelled to go back to the beginning, … [the fact] that I went to England at four and one-half years of age (my mother was working on a doctorate

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there at the time). I entered elementary school in London and I learned English as English children learn it. We remained in England until I was eight. That meant that I had learned to read, so my first reading language was English … I was a voracious reader as a child … I was surrounded by my mother’s library—fundamentally an English library—I think I read it all during my childhood and adolescence.23 Commingling Egypt’s history with her own, Soueif hints that Egypt’s colonial English past, however “illegitimate” an ancestor, is a generative seed of its post-independence Arabic present. To her, as to post-independence Egypt, English both is and is not a “mother” tongue and a “first” language. By her own testimony, Soueif received most of her Egyptian schooling within a Nasserite system in which even private institutions (like the school she entered upon her return to Cairo) were increasingly nationalized, such that English and French became merely two subjects in an otherwise Arabic curriculum. Yet her present cannot stand alone. While Soueif was born in (and returns to) an Arabic-speaking milieu, English becomes the language of her first reading because it occupies so large a place in her mother’s life. Soueif elsewhere describes her mother, the literary scholar Fatma Moussa, who translated The Map of Love into Arabic, as having “fallen in love with the literature of Britain at school.”24 It is because her mother decides to pursue a doctorate in English literature in London that Soueif ends up spending the formative years of her childhood there—1954 to 1958, coincidentally the formative years of Egypt’s nationhood also. Moreover, unofficial pedagogical spaces—her mother’s English library and, as she goes on to note, her maternal aunt’s collection of English women’s magazines—subverted the Arabic-language emphasis and anti-British tendencies of her nationalist education. Soueif ’s account reminds us that the “birth” of a new individual or a new nation never overrides the survival of prior generations, familial or historical, and the persistence of their anciens régimes within the “new.” Soueif ’s conception of historical “origin” and causality, then, is endlessly regressive: each “beginning” is haunted by its origin in a prior “end”; each present contains the seed of the past. Just as we cannot understand Soueif ’s adult decision to write in English unless we hark back to the earliest “seeds” of her personal history, so too will we not understand the language politics of postrevolutionary Egypt, she suggests, unless we hark back to the cultural history of pre-independence—to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Egypt was under British dominion.25 Teaching Isabel Arabic in The Map of Love, Amal explains that in Arabic “[e]verything stems from a

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root,” a root “mostly made up of three consonants—or two.” Her advice to Isabel as she struggles to learn Arabic—“Always look for the root”—speaks eloquently to Soueif ’s incestuous vision of history. Interestingly, the first root that Amal teaches Isabel, q-l-b, underpins both the word inqilab, “a coup”—an apt description of the 1952 revolution, which overthrew the British-controlled puppet monarchy of King Faruq and ushered in the Egyptian nation—and the word qalb, “heart,” which just might connote the love of English that survives this overthrow. Says Amal to Isabel: “Take the root q-l-b, qalb. You see, you can read this?” “Yes.” “Qalb: the heart, the heart that beats, the heart at the heart of things. Yes?” She nods, looking intently at the marks on the paper. “Then there’s a set number of forms—a template almost—that any root can take. So in the case of ‘qalb’ you get ‘qalab’ [properly, qalaba]: to overturn, overthrow, turn upside down, make into the opposite; hence ‘maqlab’: a dirty trick, a turning of the tables and also a rubbish dump. ‘Maqloub’: upside-down; ‘mutaqallib’: changeable; and ‘inqilab’: a coup …”26 In explaining the root q-l-b to Isabel, Amal parts ways with the conventions of Arabic grammar. Each two- or three-consonant Arabic root yields at least ten verb forms—some actually used, some only hypothetically possible. Since a mouthful of consonants is rather hard to pronounce, the Arabic root (jadhr) is almost always “translated” into its first verbal form. In the case of q-l-b, that form would be qalaba—which, as Amal tells Isabel, means “to overturn.” Yet rather than translate the root q-l-b directly into that verb, Amal translates it into qalb (“heart”), a noun derived from the verb qalaba— specifically, a noun that Arabic grammar calls a masdar, or “source.” Subtly, then, Amal plays the root (jadhr) and the source (masdar)—two competing notions of grammatical “origin” in Arabic—against each other, suggesting the impurity that haunts any effort to fix an “origin” for language. Might not the “source” be the true “root,” she asks? By inverting the conventions of Arabic grammar, which would give the act of revolution (the root verb qalaba) priority over the fact of the heart (the source noun qalb), Amal places the heart, and the love that it connotes, at the root of roots: at the root of both Nasser’s revolutionary project and of her own (and Soueif ’s) project of translation, which turns Arabic into its English “opposite.” She turns qalaba upside down into qalb, as if to say that “love” of the imperial Other is the hidden face of revolution against that Other. From the root q-l-b—qalaba/

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qalb—springs the “trunk” of a language-family in which love turns (in) on itself, creates and destroys itself in perpetuity: a language-family whose words commit incest. If “love” is at the root of “revolution” and “revolution” at the core of “love,” Soueif asks, where lie (post)colonial Egyptian history’s continuities? Where its breaks? Might not the “unbroken” continuity of post-independence Arabic with its precolonial past be more fiction than fact? Might not post-independence Arabic’s continuity with imperial English be “truer” to the historical record?

Euro-Egyptian Renaissances and the “Othered” Mother Soueif has told us that she writes the present from the past and the political from the personal. In her personal history, a mother bequeaths her love of English to a post-independence daughter whose only language, by nationalist lights, is supposed to be Arabic. In The Map of Love, this mother becomes a metonym for the colonial ancestor from whom the nation originates, yet whose ancestral legitimacy national genealogy would deny. Against patrilineal genealogy, the novel proposes a matrilineal vision of history: what Mariadele Boccardi dubs “gynealogy.”27 What better figure than the mother for the stubborn presence of the disowned past? The mother is precisely she whose name disappears in the conventional family tree: she gives birth to life only to see her contribution to that life disavowed, as the child takes only a patronym (by Arab convention) and a paternal surname (by both Arab and most Western conventions). Yet her imprint on her offspring is undeniable. Indeed, early twentieth-century Egyptian nationalists predicated Egyptian “renaissance” and self-rule on the “reformed,” modernized, essentially Europeanized Egyptian mother. In Soueif ’s novel, the real-historical figure Qasim Amin, who authored Tahrir al-mar’a (1899; translated into English as The Liberation of Women) and Al-Mar’a al-jadida (1900; translated into English as The New Woman), tells Sharif Basha, “ ‘We cannot claim to desire a Renaissance for Egypt while half its population [i.e., women] live in the Middle Ages. To take the simplest matters, how can children be brought up with the right outlook by ignorant mothers?’ ”28 In this vision, the “Renaissance” of Egypt— its future as “modern”—cannot begin so long as its mothers live in the “past,” a past dubbed “the Middle Ages” and thus defined (and inferiorized) in distinctly European teleological terms. Egypt wins equality with and freedom from the colonizer—in a word, nationhood—insofar as it is “reborn” as “modern” through mothers. And in the lexicon of the Egyptian nahda, “modern” means “Western.” Indeed, the most famous icon of

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nahda consciousness, Mahmud Mukhtar’s 1928 sculpture Nahdat Misr (The Renaissance of Egypt), features an Egyptian peasant woman, “one hand on the head of a sphinx, rousing him from sleep, the other putting aside her veil.”29 Unveiling herself and—in her maternal gesture toward the Sphinx—symbolically unveiling all Egypt with her, she embodies the nahda’s ideological embrace of Westernization-as-modernization. The Egyptian nation is thus to an “Othered” mother reborn. Soueif ’s alternative vision of history is more than matrilineal, then. In The Map of Love, specifically incestuous mothers unsettle the certitudes of mainstream nationalist historiography, violating the division between pre- and post-independence temporalities.30 What happens, Soueif asks, when the mother tongue and the mother as transmitter of national modernity are themselves altered by the colonizer’s trace, such that Egypt’s “mother” tongue and “maternal” cultural legacy to her progeny involve English in Arabic? In Jasmine Chirol Cabot, mother of Isabel (Cabot) Parkman and the long-dead Valentine Cabot, we find a woman whose incests of word and blood confound her daughter Isabel’s presumably French-Anglo-American-Egyptian lineage with ‘Omar al-Ghamrawi’s Egyptian-Palestinian ancestry. Isabel’s line incarnates Western imperialism’s past and present entanglements with Egypt; ‘Omar’s evokes the antiimperial realignments that Nasser’s pan-Arabism asserted in 1950s–1960s Egypt. Jasmine herself is a hybrid: born to the Frenchman Jean-Marie Chirol and to Nur al-Hayah al-Baroudi, the English-Egyptian daughter of Anna Winterbourne and Sharif Basha, her tripartite French-EnglishEgyptianness embodies the full sweep of post-1798 colonial Egyptian history. Her marriage to the American diplomat Jonathan Cabot adds the United States—and thus the latest chapter of Egypt’s long history with empire—to that symbolic sweep. When Isabel tells an elderly Jasmine (a woman stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, whose only present is the past) about the man with whom she is falling in love, Jasmine responds by divulging—mostly in the present tense!—the fact that she once had taken a lover. The two lovers in this exchange, daughter Isabel’s and mother Jasmine’s, happen to be one—none other than ‘Omar: “Anyway—” Isabel collects herself … “I don’t know what he feels about me …” She looks sadly at her mother. “I’m not sure what I should do.” “I’ve given him up, of course,” Jasmine says. “It was the only thing to do. He’s very young, you see. Such eyes! He reminds me of Valentine, of course … Maybe that’s why I took him in …”31

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What reverses the progression of historical time in this exchange—what makes the present and indeed the future (for Isabel is asking her mother to clarify the intentions of a prospective lover) so eerily repetitive of the past—is the figure of incest. In one breath, Jasmine collapses the temporal distance that separates her daughter’s just-blossoming relationship with an older ‘Omar from her own long-ago affair with a younger ‘Omar reminiscent of her dead son, Valentine.32 Jasmine’s “I’ve given him up” is, of course, a non sequitur to Isabel’s desperate plea for advice, “I’m not sure what I should do.” Yet Jasmine’s grammatical elisions and liaisons of time and person—which mirror the sexual elisions and liaisons of her incestuous relationship with ‘Omar/Valentine—offer up the illusion of a direct response to Isabel. For one, Jasmine “shares” ‘Omar with her daughter by using the very pronoun Isabel uses (“him”) to name the object of her affections. This “him,” in turn, evokes another shared antecedent: the aptly named Valentine, the dead son and “absent brother” whom she and Isabel, respectively, confuse with ‘Omar.33 Moreover, in speaking of ‘Omar in the present perfect (have given up) rather than in the past (gave up), Jasmine grammatically locates her affair with him—and thus the West’s with Egypt—in any unspecified time in the past up to the present. Conflating her past with her daughter’s present in the eccentric temporality of incest, Jasmine’s “mother” tongue tricks us into hearing continuity in rupture. Just as Jasmine’s word-incests render the “past” indistinguishable from the “post,” so too do her blood incests confound our capacity to tell Egypt from the West. By sleeping with ‘Omar within nine months of Isabel’s birth, Jasmine makes it possible that ‘Omar, not her husband Jonathan Cabot, is Isabel’s father. ‘Omar’s paternity would make Isabel half Egyptian-Palestinian (from his side) and half English-French-Egyptian (from her mother’s): in sum, three-quarters Arab and only one quarter European, and not a blood American at all, given that her genetic Americanness issues entirely from her presumed father, Jonathan Cabot. Thus Jasmine’s incests transgress not just historical time but also historical fact: they render Isabel potentially more “Arab” than European—more colonized than colonizer—and ‘Omar, standing in for Jonathan Cabot, more “American” than Arab, more colonizer than colonized. Incest makes the colonizer and the colonized symbolically “exchangeable.” If incest confuses Jasmine’s “Euro-U.S.” branch of The Map of Love’s divided family tree, it engenders even ghostlier demarcations in Amal’s “Egyptian-Palestinian” branch. For one, the sister-brother relationship of Amal and ‘Omar—like that of Isabel and Valentine—carries incestuous undertones. Separated from an English husband, Amal tells ‘Omar that

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she will only remarry if she finds “someone like [him],” her brother.34 When Isabel, spying a portrait of Sharif Basha at Amal’s ancestral home in the Upper Egyptian village of Tawasi, remarks that Sharif Basha “looks exactly like” ‘Omar, Amal begins to act on the incestuous desire to marry someone “like” her brother by coupling—if only in her imagination—with her great-uncle. As ‘Omar’s likeness shades into that of Sharif Basha, Amal hallucinates that she and Sharif Basha are joined in one historical present: “I look out across the fields towards the village, missing—tonight—seventeen men … ‘You see? You see, ya Sharif Basha?’ I say … And his dark eyes look back at me and behind them lie el-Tel el-Kebir and Umm Durman and Denshwai and it seems to me that he does indeed see and I want—oh, how I want to be in his arms—.”35 Sharif ’s eyes reflect at once the Egyptian state’s unjust arrest of seventeen villagers in 1990s Tawasi and three of the most brutal scenes of British colonial occupation in the Nile Valley: the routing of the Egyptian nationalist forces of Ahmad ‘Urabi at the 1882 battle of al-Tall al-Kabir; the massacre of the Sudanese Mahdists—successors of the resistance leader Muhammad Ahmad, the Mahdi—in the 1898 battle of Umm Durman; and, in the closest echo of Amal’s time, the wrongful sentencing of seventeen Egyptian villagers to hard labor, lashings, and death for the alleged murder of a British officer in the Dinshaway trials of 1906. With history so incestuous, sex across time becomes fantastically possible too. Holding the very letter in which Sharif proposed to Anna Winterbourne, Amal declares, “I am half in love with him, I believe—with my own greatuncle.”36 In dream, she virtually consummates her love for Sharif Basha in the bed of her grandmother, Layla al-Baroudi: I dream I am holding on to Sharif Basha al-Baroudi. I kiss his face, his eyes, his shoulders. I lie by him on the great bed in my grandmother’s room and I sob with relief at having found him. He holds me and lets me kiss him, slightly amused at my passion. “Thank God you are not my father,” I say over and over.37 As she imagines herself more and more physically in Anna’s place, Amal becomes Anna: her “Other” in nationality (born on the other side of the colonial divide) and in time. By extension she is thus Isabel’s great-grandmother. But Amal also stands in for Isabel herself: Amal loves her great-uncle Sharif Basha in part because he recalls her brother ‘Omar, and ‘Omar is as much Isabel’s real lover as he is Amal’s imaginary one. Amal’s cry of relief as she kisses Sharif—“Thank God you are not my father”—echoes not only her earlier insistence to ‘Omar that she would remarry only if she could find his

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clone (“at least we know for sure you’re not my father”), but also Isabel’s insistence, as she pursues a sexual relationship with ‘Omar, that he is not her father. By fancying herself the lover of the dead Sharif Basha, then, Amal supplants Isabel to become ‘Omar’s lover too—hence, symbolically, the mother of the newborn Sharif al-Ghamrawi, ‘Omar’s offspring with Isabel. Thus Egyptian Amal turns first “British,” then “American” mother. Once again, incest upends history. Perhaps, the novel hints, we should not be surprised. Isabel’s presumed American father, Jonathan Cabot, tells her as a child that she bears the name of the Egyptian goddess Isis—Latinized, “Isis the beautiful” becomes “Isa Bella”—and informs her that Isis, worshipped throughout the ancient Mediterranean, is “mother of the world.”38 The phrase uncannily resembles the epithet that Egyptians bestow on Egypt: umm al-dunya—literally, “mother of the world.” We should not forget, of course, that Isabel is the Spanish form of the Italian Isabella, and that Queen Isabella—the Queen of Spain who bore, oddly enough, the Italian and not the Spanish version of the Isis name—became “mother” of the so-called New World in 1492, extending the reach of Isis from the Old World of the Mediterranean to the New of the Americas. Her ascendancy also marked the end of 800 years of Arab-Islamic empire in Spain. Isabel is thus a beginning and an end: the rise of Egyptian dominance in the ancient Mediterranean, the end of Arab-Islamic imperial aspirations in Europe, the rise of European (and later U.S.) imperial power across the globe, the end of Arab and Egyptian self-determination. She is Egypt and Europe/America in one. Why shouldn’t Amal, then, be both—as much colonizer as colonized? Soueif ’s insistence on the exchangeability of the colonizer and the colonized is, of course, politically problematic. Yet a nuanced critique of her troubling attempts to wish away enmity in love lies beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that in risking the trope of incest to describe (post)colonial Egyptian relations with France, Britain, and the United States, Soueif also risks absolving the imperial West of any responsibility for the depredations of empire, neocolonialism, and neoimperialism to which Egypt has been subject. Still, by making Isabel “Arab” and placing her in the shoes of the colonized, Soueif may in fact marshal incest to hold Europe and the United States accountable for their actions in the Arab world. And by making ‘Omar “American,” she may not only suggest the Arab world’s ongoing complicity with Euro-U.S. colonialism—its enthrallment to European and U.S. cultural capital and its compliance with U.S. political interests—but also entertain the revolutionary hope that an “Americanized” Arab like ‘Omar might most effectively speak

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truth to power and claim justice for the oppressed precisely because he does so within the belly of the imperial beast. (His character is, we will recall, inspired by Edward Said.) In the end, Soueif ’s Amal—the colonized as colonizer—embodies the very riddles that make incest both so apt and so vexed a trope of (post)colonial relation. How can the (post) colonial subject embrace—love—the colonizing Other in herself while holding that Other responsible for killing her? Indeed, how can she love that colonizing Other without killing herself off? As an alter ego of both British Anna and American Isabel but also a narrator who reflects critically on the persistence of Euro-U.S. empire in Egypt, Amal cuts an Egyptian figure unwilling to repudiate the cultural legacies of empire yet equally reluctant to perpetuate their political effects. In this stance she is not unlike author Soueif herself.

The “Impurity” of Modern Arabic If the lines of blood and history that divide and join the colonizer and the colonized in The Map of Love are incestuous, the lines of language that connect English and Arabic in the novel are all the more so. How, then, does the novel represent the logic of the Egyptian nahda, and what does its understanding of that first Arabic literary “renaissance” say about Soueif ’s fiction as a “renaissance,” in its own right, of the Egyptian novel in English? One ruling metaphor in the novel is telling. Amal, writing The Map of Love as a stand-in for Soueif herself, describes the text as “a story born of travel, unfolded and shaken out of a trunk.”39 Such a description of the text as textile, something that can be “unfolded and shaken out” of a trunk carried in overseas passage—but also, implicitly, out of the trunk of the tangled family tree that the novel struggles to unknot and reknot—invites us to see the novel as a contemporary Egyptian reweaving of the tapestry that Anna, Amal’s British ancestor by marriage, weaves in the early years of the twentieth century. What further ties this tapestry to Soueif ’s “story born of travel” is the fact that it hangs first from a bookshelf in Amal’s apartment, as if to join the books in her library, then “from [a] makeshift batten … rigged up” on her wall, as if a sail poised for a second voyage.40 The tapestry unites the incestuous ancient Egyptian brother-sister couple Isis and Osiris and their child, Horus, under the banner of the Qur’anic verse: “It is He who brings forth the living from the dead” [“yukhriju al-hayya min al-mayyiti”],41 and Anna calls it, significantly, her “contribution to the Egyptian renaissance.”42 Certainly the tapestry encapsulates the reigning cultural ideology of the nahda, which maintained that Egypt was in decline, even “dead,”

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and in need of resurrection. Symbolically, too, it marries two strains of the Egyptian past on which nahda discourse drew to catalyze Egypt’s rebirth: the Pharaonic and the Islamic. This text-as-textile, then, unfolds in three panels. Two of these—representing Osiris and Isis—are handed down through the respective branches of Isabel’s and Amal’s divided family tree. The final panel, missing until the last chapters of the novel, magically turns up in Isabel’s handbag when she visits the old Cairo house of Sharif Basha: it depicts the child of Osiris and Isis, Horus. In ancient Egyptian religion, of course, the deities Osiris and Isis were not only brother and sister but also husband and wife. R. E. Witt tells us that “[j]oined with Osiris in sexual union already in the maternal womb, Isis was fast wedded to him in life, and when he was no longer king in this world she was able to perform the miracle of bearing a son without the father’s procreative agency.”43 In one version of the Osiris myth, Osiris is slain by his evil brother Seth (or Set), who cuts his body into fourteen pieces and scatters its fragments throughout Egypt. Isis miraculously “resurrects” her dead husband from those fragments. The child Horus, according to Witt, is thus born of Isis’s coupling with the dead Osiris—a child “miraculously conceived by Isis in a necrophilious union.”44 Horus avenges his father’s death and becomes the new king of Egypt, “the archetype of all Pharaohs.”45 Time and again, Soueif ’s Map of Love links childbirth—the appearance of Horus—to word-birth, implicating both (as rebirths of past lives, “renaissances” somatic or semantic) in incest. As Amal teaches Isabel the first lesson of qalb/qalaba—that the tension between love and revolution haunts both Arabic’s relationship to English and Arabic’s relationship to itself—she likens the words that can hypothetically spring from any given Arabic root to the eggs of human mothers: “[T]hey come swimming along,” says Amal, “in a cluster, like ovae: the queen in the centre, and all the other eggs, big and little, who will not, this time, be fertilised …”46 Each word-potential that materializes as spoken or written word is, Amal suggests, a fertilized egg: thus a fetus and eventually a child. And in Amal’s final lesson to Isabel, child once again rejoins word, this time as Isabel discovers that a common theme of concealment underpins words derived from the Arabic root j-n-n (janna), among these the word for fetus—“janeen,” literally “a diminutive hidden one.”47 She makes this discovery in Amal’s Arabic dictionary, Al-Mu‘jam al-wasit. Published in 1960 (just after Egyptian independence) by the Arab Language Academy in Cairo, Al-Mu‘jam al-wasit was the first dictionary to take full stock of modern Arabic’s European-language borrowings during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the age of empire and of

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the nahda. Thus the arbiter of modern standard Arabic usage reflects the “impurity” of that standard. It is telling that this dictionary (al-wasit means “the mediator”) should sit between the hanging panels of Osiris and Isis and occupy the gap that the missing Horus panel, not yet found, leaves on Amal’s bookshelf. Its position implies that modern Arabic, in its inherent (post)colonial hybridity with the languages of the imperial West, is the “janeen,” the “hidden” Horus-child. Poised Horus-like on Amal’s bookshelf, modern Arabic becomes the incestuous offspring of a tabooed love-relation between “three consonants—or two”48: between (post)colonial Egypt and imperial France and Britain, at times in a ménage à trois, at times in separate couplings. Horus’s mysterious (re)appearance toward the end of The Map of Love “completes” Soueif ’s Egyptian novel in English; it gathers the narrative energies of the text and impels them toward closure—if we can speak of closure in a novel that opens in medias res, intercepting Anna’s English voice in mid sentence and reclaiming it as its own, and ends on a note that recalls its indeterminate beginning. (Indeed the cyclical structure of the novel mimics the disintegrations and reconstitutions of the OsirisIsis-Horus myth; its four parts are titled “A Beginning,” “An End of a Beginning,” “A Beginning of an End,” and “An End.”) If Soueif ’s Map of Love–as-Horus-child represents the end-product of two Egyptian renaissances—the Arabic-language renaissance for which Anna wove her tapestry at the turn of the twentieth century and the English-language renaissance for which Amal reconstructs it at the turn of the twenty-first— then “renaissance” is a strange phenomenon indeed: born, like Horus, in both instances of incestuous and “necrophilious” union between England (Osiris) and Egypt (Isis). For no less than the contemporary Anglophone nahda Soueif ushers into being when she induces the second birth of the Egyptian novel in English—and this, I believe, is her revealing insight—the early twentiethcentury Arabic nahda conjoined itself with the Osiris-figure of English “in the maternal womb,” and (if I may borrow the metaphor from Witt) when Britain “was no longer king in this world,” it was “able to perform the miracle” of England’s repetition in Arabic “without the [Empire’s] procreative agency.” When the Egyptian translator Muhammad al-Siba‘i—sensing in the English of Thomas Carlyle an “affinity” with Islam—writes in 1912 that his Arabic translations from English literature would sow “seeds of superiority” into what he calls the barren ground and even the “grave” of Egypt, he conceives the child of the nahda in incestuous necrophilia.49 Al-Siba‘i takes in the seed of the dead imperial father and impregnates a feminized

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Egypt with it. Hoping against hope that one day Egypt would yield the fruit of his efforts, he nurtures “the plant of slow growth” whose blossoming England’s Cromer only wished before his reign in Egypt came (like that of Osiris) to an end.50 Al-Siba‘i’s attitude toward English echoes that of the nineteenth-century translator and intellectual reformer Rifa‘a al-Tahtawi toward French. Arguing that a scholar of any given language inherently knows any other, al-Tahtawi posited deep “kinship” between French and Arabic and styled the two languages “equivalent,” and thus exchangeable, despite their obvious geopolitical inequality at the time—Egypt only recently had emerged from the Napoleonic occupation of 1798–1801 and remained subject to French hegemony. In his first literary translation from French into Arabic, published in 1827, al-Tahtawi too imagines himself something of a surrogate Frenchman, impregnating an Egypt he addresses as a beloved woman—“anqulu Urubba f iki ya nura ‘ayni!” [“I transport Europe into you, O light of my eye!”]—and thus imbuing her with knowledge of the new sciences and arts of France.51 By placing, then, not just the (post)colonial Anglophone Arab novel— but even Egypt’s original Arabophone nahda, which spoke European languages in idea if not in tongue—under the sign of incest, of suspect kinship and suspect intimacy, Soueif lays bare all modern Egyptian literature as “translational literature,” to invoke Waïl Hassan’s pithy description of The Map of Love,52 and all modern Arabic as translational language. Incest is, after all, radical intimacy with a tabooed beloved; it is also intimacy with the dead, inherently necrophilic as it doubles back on generation and repeats ancestry—the past—in the present and for posterity. As such it is a proper figure, Soueif suggests, for modern Egypt’s excessive ideological love affair with imperial Europe, with the colonizers it fought to shake off but just as often took in, and whose personae (like Horus of Osiris) it very often even assumed and perpetuated. Writing in English half a century after the death of the British Empire in Egypt, Soueif is less interested than her Arabophone forebears in resurrecting Egypt from its grave. Her nahda insists, perversely, on dragging Osiris—the remains of England in Egypt—from the grave of history, putting him back together again, and making visible the concealed cultural “impurity” of his Egyptian progeny. It is, after all, the panel of Osiris “the dead” that is passed down through Anna’s Western line and preserved in her trunk among her other artifacts, and it is those scattered fragments of the colonial English past that Soueif ’s Map of Love brings forth out of hiding and into Egypt as “the living.”53 In the end, Soueif ’s text invites us to read the Egyptian novel in English as a contaminated project, surely, but also as a “purifying” confrontation

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with the impurity of (post)colonial Arabophone Egypt: purifying because it exorcises and works through the messy affects—what Mahfouz named loving “too much”—and the uneasy structural homologies that link the postcolonial to the colonial past.

Notes 1. Hamid Dabashi, The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism (London: Zed Books, 2012), 155–6, 164. I completed an earlier version of this chapter as a 2006–7 postdoctoral fellow in the Berlin-based program Europe in the Middle East—The Middle East in Europe, and presented sections thereof at conferences of the United States Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, the Modern Language Association, and the University of Minnesota. My thanks to the editor of this volume, Nouri Gana, and to all my interlocutors for their invaluable comments. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are mine. 2. On the psychodynamics of translation in the Egyptian nahda, see Shaden M. Tageldin, Disarming Words: Empire and the Seductions of Translation in Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011). The specific argument here appears at ibid., 5. 3. Naguib Mahfouz, quoted in D. J. Taylor, “The Maestro of Middaq [sic] Alley,” Sunday Times (London), March 18, 1990. 4. In this tally I include only novels. I count neither Soueif ’s collections of short fiction—Aisha (1993) and Sandpiper (1996)—nor the noteworthy memoirs in English by Egyptian-born writers that have appeared to date: Ihab Hassan’s Out of Egypt: Scenes and Arguments of an Autobiography (1986), André Aciman’s Out of Egypt: A Memoir (1994), Gini Alhadeff’s The Sun at Midday: Tales of a Mediterranean Family (1997), Leila Ahmed’s A Border Passage: From Cairo to America—A Woman’s Journey (1999), and Lucette Lagnado’s The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World (2007) and The Arrogant Years: One Girl’s Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn (2011). 5. See Matti Moosa, The Origins of Modern Arabic Fiction, 2nd edn (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1997), 99; and Robert L. Tignor, Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt, 1882–1914 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), 326. Moosa dates Cromer’s introduction of the study of English into Egyptian public schools to 1889; Tignor dates the shift to English as the primary language of instruction in Egyptian schools to around 1900. 6. Mona Russell, “Competing, Overlapping, and Contradictory Agendas: Egyptian Education Under British Occupation, 1882–1922,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 21.1 & 2 (2001): 53–4. 7. By ascribing the second birth of the Egyptian novel in English to Soueif, I risk overstepping the Egyptian-born Canadian writer Saad Elkhadem. Elkhadem

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8.

9. 10.

11. 12.

13. 14. 15. 16. 17.

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published several “micro-novels” in bilingual Arabic-English editions, the first in 1971. He did not, however, compose his fictions in English; he wrote in Arabic and commissioned the critic Saad El Gabalawy to produce “simultaneous” translations in English. See F. Elizabeth Dahab, “Poetics of Exile and Dislocation in Saad Elkhadem’s Wings of Lead (1971), The Plague (1989), and Trilogy of the Flying Egyptian (1990–1992),” Canadian Ethnic Studies 38.2 (2006): 72–85. See Mohammed Albakry and Patsy Hunter Hancock, “Code Switching in Ahdaf Soueif ’s The Map of Love,” Language and Literature 17.3 (2008): 224, 226; Jenine Abboushi Dallal, “The Perils of Occidentalism: How Arab Novelists Are Driven to Write for Western Readers,” Times Literary Supplement (London), April 24, 1998, 8; Hala Halim, “Translating Egypt,” Al-Ahram Weekly On-Line 442, August 12–18, 1999, accessed December 25, 2012, http://weekly.ahram. org.eg/1999/442/bk1_442.htm; Waïl S. Hassan, “Agency and Translational Literature: Ahdaf Soueif ’s The Map of Love,” PMLA 121.3 (May 2006): 754, 757–8, 765 n. 5; and Joseph Massad, “The Politics of Desire in the Writings of Ahdaf Soueif,” Journal of Palestine Studies 28.4 (Summer 1999): 75, 86–7. Ahdaf Soueif, quoted in Samia Mehrez, “Kharitat al-kitaba: Hiwar ma‘a Ahdaf Suwayf,” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 20 (2000): 177. Ahdaf Soueif, The Map of Love (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), 272. Of his relationship with Anna Winterbourne, Sharif Basha al-Baroudi says, “ ‘We cannot speak each other’s language. We have to use French.’ ” The poet Isma‘il Sabri assures him that this is all for the best, as two people who must resort to a third tongue—a tongue native to neither—are less prone to assume that because they “use the same words” they “mean the same things.” Ibid. Libby Brooks, “Lifting the Veil,” Guardian (London), August 2, 1999, accessed December 25, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/booker/Story/0,,201698,00. html. Amina Elbendary, “Gathering One More Time,” Al-Ahram Weekly On-Line 611, November 7–13, 2002, accessed December 25, 2012, http://weekly. ahram.org.eg/2002/611/cu5.htm. Susan Muaddi Darraj insists that Soueif is no less an “Egyptian writer” than she is a British one. “Narrating England and Egypt: The Hybrid Fiction of Ahdaf Soueif,” Studies in the Humanities 30.1 & 2 (2003): 106. See Bruce King, “The Map of Love,” World Literature Today 74.2 (2000): 453; and Clarissa Burt, “The Map of Love,” Feminist Review 69 (Winter 2001): 156. Diran Adebayo, “Echoes of the Past,” Guardian (London), September 22, 1999, accessed December 25, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/booker/ Story/0,,201692,00.html. Ibid. Ahdaf Soueif, quoted in Massad, “Politics,” 83. Both Waïl Hassan and Emily Davis argue that Soueif subverts the conventions of two British genres—the oriental or colonial romance and women’s travel

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18. 19.

20. 21. 22. 23. 24.

25.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h writing—to develop transgressive anti-imperialist personae. See Hassan, “Agency,” 760–2, and Emily S. Davis, “Romance as Political Aesthetic in Ahdaf Soueif ’s The Map of Love,” Genders 45 (2007): paras 4–6, 30–1, http:// www.genders.org/g45/g45_davis.html. See also Anastasia Valassopoulos, “Fictionalising Post-colonial Theory: The Creative Native Informant?”, Critical Survey 16.2 (2004): 35–7, 42–3. Valassopoulos argues that Soueif ’s “clumsy” synthesis of these genres with history, politics, and theory consciously reflects the awkward interdisciplinarity of postcolonial studies and its vexed relation to imaginative literature. Ahdaf Soueif, “Under the Gun: A Palestinian Journey,” in Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground (London: Bloomsbury, 2004), 49. Joseph Massad notes that Soueif ’s parents “named her ‘Ahdaf ’ to express their commitments to the aims and goals of the revolution”; see Massad, “Politics,” 82–3. Yet Soueif ’s revolutionary mother “did not consider that rejecting British imperialism involved rejecting English literature.” See Ahdaf Soueif, preface to Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground (London: Bloomsbury, 2004), 6. Jamal Mahjoub, “A Correspondence with Ahdaf Soueif,” Wasafiri 24.3 (2009): 60. Indeed, many novelists writing in Arabic also write for translation, with an eye to global (usually Western) markets, as Jenine Abboushi Dallal has noted. See Dallal, “The Perils,” 8. Mahjoub, “A Correspondence,” 60. Soueif, quoted in Mehrez, “Kharitat al-Kitaba,” 175. See Soueif, preface to Mezzaterra, 6; Moussa’s Arabic translation of The Map of Love, first published before her death in 2007, is Ahdaf Suwayf, Kharitat alˉ mma li-l-Kitab, hubb, trans. Fatima Musa (Cairo: al-Hay’a al-Misriyya al-‘A 2004; Dar al-Shuruq, 2010). See also Ahdaf Soueif, In the Eye of the Sun (New York: Vintage, 1992), 511–12. Soueif ’s mother inspires the character of Asya al-Ulama’s mother, Lateefa Mursi, in that novel. Mursi is said to have fallen in love with her English teacher, Miss Sage—who came to Cairo in the 1930s—and to have “lived and breathed English Literature from that day on.” See Soueif, preface to Mezzaterra, 6–7. For Soueif, the 1952 Free Officers’ Revolution fulfills the desires of the Egyptian nahda. Only after that revolution does the nahda truly begin; only then is it (re)born. Certainly, she argues, the notion of a cultural “common ground” (mezzaterra) between Europe and Egypt was the dreamchild of generations of Egyptians who, since the mid-nineteenth century, had “held on to their admiration for the thought and discipline of the West, its literature and music, while working for an end to the West’s occupation of their lands.” Yet it was also a dream deferred to Soueif ’s post-independence generation, the first that really could engage with the culture it admired “on an equal footing.” Writes Soueif of the mezzaterra, “we were the first to be born into it, to inhabit it as of right.”

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26. Soueif, Map, 82. 27. On (patrilineal) genealogy versus (matrilineal) gynealogy, see Mariadele Boccardi, “History as Gynealogy: A. S. Byatt, Tracy Chevalier, and Ahdaf Soueif,” Women: A Cultural Review 15.2 (2004), 192–3, 202–3. 28. Soueif, Map, 380–1. 29. Ibid., 297. Soueif refers to Mukhtar’s sculpture as “Nahdet Misr.” Interestingly, the early twentieth-century dialogue in which Qasim Amin envisions the “Renaissance” of Egypt through women cuts to a late twentieth-century scene in which Amal al-Ghamrawi drives by Nahdat Misr in Cairo and muses that “it still stands and the renaissance must surely come.” Dreaming of an end to the neocolonial oppressions of the 1990s Egyptian state, Amal recalls that in 1968 her generation congregated in protest around Nahdat Misr, fervent in their belief that the ideals of the 1952 revolution were not lost despite Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In the confluence of the three scenes, the aspirations of the past—the Egyptian renaissance mother—converge with those of the “post”: the Egyptian daughter of the 1952 revolution. Futurity—the chronotope that Amal invokes in her “the renaissance must surely come”—is the past, the time that both Amin’s and Mukhtar’s “Renaissance of Egypt” wish would be. Soueif ’s recent diary of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Cairo, reconnects the present with 1952. Nasser’s “picture was raised by many” of the 2011 protestors at Tahrir Square, she notes, as was this transhistorical rallying cry: “ ‘In 1952 the army revolted and the people supported the revolution. In 2011 the people revolted and the army protected the revolution.’ ” Yet a critical intervention by Soueif ’s sister, Laila, breaks the 1952/2011 circuit; Laila reminds Ahdaf that, despite his commitment to the poor, Nasser “set in motion the practices, the systems that led, finally, to Mubarak’s regime.” By admitting that voice, Soueif re-ambiguates “revolution.” Ahdaf Soueif, Cairo: My City, Our Revolution (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), 12, 76, 164. 30. Amin Malak argues that Soueif ’s “hybridized English” enables her “to infiltrate taboo terrains, both sexual and political, which might be inaccessible when handled in Arabic.” “Arab-Muslim Feminism and the Narrative of Hybridity: The Fiction of Ahdaf Soueif,” ch. 8 in Muslim Narratives and the Discourse of English (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005), 150. The intimacies of Arabic with English and of post-independence Egypt with the colonial legacy may be one such “taboo” more easily broached in English. 31. Soueif, Map, 53. 32. As the son of Jean-Marie Chirol, Valentine Cabot himself could be “descended” from the British imperial apologist Sir Valentine Chirol—fictively, of course, for the historical Chirol had no children. On Chirol, see Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. “Chirol, Sir (Mary) Valentine Ignatius (1852–1929),” by Linda Brandt Fritzinger, accessed May 23, 2007, http://www.oxforddnb. com.floyd.lib.umn.edu/view/article/32403. A correspondent and editor of the Times of London, Chirol covered the 1882 British invasion of Egypt and

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33.

34. 35.

36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41.

42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h popularized the colonial construct “the Middle East.” That Cabot and Chirol share the initials V. C. blurs the line between U.S. and British dominion in Egypt. The two Valentines are indistinguishable, in turn, from Jasmine’s and Isabel’s “valentine,” the Egyptian ‘Omar. Isabel confuses ‘Omar with her dead brother, Valentine, much as her mother conflates lover and son: “Isabel had grown up with a brother sixteen years her senior who was forever fourteen … An absent brother. Would tomorrow be too soon to call him?” Soueif, Map, 22–3. The antecedent of the pronoun him is not Valentine, but ‘Omar. Love vexes language and time. Ibid., 360. Amal adds, “ ‘At least we know for sure you’re not my father.’ ” Ibid., 442. Soueif ’s novel continually stages the ostensibly post-colonial present as a (post)colonial repetition of the past. The 1990s Egyptian state echoes the colonial abuses of Dinshaway, and the role of “Amreeka” and the World Bank therein suggests that colonization continues in new guises. And if at the dawn of the twentieth century Sharif Basha’s Palestinian cousin, Shukri Bey al-‘Asali, laments Zionist expropriation of Palestinian lands, by century’s end Israel threatens Egypt too. In the novel’s 1990s narrative, Israel reappears as the living remnant of British colonialism and the proxy power of U.S. neoimperialism, poised to take over Egyptian land through agribusiness deals with Egyptians like Tareq ‘Atiyya, Amal’s longtime friend and budding love interest. See ibid., 258–60, 314–18, 424–7, 465–7. Ibid., 254. Ibid., 446. Ibid., 22. Ibid., 164. Ibid., 491, 514. Ibid., 491. The original verse is Qur’an 6:95. A similar verse, Qur’an 3:27, appears in the chapter “Surat al ‘Imran,” whose focus on the lineage of the Virgin Mary and Jesus imbues the Qur’anic quotation in Anna’s tapestry with Christian allusions also. Ibid., 403. R. E. Witt, Isis in the Ancient World (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 37. Ibid. Ibid. Soueif, Map, 82. See ibid., 491–2; quotations from 492 (emphasis mine). Ibid., 81. See Muhammad al-Siba‘i, “Kalimat al-mu‘arrib,” in Al-Abtal, ta’lif al-faylasuf al-akbar Tumas Karlayl, 3rd edn (Cairo: al-Matba‘a al-Misriyya bi-l-Azhar, 1930/ah 1349 [1911]), lam–mim [xii–xiii]; and Muhammad al-Siba‘i, “Kalimat al-mutarjim,” in Qissat al-madinatayn, ta’lif Sharlz Dikinz (Cairo: Matba‘at al-Bayan, 1912), 1: alif [1: i].

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50. [Evelyn Baring], Earl of Cromer, Modern Egypt (New York: Macmillan, 1908), 2: 525. 51. [Rifa‘a Rafi‘ al-Tahtawi], trans., Nazm al-‘uqud f i kasr al-‘ud: La lyre brisée, dithyrambe de M. Agoub, traduit en vers arabes par le cheykh Réfaha (Paris, ah 1242/1827), 18. 52. According to Hassan, “Translational literature … undercuts the myth of autonomous cultural and civilizational identities”; The Map of Love epitomizes it. “Agency,” 756–7. 53. See Soueif, Map, 491.

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Chapter 4 D r i n k i n g, G a m bl i n g a n d M a k i n g M e r r y : Wa g u i h G h a l i ’ s S e a rch fo r C o s m o p o l i t a n A ge n c y 1 Deborah A. Starr

c o n s t e l lat i o n s Wag u i h g h a l i ’ s s e a rc h F o r c o s m o p o l i ta n ag e n c Y

In 1964 a previously unknown Anglophone Egyptian writer, Waguih Ghali, published his first and only novel, Beer in the Snooker Club.2 The novel depicts the conflicted allegiances of a Francophone, British-educated Copt known as Ram. The protagonist identifies with British culture, but also recognizes that the same civilization that produced great thinkers and writers also produced and imposed colonial rule over Egypt. Likewise, he maintains a fraught relationship with the Egyptian revolutionary regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser,3 supporting its socialist, anti-colonial platform, but opposing its repressive policies. At the time of its publication, Beer in the Snooker Club received positive reviews in major British and American publications such as the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker, and received further commendations upon its republication in 1987 and in 2010.4 Yet, as the interest in postcolonial literatures peaked in the American and British academies in the 1990s, Beer in the Snooker Club attracted little scholarly interest, never entering the postcolonial canon.5 One critic, Rasheed El-Enany, goes so far to argue that Beer in the Snooker Club has little insight to offer on the cultural encounter between East and West—a characteristic commonly attributed to postcolonial literature.6 Beer in the Snooker Club was also long overlooked by the Egyptian literary and academic establishments. The novel’s political content would have prevented its publication or circulation in Egypt—in English or in Arabic (or, for that matter, in French)7—during Nasser’s lifetime.8 Further, in the period of critical reinvestigation of Nasser’s policies following the president’s death in 1970, Waguih Ghali, if remembered at all, was disparaged in Egypt for his unpopular visit to Israel as a journalist for the British press in the

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wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.9 Beer in the Snooker Club circulates within Anglophone academic circles in Egypt,10 where in the 1990s it experienced a modest revival of interest that could be ascribed to the broader renewal of interest in Egypt’s multicultural past,11 and to the popularity and success of another Anglophone Egyptian writer, Ahdaf Soueif. Nevertheless, for forty years following its publication in English, Beer in the Snooker Club remained inaccessible to all but this small, fringe readership in Egypt. The first translation of the novel into Arabic was published in 2006.12 However, it would be a mistake to attribute the marginalization of the novel solely to historical and linguistic circumstances. What has rendered Beer in the Snooker Club unpopular, or indeed unreadable, among scholars of Anglophone postcolonial literature and Egyptian literature alike is not its unambiguous political posturing, but rather its indeterminacy, particularly in its construction of Egyptian identity. The nuances of identity in Ghali’s cosmopolitan Egypt in which Moslems, Christians, Jews, Turks, and Armenians claim equal access to “Egyptianness” are inaccessible to contemporary readers in both the metropole and in Egypt for their own respective reasons.13 This chapter takes these sites of indeterminacy in Ghali’s work as its point of departure. I maintain that it is not through a nationalist lens, nor through the mediated binaries of postcoloniality, but rather through the notion of the cosmopolitan that the novel becomes “readable.” The American Heritage Dictionary offers the following definitions of “cosmopolitan”: “1. Pertinent or common to the whole world: an issue of cosmopolitan import. 2. Having constituent elements from all over the world or from many different parts of the world: the ancient and cosmopolitan societies of Syria and Egypt.” The former definition constitutes the basis of cosmopolitanism as a prescriptive, universalist, even utopian, political discourse, and the latter reflects a descriptive locatedness that one could describe as particularist. It is through these two definitions of the term, contradictory as they are, that Beer in the Snooker Club can be read. On the one hand, Ram searches for political expression as a “citizen of the world,” in the cosmopolitan universalist terms laid out by the first definition, and he identifies as a member of the rapidly disappearing cosmopolitan Egyptian society that had during his lifetime been comprised of “constituent … elements from many different parts of the world.” As a term of political philosophy, “cosmopolitanism,” a universalism not bounded by geopolitics, has an anxious and overdetermined history. Derived from sources in the Stoics and in the work of Immanuel Kant, in nineteenth-century political philosophy “cosmopolitanism” took on the loaded valence as the foil to “patriotism,” and “cosmopolitan” often served as

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an anti-Semitic epithet. If in this inherited meaning cosmopolitanism posed a threat to the nationalist Right, the notion has proved equally problematic for the Left because of the implied detachment of “cosmopolitans” from political involvement on the local level. Nevertheless, through the 1990s and early 2000s, the notion of cosmopolitanism, in its multiple valences, gained cultural currency, and took on an activist stance. Such diverse thinkers as Martha Nussbaum, Julia Kristeva, Bruce Robbins, David Harvey, and Seyla Benhabib engaged with and reformulated the notion.14 Although these theorists’ articulations of “cosmopolitanism” differ and often conflict, they nevertheless share an interest in transcending the violence done in the name of nations, nationalism, and national interest, and by extension other essentializing, parochial discourses. These works also attempt to create constituencies or loose affiliative communities in a global network of unevenly distributed resources without resorting to problematic discourses of universalism. Ghali’s work, I argue, demonstrates a similar search for an activist cosmopolitanism from which to oppose the particularities of parochial nationalism and the universals of imperialism.15 In the latter use of the term popularized by historians, “cosmopolitan” refers to a universal space, cosmopolis, in which people and cultures come into contact.16 While there is, without a doubt, a long history of fluid intercultural contact in the Mediterranean basin, “cosmopolitanism” in its particularly modern form refers to a contingent and finite historical period, which in the Egyptian context lasted from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century,17 a period also characterized by European imperial interests in and influence on Egypt. Although intercultural contact existed at multiple levels of the society, the term “cosmopolitanism” is most frequently applied to the upper classes who interacted at the exclusive social clubs and the European cafes, and who sent their children to Western-style schools—the milieu which Ghali inhabited, and in which his novel is set. Beer in the Snooker Club centers on the 1956 Suez Conflict and its aftermath, a period in which this milieu was losing its power and influence. This was particularly true for the non-citizen minorities, like the Greeks, Italians, and Jews. The legal situation for foreign minorities in Egypt had begun to change in 1937 with the repeal of legal privileges that had previously been granted to foreign citizens. Through the following decades the situation of the foreign minorities continued to deteriorate. By the time the novel was published in 1964, the majority of the foreign minorities had left Egypt. In Beer in the Snooker Club, Ram experiences this demographic shift as a parochialization of national identity, which, as I argue, he resists by seeking out an activist cosmopolitan stance.

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In what follows, I begin my analysis by considering the relationship between cosmopolitanism and postcoloniality as represented in the novel. I argue that Ram finds the postcolonial “neither/nor, third space” represented by his friend Font not capacious enough to accommodate his cosmopolitan desires—both in their formulations as “local pluralism” and as “transnational political engagement.” Ram mocks Font’s mimetic, postcolonial subjectivity, depicted as a distorted parody of the idiom of the “Angry Young Man” reflected back at the metropole. In the second section I demonstrate how Ram rather sets his sights on destabilizing parochial discourses by attempting to redefine Egyptian national identity performatively. Edna, Ram’s benefactress, mentor, and lover, challenges the bases of his identity, introducing him to cosmopolitan possibilities of communism, a discourse that he also ultimately rejects.18 As discussed in the third section, Ram rather settles briefly on local interventions under the rubric of the universal, cosmopolitan discourse of human rights, before abandoning political engagement altogether. The questions Ram raises about cosmopolitan identities and the possibility of identifying sites of cosmopolitan agency continued to engage Ghali after the publication of the novel. In the final section I analyze fragments of a novel that Ghali was writing in the last two years of his life that further explore cosmopolitan identities, abandoning the situatedness provided by national identity altogether.19

Postcolonial Anger Ram, the protagonist of Beer in the Snooker Club, and his friend Font had together attended a British-style school in Egypt,20 living all the while in a genteel poverty whereby some wealthy relative or friend would, behind the scenes, make it possible for them to maintain a respectable social position. Edna Salva, the daughter of wealthy Jewish department store owners, befriends Ram and Font, students several years her junior, and ultimately pays their way to England to complete their education. At the outbreak of the Suez Crisis, Ram stays in England, while Font and Edna leave in disgust. Near the beginning of the novel, upon his return to Egypt some time after the conflict, Ram finds Font in “Arab clothes” sitting behind a barrow in the marketplace in Cairo.21 Font’s marketplace stall is an affront to the accepted social order—an order that Nasser’s social policies were attempting to restructure. His stall and traditional dress could signify both a romanticized socialism, and a pursuit of the undisputed native/national “authenticity” accorded to the fellah (peasant farmer). Yet, Ram reads the situation otherwise: “There he was then. Selling

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cucumbers. Cucumbers of all things. Of course I understood. He was Jimmy Porter. We had seen the play together in London and there he was, a degree in his pocket and selling cucumbers.”22 In the marketplace, Ram tricks Font into speaking English, which arouses the suspicion of the other vendors. His friends remove him “incoherent with rage” from the market and install him in a job at the snooker club where he “brush[es] the snooker tables with the Literary Supplement.”23 Jimmy Porter, to whom Font is likened, is the protagonist of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger first produced in 1956. In the play, Jimmy abandons his studies, and after attempting to enter various trades, eventually buys and operates a sweet stall in the marketplace. One critic identifies Jimmy as “an idiosyncratic site of exploration of the issues that bind and divide citizens of a nation in flux.”24 Historians and critics have situated the disempowerment, anger, and disillusionment characteristic of the idiom of the “Angry Young Men” within the context of both domestic and international politics arising during and in the aftermath of World War II.25 The Labour government’s efforts to establish the infrastructure of a welfare state, primarily the 1944 Education Act, opened up the possibility of economic advancement to the lower and working classes. However, the previous class-based system of privilege was never dismantled, and with the shrinking economy experienced in the postwar years, and the need to assimilate into the domestic economy those returning from military service, both from the front, and from the areas of contracting empire, the opportunities for advancement decreased.26 In what could be identified as an expression of such frustration, Jimmy delivers his fiercest verbal attacks to his wife who hails from a middle-class family itself alienated from its own culture through her father’s lengthy service in India. It is during the period of such dislocations that works such as Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, to whom Ghali’s Font is also likened, appear and to which they respond. Font, like Jimmy Porter, is over-educated and under-employed. Font, too, straddles cultural fault lines made evident by social transformations following WWII and the contraction of empire. Yet, the dislocations he experiences are magnified by his identifications with two societies in flux: England and Egypt. Through Font the novel demonstrates that the frustrations directed against economic contractions are not entirely a domestic concern; the same processes that brought about dissatisfaction and underemployment in the metropole are being experienced in the former colony, as an outgrowth of the postcolonial condition. Font’s disillusionment, expressed as a mimicking of the idiom of the metropole, stems from his alienation from both cultures.

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According to Homi Bhabha, this ability to mimic the colonizer undermines its site of privilege, “mocks its power to be a model, that power which supposedly makes it imitable.”27 Font remains disengaged from the realities of the Egyptian condition; his intellectual concerns and political commitments remain oriented toward Britain, a position that Ram finds “ludicrous.”28 Font exists somewhere between the two realms in the neither/nor space of the mimetic colonial subject; in his “ludicrous” state he becomes the object of the “mockery” his own displacement enacts. Ram reflects on Font’s orientation, and on the intellectual and cultural development of postcolonial Egypt: I finished two pints of […] Bass which makes me comfortable and allows my Oriental brain to wonder over non-Oriental things such as Font, and other Fonts I’ve known, and even the Font that I am myself at times. Fonts who are not Keir Hardies29 but Jimmy Porters in the Egyptian Victorian age; Fonts who are not revolutionaries or leaders in the class struggle, but polished products of the English “Left,” lonely and without lustre in the budding revolution of the Arab world.30 The lusterless refinement (and idealized assimilation of a notion of fair play) procured through a British education and a studied involvement in polite political debates is entirely out of place in the discursive shifts and the sociopolitical revolutions underway throughout the Arab world.31 The references in Beer in the Snooker Club to the “Angry Young Men” movement function as a double writing back, responding simultaneously to British and Egyptian political and economic contexts. As a response to the metropole, Ghali’s novel attempts to shake up the self-reflexive, internalized impulse expressed in such works as Look Back in Anger and Lucky Jim by signaling the broad reach of the dislocations experienced in that period. In the Egyptian context, the references to these works could be seen as an attempt to shake Egyptian intellectuals out of their complacency as the “Angry Young Men” did within the British literary scene.

Tripartite Assault on Egyptian Identity Ram further explores the nature of a negotiated national identity that would disrupt the prevailing ethno-national parochialism. Ram offers three hedonistic models of Egyptian identity construction: drinking (beer), gambling (snooker), and making merry (jokes). This construction of Egyptianness is inherently performative, both in the literal performance of jokes and in the

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performance of identity through the acts of joking, drinking, and gambling. Ram posits models of identity intended to undermine the notion ethnonational-linguistically defined. Ram’s multicultural cocktail dubbed “Draft Bass” represents the multiplicity of his identifications. Ram describes his preparation of the drink: “I opened two bottles of Egyptian Stella beer and poured them into a large tumbler, then beat the liquid until all the gas had escaped. I then added a drop of vodka and some whisky. It was the nearest we could get to Draft Bass.”32 Although the concoction attempts to replicate (however poorly) their beloved English ale, it nevertheless represents something more than a mere tribute to Britain. This cocktail functions as much as a symbol of Nasser’s Egypt, as of the characters’ divided sympathies. After violently removing the buoyancy and life force of the Egyptian beer, Ram adds a drop of translucent but powerful (Soviet) vodka that packs the punch. Whisky, a spirit of Scottish origin, provides additional “life” and mellows the color. Ghali creates his cynical “tribute” to Britain from which all body and flavor is provided by a tradition adopted from the periphery. Thus, instead of consuming the English brew and the prefabricated cultural hegemony it represents as he had done in London, upon return to Egypt, Ram produces (and consumes) a more complex construction of himself influenced by, but not a product of, England. After pouring the first round of Bass, Ram remembers how he and Font used money won gambling in England to buy the silver mugs from which they are drinking. He reflects: We Egyptians are gamblers. Wherever Egyptians are gathered, you can be sure that sooner or later they’ll start gambling. It’s not that we want to win money or anything, we just like to gamble. We’re lazy and we like to laugh. It’s only when gambling that we are wide awake and working hard.33 Introduced by the cocktail construction of identity (and the way in which drinking becomes a part of that identity), Ram then makes a collective statement about gambling as a shared characteristic of Egyptians. This passage self-consciously plays into (mimes) orientalist discourse and constructions of the colonial subject, by his tongue-in-cheek evocation of the purportedly slovenly but jovial and impoverished native willing to try his luck at games of chance. The irony is not lost on the reader that the gambling taking place here is in England, not in Egypt, and that their fellow gamblers are Teddy boys and Irish laborers. This formulation of Egyptian identity as founded on drinking and gambling, two activities prohibited by Islam, flies in the

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face of predominant articulations of religiously inflected Egyptian ethnonationalism as well. Ram’s construction of Egyptian identity on the basis of humor is, in contrast, drawn from the Egyptian reputation throughout the Arab world as jokesters and comics, or ahl al-nukta. Ram insists to his friend Font that jokes constitute an important part of Egyptian culture, and the basis for a construction of Egyptian national identity: “The real trouble with us,” [Font] said […], “is that we’re so English it is nauseating. We have no culture of our own.” “Speak for yourself,” I said. “I can crack jokes with the best of Egyptians.” “Perhaps you’re right,” he said. “Perhaps our culture is nothing but jokes.” “No, Font, it isn’t. It’s just that we have never learnt Arabic properly.” […] “Then what do you mean by saying that cracking jokes is culture?” “What I mean is,” I replied, “that jokes to Egyptians are as much culture as calypso is to West Indians, or as spirituals and jazz to American Negroes. In fact […] it is no less culture than playing the organ is culture.”34 Ram maintains that a sense of humor asserts their Egyptianness, their notEnglishness. Ram sees jokes, like calypso, spirituals, and jazz as composite expressions of the cultures of subject peoples—a form of expression derided by the hegemonic cultures.35 In this sense, jokes function as a form of resistance. Throughout the novel jokes are directed against social inequalities in Egypt. As social commentary, Ram’s jokes often fall flat—his audience, the object of his jibes, does not appreciate his humor. For example, in the opening scene of the novel, Ram visits his wealthy aunt to ask for money. When he arrives she is signing over titles to land, pretending to give away property to comply with government land reform, but actually selling for cheap to cut her losses. Her friend Marie engages Ram in conversation: “Tell me,” she asked, “are you in business now?” I told her I had discovered a brand-new way of exploiting the fellah. All I needed was capital. “You mustn’t joke about such things, dearie,” she said.36 This particular joke, functioning like others in the novel, unmasks the underhand dealings of the wealthy classes who cry poverty. Always told at someone’s expense, jokes in the novel serve to expose power relations.

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Ram’s discussion with Font about humor defining Egyptian identity also establishes that Arabic is not necessary for access to Ram’s notion of Egyptianness. While it is implied in several scenes in the novel that Ram and Font speak the Egyptian dialect fluently, having attended a British school, they would likely not have mastered literary Arabic. As Ram’s status of notEnglish, not-Arab(ic) implies, his construction of Egyptianness is inclusive of those considered non-Egyptian, or “Egyptianized” by the regime. Indeed, another characteristic of the combined tripartite assault on the sovereignty of Egyptian identity (drinking, gambling, and making merry) is the nature of the multiculturalism that defines Egypt for Ram. Ram explains: Egypt to me is so many different things. Playing snooker with Doromian and Varenian the Armenians, is Egypt to me. Sarcastic remarks are Egypt to me—not only the fellah and his plight. Riding the tram is Egypt. Do you know my friend Fawzi? He can never give an answer that isn’t witty … and yet he isn’t renowned for it. He’s an ordinary Egyptian. Last week I was riding the tram with him when a man stepped on his foot. ‘Excuse me,’ said the man, ‘for stepping on your foot.’—‘Not at all,’ said Fawzi, ‘I’ve been stepping on it myself for twenty-seven years” … How can I explain to you that Egypt to me is something unconscious, is nothing particularly political, or … or … oh, never mind …37 In this passage Ram explicitly includes the Armenian shopowners who frequent the snooker club in his definition of Egypt (as are the wealthy croquetplayers in the Gezira Club whom he earlier grants as much legitimacy to “Egyptianness” as the fellah).38 The Armenians described as having “a good sense of humour” enjoy teasing Ram and Font about their British education.39 And, they bandy about grotesque jokes with Turkish members of the snooker club, each denigrating the other’s culture as they play and gamble together.40 These characters are thus located squarely within Egyptianness constructed as a joke. Furthermore, if we take Ram’s friend Fawzi at his word, we could, rather, envisage these jokes stepping on the toes, as it were, of those exclusivist discourses of national identity.

Cosmopolitan Jew While the novel portrays a vision of a disappearing pluralist nationalism, Ram struggles with, and ultimately rejects, the cosmopolitanism represented by Edna, the wealthy Jewish communist. Edna’s communist principles challenge Ram and the bases of his identity. As a multiply identified transnational

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subject seriously committed to (supranational) communist principles, Edna epitomizes the cosmopolitan subject. She became involved in an Egyptian communist organization after her family exerted its influence to interfere in an affair she was having with a fellah from her nurse’s village. They had him jailed for harassment, and then sent to the front in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war where he was killed. Out of duty to her principles, she married a Jewish comrade in danger of arrest, hoping that the privileges of her British citizenship would be extended to him. He was nevertheless jailed, tortured, and shot multiple times during an escape attempt. Upon his release, he was sent to Israel for care. Edna, however, chose to remain in Egypt. In asserting her Egyptianness by staying, she is assaulted by an Egyptian officer and brutally whipped across the face. In the Middle East, communist movements have historically functioned as voices of pluralist, anti-imperial nationalism. For example, Iskra, the largest communist organization in Egypt in the 1940s was founded by an Egyptian Jew, and served as an organization where Moslem, Coptic, and Jewish intellectuals mixed.41 A 1945 Iskra statement entitled “Ahdafuna al-wataniyya” (“Our Nationalist Objectives”) accused those advocating for the transformation of the Arab League into an Islamic League of “diverting attention away from the nationalist struggle against imperialism which is the foremost struggle for every Arab whether he is Moslem, Christian or Jew.”42 Even in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the various Egyptian communist organizations largely condemned the establishment of Israel, but also condemned the Arab governments’ treatment of their Jewish citizens.43 As such, communism in the context of Egyptian history as reflected in the novel supports both transnational political engagement and defense of pluralist nationalism, or put otherwise, defense of the nation as “cosmopolis.”44 Through her own understanding of communist principles, Edna views her Egyptianness as based not on religion, politics, or nationality, but rather on class. For Edna, the locus of authentic Egyptianness is the fellahin, to whom she introduces Ram for the first time.45 Edna acknowledges her own tendentious Egyptianness and also challenges Ram’s identifications on the same basis. At the same time, she also introduces him to discourses of the cosmopolitan. Ram describes the transformation he experiences under her tutelage as follows: The more we read, the more we wanted to learn and the more ignorant we felt. We learnt, for the first time, the history of British imperialism and why we didn’t want the British troops in the Suez Canal area. Up to then

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we had shouted ‘evacuation’ like everyone else, without precisely knowing why evacuation was so important. Gradually, we began to see ourselves as members of humanity in general and not just as Egyptians [italics added].46 Ram experiences this cosmopolitan purview as a burden rather than a liberating form of enlightenment. He laments: This terrible knowledge I possess […] All the literature I have read. You. This awareness of myself […] which started to afflict me as soon as I set foot in Europe. I see myself not only through Egyptian eyes, but through eyes which embrace the whole world in their gaze [italics added].47 His knowledge and political commitments lead him to join the communist party while living in England during the time of the Suez Crisis, and then to leave the party out of disillusionment. The only other option for a committed intellectual, according to Ram, is madness.48 Disaffected by the ineffectuality of the Communist Party in England, his only point of access to cosmopolitan agency, he returns to Egypt following the war in search of decentered situatedness from which he can act. Upon his return from England, Ram becomes involved in the dangerous activity of collecting data on torture in Egyptian prisons for a human rights organization. Despite his stated commitment to the project, and the risks he faces for his involvement, he nevertheless recognizes how the effort might, in its own way, be contributing to the violence: “I have the terrible feeling that some of the pictures wouldn’t be so gory if we didn’t pay for them.”49 This work nevertheless suits him. It is a local action on the basis of universal principles, “droits de l’homme,” and their findings are to be submitted to the United Nations. Although Ram muses on the way the prison hierarchy maintains old social structures despite the regime’s socialist agenda—communists, pacifists, and supporters of economic relations with Israel are tortured while the landowners are treated well—he never actually expresses any enthusiasm for class conflict or even significant social reform.50 Indeed, the appeal of communism for Ram is its pluralism, a characteristic, as described above, of the Egyptian communist parties in the first half of the twentieth century. Ram idealizes Dr Hamza who runs the human rights project for both his activism and his aristocratic mien: “He is active in his ideas and was once imprisoned by Farouk’s gang. […] I like Dr Hamza; as a matter of fact I’d like to be like him: well-dressed and soberly aristocratic and having been imprisoned for socialist views. I would not like to go to prison, but I’d like to have been” [original italics].51

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In embracing this new project, Ram rejects Edna’s cosmopolitanism, and denies her access to his reconstituted notion of Egyptianness on the basis of her humorlessness: You know, Edna, you are not Egyptian. Not because you are married to an Israeli or because you are Jewish; you are just not Egyptian. I’ll tell you why. Do you remember you told me once that I am not Egyptian because I belong to the élite, etc.? But I am Egyptian. Like Jameel and Yehia, I am a real Egyptian. I have our humour. Even though my “Egyptian” has been enfeebled by my stay in England and by the books I have read, I have the Egyptian character. You haven’t. […] You have no humour, Edna. We would all have died a long time ago if we didn’t have our humour.52 Communism, as Ram already knows, is no laughing matter. Yet in reading Martha Nussbaum’s discussion of Rabindrantath Tagore’s novel The Home and the World one hears an echo of Ram’s criticism. Nussbaum asserts that, on one level, “[i]n Tagore’s novel, the appeal to world citizenship fails. It fails because patriotism is full of color and intensity and passion, whereas cosmopolitanism seems to have a hard time gripping the imagination.”53 While Ram objects that the pictures he collects may be a tad too colorful, his commitment is grounded and the project material. However, he loses patience, too, with the project when Dr Hamza refuses to take action. When Ram determines without consultation that the organization has collected sufficient data, he copies the material and delivers it to members of the local press—but no one dares publish it.54 Having blown his cover, he is cut off from future operations. Finally convinced of the impossibility of his love for Edna, he agrees to marry Didi, a former lover who is from an aristocratic family. Didi is one of the newspaper editors who refuses to publish the data he sent, dismissing the accusations as overblown. At the end of the novel Ram appears to abandon his activist stance, embracing the comforts of a privileged lifestyle.

Infinite Ways of Being Waguih Ghali reportedly left Egypt in the late 1950s under threat of arrest for political activity. He was living in England when his passport expired, but he was not permitted to renew it outside of Egypt. He feared arrest were he to return to Egypt and he was also prohibited from remaining in England without valid papers.55 Ghali published a few personal narrative essays in The Guardian in 1958 and 1959 that document some of his experiences

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living in exile in Italy, Sweden, and Finland.56 Ghali began writing Beer in the Snooker Club while living in Stockholm. He was ultimately granted residency in Germany where he completed the novel. He returned to live in London in May 1966. Based on notes and textual fragments, Ghali appears then to have become engaged with the idea of a cosmopolitan subject unmoored from national identity. After his visit to Israel in 1967 as a journalist, he was publicly disavowed by the Egyptian government, actualizing the debate over access to national identity portrayed in his writings. Ghali reports in his diary on May 26, 1968: I must say what happened last week … and how I was shattered as a consequence. Akiva Orr, Bill Hillier and myself were to give a talk about Israel and Palestine at the LSE or rather, the School for Oriental and Islamic Culture [sic.]. The hall was packed—with Israelis, some Arabs and the rest English. Just as they had closed the door and the chairman came to introduce us, a chap from the back rose and said: “Excuse me please. Before you start, I would like to mention one important thing. On your posters you advertise Waguih Ghali as an Egyptian. I am a representative of the Egyptian Government. Mr Ghali is not Egyptian. He has defected to Israel.” I was completely and utterly furious—and yet the next few minutes were the only ones in which I was eloquent. I wiped the floor with the chap … “No one taking away a piece of paper—my passport—should think I would be another material inconsequence…” etc., etc. I was loudly applauded and the chap left. But afterwards, while Aki spoke (he was giving the main talk), I sat in my chair, drowned in an incomprehensible sorrow. It suddenly, after all these years, dawned upon me that not only had I had no “home” since the age of ten or so, but that I now also had no country. Why it was only now that it struck me—and why it should affect me so much—I cannot say. But it did, very much [original emphasis]. In unpublished fragments of a novel Ghali was working on at the time of this confrontation, we see an apparent effort to move beyond the discourses of citizenship and the nation, exploring a cosmopolitan identity constructed as splintered, hallucinatory and phantasmatic. Set in 1965, the extant fragments follow the thoughts and actions of Andre Ashl, a leftist intellectual living in West Germany. Ashl works for a publishing company, translating American popular novels into German. Relations between Ashl and his German wife, Gertrude, are strained over personal and cultural misunderstandings, differing political commitments, and the care of their young child.

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Cut off from his family at infancy as a result of his parents’ death in the Spanish Civil War, as an adult Ashl plays with the few details he knows of his past. Born in Barcelona, educated in France, Britain, and Germany, Ashl manipulates his family history to fit a given situation. A German official who assists him proposes his father could have been a German officer. To a British NATO commander, he offers the hypothesis that his father was a British official. To a co-worker in a German publishing house, he responds cagily to her inquiries about his origins, playing on her postwar sympathy for refugees. Just as with Ram in Beer in the Snooker Club, Ashl’s identity struggle weaves in and out of international politics: the Spanish Civil War, WWII and its aftermath, the Cold War, and the influx of the gastarbeiter into West Germany. Yet as a multilingual transnational, Ashl, even more than Ram, disrupts definitions of identity construction on the basis of nation, language, or ethnicity. Even his name is a site of indeterminacy. A German officer helps him choose his name, and he recommends “Ashl,” a nondescript name that could pass in any European culture: “Why Ashl?” I had asked the chief of police. “Why not?” he had answered. “It could pass for anything. Ashe– English. Ashel–French/Spanish. Ashl–German/Nordic. Ashi–Italian. Anything European.” Ashl and the German officer recognize that any identity is always an alias, and therefore shifting and contingent. Ashl perceives himself as a blank slate. Facing a world anticipating fixed identity, he adopts identities to shake his interlocutors out of complacency. To the Polish barmaid, the daughter of a Nazi officer put to death after the war, he claims to be a Jew named Andreia Asholom. He imagines himself “bearded, in black and reciting from an old parchment.” To the card-playing patrons of the bar, he is “Andaravios Achar, a Copt from Rue Nebi Daniel in Alexandria with his Greek mistress Marika.” He takes on these imaginary personae in private as well. When he suspects that his friend, a dissident he is hiding, has received a communiqué from an intelligence organization, he imagines himself a secret agent. He also imagines himself a Roman emperor, giving orders for the gladiators— all right-wing political figures—to enter the arena with the hungry lions: I am disappointed with the death of [Hendrick] Verwoerd. It was too quick. I am a just and idealist Roman Emperor. I am humility, justice, modesty, pacifism and sheer goodness all at once. Androcles Ashuis. I give

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the order for the starving lions to emerge in the arena beneath me. With penknives in their hands stand [Balthazar] Vorster, [Ian] Smith, [George] Wallace, [Nguyen Cao] Ky, Chiang Kai-Shek. Olé, Olé! Through such personae, the “Ashl novel” demonstrates an effort to explore a postnational agency, or an imagined cosmopolitan activism. The text, in its fragmentary state, mirrors its conception of identity. The “humanist discourse of rights” that characterizes some contemporary discourses of cosmopolitanism, as articulated by the editors of a special issue of Public Culture on cosmopolitanism, are “founded on the unique and inviolable presence of ‘human’ personhood,” potentially leading to a “fetishization of liberal individualism.”57 From the extant fragments of Ghali’s second novel, one senses that in moving beyond the “droits de l’homme” cosmopolitan discourse evident in Beer in the Snooker Club, he is also fracturing the privileging of the individual subject, and moving beyond the model of “world citizenship” to embrace a notion of cosmopolitanism described by the editors of Public Culture as “infinite ways of being.”58 Yet, given the fragmentary nature of the “Ashl novel” we are left to wonder if Ashl can move beyond Ram’s disempowerment, or rather, if this text is a representation of the cosmopolitan “madness” of the socially aware but uncommitted intellectual to which Ram alludes. For Ram the search for cosmopolitan agency leads to insanity or disillusionment; for Ashl, it resides in the realm of fantasy. Ghali’s work seeks sites of cosmopolitan agency, but in the final analysis, the question remains if there are, in fact, any viable alternatives.

Notes 1. An earlier version of this chapter previously appeared in Middle Eastern Literatures 9.3 (2006): 271–85, and is reprinted with permission from Taylor & Francis. This expanded version includes updated references and incorporates new scholarship and materials that have become recently available about Ghali’s work and life. I would like to thank Iman Mersal, Kimberly Chabot Davis, Waïl Hassan, and Marc Caplan for their comments on earlier drafts of this chapter. I would also like to thank Nouri Gana for the invitation to participate in this volume, and for his suggestions for revision. I am also very grateful to Elliot Shapiro for his ongoing support. 2. Waguih Ghali, Beer in the Snooker Club (London: André Deutsch, 1964). 3. In referring to Arabic proper names, I use the commonly accepted English spelling if one exists. All other Arabic names and titles are transliterated in accordance with the International Journal of Middle East Studies.

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4. Stephen Kroll, “Doubter on the Nile,” review of Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, Times Literary Supplement, February 20, 1964, 141; Ronald Bryden, “Out of the Cradle,” review of Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, New Statesman, February 21, 1964, 301; Martin Levin, “Futility Lurked at Every Corner,” review of Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, The New York Times Book Review, June 14, 1964, 4–5; Anthony West, “Playing the Game,” review of Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, New Yorker, September 12, 1964, 203. See also: James Marcus, “State of Shock,” review of Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, The Nation, March 12, 1988, 349–50; Rachel Aspden, review of Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, The Observer, December 4, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/dec/05/beerin-snooker-club-ghali-review; M. Lynx Qualey, “Beer in the Snooker Club: Egypt Then and Now,” review of Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, AGNI Online, June 2011, http://www.bu.edu/agni/reviews/online/2011/ qualey.html. The overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 prompted some readers to revisit the novel. Declaring the novel’s criticism of post-1952 Egypt “pertinent” to recent events, Helen Stuhr-Rommereim writes in Al-Masry Al-Youm (English edition) that the novel’s “themes echo a similar discourse that fills Cairo today,” Stuhr-Rommereim, “Revisiting Beer in the Snooker Club in Revolutionary Times,” review of Beer in the Snooker Club, by Waguih Ghali, Al-masry al-youm (English edition), July 24, 2011, http://www. egyptindependent.com/news/revisiting-beer-snooker-club-revolutionarytimes. Echoing this sentiment, Negar Azimi writes in the New York Times Book Review: “his tale presents uncanny parallels to today’s Egypt, where artists, intellectuals and youth at large are beginning to fashion a new cultural republic of sorts even as they also struggle to find their bearings.” Negar Azimi, “What do Egypt’s Writers Do Now?”, New York Times, September 11, 2011, Sunday Book Review, 35. Extended analysis of this discourse is beyond the scope of this chapter. However, such reflections on the novel in conjunction with the timely republication of the English original, as well as translation of the novel into multiple languages (Dutch (1990), Italian (2009), and Spanish (2012)) may reflect an international resurgence of interest in the novel. Waguih Ghali, Bier in de snookerclub, trans. Paul Heijman (Amsterdam: Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 1990); Birra e biliardo al Cairo, trans. P. Briganti (Rome: Gremese, 2009); Cerveza en el club de snooker, trans. Güido Sender Montes (Barcelona: Sajalin Editores, 2012). 5. At the time of writing, I am aware of only two other academic articles in the English published in the West—both read Beer in the Snooker Club in a comparative context: Allen Hibbard, “Cultural Upheaval and Fictional Form: Three Novelistic Responses to Nasser’s Egypt,” in Liminal Postmodernisms: The Postmodern, the (Post-)Colonial, and the (Post-)Feminist, ed. Theo D’haen and Johannes Bertens (Amsterdam, Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994), 317–29; and John McDonald, “Psychic Occupation: Western Narrative Style in Beer in the

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6. 7. 8. 9.

10. 11.

12.

13.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h Snooker Club and Season of Migration to the North,” International Journal of Arabic-English Studies 5 (2004): 19–32. The novel also receives brief mention in Derek Hopwood, Sexual Encounters in the Middle East (Reading: Ithaca Press, 1999), 261–2. Rasheed El-Enany, Arab Representations of the Occident: East-West Encounters in Arabic Fiction (London: Routledge, 2006), 84–6. A year after the novel’s publication, a French translation was published in Paris under the title Les Jeunes Pachas, trans. Elisabeth Janvier (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1965). For a discussion of censorship under Nasser see Stagh, The Limits of Freedom of Speech: Prose Literature and Prose Writers in Egypt Under Nasser and Sadat. (Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell International, 1993). Ghali spent six weeks in Israel between July and September 1967 from where he filed two reports printed in The Times: “An Egyptian Watches Arab Anger Rise,” The Times (London), August 10, 1967, 6; and “An Egyptian’s Report from Israel,” The Times (London), September 1, 1967, 9. He also presented an editorial on the BBC radio’s “Third Programme” in December 1967, which was published in The Listener: “An Egyptian in Israel,” The Listener, January 11, 1968, 50–2. For example, see Nadia Gindi, “The Gift of Our Birth: An Image of Egypt in the Work of Waguih Ghali,” in Images of Egypt in Twentieth Century Literature, ed. H. Gindi (Cairo: Cairo University English Department, 1991), 423–34. The publication of the translation of Beer in the Snooker Club follows a trend beginning in the 1990s toward translating previously unavailable works by Francophone and Anglophone Egyptians, as, for example, undertaken in special issues of al–Qahira (February 1995) and Ibda‘ (December 1996). Also translated in these years were works representing Egypt’s cosmopolitan past written by foreign minorities and by foreigners living in Egypt, including, respectively, the translations in 1992 and 1993 of poems by the Alexandrian-Greek poet Cavafy, and the first complete translation of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet in 1993. For more on this trend, see Deborah Starr, Remembering Cosmopolitan Egypt (London: Routledge, 2009). Bira fi nadi al-bilyardu, trans. Mahir Shafiq Farid and Hana’ Nasir. (Cairo: Dar al-‘alam al-thalith, 2006). Another translation of the novel into Arabic by Iman Mersal and Reem al-Rayyes was published in 2013: Bira fi nadi al-bilyardu, trans. Iman Mersal and Reem al-Rayyes (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq, 2013). A comparison to the contemporaneous Arabic novel Mawsim al-hijra ila alshamal [Season of Migration to the North] first published in 1966 by Sudanese author Tayeb (al-Tayib) Salih may prove instructive at this juncture. In contrast to Beer in the Snooker Club, Salih’s work has become a standard text for courses in world literatures, African literature, and postcolonial studies. Unlike the indeterminacies of Ghali’s novel, Salih’s powerful narrative explores the violent after-effects of the colonial encounter and the internalization of conflict between European urban and Sudanese village culture. While its conclusion is fraught

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15.

16.

17.

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with uncertainty, the North-South poles to which the characters are drawn are clearly articulated, and thus comprehensible to both postcolonial Arab readers and readers of the English translation in the metropole. For further comparison of the two texts see McDonald, “Psychic Occupation.” For further discussion of Salih’s work, see Makdisi, “The Empire Renarrated: Season of Migration to the North and the Reinvention of the Present,” Critical Inquiry 18, no. 4 (1992), 804–20,” and Waïl Hassan, Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2003). See, for example: Martha Nussbaum, “Patriotism or Cosmopolitanism,” in For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, ed. J. Cohen (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1996), 2–17; Julia Kristeva, Nations without Nationalism, trans. L. Rudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993); Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, trans. L. Rudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991); Bruce Robbins, Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (London, New York: Verso, 1993); Bruce Robbins, “Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism,” in Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, ed. Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 1–19; David Harvey, “Cosmopolitanism and the Banality of Geographical Evils,” Public Culture 12, no. 2 (2000), 529–64; and Seyla Benhabib, The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). While Ghali’s cosmopolitan views may have been out of step with the Egyptian mainstream, he shared a sense of political activism with his Arabic-writing contemporaries. It is difficult to ascertain exactly how well Ghali read Arabic and what works written in Arabic, if any, might have influenced his thinking and writing. Ghali was apparently engaged in political activism prior to his departure from Egypt in 1958 and as a result would have been well aware of contemporary Egyptian intellectual if not literary trends. Much has been written about political commitment in Arabic literature, particularly of the period in which Ghali wrote. Mustafa Badawi maps the rise of the notion of iltizam (a translation of Sartre’s “engagement”) and identifies it as an important theme in Arabic literature beginning in the 1950s: Badawi, “Commitment in Contemporary Arabic Literature,” in Arabic Literature and the West (Reading: Ithaca Press, 1985), 1–25. See also Jabra Jabra, “Modern Arabic Literature and the West,” in Critical Perspectives on Modern Arabic Literature, ed. Issa Boullata (Washington, DC: Three Continents, 1980), 7–23. See, for example, Roel Meijer, Introduction to Cosmopolitanism, Identity and Authenticity in the Middle East, ed. Roel Meijer (Surrey: Curzon Press, 1999), 1–2; and Robin Ostle, “Alexandria: A Mediterranean Cosmopolitan Center of Cultural Production,” in Modernity and Culture From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, ed. L. Fawaz and C. Bayly (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 314. As the title of their volume suggests, Ilbert and Yanakakis date the cosmopolitan

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18.

19.

20.

21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h period from 1860 to 1960. Robert Ilbert and Ilios Yanakakis, eds, Alexandria 1860–1960: The Brief Life of a Cosmopolitan Community (Alexandria: Harpocrates Publishing, 1997). The irony of viewing communism as a cosmopolitan discourse appears to be lost on Ghali. Communists, from Marx to Gramsci to Stalin, were very suspicious of cosmopolitans and their bourgeois transnational identifications. As I describe below, Ghali’s view of communism, in contrast, is cultural rather than ideological, derived from his experience in an Egyptian communist movement that was defined primarily by its anti-colonial and pluralist agenda. On December 26, 1968, Waguih Ghali swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. He died on January 5, 1969. Notes in Ghali’s diary indicate that he was working on the text, which he refers to as the “Ashl novel,” in the months before his death (vol. 6, April 17, 1968). There are two extant handwritten manuscripts which I have designated “Ashl A” (37 pp.), and “Ashl B,” (32 pp.) “Ashl B” contains editing notes in the author’s hand dated October 1967. I would like to thank Diana Athill, Ghali’s editor and friend, for granting me access to his papers and diaries, and for granting permission to Cornell University library to digitize and disseminate these materials. This digital archive is available at ghali.library. cornell.edu. Athill wrote a fictionalized account of her dealings with Ghali entitled After a Funeral (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1986). Implicitly Victoria College, which Ghali himself attended in 1944–7. Colin Clement, “From War to War,” in Victoria College: A History Revealed, ed. S. Hamouda and C. Clement (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2002), 185. Ghali, Beer in the Snooker Club, 15. Ibid. Ibid., 16. Quigley, “The Personal, the Political and the Postmodern in Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and Déjà Vu,” in John Osborne: A Casebook, ed. P. Denison (New York: Garland, 1997), 58. Bryden, “The House that Jimmy Built,” in John Osborne: A Casebook, 7. Ibid., 8–9. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London, New York: Routledge, 1994), 87–8. Ghali, Beer in the Snooker Club, 22. James Keir Hardie (1856–1915) was a British Labour leader and parliamentarian. Ghali, Beer in the Snooker Club, 20. Ibid., 57. Ibid., 17. Ibid. Ibid., 18. In keeping with his cosmopolitan anti-parochialism, Ram characteristically elides racialized discourse. This is exemplified by a confrontation with a racist landlord in London, who declares him “white enough.” Out of curiosity,

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36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44.

45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53.

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Ram pursues further the question of the racial categorization of Egyptians by going to a library. Ghali, Beer in the Snooker Club, 112. However, in the passage cited above, it is clear that the subject peoples to whom Ram refers are colored/black, situating Egypt and its anti-colonial struggle squarely within the routes mapped by Paul Gilroy in the Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993). As Vitalis has pointed out, W. E. B. Du Bois noted the parallels as well, likening the status of American blacks in the Jim Crow south to the unequal system of privileges upheld by the British administration of Egypt prior to the 1919 revolution and the 1937 Montreux Convention. Vitalis, “Alexandria without Illusions” (paper presented at Cosmopolitan Alexandria Symposium, Cornell University, October 21, 2002). Ghali, Beer in the Snooker Club, 13. Ibid., 190. Ibid., 129. Ibid., 19. Ibid., 145. Joel Beinin, The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry: Culture, Politics, and the Formation of a Modern Diaspora (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 143. Tareq Ismael and Rif ’at Sa‘id, Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920–1988 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1990), 91. Cited in ibid., 103–4. For a discussion of the place of Jews in the Egyptian communist movement, see Rami Ginat, A History of Egyptian Communism: Jews and Their Compatriots in Quest of Revolution (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2011). For further analysis of the regional, transnational origins of radical thought through World War I, see Ilham Khoury-Makdisi, The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism 1860–1914 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). Ghali, Beer in the Snooker Club, 53. Ibid., 52–3. Ibid., 191. Ibid., 189. Ibid., 177. Ibid., 150. Ibid., 17. Ibid., 185. Nussbaum, “Patriotism or Cosmopolitanism,” 15. Robbins identifies a similar resistance to cosmopolitanism among various leftist political theorists: “The most general form of the case against cosmopolitanism on the left is the assumption that to pass outside the borders of one’s nation, whether by physical travel or merely by thoughts and feelings entertained while one stays at home, is to wallow in a privileged and irresponsible detachment. […] For a tradition that would include Gramsci and Fanon, though in each case with interesting

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54.

55. 56.

57. 58.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h complications, cosmopolitan identification with the human race serves as the thin, abstract, undesirable antithesis to red-blooded, politically engaged nationalism.” Robbins, “Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism,” 4. Although censorship of the press was officially abolished by the 1956 constitution, structures of informal censorship persisted. Four private publishing houses remained in operation until their nationalization in 1960, but as early as 1958 the regime required the owners and editors-in-chief to submit to oversight by the National Union. Stagh, The Limits of Freedom of Speech, 20–2. Ahdaf Soueif, “Goat Face,” review of After a Funeral, by Diana Athill, London Review of Books, July 3, 1986, 11. Waguih Ghali, “Lessons for Mr Luigi,” Guardian (Manchester), April 21, 1958, 5; “Culture for the Daimler,” Guardian (Manchester), November 24, 1958, 5; “The Writers,” Guardian (Manchester), January 29, 1959, 7; “An Indian Courier,” Guardian (Manchester), March 16, 1959, 5; and “Captains of My Ship,” November 12, 1959, 9. Sheldon Pollock, Homi Bhabha, Carol Breckenridge, and Dipesh Chakrabarty, eds, “Cosmopolitanisms,” Introduction, Public Culture 12.3 (2000), 581. Ibid., 588.

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Chapter 5 M o b i l e B e l o n g i n g ? T h e G l o b a l “ G ive n ” i n t h e Wo rk o f E t e l A d n a n Mary N. Layoun

c o n s t e l lat i o n s t h e g lo ba l “ g i v e n ” i n t h e Wo r k o F e t e l a d na n

What is here?: a place or an idea, a circle focused in God’s eye, a cosmic wave’s frozen frame, transient, doomed? Here, where the heat mollifies, when the body surrenders before solicitations could reach it, and there, where the temperature boils the mind and makes it explode into sudden action; here is the point of no return …1 There, as far as my eyes can recognize a dot from a fly I see my accumulated journeys. Have I visited your country? Which one? For how long? Do you claim any place as your own?2 The modern novel registered a perceptual shift in literary narrative of the role of the ordinary subject and of the everyday, of the everyday language of that narrative, of the relation between narrator and narratee (the audience or reader suggested by the novel and to whom it is internally addressed). Its emergence coincided with material shifts in textual publication, circulation and consumption that both shaped and allowed the flourishing of the new genre as well as with rising literacy rates.3 And the emergence of the modern novel was situated in a historical moment decisively defined by the sometimes rapid, other times halting spread around the world of a diverse and adaptive capitalism. Imperialism and colonial expansion were central to that movement and exemplary of it. Concomitant with that increasingly wide movement were the uneven industrialization and development of some parts of the world and attendant under-development of others, the institution of nation-states for whom public education and the military became important sites of social re-production, and also intellectual projects that sought autonomous and objective inquiry into putatively universal tenets of law, morality, art. Since the last decades of the twentieth century, as this

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network of modern, modernizing, modernist projects has “succeeded,” the reach of that complex network across the globe has intensified.4 And this intensification of reach has been accompanied by an intensification of internal contradictions in that network of projects. It is on a latter-day rendition of this very large canvas that the small history of the “Arab novel in English” is located—scattered across geographic locations, ingathered by a language—English, a genre—the novel, and an adjectival modifier (however vexed)—“Arab.” In the early twenty-first century, the publication, circulation and consumption of the “Arab novel in English” is certainly marked by a near obsessive fascination “in English” with the “Arab” and particularly with the gendered “Arab”; there can be no meaningful account of the “Arab novel in English”—at least of its publication, distribution, circulation, and reception—without that qualification.5 If the novel emerged and developed in various languages and from various sources, not only its textual language and often diverse source(s) but the location of its production was a crucial aspect of its rise and flourishing. It was also a crucial aspect of the very form and content of the novel.6 The material location of the publication and distribution of a literary text but also quite literally the location of its production as a literary text—of the author, of its authorial, sociocultural context, literary counterparts—is an important aspect of understanding that historical moment as well as the literary construct of the novel. In the early twenty-first century, however, the national, the regional, even the international have shifted in concept and practice. In the context of the contemporary “global,” it is perhaps not impertinent to ask what makes an “Arab novel in English” an “Arab” novel? What is its location or, more appropriately, locations—of production, of circulation, of reception and consumption? What are its contexts of meaning? It is at least nominally clear what an Arabic novel is. At a minimum, it is a novel written in the Arabic language. With that literary language comes a host of not always reliable assumptions about ‘location’—of author, of story and narrative focus, of literary reference, of publication, of audience—and about its contexts of meaning. In parallel fashion, we know nominally what an English novel is—though assumptions are not always reliable in that literary instance either. But, in distinction to “English” or “French” the very category of the “Anglophone” or “Francophone” points at the literary and cultural (not to mention political) redefinitions that followed in the wake of colonialism and its overthrow—or at least transformation—in the mid-twentieth century. The category of the Anglophone novel indicates a language but not a location. The “Arab novel in English” indicates a language, English. But it points at something else in the phrase “Arab novel.” What is the weight of the

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adjectival modifier in that phrase?7 What is its relation to the genre which it modifies? One response may be that the “Arab novel in English”—or, as I will suggest, Etel Adnan’s Of Cities and Women below—is an illustrative instance of some of the larger forces at work at the moment and on the landscape of which the “Arab novel in English” is a significant signpost. The politico-cultural context of earlier novels was often located spatially and informed at least figuratively by some version of local or regional nationalism—even if only as implicit backdrop for the narrative frame or its production of stories. This was so even though, or perhaps because, mobility and migration were already a potent social and cultural (and economic) force in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But such location or backdrop are decisively modified in the diversification and fragmentation of late-capitalist globalization. Mobility and migration have intensified, if unevenly, and acquired quite different material and figurative meanings. Locations of context and of “origin” have simultaneously proliferated and grown more shallowly rooted—certainly in a single place or even in the binary of two juxtaposed places, as in hyphenated categories of identification. The “here” and “there” of earlier migrant and ethnic fictions in which the narrator and her stories were strangers to one place because she came from another is complicated by the strangeness of a global present that exists in both here and there. Even some of the most compelling and accomplished Arab/ic narratives of specific place—the novels of Naguib Mahfouz or Abdelrahman Munif for well-known examples—are nonetheless distinctively marked by this multiplication of locations and of a “strangeness” which pervades those sites. In this context, Etel Adnan’s epistolary narrative,8 Of Cities and Women: Letters to Fawwaz,9 is a powerful address and challenge to the reading proclivities of the Anglophone and the Arab/ic worlds, to the boundaries of narrative form, to the histories embedded in those reading proclivities and boundaries, and to a global, “postcolonial” world for which mobility and multiplicity of location have generated imponderable obstacles to social connection, to apprehension of a larger map, to comprehension of both mobility and situatedness. So too, at least in some locations on the map, they have generated apparently imponderable obstacles to engagement with and intervention in the intolerable conditions of the twenty-first century. In this context, I would suggest that Etel Adnan’s literary work in general, and her epistolary narrative Of Cities and Women in particular, offers a compelling and provocative imaginary landscape on and with which to think the “Arab X in English”—whether the “X” is the novel, gender, the postcolonial, or the modern. If not exactly a novel itself, it is a powerful narrative reflection on some of the constitutive components of the “Arab novel in English.”

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It is a powerful narrative reflection, as well, on some of the constitutive components of the modern novel in general.10 Poet, artist, writer, cultural and social critic, political activist, Etel Adnan was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon to Christian Greek and Muslim Syrian parents. Greek and Turkish were the languages of her home, French the language of her education. Adnan attended a French convent school, worked for the French Information Bureau, and in 1949 left Lebanon to study philosophy at the Sorbonne. In 1955, she moved to the U.S., did postgraduate work in philosophy in Berkeley and by 1958 began teaching at Dominican College in San Rafael California. Adnan would move back and forth between California, Paris and Beirut over the next six decades, expanding the vision of her initial work in poetry to painting and visual art and narrative. These exquisite accidents of birth and biography are a part of the poetic web of connections which all of Adnan’s work traces—connections in which philosophy, poetry, imaginative memoir, and fiction complicate the domination of form, of location, of individual identity so prominent in the U.S. imagination. Adnan’s work as a whole and Of Cities and Women in particular are also a subtle address to questions of identity and recognition,11 to the disassembling and reassembling of poetic craft, to Adnan’s visual and literary artistic oeuvre—pluri-lingual, pluri-located, pluri-perspectival. The poetic epistolary narrative of Of Cities and Women in particular recognizes and responds to the challenge of the multiplication of locations and of pervasive strangeness. It figures in its poetic text, and responds to, the landscape of a reconfigured U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, a persistent misunderstanding of Islam, and a near-obsessive focus on women in Islam and in the Middle East. This occurs neither in a giddy exultation of multiplicity of location nor in a simple despair at the often horrific grimness of the landscape. Rather, in its delicate and fragile but stubborn artfulness, Adnan’s work figures an imaginative network of connection and inter-relation. Of Cities and Women offers a fiction of apprehending, of comprehending, and living in—perhaps, even of belonging to and intervening in—those multiple locations. The binaries of “easts” and “wests” or “occidents” and “orients” are crisscrossed so frequently that, though hardly erased, they are at least problematized as signposts on the landscape. In Adnan’s narrative work, the familiar landscapes of the novel or the memoir – in their realist12 or modernist13 incarnations—are reshaped into a poetic narrative fiction of memory, keen observation, reflection, and the gentle but persistent assertion of a web of connections among peoples, images, pasts, presents. The power of this poeisis or poetic making in Of Cities and Woman, in any literary text, is a fragile figment of the imaginary.

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It is not “real” and it cannot be simply marshaled as a blueprint. Yet and still, it can be, perhaps even because of that fragility, powerfully compelling and suggestive. Etel Adnan’s narrative oeuvre includes fiction, non-fiction, epistolary prose, and near-epic lists in the form of prose narrative. Her lifelong and wide-ranging experiments in verbal narrative form, inflected by her equally compelling work in visual art and in poetry, are a persistent exploration of gendered subjects and communal belonging in the content of those narrative forms. Both those diverse narrative forms and the stories they frame and tell constitute a late or “post”-modernist challenge to and an expansion of more traditional definitions of the novel. Adnan’s rewriting of narrative form and, within that reconfigured form, of stories of gendered citizenship on a globalized twenty-first-century landscape lacerated by uneven access, uneven mobility, and differentially situated violence both traces that landscape and makes a subtle but insistent claim for connectedness and relationship across it, for another way of mapping that landscape. It is a claim for seeing more than just the immediate and the familiar, more than just mass images or radical close-ups of the distant stripped of the context that situates them. It is an effort fraught with limitation and contradiction. But Adnan’s lifetime of poetic work inhabits a thoughtful and wise artistic vision and intervention—and that not only of or in the “Arab novel in English.” The unique accomplishment of Adnan’s epistolary narrative, Of Cities and Women, is strikingly apparent in juxtaposition not just with the accomplishments of the “Arab novel in English” but also with other and nonliterary works that take up many of the same concerns as the sequence of nine letters which constitutes her narrative. William Greider opens his One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism with a chapter entitled, “The Storm upon Us.”14 There, notwithstanding the rhetoric of near catastrophe of his title, he attempts to trace the broad sweep of the concept of globalization. In offering a preliminary definition of that concept and process, he situates it in a now familiar fashion as: “... modern capitalism driven by the imperatives of global industrial revolution ... a free-running economic system that is re-ordering the world.”15 And he points to the dynamism and ungovernability of the process of globalization: Like revolutions of the past, [it] is fueled by invention and human ingenuity and a universal aspiration to build and accumulate. But it is also driven by a palpable sense of insecurity. No one can be said to control the energies of unfettered capital, not important governments or financiers, not dictators or democrats.16

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The essence of this industrial revolution, like others before it, is that commerce and finance have leapt inventively beyond the existing order and existing consciousness of peoples and societies.17 Greider’s account, as his subtitle “the manic logic of global capitalism” indicates, locates a single if complexly-configured generative cause for globalization and even more complexly configured and multiple effects of globalization. He traces globalization’s effects on international communications, on information regimes, on the autonomy (or lack thereof) of the nation-state, on the situations of workers, citizens, immigrants, and indigenous peoples. Neither simply deploring nor celebrating globalization, Greider insists on its complexity of cause and of its processes and effects. And he insists on the necessity for a matching complexity of responses to what he characterizes as globalization’s “uncontrolled energies.” “To visualize this great drama [of globalization] in its full dimensions” and to “influence its behavior,”18 Greider insists, “one must also see the people.”19 The list is long of directions towards which to look to “see the people” living their lives in the rush of globalization and its effects. They are directions to the far and the very near. Wherever their location, those lives lived are not simply ones of gleeful play in global fields for global financiers and consumers. Nor are they simply ones of noisy desperation or quiet terror for the rest of a world dominated by global capital.20 Etel Adnan’s Of Cities and Women is equally if differently—figuratively, poetically—a parallel call, and a response, to Greider’s call to visualize the “great drama” of people living in the rush of globalization and its effects. The “letters to Fawwaz” of Adnan’s narrative trace a powerful network of insights into the complex relationships of a gendered global. Relationships of the particular to the universal, the personal to the collective, the local to the meta-local that have dogged both feminist theory and theorists of and responses to globalization are imaginatively configured in Adnan’s epistolary narrative. But, and more importantly, as literature—imaginary, unreal, impossible, irreducible to an equation of social or political content—Adnan’s Of Cities and Women offers, in its very condition of poetic impossibility and fictionality, a different articulation of the tensions and antagonisms but also of the possibilities in the extra-literary world. For, as Frederic Jameson has suggested about globalization, its “tension and antagonism” are “necessarily symbolic [and] express themselves in a range of collective Imaginaries.”21 A late-modern literary text, then, might be a more than less likely location for a critical rendering of globalization’s tensions. It might also be a more than less likely location for the imaginative rendering of ways of apprehending

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and comprehending, and of imagining how to live with, those tensions and antagonisms. And it might also be a location for imagining how to challenge them. One of the crucial contradictions of globalization is the generation of a surface particularization and fragmentation at the same time that new and stronger forces of integration are generated at another level. In his The Consequences of Modernity, Anthony Giddens defines globalization as “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.” It is “a process of uneven development that fragments as its coordinates.” 22 In the context of Adnan’s epistolary narrative, there are two facets of Giddens’ account of globalization that are especially pertinent. The first is his characterization of globalization as that process which simultaneously fragments (or particularizes) and coordinates (or sets in relation). This work of globalization contours the landscape over which the narrator of Of Cities and Women moves. And her itinerary across that landscape, as her nine letters, traces this simultaneous fragmentation and forcible forging of connection. In reading literature, we learn over and over that the surface is seldom simply what it claims or appears to be. Literary language is predicated precisely on meanings that lie beyond the surface or the commonplace, while simultaneously making sense in that commonplace or on that surface. Adnan’s narrator writes, “Everything seems to be given on the surface of things.”23 Yet this demure claim of surface meanings and appearances— while not simply dismissible—is clearly not the case as the narrative unfolds. And in that gradually revealed insight is embedded a second noteworthy facet of Giddens’characterization of globalization as an interlinked process in which local events are produced by distant events. And—Giddens’ “vice versa”—distant events are no less significantly shaped by local ones. This might at first glance appear to be a contradictory insistence on events that are—though not only—local or particular. But in fact, the processes of globalization have intensified and exacerbated the contradictions of relations between the local and the meta-local, the particular and the universal. This shaping of the local by the distant is nowhere more patently evident than in the Gulf War,24 which forms one of the “events” of Adnan’s narrative. But in many more subtle and complex ways the impact of the distant on the local and (always selective) “vice versa”—via foreign policy, mass media, advertising, communications technology—is the very terrain over which the narrator and letters of Of Cities and Women moves and on which it reflects. This problematic of spatial relations suggests David Harvey’s

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now-familiar formulation of the “time-space compression” of the modern (and post-modern). That is the radical shrinking of distances and spaces, in fact what Harvey characterizes as the “annihilation of space by time”: “The world suddenly feels much smaller, and the time-horizons over which we can think about social action become much shorter.”25 Or an even more poignant account of temporal foreshortening from his earlier work: “… time horizons shorten to the point where the present is all there is, so we have to learn to cope with an overwhelming sense of compression of our spatial and temporal worlds.”26 Yet in its imaginative narrative account of a global present, Adnan’s literary work nudges open parallel times and spaces, both formally in the radical juxtapositions that structure her textual narratives and poetically in the suggestion of connections among those times and spaces. More than merely tracing the global, Adnan’s narratives enact an imaginary alternative of seeing, hearing, understanding, and living in the global. To the notion of timespace compression as a “point where the present is all there is,” in an insistence not only on a spatial surface but on what is at work beneath surface appearance, Of Cities and Women offers an important imaginary intervention. Not that either surface appearance or the predominance of the present is unimportant or can simply be conjured away. But rather, Adnan’s narrative insists on pushing against that surface and its present. In this imaginative configuration of movement—moving and staying and moving again—Of Cities and Women dances a reminder to the “Arab novel in English” not only of fragmentation and loss, identity and community, but also of the persistent search for connection, of the sometimes gentle, sometimes presumptuous insistence on connection. The letter-writing narrator of Of Cities and Women opens her text with her decision to refuse the immediate solicitation of her interlocutor, Fawwaz, for a “letter on feminism.” But over a two-year period, in a present that “is all there is” —or at least all there seems to be, the letters that constitute Of Cities and Women struggle to narrate places beyond an interminable present and scenes beyond surface appearances. Adnan’s letters reach back in time—to, for example, a reflection on the work of Ibn Arabi27—and forward to Beirut of the coming century.28 They slow down narrative time to study the light on the sea29 or an image of the Virgin on a monastery fresco.30 They register the startling interruption of everyday time and space in the sight of a stark naked woman walking down the night street of Barcelona. The woman, “as we say, cut the crowd in two … No one said a word. I would say that no one even accelerated or slowed down his step. ... I felt a strange malaise. Was this a scene of absolute liberty,

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or of insanity?”31 Later, far from Barcelona, in Beirut, again there is a startling interruption of the crowd again as it “strolled silently” on the night streets of the city: “A woman rushed up to us, whimpering, crying: ‘Help me! Help me! For fear of God, help me!’ Then another leaped forth, spun around, shrieking with mental agony, her madness etched into her face like smallpox, terrified by her own despair, her hunger …”32 “I resume my letter,” the text continues. Writing itself, here, an attempt to slow down and open up—to forcibly create a perspective from which to reflect on, to “theorize”33—the rush of events and images and people “who have all sorts of stories to tell me.”34 The time-space compression of Harvey’s “global” impinges on each letter to Fawwaz; it dogs the narrator’s travels as it does the content of her letters. It dogs the narrative text itself. And yet her letters individually and together, Of Cities and Women as a whole, struggle to push back against that compression, to reach both forward and back from the surface of a present that seems to be all there is. Doreen Massey in her Space, Place, and Gender criticizes Harvey’s conceptualization of the global for ignoring what she calls the “power geometry of time-space compression.” In her critical re-telling of the story of globalization’s time-space compression, she notes: … different social groups, and different individuals, are placed in very distinct ways in relation to these flows and interconnections.35 This point concerns not merely the issue of who moves and who doesn’t … it is also about power in relation to the flows and the movement. Different social groups have distinct relations to this anyway differentiated mobility; some people are more in charge of it than others; some initiate flows and movement, others don’t; some are more on the receiving end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it.36 Massey’s insight into the power differential of movement is an important qualification not only of Harvey’s theory of time-space compression but also of the privileged mobility of the letter-writing narrator of Adnan’s text. The “power geometry of space time compression” is a critical perspective of which Adnan’s narrator is constantly reminded, as her first letter from Beirut recounts: In Raouche we bought flower necklaces from children who were hardly six years old. Two children were sitting on a low wall; one of them was singing in a voice that might have belonged to someone much older than him. It created in me a lingering grief. Janine scolded the little singer, telling him

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it was time for children to be home and in bed. A young man passing by followed us to say, “Madame, these two children have no home. They have no one. They belong to the street.”37 Metaphoric homelessness, which the letter writer in Of Cities and Women will claim as her condition, is decidedly not literal homelessness—neither in the context of the material world nor in that world’s differentials of power. “Power geometry” and the narrator’s own language clearly locate her differently than the stories she relates of the two young children or her friend Janine. In a critical consideration of Adnan’s Of Cities and Women as an exemplary contemporary moment in the trajectory of the “Arab” narrative or novel in English (or perhaps of any contemporary narrative), there is a further aspect of gendered globalization which is critical. In “Sexual Difference and Collective Identities: The New Global Constellation,” Seyla Benhabib argues for a necessary re-thinking of contemporary feminism against the horizon of “the new constellation formed by the coming together of global integration and apparent cultural fragmentation.”38 Benhabib’s own rethinking of contemporary feminism leads her to revisit the “problem of the subject” and from there to make an argument for a narrative model of subjectivity and identity constitution as opposed to a performative one. Benhabib postulates—via a discussion first of Virginia Woolf ’s Orlando and subsequently of Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity—the distinctively narrative dimension of subjectivity, of being born, or thrown,39 into “webs of interlocution or webs of narrative— from the familial and gender narratives to the linguistic ones to those narratives of collective identity. We become who we are by learning to become a conversation partner in these narratives.”40 It is precisely in this “web” that Adnan’s Of Cities and Women is an enactment, an exploration, and an attempt at renegotiation of something very near to such a process of “becoming … by learning to become a conversation partner” in the narratives into which one is thrown. In Of Cities and Women, encounter with and in those narratives occurs repeatedly as the letter-writing narrator travels from one city to another, contemplates women, art, history of the near and more distant pasts, and learns to become a conversation partner—not only literally with Fawwaz, the addressee of her letters, but with those large and small or near and far narratives and their peoples that shape the (global) constellation of which she is a part. And that imaginative story of the narrator’s learning to become a conversation partner models a learning process in the literary text that gestures beyond it.

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Benhabib’s essay concludes with the question of “the vocation of the feminist theorist” as “a cultural broker” in exile.41 The social critic who is in exile does not adopt the “view from nowhere” but the “view from outside the walls of the city,” wherever those walls and those boundaries might be … the vocation of the feminist thinker and critic has led her to leave home and the city walls.42 Rather than a valorization of literal or figurative movement and homelessness or of individual subjectivity, Benhabib’s conclusion is more concerned with an (almost poignant) identification of that of which the social critic and feminist theorist is “a cultural broker.” In a century in which statelessness and the condition of being a refugee have become global phenomena … to have too many passports is usually the privilege of the few … the complexity of our cultural, ethnic, racial, linguistic identities and heritages are not reflected in our passports, in our identities as nationals of this or that state. However, we must have the right to become members of a polity, and the rules of entry into a polity must be fair and in accordance with human dignity. To achieve this we must renegotiate the normativity of the “logocentric polis.” The feminist theorist at the present is one of the brokers in this complex renegotiation of sexual difference and new collective identities.43 “In this complex renegotiation of sexual differences and new collective identities,” Of Cities and Women traces a network of relationships between images of women—in paintings, in frescoes, in icons, and philosophies—and women in the streets, both configured, of course, in the language of Adnan’s text. The abstraction of art or of philosophy is tenuously and often tenderly linked to the particulars “of women’s experience”44 as Adnan’s narrator retells that experience. Spread over a time span of a little more than two years and a spatial span between Europe and the Middle East, between the streets and women (and men) of eight cities (and those eight cities evoke memories of countless other cities for the narrator), between memories of the past and a present which is insistently stretched and slowed down by reflection and question, pushed in quixotic and playful and painful directions, the narrator of Of Cities and Women observes near the end of her letters in the confusion and decay and memories of her one-time home of Beirut: “I feel I haven’t settled anywhere, really, that I’m rather living in the world, all over, in newspapers, in railway

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stations, cafes, airports … The books that I’m writing are houses I build for myself.”45 This metaphoric homelessness, though, is clearly not that of the two young street children in Beirut in the narrative’s opening. For in this un- or non-settling that the letter-writer notes, she is able to construct a network of connections to other places, to other images and ideas, to other people. Each city that the narrator visits reminds her of, has some sort of a link to, other cities. Each city recalls the artwork or music or an architectural site that situates the time and place of that city for the narrator. In each of them there is a friend or an acquaintance or a friend of a friend who connects her to that particular place and, simultaneously, to far away places. In the opening chapter, “I called Bill Osborn on the phone. Some friends had given me Bill’s address. He’s a young American who’s been in Barcelona for a little more than a year.”46 Or, in the last chapter on her return trip to Beirut in early August of 1992, and rather more plaintively, Our host is a Lebanese who has returned from Amazonia and is investing his money in his own country, in real estate of course. The subject of our conversation is the dark side of Latin America … By speaking about it he brings the terror around the table and we’re not any more by the side of the Mediterranean but on a continent which has been and is being destroyed by alcohol, misery, or foreign companies. But “rapacity” on another continent is directly juxtaposed to that on the continent, in the country, in the city, at the time and place which the narrator finds herself. I know that rapacity is, all around the world, the sole engine which functions perfectly, and that brings me back to the jungle, be it made with currency notes or with concrete. In ten years from now Beirut will be, in the best instance, an immense safe-box.47 Anthony Giddens’ account of globalization as that “intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa” is given stark literary articulation in the relations here between Amazonia and Beirut. In the person of “our host,” the “uncontrolled energies” characterized by William Greider are named in Of Cities and Women—“rapacity.”48 To a configuration that includes Benhabib’s notion of the feminist social critic in the contemporary global constellation, we can recall, then, William

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Greider’s gesture towards the effects of globalization on “the existing order and existing consciousness of people and societies,” Anthony Giddens pointing to the simultaneously local and meta-local of an unequal globalization, David Harvey’s “time-space compression” with its overwhelming predominance of a “present [that] is all there is” and Doreen Massey’s redirection of Harvey’s formulation to take into account what she identifies as the “power geometry” of that compression. Into this narrative configuration on globalization and gender in late capitalism, a configuration against which the contemporary “Arab novel in English” cannot but figure itself, Etel Adnan’s epistolary narrative Of Cities and Women is an exemplary text. It both traces the outlines of and, simultaneously, performs an imaginary alternative to that “rapacity” in a fragile network of narrative juxtaposition and poetic relationship. And it at least implicitly acknowledges the privilege of movement and access which generates the epistolary narrative in the first place. To be sure Adnan’s exemplary text is “singular and unverifiable,” in Gayatri Spivak’s shrewd formulation on what we “learn to learn” in reading literature.49 But, for all that, it is no less crucial, in the trajectory of the “Arab novel in English,” in reflecting on gender and globalization at the turn of the twentieth century. Of Cities and Women constructs a fictional literary instance of learning to become a conversation partner in narratives not of one’s own making. Those narratives not of one’s own making are unquestionably a condition of (at least) the contemporary, globalized, postcolonial moment. They are, too, a rather more metaphoric condition of the narrator and her letters. And, of course, they’re no less a condition of the biographical author and her artistic, literary, and poetic work. Adnan’s narrative tenderly and painfully traces the effects of globalization and its “rapacity”—not only on gendered human life but also on the earth and non-human life as well. Of Cities and Women seeks to construct a narrative of connective meaning between the various sites and times it narrates. Globalization’s name is not spoken directly here. But its effects haunt the pages, the thoughts, the landscape, and the images of the letters in Of Cities and Women. —In Aix: We are experiencing an ecological disaster, we are killing “nature.”50 Forests are disappearing at the same rate as concepts.51 —On the island of Skopelos: The technology of tourism has shattered this island. There’s brutality in the air … Tourism itself is a form of brutality … Maimed landscapes, raped women, overflowing garbage, trees dying of thirst in a breeze loaded with cement dust: it’s all parts of a whole and the whole is reduced to waste.52

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—In Murcia, reflecting on the Arab world, from a Spain from which “the traces of its Arabs” have been “carefully erased”: We are the scribes of a scattered self, living fragments, as if the parts of the self were writing down the bits and ends of a perception never complete.53 —In post-civil war Beirut: The battles have ceased but the violence remains … Will the country become a gigantic supermarket, a floating casino, or a “real” country?54 —In Rome: the problem is that we now know the world; especially, we now know it is known, inventoried, and possessed. No land remains unowned, or at least unmeasured by engineers … [In the Sistine Chapel] I had to join a procession of visitors, a suffocating mob. I became a molecule in a hysterical human river55 … What has happened to the freedom to dream, to loiter, to reverse one’s steps, to doubt, to be uncertain.56 —And back in Beirut in conclusion: … a kind of avaricious cruelty which makes this country “import” hordes of servants from places even poorer than itself, such as Ethiopia, Sri-Lanka, or the Philippines.57 Set against the backdrop of eight (and more) cities—against the stories or women and men and children it encounters, against the destruction and violence of the Lebanese civil war (1975–90) which has just ended and the 1990 Gulf War which has just begun—Of Cities and Women is nonetheless predicated on the interlocutory (ironically, on precisely that dialogue or conversation which war and violence silence).58 Literally, of course, Of Cities and Women is a series of nine letters addressed to Fawwaz (Trabulsi) in Paris. The letters begin in Barcelona in late June of 1990 and conclude in Beirut in early August of 1992. Adnan’s text opens by explaining why she can’t (won’t) write the text that has been solicited from her by Trabulsi— “a letter on feminism … for the special issue on ‘Arab Women’ of your magazine, Zawaya.” In the contest of narratorial attention between that “letter on feminism” and the city—and the women—of Barcelona, the latter triumphs. In Barcelona, the women … remind me that it is interesting to be alive … to be a part of a precise moment in time and space, that theories get lost when confronted with privileged experience. I thus renounced the idea of writing you a formal letter on “feminism,” and began living that which is given to me.59 Nonetheless, of course, nine letters on women and cities—if not exactly on “feminism” (in double quotes in the original)—are written. And there’s something a bit coy in the opening claim to “live that which is given to me,”

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to confront theories with “privileged experience.”60 For in spite of this claim, there is throughout Of Cities and Women an acute awareness of that which is chosen rather than “given” and of the power of theorizing—especially if we understand theorizing as itself seeing and being seen and as the reflection on or contemplation of that theorizing.61 “I know that seeking political and philosophical notions in the street is like trying to construct a barrier to hold back the ocean, but I won’t look elsewhere.”62 Of Cities and Women is a running meditation on where the letter-writing narrator looks and what she sees when she looks there. It is also, if perhaps more implicitly, a performance of and meditation on how she sees and of how she is positioned by that act of seeing and by objects (themselves subjects) of sight and reflection. And, of course, it is a cumulative narrative process in which the narrator herself is implicitly seen and read by her textual addressee (“Fawwaz”) and by those addressees implied by the narrative. “If we are what we see and the place we live in, then I am—and fully—these ragged streets [of Beirut], this cadaveric smell that even fruits acquire when they start rotting, this disaster.”63 Of Cities and Women defines itself as a dialogue (with Fawwaz, with other women and men, with places, with paintings and writers and musicians) on “woman” and her locations in time and space. In that meditative dialogue, engagement in conversation is simultaneously one of the centrally chosen elements of Adnan’s narrative and the foundational given of its construction. The distance between and the strangeness of Barcelona or Murcia or Amsterdam or Skopelos, or even Beirut,64 are consistently interrupted and the time there prolonged by a familiar painting or landscape, by the memory of a film, by an old friend or a friend of a friend, by a new acquaintance with a connection to a still more distant place. The letter-writing narrator insistently reflects on and in a temporal duration that she seeks to make more than just a perpetual present that’s “all there is.” And by force of narrative poeisis, both the local and the meta-local, the particular and the abstract or universal, are brought into relation with one another—by narrative fiat, by the visual fiat of the narrator’s sight, by the linguistic fiat of the narrator’s insistence on pursuing “our subject,”65 “trying to think about women’s condition,”66 a “journey into the concept of femininity that I have undertaken at your behest.”67 The localized and particularized experiences of women are constantly juxtaposed in meditation. And in that meditative juxtaposition they are linked to the meta-local, the meta-particular—an effort to apprehend and comprehend the global “of women.” Of course the series of letters to Fawwaz draws to a close. They are, after all, nine letters, not more or less. All textual narratives must end somewhere.

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Yet, in the beyond to which Adnan’s literary narrative gestures, “narratives cannot have closure precisely because they are always aspects of the narratives of others; the sense that I create for myself is always immersed in a fragile web of stories that I as well as others spin,”68 Of Cities and Women is a homage to friendship, to women, to art, literature and music, to persistence over time and space, to a conversation that continues, and ends only by death. And even there, at that irrevocable “dead wall,” perhaps there’s “something beyond the wall.”69 The meditation on Janine’s death—and on Beirut’s demise—concludes with a small conversation, a small linking of the immediate here and now (Beirut) to the distant there (Paris). And in that small link, the last pages of Of Cities and Women are a poignant textual interruption of, and effort to draw out and complexify, the “perpetual present” which characterizes a war-weary Beirut at least. Yet, in fact, it has characterized, if differently, each of the cities through which the narrator has passed. Beirut itself is an illustrative if devastated urban instance of that over which “globalized commerce and finance”—as well as the violent military intervention of U.S. sponsored or inspired expansionist projects in the Middle East—literally and metaphorically “vault beyond the existing order and existing consciousness of peoples and societies.” Yet in its interruption of and effort to draw out a narrative present that is threatened with annihilation—of space by time, by war, by violence, by “rapacity”—Of Cities and Women tenderly traces connections between living beings. It traces connections between the particular here and the particular there, between the local and the meta-local, between pasts and presents. Its imaginary enactment, exploration, and contestation of “learning to become a conversation partner,” of its shifting time-places as the letter-writing narrator travels from one city to another, are an exemplary illustration of the gender of globalization and of the contradictions and violences as well of the openings and insights of those narratives and the stories gathered within them. Of Cities and Women concludes with the poignantly small and local, with the inconclusive that is yet evocative of a web of conversations already had and hopefully still able yet to be had. The narrative’s small and apparently circumscribed ending—a quiet lunch, a letter given to another to be mailed—is nonetheless a persistent iteration of human connection in a small but illustrative response to the often rapacious call of the gendered global. Of Cities and Women stubbornly insists on the claim of the local across the faraway, of human connection in the small details of everyday life across the devastation of war, violence, and the imperial projects that still unfold in the Middle East. It is the claim made in conclusion in a quiet lunch with

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friends, the entrusting of a letter to “someone who is leaving soon,” seeing a house, tending a garden. I do not really wish to leave. Far from it. I should tell you I visited your sister Amal and had lunch with her, and met your mother, for the first time. It was an agreeable and very quiet moment. I’ll find someone who is leaving soon and ask that person to mail you this letter. In another week or two I will go to Athens and then to Skopelos, see the house, and tend the garden. say hello to Nawal and Jana, Love, Etel.70 This is an address, of course, made first of all to the addressee of the epistolary narrative—to Fawwaz. It is, as well, a small but powerful iteration of an address “in English” from the “Arab” world to and beyond that world. Capitalizing on the conceit of the epistolary narrative, it calls beyond the textually figured addressee to a broad field of implied others who also have sisters and mothers. That implied audience of addressees is called out into an imaginative fiction of proximity and connection in the face of irrevocable distance and often brutal fragmentation. They are called out and perhaps into an imaginative engagement with others in a parallel time and place. The privileging of individual perception and the account of the everyday in Adnan’s narrative is a fundamental characteristic of the modern novel as a genre. Its narrative structure engages the logic of sequentiality that is—even in a challenge to sequentiality—a component of all narrative. But the process of individual perception, of the ordinary and every day that is perceived and of the linked reflective telling of those perceptions in language, is reconfigured in Of Cities and Women. The narrative positioning of Adnan’s text is underwritten by a fundamental insight into the— (post) modern, (post)colonial, globalized, fragmented, intimate and irrevocably distant—present moment. … scribes of a scattered self, living fragments, as if the parts of the self were writing down the bits and ends of a perception never complete.71 … it’s all parts of a whole and the whole is reduced to waste.72 And yet, within the narrative frame of Of Cities and Women, there is a small poetic place held open in which it might be possible “to dream, to loiter, to reverse one’s steps, to doubt, to be uncertain.”73 The conceit of the

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text’s first-person narrator is simultaneously circumscribed and expanded to nudge open a small textual space for the “loitering” and “reversal,” the “doubt” and uncertainty, of the text’s implied audience as well. And in that small textual space there is also the accumulation of a series of shrewd insights, poetically articulated, into the imperial projects that continue to scar the human and social spaces of the Arab world. For all the while, the powerful desire for reflection and uncertainty notwithstanding, the gaze of Of Cities and Women is unflinchingly drawn to “what is given”—to the gendered ravages of war, poverty, insanity, death. Adnan’s epistolary narrative—as much of her work—unflinchingly conveys that “given.” And it perhaps implicitly but nonetheless insistently—not least of all in its very structural organization—calls for engagement both large and small, interlocutors near and far. In the face of that “given,” Of Cities and Women constructs a narrative of reflection, engagement in conversation, communication—intervention. Its epistolary address is, in the first instance, unquestionably “to Fawwaz.” But it is also, and equally unquestionably, beyond him.74

Notes 1. Etel Adnan, There: In the Light and the Darkness of the Self and of the Other (Sausalito, CA: Post Apollo Press, 1997), 37. 2. Adnan, There, 45. 3. In Travels of a Genre: The Modern Novel and Ideology, I offered a selective comparative account of the “rise” of the novel outside of Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). 4. This “reach” is figured already in the post-WWII international organizations of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. But one of its more compelling configurations is surely the later twenty-century emergence of the World Trade Organization and its “reach.” 5. Some sense of the particular situation that makes the “Arab novel in English” an object of attention is suggested in imagining a parallel category for other languages and cultures—the “Japanese novel in English” or the “Greek novel in English”? In this banal comparative experiment, the apparently unremarkable category of the “Arab novel in English” becomes rather more remarkable. And we can perhaps begin to appreciate the significance of the category. 6. Though the interaction is complex, its more obvious illustrations are clear enough—the serialization of novels in newspapers, for example, and its impact on the structure of the novel; or, the impact of copyright law on “the author.” 7. It is noteworthy that the category of hyphenated ethnicity and/or “race” so distinctive in the United States is subsumed here under the broader category of that adjectival modifier “Arab.”

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8. Though it is not exactly a novel, I will argue that Adnan’s epistolary narrative— no less literary, no less imaginative, no less a narrative—takes up the central questions of mobility, gender, power, agency, and contexts of meaning which inform (or haunt) the more clearly categorizable “Arab novel in English.” 9. Etel Adnan, Of Cities and Women: Letters to Fawwaz (Sausalito, CA: Post Apollo Press, 1993). 10. The distinguishing features of the modern novel are so familiar as to “go without saying.” But perhaps they bear remembering here: the ordinary heroine or hero, located in detail in the everyday, an increasing predominance of the psychological in the twentieth century. And then, no less distinguishing, are the features of the novel’s publication, sometimes translation, distribution, and circulation and reception by a literate class which goes to libraries, buys books (or, now, electronic readers). 11. See also note 5. The first edition of Etel Adnan’s novel, Sitt Marie Rose (Paris: des femmes, 1977), identifies the author by nothing other than her name, entirely in lower-case letters on the front cover. The back cover contains a quote about the content of the novel from Adnan herself. In the English translation of Sitt Marie Rose some five years later (Sausalito, CA: The Post-Apollo Press, 1982), Adnan is identified on the back cover as “a poet and writer well known throughout the Arab World.” In Paris, When It’s Naked (Sausalito, CA: The Post-Apollo Press, 1993), she is identified on the back cover in an excerpt from a review as “the expatriate poet-painter who knows the French capital as wholly as she does Beirut and San Francisco, her other homes.” And in a later collection of essays on her work edited by Lisa Suhair Majaj and Amal Amireh (Jefferson NC: McFarland & Co., 2002), Adnan is identified in the subtitle as Arab-American: Critical Essays on the ArabAmerican Writer and Artist. Pluri-locations and pluri-categorization, indeed. 12. The literary conceit that proposes the fictional landscape of a novel or work of art as recognizably referential to a shared world of the quotidian and everyday beyond itself. 13. That is the turn from the realist claim to recognizable referents towards an interior psychologized landscape which challenges sequential plot, narrative continuity, omniscient narrators, and transparent language. 14. William Greider, One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (New York: Touchstone Press, 1998). 15. Ibid., 11. 16. Ibid., 12. 17. Ibid., 15. 18. Ibid., 16. 19. Ibid., 12. 20. In fact, in the The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy, J. K. Gibson-Graham offers the humorously shrewd (if rather sanguine) injunction to re-envision globalization in an attempt at “making global capital lose its erection” (146).

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21. Frederic Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, eds, The Cultures of Globalization (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), xii. 22. Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 175, emphasis added. 23. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 18. 24. That is, what we’ve now come to call the first Gulf War of 1990–1. 25. David Harvey, Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography (New York: Routledge, 2001), 122. 26. David Harvey, The Condition of Post-Modernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Social Change (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1989), 240. 27. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 47–56. 28. Ibid., 110. 29. Ibid., 72. 30. Ibid., 44–5. 31. Ibid., 13. 32. Ibid., 73. 33. See note 61. 34. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 73. 35. Massey’s imaginary space satellite perspective on “these flows and interconnections” immediately precedes this passage. That perspective is able to take in the satellites, then aeroplanes, the long haul between London and Tokyo and the hop from San Salvador to Guatemala City … faxes, email, film-distribution networks, financial flows and transactions … ships and trains … lorries and cars and buses … a woman–amongst many women–on foot, who still spends hours a day collecting water (148–9). 36. Doreen Massey, Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 149. 37. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 72. 38. Seyla Benhabib, “Sexual Difference and Collective Identities: The New Global Constellation,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 24: 2 (1999): 336. 39. That is, Benhabib specifies, “in the Heideggerian sense of Geworfenheit,” 344. 40. Benhabib, “Sexual Difference and Collective Identities,” 344. 41. Ibid., 354. 42. Ibid., 356. 43. Ibid., 357. 44. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 15. 45. Ibid., 111. 46. Ibid., 3. 47. Ibid., 110. 48. Though we might want to take issue with how “perfectly” it functions. 49. See Gayatri Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 145. 50. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 16.

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61.

62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71.

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Ibid., 17. Ibid., 32–3. Ibid., 54–5. Ibid., 83. Ibid., 87. Ibid., 90. Ibid., 107. In fact, the back cover of the French publication of Sitt Marie Rose notes that the story unfolds in “une situation où les armes ont remplacé le dialogue” (“a situation in which weapons replaced dialogue”). Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 3. An interesting and ambiguous phrase—is it the experience of privilege to which this passage refers? Or experience as privileged over theory or thought? In the latter case, there remains a tremendous amount of thoughtful theorizing between the two covers of Of Cities and Women. And in the former case, the privilege which the text enacts in its relatively unimpeded mobility and ability to engage at will is sharply curtailed by reflection on the fixity of violence, death, and suffering which position that privilege. This is, of course, the often-cited classical Greek etymology of “theory” in ocular perception. What is less often noted is the context of meaning of that classical concept, a context of meaning that is at least as provocative for contemporary thought as is seeing. That is, as the classicist art historian Simon Goldhill reminds us, “theoria is the normal Greek for official participatory attendance as spectator in the political and religious rites of the state” (19). He explains the original context of meaning for theoria. “The political space of democracy was established by the participatory, collective audience of citizen spectators.” Theoria, even as it is re-appropriated by contemporary theory, contains the traces of not just “seeing” and theory but being seen—by others, in a public space. The theorist is not only the seer but also the seen, the object of others’ sight. Deliberately or not, it is that sense of the letter-writer not only as seeing but as being seen by those of whom she writes, on whose situations she reflects that informs Of Cities and Women. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 9. Ibid., 112–13. “The vocation of the feminist thinker and critic has led her to leave home and the city walls,” in Benhabib’s formulation. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 89. Ibid., 81. Ibid., 46. Benhabib, “Sexual Difference and Collective Identities,” 348. Adnan, Of Cities and Women, 108. Ibid., 114. Ibid., 54–5.

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72. Ibid., 33. 73. Ibid., 90. 74. Majaj and Amireh’s Etel Adnan includes the letters written back to Adnan from Fawwaz Trabulsi—“Variations on an Andalusian Theme: Undated Letters to Etel” (103–12). He opens his first letter, “I guess I had to follow in your steps to begin answering your letters.” The two epistolary narratives are intimately linked and vastly different, one from the other. And, in their juxtaposition, the poesis or imaginative making of Adnan’s text is strikingly apparent.

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Chapter 6 B u r n i n g, M e m o r y a n d Po s t c o l o n i a l A ge n c y i n L a i l a L a l a m i ’ s H o p e a n d O t h e r D a n g e ro u s P u r s u i t s 1 Ahmed Idrissi Alami

c o n s t e l lat i o n s la i la la la m i ’ s h o p e

an d oth er dan gero us pu rs ui t s

The relationship between Spain and Morocco has, over the centuries, been marked by waves and ebbs of colonial power, physical migration, and cultural and religious intermingling. The flow of emigrants from North Africa moving northwards towards Spain, after a century of Spain sending its own emigrants outward, has led to anxiety over what Daniela Flesler calls the “return of the Moor.” As she argues in her book of the same name, “Spain is not only experiencing the return of the colonized but also that of its medieval colonizers.”2 At the geographical epicenter of this tide, as it was in previous centuries, lies the city of Tangier, poised at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar and to the Mediterranean beyond. It is this city, more than other minor points of migration along the north coast, which serves as the launching point for waves of would-be emigrants who pound, again and again, against the increasingly closed gate to a now more fluid group of nations organized under the banner of the European Union. Tangier, a space where various cultures and religions intersect, serves as the opening location in Laila Lalami’s 2005 novel Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits.3 In Lalami’s novel we witness not only the coming together of individuals on the run, but a disparate confluence of complex identities affected by both local Moroccan and distant Spanish cultures as bound by centuries of relationships that continue to inform, and haunt, their collective cultural memory. In this study, I investigate ways in which the complex relationship between Spain and Morocco ensnares the novel’s protagonists and how Lalami, the most successful Anglophone of the Moroccan writers to date,4 utilizes the novel as a vehicle through which she demonstrates how emigrants often come to redefine themselves in light of systematic and socially

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sanctioned processes of exclusion and rejection on both sides of the strait. In the process of their journeys to Spain and, for two of the protagonists Murad and Aziz, upon returning to Morocco, they experience a growth of consciousness about historical memory concerning the recent past and start to question the limitations of and potential for postcolonial agency in both countries. This issue is critical as it provides additional insight into the persistence of not only colonial legacies, but that of much deeper relationships, both real and imagined, between cultures. Exposure to the exploitative and hegemonic stereotyping and racial politics that the characters experience through crossing into the host country prompts a process of redefinition of identity generated by a resurgence of historical memory and development of a new sense of agency.

Language Politics and the Politics of Exclusion Although still overshadowed by writers who use Arabic and French, English has recently become the language of choice for some creative writers in or from Morocco. This choice has often reflected the academic background of the authors as well as their career choices, often as university professors or teachers of English language, linguistics or literature. In this regard, we can point to the literary work of Jillali El Koudia (English professor and an established Moroccan short story writer), Abdellatif Akbib (also professor of English and author of short stories), and Anouar Majid (a scholar, a novelist and founding director of the Center for Global Humanities at the University of New England and novelist).5 Laila Lalami, likewise, did her graduate studies in the United States and is currently an associate professor of creative writing at University of California, Riverside. Her works, which include numerous essays and critical newspaper columns, have made her perhaps the most successful Anglophone Moroccan writer to date. However, this choice has not been without consequences in terms of her readership in the Maghreb and has made her works harder to assess as her choice of English disrupts the established conventional literary and cultural categories used to classify Moroccan and North African literature. In her review of Lalami’s Secret Son, Gaiutra Bahadur discusses the author’s use of English rather than Arabic or French as a language of choice that is determined by the writer’s desire to reach out to the American readership and offer them a narrative that unveils the socio-psychological dynamic that produces terrorism. As she notes, “Lalami has said she chooses to write in English partly because she wants to speak directly to Americans, who read few translated books but urgently need authentic

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maps to those parts of the world where inequality has electroshocked the terrorist id into being.”6 Her first novel, then, can be seen as informed and shaped by the author’s felt ethical responsibility to provide “authentic maps” to the marginalized parts of the world where social strife and dispossession have bred despair and led to acts of destruction of self and others. It is also the author’s strategic intervention in the post-9/11 ongoing cultural debate about globalized identity politics and alterity as well as a political reflection on the Moroccan postcolonial scene where past and present legacies not only intersect and cross-pollinate but are also complicated by the impact shared HispanoMoroccan cultural memory has on the lives of emigrants and the overall culture of migration. In this regard, her novel charts a new territory for cultural expression that echoes Rebecca Walkovitz’s view that this type of literature “reflects a shift from nation-based paradigms to new ways of understanding community and belonging and to transnational models emphasizing a global space of ongoing travel and interconnection.”7 In her second novel, Secret Son (2009),8 Lalami explores the intimate connections between Morocco and the West while interrogating a flawed domestic social system that has disenfranchised all but the elite and educated. Drawing on the eternal theme of the illegitimate son seeking recognition from his powerful father, the novel dramatizes the social alienation and psychological disarray that the protagonist, Youssef El Mekki, experiences as he seeks recognition by his father, now an established member of the new liberal Morocco elite. The reader discovers the stark discrepancies and widening gap that separates the poor majority condemned to life in shanty towns such as Sidi Moumen, a neighborhood notoriously tied to the May 16, 2003 terrorist bombings in Casablanca, from those who inhabit the lavish and luxurious villas and insulated posh neighborhoods, associated with the privileged Moroccans who live and experience globalized liberal lifestyles. The novel connects the roots of terrorism to local politics and party where both the globally oriented secularists and the religiously conservative kingpins involve themselves in corrupt machinations and often violent manipulations of the masses. In both novels, she gives witness to the lives of those left behind and/or excluded from the wider waves of progress experienced by better educated and well-connected sections of society while presenting the reader with often startlingly accurate representations of Moroccan society across the lines of social-economic and cultural classes and divisions. At the beginning of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, the characters are in a six-meter Zodiac, designed for eight but carrying thirty, which carries

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its beleaguered passengers only within swimming distance of the Spanish shoreline. The scene presents a symbolic inverse of the crossing in 711 by Tariq ibn- Ziyad, then Arab governor of Tangier, who took with him thousands of soldiers to begin his conquest of Spain via the tiny island still known by his name, Gibraltar (the rock of Tarik). The primary narrator, Murad, reflects: “Little did they know that we’d be back … Only instead of a fleet, here we are in an inflatable boat—not just Moors, but a motley mix of people from the ex-colonies, without guns or armor, without a charismatic leader.”9 From this first opening, we see echoes of historical memory, of a triumphant earlier time that initiated seven centuries of dominance on the peninsula. But now, after numerous indignities and hardships in their own land, these emigrants will turn to Spanish jobs in agriculture, food service and some of them even prostitution, which have come to be preferable to the rejection they have experienced in their own society. The geographical location, specifically Tangier and the north of Morocco, has witnessed numerous acts of violence and waves of emigrants coming away from Spain, too. After the fall of Granada in 1492 and the ultimate expulsion of even converted Moriscos from Spain in 1609, many of those expelled from Spain settled along the northern coast. Some groups moved further south into the region of Fez and along the Atlantic to the port city of Salé, where they formed distinct communities. It is this northern region, known later as the Spanish zone, which became conquered territory of the Spanish through the Treaty of Fez of 1912. Since then, despite the recognition of Morocco’s self-determination in 1956, Spain still maintains several enclaves on the coast at Ceuta and Melilla and continues to dispute the sovereignty of the tiny island of Perejil/Leila off the northern coast, as happened in September 2002.10 These events highlight the ebb and flow of people and the changing balance of power between these two nations. In the present, it is this legacy that particularly informs relations between the two nations and among the characters of Lalami’s novel. In the fragile Zodiac, the reader meets characters who will speak of their own in-betweenness, of their engagement with both diasporic and domestic concerns that infuse postcolonial Moroccan concepts of self and other, of here and there, of Morocco and Spain. Such transnational and transcultural interfusion recalls Mary Louise Pratt’s theorizing of the contact zone, a space associated with the colonial encounter characterized by “conditions of coercion, radical inequality and intractable conflict.”11 This encounter, as she elaborates, pertains to “how subjects are constituted in and by their relations to each other.”12 Despite the political end of the colonial relationship, the relational positions of power and concomitant

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anxiety have not disappeared but rather persist in acknowledged and unrecognized ways. Lalami’s skill as a novelist appears in how this fluidity of time and memory is expressed in individual lives. Part of the reason for the distinct stories associated with four different protagonists comes from her process of writing the novel itself; as Lalami describes in a recorded discussion of her work, the novel started as a short story about Murad, and was followed by the composition of the additional discrete stories. As she notes: “The book started as a short story about a young man, sort of like a male version of myself.”13 The very structure of Lalami’s work reflects the interpenetration of past, present and future. As the past continues to haunt the present in Hispano-Moroccan relations, so for the characters the present leads to the past and then, only by the end of the novel, implies a better future. This process brings memories of distant history into conversation with the colonial past and the disappointments of the present,14 in which disproportionate development continues to propel a significant percentage of the poor and lower classes to dream of either living abroad or of isolating themselves from their own wretched present. This exclusion leads to a variety of responses seen in the lives of Lalami’s characters in this novel; some become corrupted themselves, others become resigned, and still others find either motivation or safety in conservative Islamic teachings proffered to them as an antidote to the sins of those in power. But it is the responses of those who choose to try to leave their domestic situations behind them that Lalami both explores and critiques most deeply. We see her critique through the novel’s reflections on how Moroccan youth experiencing social disparities, the absence of transparent civil society and the illusion of democratic values can fall prey to exploitative systems in both Morocco and Spain. As Lalami notes in her commentary on the uprising in Egypt in February 2011, in much of the Arab world, “our leaders delivered us into a world of silence and fear and told us that we must watch what we say and watch what we do;”15 in Morocco, the government system exploits this silence. One example of such a mutually exploitative system appears in the form of those men who have gotten these people, at the beginning of the novel, to this Zodiac boat; many men participate in human trafficking on both sides of the straits and are often helped by the Spanish guardia civil, who can make the most out of the desperation of these potential emigrants. For example, Murad, like the others, spent a fortune to buy a spot; he thinks about how much money the gang that has arranged his passage stands to gain through their human trafficking, and he estimates their take being about 600,000 dirhams, “enough for an apartment or a small

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house in a Moroccan beach town like Asilah or Cabo Negro.”16 However, he also suggests that he is “different” from his fellow immigrants. He has decided it is a good investment for himself, as his hope is clear; unlike other “uneducated” emigrants, he believes he will “find a real job” that uses his linguistic training in both Spanish and English. This is his hope for Spain after having failed in his home country. As an educated young Moroccan, one with a college degree from a public university, Murad’s frustrated expectations and consequent struggle against social marginalization have become emblematic of his generation. He has become one of les diplômés chômeurs, the unemployed diploma-holders. Murad’s initial attempt at illegal crossing into Spain is a way to escape the intractable problems of unemployment that have unfolded despite his education, as well as an attempt to reverse his uncertain social future. Before attempting to cross, he was rejected for a low-level administrative job like the one his sister easily obtained. Now broke, Murad works, often unsuccessfully, as an illegal or “faux” guide, hustling tourists as they arrive on ferries from Spain. Seen within the context of this in-between space, Murad is rejected in his own land by tourists, notably Americans, members of the new world power. Forced to return to his widowed mother empty-handed, he also finds himself further stripped of his masculine role. He cannot earn money while his sisters can, he cannot get a job using his education in English while his brothers obtain scholarships to medical school in Rabat, and he is then denied his role as master of the house following his father’s death. For example, after protesting that a marriage proposal for his sister was presented to his mother and his uncle, rather than him, he yells at her, “I should have been in the know.” His mother’s response provides a final blow to his ego as she replies: “Don’t raise your voice at me. Are you paying for the wedding?” to which he lamely responds: “Just because I don’t have a job you think I’m invisible?”17 In fact, in his own society, he has become invisible, a situation he did not foresee when he chose to study language and literature at university. In retrospect, he regrets he did not choose to apply himself to the illicit trade of smuggling, a thought that further emphasizes the despondency felt by many young men of his generation.18 Murad’s frustrations come not only from his inability to fulfill his role as breadwinner and man of the family, but also from rejection from his culture which finds no use for his skills and his education.19 His story serves as a counterpoint to that of Faten, a young woman who, abandoned by her father, moved to Rabat with her mother to “the Douar Hlajja slum, the kind of place where couscous pots were used as satellite dishes.”20 Despite her

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poverty, Faten manages “to graduate from high school, go to college, find God, and join the Islamic Student Organization,”21 leading her to meet her bourgeois friend, Noura, at university in Rabat. Befriending Noura, Faten enters a different world where a maid cooks the food, Noura’s mother is a lawyer and her father, Larbi Amrani, works in the education ministry. His discovery of a copy of Sayed Qutb’s book Milestones, a foundational text of radical Islamic teaching coincides with Noura’s growing friendship with Faten. At the same time, he notices significant changes in his daughter’s behavior; she begins to shun the popular music and theatre she used to love. She begins to dress more conservatively and stops wearing make-up. To his own liberal dismay, she dons a headscarf, tightly tying it around her face to hide her hair, “like half the city’s female population;”22 such shows of piety were not for his daughter. Soon after, he is informed by a colleague that Noura was caught helping Faten cheat on a test and he must use his position and influence to protect his daughter and prevent further embarrassment. But Faten, with her poor background and weak connections, never stands a chance to succeed, and eventually fails her exams, despite Noura’s attempts to have her father intervene on her behalf. Rather, soon after this, and perhaps as a consequence of Larbi’s machinations, Faten receives a tip from her imam that she must leave immediately or risk being arrested. Running from the law, partly owing to her connections with a radical religious group and also implicated by “a derogatory comment about King Hassan within earshot of a snitch,”23 she ends up on the Zodiac. Unlike Murad, who has neither the connections nor the money to get past the border police, Faten gains access to Spain after being raped by a member of the guardia civil. Faten’s rape, carried out while the man still wears the surgical gloves he wore to keep himself “clean” while inspecting the immigrants, becomes symbolic of various levels of injustice. The returned Moor, as Flesler suggests, has led to anxiety over both symbolic and literal boundaries24 and such violence, enacted at the border, is symptomatic of it. Once Faten is “released” into Spain at large, she will be much less distinguishable as the “other,” melting into the Spanish population until she can no longer be clearly identified as an invader. This position is reinforced by the nameless disregard suggested by the police officer’s calling Faten “Fatma,” just another Muslim woman to be taken and tossed on to the street. This melting into a nameless yet threatening Muslim/Arab woman becomes re-enacted by numerous men she sleeps with, and especially with the young Martín. Working as a prostitute, she experiences this violence daily, and she lives through it, she suggests, only with the help of valium and disengagement

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from both her surroundings and her religion. Interestingly, Lalami notes that Faten must share the street not only with Spanish prostitutes, but also with immigrant women from Romania and Ukraine—women who also sought a better life by violating the border into the European Union, but on the eastern side. Unlike these women, Faten can serve a specific role to Spanish or even Moroccan men, not simply as a prostitute, or a woman fulfilling the trick’s own sexual fantasies, but as a woman particularly able to serve the role of “odalisque” or woman of the seraglio/harem.25 This position can be read in opposition to that of Betoul, her roommate, who legally works as a nanny for a Spanish family with two children. Here, Spanish anxiety over the role of the returned Moor can be seen in the position Betoul takes as caregiver/ substitute mother. The potential “danger” of her position in the Spanish family is underlined when Faten watches as Betoul places a plastic bag of heb rshad, an herb blend, to help ease the cold of one of the children in the family. Faten teases her that the mother will either reject such “native” cures and/or laugh at her, to which Betoul responds, “You’re the one people laugh at—the way you sell your body.”26 Though Betoul has “lowered” herself to live with Faten, something she would never do in Morocco due to her perception of Faten’s lower moral or social status, the two live together in Madrid to save money and because their two professions, prostitute and mother, have opposing schedules which allow them to cross paths only rarely. Faten seems resigned to her role as a morally fallen woman, yet finds some hope in Martín, a young man who begins to see her regularly. He reminds Faten of her own failed life at university, when her religious fervor led her away from studies and towards preaching the power of Islam and women’s role in society to anyone who would listen. She looks back at this period as a time of innocence, a time when she made careless mistakes. One such was her belief that, by befriending Noura, she could change her friend’s bourgeois lifestyle and beliefs, thus “fighting back” against the morals and corrupt behavior represented by Noura’s father Larbi. Reflecting on her friend, she wonders if Noura continued wearing the hijab Faten had urged her to take on. Faten took it off to survive in her new surroundings, to be less visible and because she felt she no longer had the moral standing that wearing it implies. In contrast, Noura, given her social position and father’s money, had, in Faten’s eyes, the “luxury of faith,” as well as “the luxury of having no faith;”27 she could wear hijab or take it off without experiencing a significant change in her lifestyle or social position. Faten’s self-positioning as both prostitute and Moroccan/foreigner becomes challenged through her interactions with Martín. Though he pays

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to both talk and have sex with her, he suggests that he actually has additional power by telling her he has connections enough to give her a new start in life. This offer of help is, of course, contingent on her accommodating Martín, whose desire requires that she remain submissive and subservient, just like Said’s conceptualization of the colonized subject as “fixed in zones of dependency and peripherality, stigmatized in the designation of underdeveloped, less-developed, developing states, ruled by a superior, developed, or metropolitan colonizer who was theoretically posited as a categorically antithetical overlord.”28 Martín’s promises, at first, stir a sense of cautious optimism in Faten, who wonders what it would be like to not live in fear of the police and not to have to sell her body to men. However, despite Martín’s possession of a copy of the Quran and CDs by Algerian pop star Cheb Khaled, and despite his supposed interest in her life, he turns out to be hardly different from any other man she has encountered. After claiming to want to talk, he tells her, “Can we get on with it?,” which leads to Faten’s resigned conclusion, “even when they said they only wanted to talk, they always wound up wanting some action, too.”29 In fact, Martín sees Faten as a dish to be consumed, with skin “like black olives,” and breasts “like mangoes.”30 Such a view perpetuates the stereotyped and limited position often accorded to Muslim women, as Shahnaz Khan notes in her work on Muslim women, often immigrants, who work to define their identity in a North American context. She writes, “Muslim women in particular are seen in simplistic and limiting ways as part of the undifferentiated group, Muslim woman. They can only be members of religious communities and not thoughtful, independent individuals; and certainly not progressive or feminist.”31 Eager to reject this position, Faten suggests that he pick up other girls like Isabel. To this, Martin replies: “Women in this country,” he said, shaking his head, “don’t know how to treat a man. Not the way you Arab girls do.”32 He thus calls attention to their discursive location within a colonial context, a context that constructs difference not only between male and female but between Western female and Muslim/North African female. He suggests that he does not see himself in a sufficiently powerful position with Spanish women, but by eliding into the role of Muslim male, he could gain additional capital in a relationship with an Arab/Muslim woman. This provides a powerful fantasy in which he accesses a power position not available to him as a young man, a son of a powerful father. Despite such positioning by Martín, or perhaps because of it, Faten finds a moment of self-possession that prompts her, perhaps for the first time since her arrival in Spain, to assert what power she can—the power to hold

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back her body despite the potential loss of income. In a clear indication of a changing perception of her own role, she determines that, despite her own fantasies about Martín as being “different,” he is, in fact, “no different than his father,” a former general in Franco’s army.33 She realizes that fulfilling these roles would be a requirement for his help, so she rejects both this role and his potential aid in getting her legitimate immigration papers. Thus, she firmly refuses this position as a cultural artifact object to be studied.

History, Memory and Identity Faten’s refusal to succumb to Martín’s fantasy constitutes a strong and symbolic act of non-compliance with his Eurocentric male world-view. Faten has come to realize that, in her own way, in fulfilling Martín’s sexual desires and his need to “save” her, she would be, in fact, extending the colonial regime of cultural appropriation. Abdul JanMohamed underlines this type of postcolonial dynamic in his study of racial difference in colonialist literature when he suggests that “the colonialist destroys, without any significant qualms, the effectiveness of indigenous economic, social, political, legal and moral systems and imposes his own versions of these structures on the Other.”34 Here, the “Other” has now returned to the colonizer’s own land, where the next generation attempts to perpetuate this economy of dominance and control in different ways. Faten’s nascent self-determination leads to a type of reconciliation even with Betoul, for whom she prepares an Eid meal. Besides rejecting Martín, Faten decides to stay home on the Muslim holiday rather than work, suggesting a changing attitude towards her relationship with Islam. Rather than being combative, the two women discuss their situations and can even recognize the irony of Betoul’s position in relationship to her own employer. Betoul describes how the mother did not go to work that day and rather spent it in bed crying because she finds herself “too fat” and “undesirable” to her husband. This leaves Betoul to take over as caregiver, taking the girls to school, putting the baby down for a nap, making lunch and altering the woman’s pants to accommodate her growing waist.35 In this moment, Betoul stands in as “mother” while Faten, in her role of satisfier of sexual needs, can be seen as the cause of the Spanish woman’s tears, as the wife implies that someone else, perhaps a prostitute or other woman, perhaps even Faten, is sexually satisfying her husband. On a larger level, the holiday gives them an opportunity to reflect on what they have both sacrificed for this life in Madrid, and then they finally share a meal together.

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This sense of what must be sacrificed by the immigrant is further extended through Lalami’s character Aziz, in some ways a “typical” Moroccan emigrant. Unable to find permanent and financially viable employment in his home city of Casablanca, he makes two attempts, spending his own money and that of his family, to get to Spain. Following the trail of thousands before him, he works in the fields of Catalonia before finding a job in a restaurant in Madrid. Such a role is explored by Rebecca Saunders in her critical analysis of emigrants as “global foreigners who are often perceived as material objects—their value assessed in terms of capacity for physical labor or embodied service, their presence confined to the body,”36 a position occupied by Faten and Betoul as well as Aziz. In the five years Aziz spends in Spain, he manages to regularize his status and obtain the needed papers and permits. After all the pay-offs and fees, he is able to save 50,000 Moroccan dirhams, about $5,000 U.S. Rather than returning triumphantly to his wife and family, dressed well and bearing gifts, he returns on foot, sweating in his warm sweater, with his luggage in his arms. He finds his widowed mother living with his wife, whom he barely remembers, his sister-in-law wearing hijab and his family urging him to remain with his wife. Retelling his experiences in Spain, he puts a positive spin on his life there, describing his friends and his apartment but neglecting to add the numerous humiliations he routinely suffers, such as being suspected of being a thief in a department store, of being routinely checked for his papers, and of being treated as if he “were invisible” by cashiers.37 Like many returning Moroccan emigrants, he quickly realizes that he has no place in Morocco, and, even if he would like to be with his wife, she would have no satisfactory place in Madrid away from her family and culture. Despite the repeated calls for them to be together, neither of them is content with the idea of them being in either Madrid or in Casablanca together. His dislocation also suggests frustration, as he thinks, “What did she expect of him? He couldn’t give up an opportunity to work just so he could be home with her. Did she have any idea what he’d gone through to make it in Spain? He couldn’t give it all up now. He had to go back.”38 Such a predicament underlines the disaffection that often follows emigrants and which often permanently alters family dynamics. Though there is an attempt to improve the overall quality of life for his family, even this is fraught with lack of communication—as suggested here when Aziz proudly presents his wife with a new sewing machine and learns she has already purchased a second-hand one. The stories of Faten and Aziz, seen together, present several ways in which the “Moor has returned to Spain,” yet both underline the persistent cultural

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disruption, and at times violent ideological positioning, of the Spanish vis à vis their former colonial subjects. Economically, domestically and sexually, these North Africans point out the needs and fears of the colonizer. Though emigrants may believe, before departure, that working in Spain will be value-neutral, merely a place to earn a living for themselves or their families who stay both mentally and physically “behind,” this novel suggests the pernicious price that they often pay. In Spain, living as “global foreigners,” these workers bear what Saunders calls “the stigmata of an ambivalence, of an infantile and ‘primitive’ past.”39 Such a primitive past serves the needs of the Spanish imaginary; however, Lalami does not merely cast blame on the receiving country, but also on the failure of the Moroccan state and society. These feelings of exclusion, as we saw at the beginning of the novel, are not bound to the present, but also connect characters to their illustrious historical past, to a past when indigenous leaders were conquerors and transmitters of a rich Arab-Islamic culture. The psychological persistence of this more illustrious and more “indigenous” Moroccan past reappears at the closing of the novel. After being returned to Tangier, Murad strives to function in the unwholesome social conditions within which he finds himself and realizes that he must also resolve a deeper crisis concerning his personal and cultural identity. Murad finds himself working in a tourist shop, selling off bits of his own culture in the form of wooden tablets used by students early in the twentieth century, rugs made by Berber women, cheap trinkets and even stories about Morocco. Yet, as is demonstrated through his interaction with two female tourists, even his role as “expert” of his own culture is put into question. Implicitly, his knowledge is ironically compared to that of Paul Bowles, who, one of the female tourists suggests in a conversation, knew Morocco “better than Moroccans themselves.”40 This conversation reminds him of what he used to tell tourists about Paul Bowles in an attempt to have them hire him as a guide—ironically using the name of this foreigner to attract them. This time, however, the impact is totally different as the information about Bowles comes from these tourists. Bowles’ reputation for being knowledgeable derives from people’s readings of his later works, where he literally takes over, or colonizes, the oral stories of Morocco as given to him or taken from oral storytellers such as Ahmed Yacoubi and Larbi Layachi, who were themselves illiterate. The resulting stories were “strange bicultural hybrids” that became read as authentic retellings of Moroccan oral culture.41 Yet this time, rather than “selling” his knowledge of Paul Bowles to these two women, one of whom mentions several times that she is interested in seeing Bowles’ home and the café he frequented, Murad claims a voice for himself and offers, instead, to tell the two young women

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a tale. The conversion of Murad from a reader, a consumer of translated Moroccan oral tales written into English by Bowles, into a storyteller, a producer of tales in their original oral form, correlates with the emergence of a new sense of self; the act of storytelling represents a shift in Murad’s political consciousness and a performance of his self-affirmation. It is also an act of postcolonial resistance and personal cultural triumph. This situation triggers a moment of deep reflection on the past as he remembers how his father used to sit on the side of bed at night and tell him stories he is now unable to remember in detail: He remembered the stories only in fragments, names like Juha and Aisha rising to his consciousness now, pieces of a puzzle that he couldn’t reconstruct. Realizing this, he felt at once angry and sad, as though he had just discovered that a part of him was missing. He stared at the page for a long time, trying to bring back the memory of a single story.42 Though he is frustrated at his inability to recall orally transmitted cultural heritage, North African stories of characters such as Juha and Aisha Qandisha, as well as tales from 1001 Nights, he also realizes their importance. Past memories and stories are revalorized.43 This time, however, he does not give up, nor does he rely on the telling of his culture by others, as represented by Bowles. Instead, he initiates his own act of storytelling, his own act of creating a cultural identity. He comes to a critical decision point, as did the other characters in the book. Instead of eagerly ingratiating himself with the two women, as he might have done on earlier occasions, he offers them himself, suggesting, that he can tell them a story while they have tea. And later, when he finds his co-worker offering a rug at a ridiculously low price, he does not let the error go, but rather wants the women to value the rug, which he knows is connected, in the minds of these women, to how much they must pay for it. Thus, he intercedes and coolly corrects the low price of the rug offered by his co-worker. In addition, once the woman accepts a revised price that accurately reflects what the rug should be worth, he does not try to offer them or sell them anything else. Rather, he turns from them, “already lost in the story he would start writing tonight.”44 Here we then see a connection that Lalami suggests herself—in light of persistent colonization of land, politics and culture, the indigenous must write new stories to pass on. Indeed, we see here the connection she herself has suggested between her own role as writer and that of Murad. The story Murad tells the women reproduces a story of society’s victimization of the poor and, more specifically, of women and the religious, but

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also suggests ultimate self-empowerment and the return of the victim for revenge against the oppressor. In the story, Jenara, the beautiful daughter of a poor muezzin, who calls the faithful to prayer, is betrothed to a young rugmaker named Ghomari who struggles to make enough money to pay the girl’s dowry and get married. They are truly in love, but an ugly dwarf who works for the sultan falls in love with her and is subsequently rejected by her; he seeks revenge by having her kidnapped and delivered to the sultan. Angry but unable to fight against such powerful forces, the rugmaker designs a masterpiece in which his beloved is pictured holding a knife with which revenge will be meted out to the sultan. By the end of the story, Jenara herself is able to actually murder the sultan with a knife, thus revenging both Jenara and her beloved, who had already been sentenced to be executed by the sultan as punishment for creating the rug. This story, with bits of magic and localized Islamic culture, has affinities with the stories of Paul Bowles, stories such as “A Distant Episode,” about a European professor of linguistics who travels to a North African desert to do research on a dialect and ends up being beaten up and his tongue cut by the Reguibat tribe, or “Allal,” a story about a boy who is transformed into a deadly serpent. However, in this story the triumph is ultimately reserved for those who have been wronged, not only the rugmaker Ghomari but also his family and that of Jenara. This act of storytelling is self-empowering by virtue of the space that it opens for the native storyteller’s voice to “write into the history of modernity the ambivalences, contradictions, the use of force, and the tragedies and the ironies that attend it”45 and also contest the contradictions and ambivalences in the neocolonial modern project in order to regain agency.

Agency Regained Murad’s storytelling episode comes in the aftermath of overhearing Sandy and Chrissa’s reactions to the motifs and patterns of Moroccan rugs and their comments on the Qur’anic slate, artifacts highly coveted by tourists. These artifacts underline the tourists’ perceptions of Moroccan art and culture, items to be re-presented in living rooms and on bookshelves in the first world by what Leslie Sklair (1998) calls “the transnational capitalist class.”46 Sandy and Chrissa represent this class’s anthropologically informed approach that remains anchored in its exteriority, drawn by the patterns of the rugs and the exotic cursive turns of Arabic calligraphy. Commenting on the ideological discourse of tourism in developing countries, Gonsalves observes that the lifestyles and attitudes associated with tourists contribute to the “view that modern tourism is an extension of colonialism (with all the

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attributes of a master-servant relationship).”47 Such an ideological homogenizing of other cultures is evident when Sandy suggests a parallel between native Moroccan carpet weaving styles and the motifs to be found in Native Americans’ rugs, thereby both eliding difference and placing Morocco in a similar position via the dominant culture. Such an analogical structure contests the epistemology that informs such an attitude to the significance of Moroccan weaving and highlights the postcolonial critique of the colonial paradigm that approaches rugs woven by indigenous women as desired and coveted collectibles controlled by consumer values catering to an elite market. This position is reinforced by the women’s discussion of which item would be most appropriate as a wedding gift for Chrissa’s sister—a rug or a tablet. By purchasing such items, Saunders would argue, the two women promote their own “membership in the transnational capitalist class” that is “to a large degree, certified by appreciating and possessing such foreign goods.”48 Their own status would be further embellished by having obtained such an object “from the source” rather than Pier One imports. The story of the rug, however, rather than the rug itself, promotes a new interpretative paradigm according to which a daily practice of carpet weaving serves also as an artistic form of expression that projects Moroccan women as agents of cultural resistance to oppressive abuse and domination. The plot of revenge in the story involves dexterity in reading symbolically encrypted language whose codes Jenara and Ghomari construct to counteract hegemony, proving that artistic design and weaving is not divorced from the everyday struggle of identity building and self-affirmation, from the natural world of daily practices, and connected to not only making a living but also political activism. Alternatively, Murad’s story repositions the artistic design by inserting it in a human narrative of language and symbolism that goes beyond the paradigm of commoditization that disregards the producers and renders their agency invisible. Murad’s deployment of artistic design in his narrative provides a posture that conflicts with “the basic tenet of the Western concept of art [which] maintains that the essential value of material culture lies outside the context of its meaning and use.”49 The story blurs the dividing line between the imaginary artistic realm of fulfillment and that of political engagement and moral justice. The art of rug weaving is integral to the narrating process that takes place in the postcolonial context in which it consolidates the historical memory and also participates in the writing of the present and ongoing process of redefining and negotiating identity. The novel ends with a last section, suggestively called “storytelling,” which binds all these loosely connected lives heuristically and symbolically through Murad’s newly developed sense of identity as a storyteller. By closing in this

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way, Lalami gives Murad’s narrative a framing perspective that brings the domestic and transnational conditions in harmony through the trajectory of his newly acquired vision that reflects on the politics of exclusion as well as the strategies to overcome them. The concept of cultural frontier in Lalami’s novel also emphasizes the constitution of the territorial/geographical crossing as a discursive site that reflects how borders are constructed by characters through acts of encounter and how a reconstitution of national memory becomes intimate and personal. I have explored how multiple forms of identities are formed in subjects from disparate localities as informed by the economy of a colonial experience that is then played out within a general context of postcolonialism. By focusing on instances in which micropolitics of resistance are at work in moments when race, gender and sexuality coalesce, we see how the production of meaning becomes implicated in postcolonial structures of power both domestically, in contemporary Morocco, and in the land of the colonizer, Spain. For example, although Faten’s conversion into a professional prostitute might signal her desire to enact a move of cultural rootlessness as a strategy of coping with her traumatic experience of rape, Martín’s treatment and attitude, in the end, trigger a return of historical rootedness that enables her to stage her political act of resistance—rejecting him and finding energy to celebrate the Eid holiday. We can see this as an example of what Michael O’Riley calls “postcolonial haunting” in which “the advent of postcolonial consciousness has emphasized the imperative of returning to occluded colonial history through a reckoning with the spectres of the nation’s colonial heritage.”50 Accordingly, Faten is able to anchor her sense of identity within a reconstruction of historical narrative that makes Martín stand for the return of the repressed “Spanish colonizer” in their relationship. The relationship between them inaugurates a complex process of self-scrutiny that prompts Faten to not only refuse to accommodate and ultimately dismiss his fabricated fantasies of her but to revalorize historical memory as a central component in the constitution of cultural identity. A mutual groping takes place immediately after their final sexual encounter which leads Martín to reveal his hatred of his father, who had served under Franco, whom he considers “fascist.” 51 Martín, in fact, reproduces a colonial relationship between himself and Faten, both bearing the memory of the Rif ’s success in defeating the Spanish army in the battle of Anoual, and in Spain’s brutal revenge through the dispersal of mustard gas across the Rif. Martín’s father and grandfather served in the army under Franco, and Faten’s grandfather was blinded by the mustard gas. Such recognition on the part of Martín suggests that his interest in Faten can be read as his

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own act of resistance to his father. For Faten, it triggers memories about what she has been told of the Rif War and its heroic figure, Ibn Abdelkarim al-Khattabi. The Rif ’s resistance movement led to, in historian C. R. Pennell’s estimation, “the worst defeat of a colonial army in Africa [Spain’s] in the twentieth century.”52 Lalami emphasizes the potency and significance of this embedded historical event in Faten’s newly acquired sense of self after Martín mentions Franco: “Hearing the Generalismo’s name stirred in Faten memories about her maternal grandfather, a proud Rifi who’d lost his eyesight during the rebellion in the north. It was mustard gas, he’d told his children, and he’d spent the rest of his life begging for a gun to put an end to it all.”53 This act of retribution inflicted from the air literally blinds those on the ground and ends their “vision” of a proud victory. In deploying the memory of the war of the Rif, Faten experiences the return of a past that has been occluded or overwritten in her attempt to homogenize herself in Spanish society and culture. Running as a subtext in such a memory is the figure of Ibn Abdelkarim al-Khattabi, whom we encounter in Murad’s reflections on the circumstances when the tablets end up in the bazaar. The postcolonial moment of mutual confession, Martín himself calling his father a fascist and a pig, leads to the collapse of their bond. Evidently, the past legacy of conflict and aggression continues to overshadow the present and shape the contours of Hispano-Moroccan future possibilities since, as Bhabha says, the experience of colonial time events in a postcolonial era “impels the past, projects it, gives its dead symbols the circulatory life of the sign of the present.”54

Conclusion As we get closer to the end of the novel, Murad not only enacts his own role as storyteller, but also alters his perspective about his own and his society’s future. As he states, “There was no use reading stories like this anymore; he needed to write his own.”55 The closing emphasizes the power of memory as a source of empowerment for the future. On one level, his act may be construed as an imitative act that gestures towards the repetition of the colonial gaze. But it is a conscious act that is coterminous with the regaining of confidence as well as agency. Murad’s story dramatizes the subject of oppressive use of power and reflects a structure of power reminiscent of Faten’s dilemma and other characters’ victimization. In that respect, it can be interpreted as a discursive gesture that points towards the ideology of resistance that takes the form of storytelling as an act of emancipation and the forging of agency.56 The trajectories of these characters point to

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postcolonial tendencies in the immigration context, as well as the dynamics that frame the cultural frontier, which informs encounters with the other in the various figurations of crossing. In evoking the iconic figure of Ibn Abdelkarim al-Khattabi they assert the relevance of the past historical experience of colonialism and show how its memory could be a source of strength and resilience in the postcolonial time. The significance of the crossing is not so much spatial as psychological. In Lalami’s novel, the characters are trapped within a Eurocentric vision that encounters with the other tend to both confirm and destabilize. But the novel emphasizes acts of active resistance that do not reiterate victimization but ones that offer a path towards cultural resistance that honors cultural memory and calls for the development of more ideologically informed forms of engaging historical memory in order to promote individual and cultural agency.

Notes 1. A version of this article first appeared as “‘Illegal’ Crossing, Historical Memory and Postcolonial Agency in Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits” in Journal of North African Studies, 17.1: 143–56. 2. Daniela Flesler, The Return of the Moor: Spanish Responses to Contemporary Moroccan Immigration (West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2008), 9. 3. Laila Lalami, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (Orlando: Harvest Books, Harcourt, 2005). 4. A growing number of Moroccan writers have begun writing in English since the 1980s, such as Jilali El-Koudia, Abdelatif Akbib and Majid Anouar, though few have managed the critical success found by Laila Lalami. 5. Jilali El Koudia, who co-authored with Hasan M El-Shamy, Moroccan Folktales (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003), translated and edited other collections of short stories in English such as Moroccan Short Stories: From the Seventies to the Nineties (Fez: Moroccan Cultural Studies Centre, 2006), Moroccan Short Stories: From the Beginning to the Nineties ([Morocco: s.n.], 1998). He also wrote Stories Under the Sun (Fez: I’Media, 1999) and Up and Down the Road and Other Stories (Fez: Moroccan Cultural Studies Centre, 2007). Abdellatif Akibib has published Graffiti (Tanger: Slaiki Bros, 1997), The Lost Generation: Collected Short Stories (Tanger: Slaiki Bros, 2000), Tangier’s Eyes on America (Morocco: Ado Maroc, 2001), Between the Lines (Fez: Moroccan Cultural Studies Centre, 2003) and one novel Hearts of Embers (Morocco: s.n., 2004). In addition to many scholarly books, Anouar Majid has also published a novel, Si Youssef (London: Quartet Books, 1992). 6. Gaiutra Bahadur, “Vulnerable Morocco,” New York Sunday Book Review (online), June 5, 2009, accessed January 4, 2013, http://www.nytimes.

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com/2009/06/07/books/review/Bahadur-t.html?_r=0. 7. Rebecca L. Walkowitz, “The Location of Literature: The Transnational Book and the Migrant Writer,” Contemporary Literature, 47.4 (2006): 533. 8. Laila Lalami, Secret Son (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2009). 9. Lalami, Hope, 3. 10. The neocolonial context that characterizes the relationship between the two countries was made more palpable recently over the dispute between Morocco and Spain about the small island of Perejil, a tiny patch of land 200 meters from the Moroccan coast. When a group of Moroccan soldiers set up a controlling base for illegal immigrants on the island in July 2002, Spain was infuriated by the move which she considered as an aggression against its territorial sovereignty. On July 18, 2002, Spain launched a military operation, called Operation Romeo-Sierra, in which the navy and the air force participated and captured the island. The Moroccan soldiers were removed to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta by the guardia civil before they were released at the border again. For a discussion of this issue and its impact on the future of Hispano-Moroccan relations as well as Euro-Maghreb political and economic future see Avaro Vasconcelos, “Perejil/Leila: Lessons for Europe – Why Have All Failed?” The Real Instituto El Cano, July 2000; B. Maddy-Weitzman “The Spanish-Moroccan Crisis and the Future of Euro-Mediterranean Relations: Farce or Harbinger of Things to Come?” Tel Aviv Notes 46.30 July (2002): 1–3, and Ron E. Hassner, “The Path to Intractability: Time and the Entrenchment of Territorial Disputes,” International Security, 31.3 (2006/7): 107–38. 11. Marie-Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 7. 12. Lalami, Hope, 7. 13. Laila Lalami, Authors@Google series: Laila Lalami, Santa Monica, CA, March 19, 2008, accessed January 2, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=c5xcS4xK90w. 14. Alternatively, the conceptualization of the past in modern Spanish culture is crucial to the dynamic and complex economy that informs the construction of identity in contemporary Spain. For more input on that negotiation of the past in Spanish culture see Flesler, The Return of the Moor; Susan Martin-Marquez, Disorientations: Spanish Colonialism in Africa and the Performance of Identity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008); and Barbara Fuchs, Exotic Nation: Maurophilia and the Construction of Early Modern Spain (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). 15. Laila Lalami, “Winter of Discontent.,” The Nation, February 3, 2011 (online), accessed January 2, 2013, http://www.thenation.com/article/158221/ winter-discontent. 16. Lalami, Hope, 2. 17. Ibid., 102. 18. Ibid., 103.

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19. While the official unemployment rate in Morocco has hovered around 10 per cent for about a decade, this rate does not take into account more significant rates of underemployment. Among the most vocal groups of the unemployed are the chômeurs-diplômés, unemployed graduates, who even have their own association, Association nationale des diplômés chômeurs au Maroc. 20. Lalami, Hope, 129. 21. Ibid. 22. Ibid., 36. 23. Ibid., 129. 24. Flesler, Return, 10. 25. Lalami, Hope, 141. 26. Ibid., 137. 27. Ibid., 138. 28. Edward Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 295. 29. Lalami, Hope, 134. 30. Ibid., 137. 31. Shahnaz Khan, Muslim Women: Crafting a North American Identity (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), xii. 32. Lalami, Hope, 142. 33. Ibid. 34. Abdul R. JanMohamed, “The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The Function of Racial Difference in Colonialist Literature,” Critical Inquiry 12.1 (1985): 85. 35. Lalami, Hope, 144. 36. Rebecca Saunders, “Uncanny Presence: The Foreigner at the Gate of Globalization,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 21.1 & 2 (2001): 92. 37. Lalami, Hope, 155. 38. Ibid., 167. 39. Saunders, “Uncanny Presence,” 189. 40. Lalami, Hope, 174. 41. J. R. Maier, “Two Moroccan Storytellers in Paul Bowles’s Five Eyes: Larbi Layachi and Ahmed Yacoubi,” Postmodern Culture 1.3 (1991): 11. 42. Lalami, Hope, 174–5. 43. While stories of Juha, a bumbling comic figure, appear throughout the Middle East, Aisha Kendisha is a more localised North African folk figure who is known for her devilish nature and her potential sexual danger to men. 44. Lalami, Hope, 186. 45. Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who speaks for ‘Indian’ Pasts?” Representations 37 (1992): 21. 46. Leslie Sklair, “Social Movements and Global Capitalism,” in The Cultures of Globalization, ed. F. Jameson and M. Miyoshi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 299.

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47. P. Gonsalves, “Divergent Views: Convergent Paths: towards a Third World Critique of Tourism,” Contours 6.3/4 (1993), 11. For an analysis of the subject of tourism and the connections of its discourses and ideologies to imperialism, globalization and neocolonialism, see Martin Mowforth and Ian Munt, Tourism and Sustainability Development, Globalisation and New Tourism in the Third World (New York: Routledge, 2003); John Madeley, Big Business, Poor Peoples: The Impact of Transnational Corporations on the World’s Poor (New York: Zed Books, 1999); John Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism: A Critical Introduction (London: Pinter, 1991); Dennison Nash, “Tourism as a Form of Cultural Imperialism,” in Hosts and Guests: The Anthropology of Tourism, ed. V. L. Smith (London: Blackwell, 1977), 33–47; and Marianne Vardalos, Invading Goa: New Tourism or Old Imperialism? (Saarbrücken, Germany: Lap Lambert Academic Publishing Books, 2010). 48. Saunders, “Uncanny Presence,” 89. 49. Kathy M’Closkey, Swept under the Rug: A Hidden History of Navajo Weaving (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008), 8. 50. Michael F. O’Riley, “Postcolonial Haunting: Anxiety, Affect, and the Situated Encounter,” Postcolonial Text 3.4 (2007): 1. 51. Lalami, Hope, 132. 52. Charles Richard Pennell, Morocco since 1830: A History (New York: New York University Press, 200), 190. The war of the Rif was a central episode of Moroccan resistance and struggle against Spanish incursions in the northern part of Morocco, also known as the Spanish zone. Due to his charisma and leadership, Ibn Abdelkarim al-Khattabi was able to mobilize massive popular support among the Rif tribes and to organize an army that fought the battle of Anoual on July 25, 1921 and resulted in the defeat of the Spanish army and the death of about 10,000 Spanish soldiers. For more information on the Rif War and Ibn Abdelkarim al-Khattabi, see David S. Wolman, Rebels in the Rif; Abd el Krim and the Rif Rebellion (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1968); Ronald Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa since 1800, 5th edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Hart D. Montgomery, The Aith Waryaghar of the Moroccan Rif: An Ethnography and History (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, for Wenner-Gren Foundation, 1976); Germain Ayache, Les origines de la guerre du Rif (Paris: Editions de la Sorbonne, and Rabat: SMER, 1981); and Charles Richard Pennell, “Ideology and Practical Politics: A Case Study of the Rif War in Morocco, 1921–1926,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 14.1 (1982): 19–33. 53. Lalami, Hope, 132. 54. Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 254. 55. Lalami, Hope, 186. 56. There are many projects from both banks of the strait that seek to foster understanding and the importance of highlighting the mutual recognition of the cultures that have informed al-Andalus and the history of Hispano-Moroccan

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h relations, such as the writings of Juan Goytisolo, including Juan sin Tierra (Barcelona: Editorial Seix Barral,1975), Makbara (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1980), El exiliado de aquí y de allá (Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg: Círculo de Lectores, 2008), and Said Jdidi’s Yamna: Memoria Intima (Tangier: Asociación de escritores marroquíes en lengua espagñola, 2006), or José Monleón, ed., Cuentos de las dos orillas (Granada: Fundación El Legado Andalusí 2006). For more on this, see Lara N. Dotson-Renta, “Translated Identities: Writing between Morocco and Spain,” Journal of North African Studies 13.4 (2008): 429–39.

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Chapter 7 Z e n ga Z e n ga a n d B u n ga B u n ga : T h e N ove l s o f H i s h a m M a t a r a n d a C r i t i q u e o f G a d d a fi ’ s L i bya Christopher Micklethwait

c o n s t e l lat i o n s t h e n ov e l s o F h i s h a m m ata r

The two novels of Anglo Libyan author Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (2006) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011), center on the abduction of their respective protagonists’ fathers at the hands of revolutionary dictatorships.1 In the former, the father, Faraj el Dewani, is seized by members of the Revolutionary Committee during the reign of political terror in Libya in 1979, viciously tortured in custody, and then released to his family after confessing and revealing the names of his co-conspirators. In the latter, the father, Kamal Pasha El-Alfi, an ex-minister and exiled dissident of an unnamed Arab country, is kidnapped from the home of his mistress in Geneva in the winter of 1972, never to be seen or heard from again. The thematic similarities of these plots have made it difficult not to relate them to the author’s family and personal experiences with the regime of Colonel Gaddafi, which ruled Libya from 1969 until 2011. As Matar has reported in several public interviews, his father, political dissident Jaballa Matar, vanished from Cairo in 1990 where he had been living in exile; he had been abducted by Libyan agents with the cooperation of Egyptian security forces and clandestinely repatriated to Libya where he was held, for a time, in Libya’s infamous Abu Salim prison, only to disappear completely in 1996.2 Much of my understanding of Matar’s novels depends upon their confessional, testimonial qualities as somewhat personal, even autobiographical, records of the Libyan state’s abuses of its citizens’ human rights. Other critics have shared this semi-autobiographical reading of Matar’s novels. Barbara Harlow, for example, has recently described Matar’s works as “autobiographical novels,” noting that they feature an “indexicality of Libya and its history.”3 Yet, in an interview with Nouri Gana for Words Without Borders in May 2007, Hisham Matar has averred,

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“I am not aware that I have told ‘my story.’ I am not even sure what that story would be; one is made up of so many stories that it is hard to find the authoritative one.” “In the Country of Men,” he resolves, “is entirely fictional.”4 Beyond the matter of fiction versus autobiography, the political engagement of Matar’s novel has also been called into question. In one of the first scholarly examinations of Matar’s work, Layla Al Maleh suggests that In the Country of Men is not necessarily political, although the events take place against the backdrop of political upheavals in Libya in 1979 when the regime cracked down on dissidents. It is more about relations among family members, friends, and neighbours who share life under the gaze not of an omnipresent God but of an ominous “Guide.”5 In a March 2011 interview with Riz Khan for Al-Jazeera English, Matar commented on the question of political commitment more generally, hesitating at the idea that “writers are … fundamentally useful to a revolution. I think we serve a function,” he explains, “just like a baker serves a function in a revolution. I don’t think we’re more important than that—maybe even we’re less important, far less important than a baker. And I see now in the Libyan revolution, it’s a revolution that doesn’t necessarily need writers.” Matar moved to temper this statement by deflating the “opposing kind of view that is often romanticized in the West, about […] the writer under oppression and how somehow that state can inspire deep and incredibly good, urgent works.” “I see evidence,” he concludes, “that oppression stifles literature, it stifles thought, it stifles education and intellectual discourse.”6 Given that Matar’s novels instantiate variations on his own lived experience to dissect these forms of oppression, his dismissal of both the personal and the political ought to be taken as somewhat disingenuous. Despite his protests, Matar’s novels have provided important insights into the historical conditions of power in modern Libya, and, by extension, present an opportunity to examine and reconsider the topographies of imperial power in the early twentieth century. Following the suggestions of Nouri Gana and Heike Härting in their introductory essay to a special journal issue of the same title, “Narrative Violence: Africa and the Middle East,” I believe it is possible to excavate from the tone and narrative framing of Matar’s novels a discourse on, and in some ways against, the redemptive qualities of narrative in the face of state terror and oppression.7 Much like the texts and readings covered by Gana and Härting, Matar’s novels use narrative “not

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only to challenge the entrapments of contemporary violence” as witnessed in Gaddafi’s Libya, “but also to do so in a self-reflexively anti-redemptory fashion.”8 In this chapter, I contend that Matar’s novels, fraught as they are with this unsettled and unsettling dialectic of the personal and the political, interact with a Libyan social reality overshadowed by national, revolutionary apparatuses of Foucauldian biopower, the power of the state over the life of its subjects, on the one hand, and systemic reconfigurations of global, imperial necropower, Achille Mbembe’s term that updates Foucault’s biopower to account for the violence and death that imperial states and non-state entities wield against their colonial subjects, on the other.9 Matar, I argue, re-encodes overriding metanarratives of modern Libyan national history and late liberalization that can be summarized by two duplicative, rhyming locutions from the waning of Gaddafi’s regime: “zenga zenga” and “bunga bunga.” Each of Matar’s novels works its way through first-person narrative modes to recover or redeem what has been lost through state violence; in so doing, these novels make possible a historical record of the Gaddafi regime’s crimes and abuses that had been circumscribed by the historical imperatives of Libya’s “reformative” integration into the global political order. As such, Matar’s novels accomplish a dual critique of both the failed anti-imperialism of the early Gaddafi regime and the imperial system of necropower with which it became complicit in its final years.

Disciplinary Violence and Biopower in In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance The phrase “zenga zenga” entered the popular lexicon as anti-government protests in Libya accelerated precipitously toward open revolt and civil war and Colonel Gaddafi gave a chilling speech in downtown Tripoli on 22 February 2011, threatening to “purify” [tathir] Libya “shibr shibr, bayt bayt, dar dar, zenga zenga, fard fard,” roughly translated as “inch by inch, home by home, building by building, street by street, person by person.”10 Gaddafi’s desperate speech became a point of mockery when Israeli journalist and digital artist Noy Alooshe remixed the speech as an auto-tuned dance clip that he posted on YouTube,11 yet the threat implied in Gaddafi’s “zenga zenga” speech was serious enough to mobilize the international community toward an intervention under the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect.12 Political scientist Larbi Sadiki describes “zenga zenga” as “the words of a demented ruler in a contractless political system who saw his end nearing and in the face of adversity dispatched his henchmen on a murderous cleansing of Libya ‘alley’ by ‘alley.’ ”13 Gaddafi’s expression not only symbolically

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declared a state of civil war in Libya, but also dredged up the history of violent coercion that had underwritten the Libyan state since the revolution but had, in recent years, been in the process of being forgotten as Libya came to be “forgiven” by the leaders of the world community for its domestic and international state crimes. In its philological essence, “zenga zenga” calls forth what Michel Foucault termed “biopower,” a fundamental principle of state governance that attributes to the state absolute sovereignty over life and death.14 Studying motifs of biopower within the context of Hisham Matar’s first novel, In the Country of Men, I find that Matar here exposes and critiques the mechanisms of state power in a violent, hyper-vigilant postcolonial dictatorship. In the Country of Men cleaves to the historical setting of Libya in 1979 that is indirectly conjured by “zenga zenga.” The year 1979 was the tenth anniversary of the “bloodless coup” of September 1969 that brought Gaddafi to power in Libya, and it also marks the inauguration of the regime’s dramatic reconstruction of its state as an entity parallel to the revolution itself, a process that turned violently on the Libyan people, intimidating dissenters and implanting widespread mechanisms of control over all aspects of Libyan life. Referential markers of historical specificity undergird the budding selfconsciousness of the nine-year-old protagonist Suleiman el Dewani as the focalizing perspective of the story. In the Country of Men is told from the point of view of a first-person narrator through temporal modes of prolepsis and analepsis as the time-space of the novel progresses through the narrator’s memory of his boyhood in Tripoli in 1979, to arrive at his diegetic “now-time” in Cairo in 1994. The narration opens with the narrator’s remembrance of “that last summer before [he] was sent away. It was 1979, and the sun was everywhere. Tripoli lay brilliant and still beneath it.”15 These markers of time-space—chronotopes, as Mikhail Bakhtin calls them—arrange the narrator’s memory of his childhood into measurable coordinates of time and place, with his neighbor Ustath Rashid’s abduction from Mulberry Street by the Revolutionary Committee men as its spaciotemporal nexus.16 These chronotopic markers create points of epistemological contact between the fictional universe of the novel and the external social reality of modern Libya. For example, while criticizing Faraj’s friend Moosa for dabbling in dissent, Suleiman’s mother Najwa pleads, “You saw what happened three years ago when those students dared to speak. They hanged them by their necks. And now we are condemned to witness the whole thing again.”17 Recalling the same historical event later in the novel, Moosa says, “There was so much hope, so much hope. Three years ago eight thousand

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students in Benghazi and four in Tripoli. Twelve thousand students took a stand in an illiterate country of less than three million.”18 Reference to a national historical reality reappears in the novel’s epilogue, when the narrated story of Suleiman’s childhood catches up with his “now-time” as narrator in the present: “In 1979, a few days after I was sent to Cairo, the entire Libyan population was given three days to deposit liquid assets into the National Bank. The national currency had been redesigned, they were told, to celebrate the revolution’s tenth anniversary.”19 The narrator goes on to describe the Libyan state’s obsession with hunting “stray dogs,” dissident Libyans living abroad, as his rationale for remaining in exile in Cairo. These signifiers of external historical fact become meaningful precisely in the sense that they anchor the narrative in the generalized violence of Libya’s revolutionary transformations and the anti-imperial rhetoric that defined the specific social reality of the period. The novel’s unpacking of this social reality begins to unfold in an episode set in the restaurant of Italian immigrant Signor il Calzone. Early in the novel, this restaurant becomes a setting in which fear of the Revolutionary Committees and the dictatorship itself are staged as the primary element of the novel’s social reality. Suleiman recalls how Signor il Calzone “would chant, loud enough for all the restaurant to hear, ‘Long live the Guide,’ toward a large mural he had had a couple of art students paint at one end of the restaurant.”20 “And if the restaurant had a table of Revolutionary Committee men,” he continues, “or Mokhabarat, people we called Antennae, he chanted, ‘El-Fateh, el-Fateh, el-Fateh,’ punching the air with his fist until the waiters joined in.”21 Moreover, the figure of Signor il Calzone serves to exemplify the relationship of power and knowledge in a state under complete surveillance: his fear of being watched, of becoming an object of knowledge in the state’s disciplining of the citizenry, calls on him to comply with and reproduce affectations of loyalty and subservience to the regime for the purpose of his own survival. “Ah. Look how beautiful your country is,” he declares to Suleiman, “Now it’s mine too, no? I am also Libyan, like you. I speak like a Libyan, no?”22 Here Foucault’s felicitous concept of biopower helps to shed extra light on the social reality invoked in In the Country of Men. In brief, biopower is a systematic union of disciplinary knowledge and the sovereign state’s apparatuses for ordering all aspects of human life toward reproducing and re-enacting the power of the state. Examples of these apparatuses include universities, hospitals and prisons, which developed for the purpose of controlling behavior through coercive methods: as Foucault puts it, this form of power “centered on the body as a machine: its disciplining, the optimization

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of its capabilities, the extortion of its forces, the parallel increase of its usefulness and its docility, its integration into systems of efficient and economic controls.”23 The underlying narrative logic of this process of control depends on the compliant subjects’ eventual submission to sovereignty by reproducing its power through self-control and complicity in the disciplinary apparatuses themselves. In their assessment of Foucault’s notions of biopolitics and biopower, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri identify the “epochal passage from disciplinary society to the society of control” that effectively marks the completion of the modernization of any given state.24 The early-modern states advanced through a process of transformation into categories of “disciplinary society”; this process was reified in the rise of “a diffuse network of dispositifs or apparatuses that produce and regulate customs, habits, and productive practices.”25 In late modernity, these apparatuses may have become vestigial or redundant when their objective of social control has so completely invaded the domain of life that the mechanisms of control are internalized and self-policing. In such societies, Hardt and Negri argue, the “mechanisms of command become ever more ‘democratic,’ ever more immanent to the social field, distributed throughout the brains and bodies of the citizens,” such that “behaviors of social integration and exclusion proper to rule are thus increasingly interiorized within the subjects themselves.”26 To begin mapping Gaddafi’s Libya as a history of biopower, there are three major epistemic points of transformation that are useful in understanding the phases of deployment of mechanisms of discipline and control amongst the Libyan populace and then later the integration of the Libyan state, and its citizens by proxy, into an international regime of necropower (which I will discuss in the next section of this chapter in relation to Anatomy of a Disappearance): first, the early years of the revolution culminating in the domestic terror state of the Revolutionary Committees; then a period of neoliberal reform that begins cautiously in the late 1980s, reaching its apex in Libya’s reintegration into the world community and submission to international law; and finally the undoing of the regime in the brief civil war supported by a U.N.-backed military operation that toppled the Gaddafi regime in 2011. The first period, the “bloodless” Free Officers Revolution of 1969, inaugurated an era of transformations in the Libyan political economy that followed a pattern of anti-imperial resistance through socialism and nationalist rhetoric. This initial period closed with the declaration of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya in 1979 and witnessed an accelerating terrorization of the Libyan public as the regime’s tactics of political control became increasingly brutal.

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This brutality was largely carried out by the Revolutionary Committees, which were formed in the mid-1970s and then formalized as a semi-autonomous state instrument parallel to the people’s congresses. In his analysis of the Revolutionary Committees’ role in the governance of Libya, historian Hanspeter Mattes describes a program that indicates a system of biopolitical power at work. Mattes writes: The growing stature bestowed upon the revolutionary committees turned them into Qadhafi’s instrument for imposing ideological and political objectives throughout the Jamahiriyya. In the spring of 1980 they emerged as the institutional body through which the regime pursued an “internal revolution” that targeted three sets of problems: growing economic crime, problems with the bureaucracy and political deviation.27 As such, the Revolutionary Committees represent a category of disciplinary instruments that applies violence to Libyans in order to coerce them into submission to the state’s system of rule. Admittedly, there are problems with applying Foucault’s model of the disciplinary state and its apparatuses directly to a postcolonial situation like Gaddafi’s Libya; the objects of Foucault’s analysis, the disciplinary instruments and institutions of modern Western states, were designed quite specifically to support the very discourse of hegemonic liberal capitalism that Gaddafi’s rhetoric so vehemently opposed. Furthermore, the power of the discourses of sanity, sanitation and normality in which disciplinary institutions invested themselves also cloaked the nature of their violence in ways that rendered them essentially invisible to the public; the actions of the Revolutionary Committees in Libya, on the contrary, including their most violent predations, were quite public and reveled in their own visibility; for example, interrogations and even executions carried out by the Revolutionary Committees were at times nationally televised. Nevertheless, Libya’s Revolutionary Committees can be viewed as a sophisticated alternative model to the roles of discipline and biopower in the Foucauldian model, a point I will return to in my further discussion of In the Country of Men below. Though the Libyan state was weak in the sense that judicial and bureaucratic institutions were overridden by the Revolutionary Command Council and the Revolutionary Committees, strong instruments of discipline were syndicated throughout the population in institutions parallel to the state itself: “Following the announcement of the separation of the ‘instruments of the revolution’ and the ‘instruments of government’ on 2 March 1979,” Mattes writes, “the presence of the revolutionary committees was extended

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to all segments of Libyan society.”28 Considering these historical events through the lens of biopower, this period in Libyan history can be taken to represent the spread of mechanisms of social control across the society, using violence to discipline and execute when more subtle forms of coercion that target life itself failed to achieve the state’s goals. Returning to In the Country of Men, we can now begin to evaluate the role of autobiographical storytelling in Matar’s critique of power in Libya. The novel’s embedded discourse on narrative constructs it as a mode of resisting the erasure of life from history and redeeming the human subject from complicity in the system of biopolitics. The novel presents this discourse through acts of autobiographical narration first in the form of Najwa’s telling her own story to Suleiman, and second in Suleiman’s narration of the novel itself. Suleiman contemplates the burden of his mother’s stories: “The things she told me pressed down on my chest, so heavy that it seemed impossible to carry on living without spilling them.”29 This pairing of life and narrative is crucial to Matar’s encoding of biopolitics in this novel. On a metadiegetic level—a “story about the story”—these autobiographical acts of narration serve to describe the interplay between national and international historical narratives, on the one hand, and the psychological dimension of narrative on the other. Suleiman’s mother, Najwa, dominates this metadiegetic layer with recollections of her encounters with coercive patriarchal power as a fourteen-year-old girl. Her story, one that presses down on Suleiman as its sole audience, is allegorical in another way; it focalizes the theme of slavery over death—biopower, in a word—that underlies Suleiman’s attitudes toward state sovereignty and resistance. “The only things that mattered were in the past,” Suleiman proclaims about his mother’s stories, And what mattered most in the past was how she and Baba came to be married, that ‘black day,’ as she called it. She never started the story from the beginning; like Scheherazade she didn’t move in a straight line but jumped from one episode to another, leaving questions unanswered, questions the asking of which I feared would interrupt her telling.30 These references to the tales of Scheherazade have a number of signifying functions. First, the notion of the frame story reflects the tension between the personal and the political as competing yet complementary layers of meaning—“the entry of life into history,” as Foucault puts it.31 Second, Scheherazade’s problematic confrontation with power—she heroically tames the misogynistic rage of King Shahrayar and rescues the maidens of the realm, while, paradoxically, subjugating herself forever to his will—forms

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a pathway between the novel and the notion of personal complicity embedded within the concept of biopower. Suleiman underscores the subtlety of Najwa’s refashioning of the Scheherazade trope: “Nothing angered Mother more than the story of Scheherazade. I had always thought Scheherazade a brave woman who had gained her freedom through inventing tales and often, in moments of great fear, recalled her example.”32 Najwa sees things differently. She formulates her critique of Scheherazade not simply around the compromise she makes to preserve her own life, the bold “favor” she asks of her sovereign, but more specifically around its logic of service to power. “Your heroine’s boldness was to ask to be allowed,” she explains to her son, “[t]o live.” “And not because,” she adds, “she had as much right to live as he, but because if he were to kill her, his sons would live ‘motherless.’ ”33 Here Najwa echoes in powerful notes Foucault’s articulation of the body and life itself as the primary sites for resisting power: The “right” to life, to one’s body, to health, to happiness, to the satisfaction of needs, and beyond all oppressions or “alienations,” the “right” to discover what one is and all that one can be, this “right” […] was the political response to all these new procedures of power which did not derive, either, from the traditional right of sovereignty.34 Najwa’s narrative interventions through telling her own story and critiquing the tales of Scheherazade seek to inoculate the young Suleiman against the effect of compliance and complicity, structuring his later attitudes toward memory and narrative and engendering a sense of irony in the narrative form that the novel takes: confessional memoir. “I had to restrain myself,” he says, “and try to remember every piece of the story in the hope that one day I could fit it all into a narrative that was straight and clear and simple […] Her story was mine too, it bound us, turning us into one, ‘two halves of the same soul, two open pages of the same book,’ as she used to say.”35 Much as these stories unite Suleiman and his mother, “straight and clear and simple” historical narratives create opportunities for communal participation in a shared social reality, such as the suffering of the Libyan people under Gaddafi’s rule, and at times their collusion in reproducing and perpetuating that suffering. Najwa’s storytelling prepares the way for a deeper investigation into the novel’s discourse on the disciplinary violence of biopower. When she recalls the day of her wedding, she describes how she imagined “what kind of face [her] executioner had” and reflects on how the High Council of her father, brothers and uncles “passed judgment and he, the stranger armed with the

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marriage contract signed by [her] father, was going to carry out the punishment.”36 The novel’s symbols and images caught up in motifs of biopower and submission to authority are thrown into contrast against Najwa’s pragmatic response to these coercive exercises of authority. There is a seeming contradiction in Najwa’s principled condemnation of Scheherazade as a “coward who accepted slavery over death,”37 on the one hand, and, on the other, her selfish advice to Suleiman that he should never save a drowning person because “A drowning person is so hungry for life they can easily take you down with them.”38 Her instinct of self-preservation excludes her from the domain of political resistance that endangers Faraj and his friends. Najwa rebuffs them too: “I must be the good wife, loyal and unquestioning, support my man regardless. I’ll support nothing that puts my son in danger. Faraj can fly after his dreams all he wants, but not me, I won’t follow. I will get my son out of this place if it takes the last of me.”39 Najwa takes a number of initiatives to appease the regime and save her family: she has Moosa replace the portrait of Faraj in the family home with a portrait of Gaddafi; she and Moosa collect and burn Faraj’s books; and when Faraj is finally taken into custody, she supplicates herself to their neighbors Ustath Jafer, a government official, and his wife Um Masoud. Suleiman describes, from the perspective of the adult narrator, Ustath Jafer as the kind of man “who wanted to make the burden of his responsibilities clear; that he was a man who was thrust by fate’s benevolent hand into the vortex of his time.”40 Suleiman goes on to note that, unlike the other neighbors on the street, Ustath Jafer “didn’t seem outwardly eager to prove his loyalty,” owing to the fact that he was a senior member of the secret police, “concerned with the larger picture, with the mechanics of security, calculating who was to remain in front of the sun and who to be fixed firmly behind it.”41 Thinking back to the circumstance of his childhood, Suleiman concludes that he and his friends “secretly admired his power in comparison to [their] parents”; “Not one of us,” he declares, “didn’t want to be in his shoes.”42 During their courtly supplication at Ustath Jafar’s home, his wife Um Masoud shares an anecdote about a would-be assassin whom Gaddafi met in person and forgave; Suleiman remarks that his mother looked “astonished, hopeful, ridiculously naïve.”43 Taken together, these episodes describe a familial model of affect in which Suleiman becomes indoctrinated into the discipline of submission to the sovereignty of power, despite Najwa’s better intentions. Such internalized mechanisms of control as Suleiman learns from his mother follow the arc of his character development throughout the unfolding memories of his childhood. One of the most profound mechanisms of this self-disciplinary control is the urge to betray. There are many instances

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in the novel in which Suleiman contemplates acts of betrayal and his own propensity to betray friends and family. These betrayals are rooted in Suleiman’s gradual indoctrination to biopower, the “dark, unstoppable force gain[ing] momentum” as he comes to betray his only friend, Kareem; to ridicule Kareem’s father, Ustath Rashid, as “a shy woman” at the moment of his execution; to torture the beggar Bahloul, and to inform on his own father to the Revolutionary Committee.44 In these moments, Suleiman discovers or reveals the ultimate sovereignty of power, which trumps all other forms of personal loyalty, and turns him into its agent par excellence. The chief figure in this system of motifs of power and betrayal is Sharief, the Revolutionary Committee member whose “authority,” in the mind of young Suleiman, “was so absolute and sudden it seemed instantly acceptable.”45 Sharief is in charge of monitoring the suspicious residents of Suleiman’s street, abducting Ustath Rashid and investigating Suleiman’s father. Suleiman both fears and admires him. His meditations on Sharief inspire a dark proclivity to violence in the boy, as, for example, when he drinks from Sharief ’s cold, stale glass of tea and thinks to himself, “I wondered what it would be like to slap a man, to kick him like that in the behind.”46 When Suleiman first meets Sharief and speaks to him, he finds himself mesmerized by a “strange force.”47 He soon begins to see Sharief as a hero, someone of “confidence and youth” who is “beyond age and need, a man calling for the world to keep up with him.”48 Suleiman’s evaluation of Sharief as a hero leads to an incipient awareness of the biopower affecting him: “By rushing to my rescue Sharief had split the sea, created an undertow that would pull me even further away from Kareem. We drift through allegiances, those we are born into and those we are claimed by, always estranging ourselves.”49 Suleiman’s escape from the draw of biopower comes through the act of storytelling. The sway of narrative over Suleiman, the constant pull of the historical imagination working itself out through story, at times settles on the tragic mode overpowering the romantic: “Perhaps it was all the cowboy films with their logic of happy endings that made me think this way,” Suleiman speculates at the end of his father’s ordeal with the Revolutionary Committee, that perhaps it wasn’t God but they who had invented hope and the promise that just at the point when the hero had the rope around his neck, suddenly, and with the Majesty of God, a shot would come from nowhere and break the rope. The hero would kick the man beside him, and the rest of the mob—the cowards—would jump on their saddles and ride off, up and over the hill.50

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The romantic mode of narrative, Hayden White explains in Metahistory, “is a drama of the triumph of good over evil, of virtue over vice, of light over darkness, and of the ultimate transcendence of man over the world in which he was imprisoned by the Fall.”51 Suleiman accepts the conditions of biopower in a way that suggests White’s satiric mode of narrative, a “drama of diremption [as opposed to redemption], a drama dominated by the apprehension that man is ultimately a captive of the world rather than its master, and by the recognition that, in the final analysis, human consciousness and will are always inadequate to the task of overcoming definitely the dark force of death.”52 Suleiman names this condition “the dark art of submission,” speculating, “Perhaps this is why I often find a shameful pleasure in submitting to authority […] And this is also why, when I finally think I have gained the pleasure of authority, a sense of self-loathing rises to clasp me by the throat. I have always been able to imagine being unjustifiably hated.”53 In the Country of Men concludes with a prolepsis that removes the reader from the diegetic time of 1979 to the narrator’s present of 1994. Now the adult Suleiman works as a pharmacist in Cairo, where he has “come to feel free from Libya.”54 Following from this temporal shock, the reader begins to see the layer of ventriloquism at play in the adult Suleiman organizing and interpreting his childhood failings and traumas through narrative. It becomes evident that Suleiman’s narrative has sought to rescue his lost sense of innocence. His final act of redemption is to understand and forgive his mother, if not also himself. “I suddenly realize how young my mother is,” he says: She was twenty-four when I was sent away, the same as I am now; fifteen when she had me, the same number of years I have spent away from her. In the end all that remains are numbers, the measurement of distances, the quantity of things. Thirty-nine. She’s only thirty-nine. What is she hoping for from life now, I wonder. How fitting to see her like this in Alexandria, in the city of fallen grace. […] The mother who tried to never have me, the mother who never chose it, the mother who resisted in all the ways she knew how.55 Here Suleiman meticulously lays out the fundamental themes of his narrative: the history of the ordeals they endured in Libya in 1979 become a set of coordinates in time and space that make it possible for Suleiman to recognize the subtle acts of resistance his mother undertook, even if futilely, to assert her right to live against the sovereignty of the Libyan state. In this way, it

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seems that Suleiman achieves the necessary perspective to understand and forgive his own acts of betrayal and complicity in the pervasive violence of his childhood.

Necropower and Anatomy of a Disappearance Matar’s second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, emerges from a historical context that birthed another touchstone phrase of the latter years of Gaddafi’s regime: “bunga bunga.” “Bunga bunga” traces its contemporary meaning to the period of Libya’s economic liberalization and integration, during which Gaddafi and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi became strange bedfellows in business and politics. Their friendship allegedly spawned the phrase “bunga bunga,” which Larbi Sadiki has described as a kind of shorthand “for the exercise of corrupt or tyrannical power.”56 The history of this phrase has insinuated itself into public discourse about Berlusconi’s reign in Italy to summarize the perverse mingling of private enterprise and state governance. Kathryn Westcott, writing for the BBC online, maps several origins for this phrase, all of which bear traces of the colonial past and the contemporary postcolonial condition. “The finger of blame,” she says, “was initially laid upon Mr Berlusconi’s friend Col. Muammar Gaddafi, with allegations of parties hosted by the Libyan leader involving ‘harems’ of young Western women.” Digging deeper, Westcott then claims that the code word “bunga bunga” that was applied to these parties derives from what is reported to be Berlusconi’s favorite joke, which involves a group of colonial explorers captured by “savages” who offer the explorers a choice between death or “bunga bunga,” a humiliating sexual violation. The joke’s punchline has the bravest of the explorers choose death over humiliation, only to have “bunga bunga” declared the method of execution. In a more historically distant but no less relevant instantiation of the phrase, members of London’s Bloomsbury circle, among them Virginia Woolf, pulled off the Dreadnought hoax in 1910; they disguised themselves in blackface as “Abyssinian” royals petitioning to inspect a state-of-the-art naval vessel; it is reported that they exclaimed “Bunga, bunga!” in awe at it.57 The philology of this phrase thus exposes an essentially orgiastic matrix of polysemy in the late imperial global arrangement, uniting racism, colonialism and sexual exploitation in a single signifier that also, coincidentally, implies the state’s power or sovereignty over life and death. More importantly, I see “bunga bunga” as signifying a more widespread disordering of sovereignty in the era of globalized neoliberalism that operates on extensive networks of complicity that subordinate

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even the sovereignty of states to the logic of a greater metanarrative that I will call, after Achille Mbembe, necropower.58 Before engaging directly with Anatomy of a Disappearance, it is necessary to clarify what I see to be the differences between Mbembe’s necropower and Foucault’s biopower. Biopower, as I explain above, seeks the subjugation of the human being to a sovereign state that holds the power of life and death over it; however, this system of biopower makes use of human life to reproduce and augment the whole system: that is, the death of the human being is a failure of biopower, excepting public execution as an instrument of deterrence and coercion. Mbembe’s necropower, on the other hand, operates at a more malevolent end of the spectrum, looking not exclusively at the instruments of knowledge and surveillance that support state power through discipline and correction, but also at the instruments of death—armies and “war machines,” settler colonialism, racist eugenics and apartheid—that exclude and exterminate populations of “outsiders” of the biopolitical system: racial and ethnic others, refugees, occupied peoples, colonial subjects, suspected terrorists and detainees, etc. The most relevant characteristic of Mbembe’s necropower to my reading of Anatomy of a Disappearance is the effect of global “mobility” and the totalizing transcendence of space, the “dynamics of territorial fragmentation” of necropower; in this sense, I mean the prior Westphalian system of mutually exclusive national systems of sovereign law, the native system of Foucault’s biopower, that has been replaced by a “patchwork of overlapping and incomplete rights to rule […] in which different de facto juridical instances are geographically interwoven and plural allegiances, asymmetrical suzerainties, and enclaves abound.”59 Anatomy of a Disappearance invokes this universalizing master narrative of spatially destabilized networks of allegiances and territorialities in its studied ambiguity regarding locations and identities and in its central plot point of the abduction of a political dissident who is then smuggled across national borders, which I argue to be a critique of Libya’s complicity in the extraordinary rendition program of the global war on terror. Anatomy’s ambiguous, jumbled chronotopes tempt the reader to intuit that the unnamed “homeland” of the novel’s protagonist and narrator, Nuri El-Alfi, is Libya, while in effect the narrative resists such “telling” details; with some effort of deduction, the anonymous homeland parses out to be Iraq. Critic Hermione Lee indicates as much in her review of the novel for The Guardian.60 While this misdirection may imply that Matar simply wishes to dodge autobiographical readings of his work, I contend that such a deliberate obfuscation of details is in itself meaningful and lends itself to another,

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perhaps more useful interpretation of the critique of imperialism related to Mbembe’s revision of Foucauldian biopower to account for a more nuanced understanding of how sovereign power operates in postcolonial spaces. The obscuring of the narrator’s homeland repeats other motifs of confused and disoriented origins and identities. For instance, the mother, Ihsan, whose loss Nuri mourns, remains virtually unnamed, much like the El-Alfi family’s homeland. In the narrator’s first substantive description of his mother, he associates her with a sort of undifferentiated European “elsewhere”: “I have come to think of those places,” he intimates, “no matter where they were, as having taken place in a single country—her country—and the silences that marked them her melancholy.”61 The only instance of her name appearing in the novel is when the narrator reads it inscribed in a copy of Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab’s collection Rain Song. The inscription accompanies one of the concrete historical chronotopes that provide contextual clues to the narrator’s unnamed homeland: “ ‘November 1958, Paris.’ The month, the year, the city of my birth.”62 Later, when Nuri begins to hint at the fact that his birth mother was Naima, again the revelation of his maternal relation arrives bundled with clues to the identity of his homeland: “Eighteen months after my parents employed Naima, our king was dragged to the courtyard of the palace and shot in the head.”63 The arithmetic of Nuri’s age at the time of his father’s disappearance (“My father disappeared in 1972, at the beginning of my school Christmas holiday, when I was fourteen”)64 puts his date of birth at approximately 1958, the year of the coup that ended the reign and life of King Faisal II of Iraq. This deduction is rather inevitable, but exists in tension with the membrane that separates history and fiction. In the fictive universe of the novel, it is simply “our homeland.” A general readership unfamiliar with modern Arab history would by necessity need to excavate such a “fact” from within the text by bringing in data from outside—to understand that both Libya and Iraq came into being as independent modern states in the form of constitutional monarchies rather arbitrarily constructed by Great Britain after World War II, and that both monarchies fell to revolutionary military dictatorships that adopted a generally anti-imperialist foreign policy. It can be argued then that this practice of unnaming the El-Alfi family’s homeland depoliticizes the novel in one sense, casting it in a different genre than the pseudo-autobiographical In the Country of Men with its prosecutorial tone, but also re-politicizes it in another sense, as an indictment of a history that ranges beyond the crimes of a single state. By concealing this ostensibly important detail, Anatomy of a Disappearance initiates a critique of systemic conditions of dictatorship and political repression throughout the Arab world, if not also throughout

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the peripheral global South or even the core Atlantic states; that is to say, the homeland could be almost anywhere. Given that in Anatomy of a Disappearance tropes of disciplinary state violence are far less prevalent than in In the Country of Men, its tropes of abduction and disappearance take on dimensions of international law that allude to the supranational juridical structure of Hardt and Negri’s empire and Mbembe’s necropower. Though threats of political violence linger in the background while Nuri and his father Kamal live in exile in Cairo, his relatives back home live with the “threat of retaliation” to harm Kamal by proxy.65 Ultimately, when “the ex-minister and leading dissident” Kamal is “separated by force in the night” from his Swiss lover Béatrice Benameur at their apartment in Geneva, Nuri struggles to understand “why he was kidnapped and by whom, what he had actually done to provoke such actions, where he was at this moment, whether he could be counted among the living or the dead.”66 Nuri is confronted by an epistemological problem of labeling what has happened to his father: “I did not know how to name what had taken place: kidnap, abduction, theft?”67 Citing a “responsibility to protect” visitors to their country and fearing that Kamal has been smuggled across the borders, Mona, Nuri’s young stepmother and object of Oedipal desire, deplores that “the Swiss government doesn’t give a shit about the disappearance of a man who has done nothing but call for the freedom of his people.”68 Ultimately the regime of the El-Alfi homeland announces that Kamal “has, of his own volition, returned to the capital.”69 In light of the “mobile” territoriality of Kamal’s abduction, Anatomy’s plot organizes its historical referentially to critique and implicate Libya’s late neoliberal reforms and integration into the international community. Even the plot’s settings, Cairo, Daleswick College where Nuri attends boarding school, and the family’s frequent Swiss vacation spot, Montreux Palace, fall under suspicion in Kamal’s disappearance: “it began to seem as if these places were guilty or at least partly to blame.”70 The placeless-ness of the narrator’s homeland thus invokes, at least obliquely, the program of extraordinary rendition. Barbara Harlow connects this historical phenomenon to modes of narration. “ ‘Extraordinary rendition,’ ” she writes, “refers then to a putative, if self-styled, literary sub-genre and borrows ungenerously and paraphrastically from just one of the many euphemisms that emerged during the Bush administration (2001–9) to describe and defend its brazen breaches of both US constitutional law and international humanitarian and human rights law.”71 These indefinite detentions, taking place in black sites and secret prisons with no right of habeas corpus, fundamentally defy the kind of historically referential narrative at work in In the Country of

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Men: figuratively speaking, the human beings subjected to the practice of extraordinary rendition have disappeared from time and space. In Anatomy of a Disappearance, it is precisely the absence of such a self-evident historical discourse that forces the novel’s events into the larger, more “universal” metanarrative of necropolitics. If In the Country of Men materializes from the biopower conditions of domestic political repression as a programmatic decolonization of Libya, then Anatomy of a Disappearance responds to the period that begins after the peak of Gaddafi’s confrontational stance against the United States and sponsorship of international terrorist acts in the mid- to late 1980s. Historian George Joffé identifies a shift away from this outward hostility to the changes in U.S. foreign policy ushered in with the Reagan administration. During this period, U.S. and Libyan armed forces clashed over the closing of the Gulf of Sidra to international trade and accusations of Libyan orchestration of the bombing of a nightclub in Berlin that killed two American military personnel; in these clashes, the United States shot down Libyan aircraft and conducted bombing raids on Libyan territory on April 16, 1986, including a strike on Gaddafi’s residential compound in Tripoli. “In the wake of the bombings,” Joffé writes, Gadhafi and the Libyan regime seem to have come to the conclusion that it could no longer ignore the reality of American power, nor could it afford to tweak the American nose with its policies of support for international anti-imperialism and terrorism, whether merely verbal, as it claimed, or material, as the West, with reason, believed.72 From this point forward until the launch of Operation Odyssey Dawn in spring 2011, Libya’s realization of the sway of global power inaugurated an era of nominal Libyan compliance with international law and complicity with supranational interests. “The key[s]” to Libya returning to the fold of the global community,” historian and commentator Vijay Prashad explains in Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, were the cases of the Lockerbie bombing (Pan Am Flight 103), and that of the French aircraft (UTA flight 772) bombed over Niger. Moussa Koussa could promise millions of dollars from Libya’s oil money and a return to the oil fields of Libya was too much for the Atlantic world to refuse. By April 1999, the UN sanctions were suspended, and in 2003 they were lifted.73

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Under the aegis of integration into the international community, the Gaddafi regime initiated a number of neoliberal reforms aimed at restructuring the Libyan political economy, allowing for extended but not absolute freedoms of expression, of property ownership and of economic activity. Perhaps not coincidentally, the period of neoliberal reform that began in 1987 also spurred Gaddafi to restrain the Revolutionary Committees, signaling the integration of Libya into a vaster network of biopolitical instruments of control. Historian Mattes explains: While in the early 1980s revolutionary committees had been considered acceptable instruments to assist in the implementation of the Green Book’s concepts and to help liquidate the “enemies of the revolution” within Libya and abroad, their actions by the end of the decade had become counterproductive to the pursuit of the revolution.74 From this point the arc of Libyan history bends away from such institutional disciplinary instruments as the Libyan state follows a path toward internal adjustments that pave the way for integration into the international community. It is worth noting, though, that these adjustments did not necessarily guarantee greater personal freedoms or an immediate end to state terror enacted upon the Libyan population, nor a reconsideration of Gaddafi’s dictatorial powers. Ironically, the Libyan rapprochement seems to have caused a dulling of Atlantic ideologies as well. Prashad implies such a move past ideology, which seems to be a natural byproduct of integration on a global scale, when he describes the various reactions of European leaders to Libya’s overtures: Britain’s Tony Blair and France’s Sarkozy went to kiss Qaddafi’s ring and pledge finance for oil concessions. It is the reason why the British government freed Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, in August 2009. It is also the reason why Berlusconi bowed down before Omar al-Mukhtar’s son in 2008 and handed over $5 billion as an apology for colonialism. In his characteristic bluntness, Berlusconi said that he apologized so that Italy would get “less illegal immigrants and more oil.”75 Arguably, these historical motifs of complicity arise in Anatomy in the form of the “incest” that takes place between Nuri and stepmother Mona after Kamal’s disappearance, or in Kamal’s exploitation of the family maid Naima to beget the heir, Nuri, that Ihsan is unable to provide him. The

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complexity of Nuri’s familial and romantic relationships is otherwise rather unaccountable. During these neoliberal transformations, the Gaddafi regime came also to share the views of some Western states toward militant Islamism. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the consequent global war on terror, Libya became an active participant in the program of extraordinary rendition operated by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The primary architect of this cooperation, according to Prashad, was Moussa Koussa, head of Libyan intelligence from 1994 to 2009, when he became minister of foreign affairs. Prashad notes that Koussa arranged for the transfer of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group leader Emir Abu Munthir in 2003 in cooperation with MI6 and the CIA.76 With this multifaceted engagement with global power, Gaddafi’s Libya consummated its investment in the totalizing system of necropower and subordinated its national historical narrative to the broader master narrative of structural adjustment and economic globalization, becoming in the same stroke a franchise in the program of extraordinary rendition, reproducing the terror inflicted on the Libyan people as denounced in In the Country of Men. Thus Anatomy of a Disappearance, unlike Matar’s earlier novel, critiques the late Gaddafi regime and its imperial complicity not through redemptive modes of historical reconstruction through narrative (for here there is no pronounced metanarrative discourse), but through a more universalizing elegiac mode that leaves Nuri always “looking in the most unlikely places” for a father who will likely never return.77

Conclusion Taken together, Matar’s novels reveal an uncanny intersection of the personal, the political, and the historical that serves to isolate and dissect that membrane that both connects and compartmentalizes political oppression within an anti-imperialist nationalist state and the “promise” of freedom and human dignity bound up in the rhetoric of structural adjustment, neoliberal democratization and international cooperation. In focusing on figures of biopower and necropower in my reading of these novels, I have sought to explore the possibilities (and limitations) of resistance and redemption available through narrative. Arriving in the final years of the Gaddafi regime, these novels intervene in a historical moment of enormous uncertainty, and have collaborated, at least unwittingly, in exposing some of the weaknesses in the historical imagination that has grown anachronistic with the near final consolidation of global power and the sudden

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rapture of the Arab uprisings. In the wake of these uprisings, metanarratives of anti-imperial resistance and democratization have encountered a deep crisis of mutual incrimination, and the circumstances of Libya in the early twenty-first century, culminating in international military intervention in support of Libyan anti-government rebels, have thrown this crisis into special relief. In short, Matar’s novels invite a nuanced critique of both third-world dictatorship and first-world imperialism as the merger of biopower and necropower.

Notes 1. Special thanks to all who supported me in writing this chapter: Nouri Gana, Barbara Harlow and the students of her “Human Rights and Literature” seminar of spring 2012, Tarek El-Ariss, Alex Wettlaufer, Samer Ali, Sumaya Saati, Martino Lovato and above all my students in “Middle East Revolutions” at St Edward’s University in 2011 and 2012 whose enthusiasm for Matar’s writing inspired me to write this chapter. 2. See, for example, Matar’s interview with Steve Inskeep for National Public Radio, “A Libyan Son Mourns His Father’s ‘Disappearance,’ ” September 8, 2011, accessed January 1, 2013, http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/ transcript.php?storyId=140223701, and Matar’s own opinion piece, “Libya Calling,” The New York Times, March 9, 2011, accessed January 2, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/opinion/10matar.html. 3. Barbara Harlow, “From Flying Carpets to No-Fly Zones: Libya’s Elusive Revolution(s), according to Ruth First, Hisham Matar, and the International Criminal Court,” Journal of Arabic Literature 43 (2012): 442 and 444. 4. Nouri Gana, “An Interview with Hisham Matar,” Words Without Borders, accessed December 30, 2012, http://wordswithoutborders.org/article/ an-interview-with-hisham-matar. 5. Layla Al Maleh, “Anglophone Arab Literature: An Overview,” in Arab Voices in Diaspora: Critical Perspectives on Anglophone Arab Literature, ed. Layla Al Maleh (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009), 20. 6. Riz Khan, “The Political Power of Literature,” Al-Jazeera, accessed January 1, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rizkhan/2011/02/ 201122374815992508.html. 7. Nouri Gana and Heike Härting, “Introduction: Narrative Violence: Africa and the Middle East,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 28.1 (2008): 1–10. 8. Ibid., 1. 9. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 139; and Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” trans. Libby Meintjes, Public Culture 15.1 (2003): 11–40.

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10. SLOBoe, “Muammar Gaddafi speechtranslated (2011 Feb 22),” YouTube, accessed January 2, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69wBG6ULNzQ. 11. Isabel Kershner, “Qaddafi YouTube Spoof by Israeli Gets Arab Fans,” New York Times, February 27, 2011, accessed January 1, 2013, http://www.nytimes. com/2011/02/28/world/middleeast/28youtube.html?_r=0. 12. For a thorough examination of the international response to Gaddafi’s crackdown on the rebellion, see Harlow’s “From Flying Carpets to No-Fly Zones,” 431–57, and Barbara Harlow et al.’s “United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011): Libya in the Dock,” Rapport Center for Human Rights Working Paper Series no. 6 (Austin: The Bernard and Audre Rappaport Center for Human Rights and Justice at The University of Texas School of Law, 2011). 13. Larbi Sadiki, “Bunga, Zenga and Bandana Narratives: 2011,” Al Jazeera English, accessed January 2, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/2012119155256917.html. 14. Foucault, History of Sexuality, 139. 15. Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (New York: Dial Press, 2008), 1. Used by permission of The Dial Press/Dell Publishing, a division of Random House, Inc. 16. M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1981), 84. 17. Matar, In the Country of Men, 52. 18. Ibid., 209. 19. Ibid., 235. 20. Ibid., 18. 21. Ibid., 19. The term “el-Fateh” is shorthand for the September Revolution of 1969 and has been used as a pro-regime chant. 22. Ibid., 20. 23. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 139. 24. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 22–3. 25. Ibid., 23. 26. Ibid. 27. Hanspeter Mattes, “The Rise and Fall of the Revolutionary Committees,” Qadhafi’s Libya, 1969–1994, ed. Dirk Vanderwalle (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), 102. 28. Ibid., 97. 29. Matar, In the Country of Men, 19. 30. Ibid., 11–12. 31. Foucault, History of Sexuality, 141. 32. Matar, In the Country of Men, 15. 33. Ibid., 16. 34. Foucault, History of Sexuality, 145. 35. Matar, In the Country of Men, 12.

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36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51.

Ibid., 13. Ibid., 15. Ibid., 219. Ibid., 96. Ibid., 161. Ibid. Ibid., 162. Ibid., 161. Ibid., 107 and 187. Ibid., 63. Ibid., 70. Ibid., 129. Ibid., 157. Ibid., 167. Ibid., 197. Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), 9. Ibid., 9. Matar, In the Country of Men, 159. Ibid., 231. Ibid., 246. Sadiki, “Bunga, Zenga and Bandana Narratives: 2011.” Kathryn Westcott, “At last—an explanation for ‘bunga bunga,’ ” BBC Europe, February 5, 2011, accessed January 1, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ world-europe-12325796. Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” 11–40. Ibid., 27 and 31. Hermione Lee, “Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar—review,” The Guardian, February 25, 2011, accessed January 1, 2013, http://www.guardian. co.uk/books/2011/feb/26/anatomy-disappearance-hisham-matar-review. Matar, Anatomy of a Disappearance (New York: Dial Press, 2011), 9. Ibid., 27. Ibid., 55. Ibid., 4. Ibid., 53. Ibid., 97, 99, and 101. Ibid., 155. Ibid., 119. Ibid., 130. Ibid., 106. Barbara Harlow, “ ‘Extraordinary Renditions’: Tales of Guantánamo, a Review Article,” Race & Class 52.4 (2011): 2. George Joffé, “Prodigal or Pariah? Foreign Policy in Libya,” Libya Since 1969:

52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72.

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73. 74. 75. 76. 77.

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Qadhafi’s Libya Revisited, ed. Dirk Vaderwalle (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 202. Vijay Prashad, Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (Oakland: AK Press, 2012), 125. Mattes, “The Rise and Fall of the Revolutionary Committees,” 106. Prashad, Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, 132. Ibid., 133. Matar, Anatomy of a Disappearance, 1.

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Chapter 8 I n S e a rch o f A n d a l u s i a : Re c o n fi g u r i n g A r a b n e s s i n D i a n a A bu - J a b e r ’ s C r e s c e n t Nouri Gana

F o rc e - F i e l d s r e c o n F i g u r i n g a ra b n e s s i n d i a na a b u - Ja b e r ’ s

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Every writer is, of course, a reader of her or his predecessors as well, but what I want to underline is that the often surprising dynamics of human history … dramatize the latencies in a prior figure or form that suddenly illuminate the present. Edward Said

Moorish Passages The Moor, no longer European or even part of Europe, passed through history, then passed out of history, leaving only traces in the fictions and myths as a negative exemplary figure of what not to be. Ergo, Othello. Marwan Hassan The year 1492 marks both a point of rupture and a point of departure, a rupture with the Moorish Andalusian presence in the Iberian Peninsula and a departure to the New World, which was “new” only in the sense that it had yet to be known—encountered, not discovered. Christopher Columbus’s sail to the Americas followed shortly after the crusading armies of King Ferdinand (Aragon) and Queen Isabella (Castile), cemented by their royal marriage, reconquered Granada, the last independent Moorish city-state whose survival for more than two and a half centuries (as subordinate to the Kingdom of Castile according to the 1246 treaty of Jaén) had squarely depended on the unabated resurgences of hostilities between the surrounding Christian powers, which the successive statesmen of Granada exploited skillfully, treading the delicate line between diplomacy and deterrence, to defer an otherwise ineluctable demise.1 The convergence between the recapture of Granada and the departure

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to the New World was not, it bears emphasizing, incidental, much less accidental. Columbus’s departure to the Americas would not have occurred were it not for the booty plundered from Moorish Granada. More importantly, it became patently clear that Arab sailors’ transatlantic navigational knowledge and devices such as the astrolabe were crucial to Columbus’s successive voyages. No wonder, then, that a number of Moors and Mudejars (Muslims living under Christian rule), and perhaps even former Mozarabs (Arabic-speaking Christians living under Muslim rule), and later Moriscos (Muslims converted to Christianity) were among the first diasporic ethnicities to set foot in the New World. Many of them were taken as sailors and translators on the assumption that the natives of the Americas spoke Arabic, which, ironically as it might be, bears indirect witness to the oftentimes downplayed navigational élan of the Moors of Al-Andalus.2 It is no exaggeration to suggest at the outset that the post-9/11 political invention (i.e., assignation and cultivation) of an Arab American ethnicity/ identity must be interrogated against the backdrop of this historical longevity whose roots shimmer in the recesses of 1492—this exquisite overlap, as it were, between the Reconquista of Spain and the Conquista of the Americas. This is all the more so apparent, given that the Moors, Berbers, or Muslims of North Africa writ large were also among the first slaves captured, sold out of Spain to Portugal, and then shipped to the New World colonies via Lisbon in late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, a time when the merciless expulsion of Jews, Arabs, and Muslims from their homes in Al-Andalus was well underway. Much is yet to be known about how the Moors have been written out of Spanish history post-1492 (let alone that of post-1609, when they were summarily expelled out of Spain under the auspices of an expanding Inquisition) and displaced, at least in part, in the New World—only to be in turn narrated out of American history (or, perhaps, hammered into it beyond recognition) until they are accidentally “discovered” and frantically “targeted” in the post-9/11 climate of fearmongering, ethnic profiling, and the war on terror, all of which imperiled, perhaps for decades to come, civil liberties, constitutional rights, and the credibility of international law. In a masterful analysis, Velocities of Zero, Marwan Hassan, the Arab Canadian novelist and dialectical socialist, discusses the demographic distortions that the Reconquista had resulted in, and which intensified during the scramble for the Americas and the internationalization of the slave trade. There is little to no recorded evidence of Moorish and Muslim presence in the Americas during and following the Age of Discovery beyond what is exemplified by speculations about the Muslims’ contributions to the success of the Haitian

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revolution, as well as by their involvement in the Bahia revolt of 1835 and later slave uprisings in Brazil in the late 1870s.3 Hassan concludes, however, that the numbers of Moors and Muslims “were certainly higher than conventionally thought.”4 If so, the newly found/founded Arab American ethnicity might legitimately stake claims to much deeper historical roots than what is generally suggested by its documented embryonic beginnings in the nineteenth century. While Arab historians, intellectuals, and littérateurs, among others, have made the logistic allegorical linkages between the fate of Al-Andalus and the contemporary posture of occupied Palestine (and, for that matter, the postcolonial disintegration of the Arab world into petty statelets reminiscent of Moorish party states), more connections have yet to be made on another front—between the ethnic texture of Moorish Spain and that of the many other ethnicities scattered across the Americas, including, as is my focus here, the Arab American ethnicity/community. Far from being simply the place where largely diasporic Arab, Jewish, and Christian communities lived together in workable harmony while maintaining contact with their largely Mediterranean cultures of origin, Al-Andalus has also become, following the Reconquista and Inquisition, the fountainhead of modern diasporas. Not only were the ideological methods deployed by crusading Christendom to deal with the Moors, Jews and Muslims of Al-Andalus seamlessly transferred across the Atlantic and redeployed by the conquistadors in their treatment of the natives of the Americas, but they had also come to lay the foundations of much of the modern and contemporary world in which settler colonial and imperial imaginaries still exert a strong appeal in Palestine and Iraq respectively. These methods—informed by a combination of religious, colonial, military, and political economies—ranged from assimilation, conversion, and expulsion to extermination, ethnocide, and genocide. In Freedom and Orthodoxy, Anouar Majid locates our willfully global contemporaneity within what he suggestively calls a largely “postAndalusian” world-view “that is almost unbendingly universal in outlook and that tolerates no alternatives in the management of human affairs.”5 Majid’s laudable endeavor, as I understand it, is to explore the ways in which the post-Andalusian age we live in might want to immerse itself willingly in the Andalusian legacy from which it is alienated at precisely those points that mattered most for its historically committed practitioners—and at those points where it still matters most for us in our almost runaway global contemporaneity. Unlike other concepts such as the postmodern or the postcolonial, what I would like to call a post-Andalusian critique allows not only for a larger

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historical scope and therefore wide-ranging reflection on the longue durée of the forces that shape the present, but, more importantly, for a reactivation of the Andalusian imaginary, at the heart of which there lingers empowering modalities of sociocultural coexistence. In short, what a post-Andalusian critique of latter-day global capital and ethnic paranoia envisages is a reinstatement of Andalusian convivencia. I do not intend here to idealize or romanticize Andalusian convivencia, nor do I wish—and I cannot emphasize this enough—to allow the fear of romanticization to override, or to foreclose altogether, due theoretical reflection and lucid critical analysis. A post-Andalusian critique is in fact a melancholic engagement with Andalusian convivencia that emerges in the transformational-generative border space between two competing impulses—the one seeking to recover it and the other to recover from it. The fear of romanticization has in itself created its own parasitic layer of myth around Andalusian convivencia insofar as it located it in a balmy or phantasmagorical elsewhere that cannot be appropriated and activated. It might well be the case that the romanticization of Andalusian convivencia is seductive but unproductive; however, the question is whether it is possible to speak about Al-Andalus without romanticizing it at some level and whether this burden of romanticization/representation can compel us to rethink our commonality in light of what would have been Andalusian reality. The fear of romanticizing Andalusian convivencia is a fear of our incompetence and laziness: we cannot measure up to it. Period! Andalusian convivencia in this sense threatens to expose our complicity with the political economies of global capital, with the injuries and the injustices perpetuated in our name and with our acquiescence; above all, it threatens to unsettle our oblivious ways of life by taxing our imagination and challenging us to accommodate the Andalusian imaginary. Insofar as a romanticized Andalusia is at loggerheads with our embattled global reality, it has become nothing more than a demand that cannot be met, a promise that cannot be fulfilled, or a threat to our triumphantly non-perfectible modes of sociocultural intelligibility. This is precisely why “Andalusian convivencia” has become—once again seductively but unproductively—besieged and neutralized by licensed mythologizing identifications, disclaimers, and distortions. We continue to raise the threshold at which we can begin to grasp how Andalusian convivencia might, in the words of Edward Said in the above epigraph, dramatize the kind of convivial latencies that can suddenly instigate reflections that illuminate and refashion the present.6 Under the excuse or fear of an ineluctable romanticization, the wide-ranging reluctance to hold up the mirror of Andalusian convivencia to our politically and culturally conflictual

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contemporaneity seems to reveal an interest in its deromanticization. This deromanticization serves ultimately to displace our inadequacies into a continuum of historical inevitabilities, thus making the present palatable, even agreeable, rather than, to put it mildly, perfectible. Indeed, in his generally insightful study Moorish Spain, Richard Fletcher concludes by making the following grim judgment: “The religious history of the Iberian peninsula in the Middle Ages may be summarized, from one point of view, as the persistent and willful failure of two faiths and cultures [of Islam and Christianity] to make any sustained attempt to understand one another. Human enough; pretty bleak.”7 I do not wish to interrogate the veracity of Richard Fletcher’s conclusion, partly because he is careful enough to point out that it reflects “one point of view” only—that is, the testimony of the intellectual elites who, as he further concedes, “are not renowned for their grasp of everyday reality, nor for cheerfulness and optimism.”8 However, such a conclusion, besides the limitations of its sources, has grave implications for the present. Its immediate effect cannot but serve to assuage the urgencies and concerns fomented by today’s rampant crosscultural misunderstandings. The implications of Fletcher’s conclusion might even be used incorrectly and out of context to lend credence to the parasitic “clash of civilization” master narrative notoriously advanced by Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington.9 Be that as it may, I want at this point to bring to the reader’s own attention and perusal a rhetorical question that the Franco-Moroccan novelist Driss Chraïbi poses through his mouthpiece-heroine in La Civilization, Ma Mère (1972) [Mother Comes of Age]. She is an illiterate mother who learned how to read and write as well as how to fight for the liberation of a captive Morocco from French colonialism; however, she does not seem to have completely abandoned herself to the seductions of enlightenment to forsake the vocations of human and humane intellectual pursuits. In a conversation with her son, who is also her tutor, and who was intending to teach “her dates, treaties and famous battles,” she interrupts him midway—“No wars and no dates”—before she goes on to contest the substance of his intended lesson, challenging him to ponder her counterintuitive and deeply humanistic vision of a certain pedagogy of history that remains yet to be born: Non, pas de guerres, pas de dates. Quand tu te bagarres avec Nagib, est-ce que je m’en souviens? Ces coups de poing doivent-ils passer à la postérité? Raconte-moi le fond vrai de l’Histoire, je ne sais pas, moi … une période d’une nation ou d’un peuple ou d’un homme où il s’est passé vraiment

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quelque chose: je veux dire quelque chose de bien. Il doit bien y avoir une époque où les chiens fraternisait avec les chats et Dieu avec les hommes! [No wars and no dates. When you have a fight with Nagib [her other son], do I remember it? Should those fisticuffs be preserved for posterity? Describe the real foundations of history for me, a period in the life of a nation or a people or a man when something really happened, something for the good. There must have been a time when dogs fraternized with cats and God with men!]10 While the questions and comments of Chraïbi’s mother-character compel us to rethink our pedagogies of teaching history and infuse them with a measure of ethical humanism, they spark a consuming doubt that nonetheless threatens to dissolve the objective study of history itself. The mother’s question is clearly about the purpose of (doing) history, its ends and usefulness for posterity. It is tacitly also about the malleability of history, its potential utilitarian usages, and about what roads should be taken and choices made by a presumably responsible and ethical researcher and teacher of history. In no small measure, those choices continue to determine our present and pave the way to our future. While positive portrayal cannot always be accommodated in rigorously objective historical studies, the mother’s reminder in Chraïbi’s novel cannot be hastily discarded. Even though her comments must be interrogated independently of an answer, no answer ought to emerge prior to such an interrogation. This reminder, coming as it is from a newcomer to literacy and to the pleasures of intellection, points to a certain measure—really, a wisdom—of illiteracy or non-knowledge that might in turn point the way out of the nightmare of history, of which (among others) Stephen Dedalus speaks in James Joyce’s Ulysses.11 Whether to awaken to the nightmare of history or to awaken from it might very well depend on our presentist concerns and as such on which events need to be carefully foregrounded and which need to be thrust into the background. This should not be understood as a recipe for selective historiography, but as an invitation to think about history in a tactically and flexibly responsible manner, and, above all, to capitalize on its infinitely humane latencies—those exemplary moments of compelling mimetic valences and urgencies for our own present historical moment. After all, there is no gainsaying the fact that the mother in Chraïbi’s novel is rightfully justified to believe that “[t]here must have been a time when dogs fraternized with cats and God with men!” To speak of such a time is not to lament or idealize it,

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but to index it in the realm of the knowable, workable, and, above all, the achievable. In the history of Arab consciousness, Al-Andalus reverberates like a melancholic wound, fissuring chiastically between narcissistic cultivation and elegiac vulnerability. On the one hand, it is a distant utopia of inimitable Arab Muslim achievement, a testimonial monument and claim to Arab pride and exemplary contributions to world civilization—an exemplum of a cherished cultural poetics of conviviality. On the other hand, it persists as an unjustly but irrecoverably lost key to a rightful home, a not-so-distant legacy of cultural and political devastation, an allegorical recall of a lost Jerusalem, a compartmentalized Arab world of petty statelets and pettier leaders—a lasting reminder of the remainder that can neither be mourned nor disregarded because it has not been completely lost. Apart from travel narratives, historiographical and other genres of writings, there is a plethora of literary fictionalizations and poetic inscriptions of the latter aspect of the legacy of Al-Andalus—something that perhaps attests to the cruelty of what I call Arab melancholia—but there is not a comparable number of writings on the first aspect of this Andalusian legacy, which is suggestive perhaps of the now subdued (and, paradoxically, intransigent) character of pre-Islamic and medieval Arab narcissism.12 Oftentimes, however, the two aspects I single out here—and of which the first will be my focus—are brought together and juxtaposed in many of the works that engage with this dense and shimmering legacy.

Andalusian Imaginary Marks Han nods and pours her [Sirine] more wine. “This song is called ‘Andaloussiya.’ It was a place where the Muslims and Jews lived together and devised miraculous works of philosophy and architecture. All the sorts of things that people get up to when you leave them in the sun for a while.” … [Sirine] “What happened to them?” “The Andaloussians? Oh, scattered, chased away, conquered. They were too much for their time.” Diana Abu-Jaber13 I would like now to turn my attention to the persistence of the Andalusian imaginary in a novel that emerges from the budding field of Arab American literature and culture. My choice to focus on an example from this ethnic

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genre is not arbitrary given the historical latencies that I alluded to earlier: the Arab American ethnicity might very well trace its genealogy back to the legacy of Al-Andalus from the capitulation of Granada (1492) to the expulsion (1609) and displacement of Arabs and Muslims to the New World, whether in the context of earlier voyages of discovery or in that of the subsequent Atlantic slave trade. I would like to examine the ways in which one Arab American woman writer of Jordanian origin has appropriated and reconfigured the sociocultural and now largely metaphorical significance of Andalusian conviviality to rethink the multicultural in a post-9/11 Arab American community in Los Angeles. Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent is indeed a refreshing reminder of the sociocultural idioms of conviviality that marked the Andalusian past and that are never more to be desired than in a post9/11 Zeitgeist of cultural paranoia, war on terror, and a topsy-turvy scramble for Iraq (which is the context in which the novel was published in 2003, even though it was written “all pre-9/11”).14 In his examination of the “Andalusian chronotope” in the evolution of the modern Arabic (historical) novel from Jurji Zaydan and Ali Al-Jarim to Radwa Ashour, William Granara rightly observes that “it is the present state of the contentious relationship with the West that draws the Arab writer to the many significances of the Andalusian chronotope.”15 Diana Abu-Jaber is no exception. In fact, not only multilingual Arab writers (including Diana Abu-Jaber who writes in English, Amin Maalouf who writes in French, and Radwa Ashour who writes in Arabic), but also other non-Arab writers such as Salman Rushdie and Tariq Ali have been drawn to the Andalusian legacy in search of inspiring perspectives on the present, particularly in order to apprehend, remodel, or transform it. This is not to say, of course, that the much debated Andalusian legacy has consistently been perceived or has served as an exemplary model of conviviality that ought to be preserved and emulated. In fact, certain aspects of this polarizing legacy—namely the expulsion of the Jews which predated that of the Muslims—have become in the 1492 quincentennial the source of what Arjun Appadurai calls “the anxiety of incompleteness.”16 This sentiment is at the heart of a sovereign and borderless nation such as Israel whose ethnically and confessionally diverse population risks dissolving into “projects of ethnic cleansing that are both vivisectionist and verificationist in their procedures. That is, they seek uncertainty by dismembering the suspect body.”17 In Freud and the Non-European, Edward Said had cautioned against what I would rather call here the conceit or fantasy of completeness that drives Israeli politics vis-à-vis Palestinians and Arab Jews. Said draws on the

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“fissure figure of Moses,” Judaism’s founder, “to undermine any doctrinal attempt that might be made to put Jewish identity on a sound foundational basis, whether religious or secular.”18 While for Said’s Freud Moses was assimilable to the Judaic culture as former outsider, for Israeli legislation the Palestinian is inassimilable to its nationalistic sense of identity even as a former insider. That is to say, while Judaism housed foreignness under its roofs, Israel engineered outsiders from within its expanses.19 It is tragically ironic to contemplate the ways in which Israeli legislation is viscerally driven by the same ideologies, anxieties, or fantasies to which European Jewry submitted both in Al-Andalus and in twentieth-century Europe; it is no less ironic but all the more alarming to note as well that the denunciations of Andalusian convivencia in Jewish Studies today is driven in part by the predatory and ethnocidal curve of Israeli politics. As Jonathan Ray points out, in the wake of the deterioration of the Arab-Israeli relations since the 1960s, a number of critics of convivencia [scholars assessing Jewish life in Muslim Iberia] have countered the idyllic view of an interfaith utopia in medieval Spain, pointing out the persecutions against Jewish populations under the Muslim Almoravid and Almohad dynasties of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the widespread Christian pogroms and forced conversions of Jews in 1391, and the cycle of forced conversions, expulsions, and inquisitorial harassment of Jewish and Muslim communities throughout the late medieval and early modern period.20 While Semites (both Jews and Arab Muslims) were the victims of the Spanish Reconquista and Inquisition, the tendency in Jewish Studies to emphasize less the commonly traumatic legacies of both the Arabs and the Jews of Al-Andalus than those of Jews under Muslim Berber dynasties (whose orthodox frames of Islamic practices were clearly alien to the Andalusian imaginary of conviviality) bespeaks, as Ella Shohat argues, a simplistic but biased desire to project “the traumas left by Nazi genocidal practices … onto the experiences of Jews in Muslim countries and onto the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” This is nothing less than a curious claim, as Shohat muses, “since the Arab Muslims [of Al-Andalus] had a millennium-long opportunity to install an inquisition against Middle Eastern Jews—or against Christian minorities—but never did.”21 To speak candidly of Andalusian convivencia today in the context of the Arab–Israeli asymmetrical power struggles is to raise the unspeakable specter of tolerant Islam in ways that are profoundly detrimental to the Israeli propaganda machine that strives to maintain a

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categorical qualification of Islam, Muslims, and Palestinians as dangerous, contagious, and threatening. While, as Said points out, “we should keep before us the prerogatives of the present as signposts and paradigms for the study of the past,” it does not follow that the past should be manipulated in the service of the ideologies and powers that be.22 Clearly, if that is the case, the past would be less deserving of our approbation. Said instead intimates that we should examine those past events that inspire overlapping imaginaries of our common humanity. Thus, rather than viewing the legacy of Al-Andalus via the prisms of contemporary political conflicts, it is necessary to view such political conflicts through the lenses of the Andalusian legacy. Only in such manner can we possibly open up to the exemplarities of the Andalusian heritage, and become immune against any tendency to let the discordant politics of today color our perception of the complexities and vitalities of the Andalusian imaginary or reduce it to a one-dimensional political schemata. In other words, only by depoliticizing the legacy of Al-Andalus can we be positioned to assess and redeploy it to animate and rethink contemporary political debacles. Otherwise, it will remain too unwieldy for the political rivalries that compete to animate it. It is in this sense that Crescent becomes of particular importance to what I think is the task of a post-Andalusian critique. In its unyielding reseeding of the commonalities and constitutive sameness of being and coexistence as well as its reinvigoration of the empathic imagination, Abu-Jaber’s novel stands out as an exemplary literary modality for sociocultural intelligibility and communal refashioning in an era of global rumblings of unpredictable calamities. Perhaps one of the most glowing virtues of the novel is that it awakens the political in the reader by craftily staging how it bears on the individual and communal on a day-to-day basis. In this respect, the novel does not tarry with a sterile polemic or a journalistic apportioning of blame, but instead interrogates the political against the multiplicity of the quotidian in ways that make readers think for themselves about the travesties of politicizing culture and defusing the heterogeneous experiences of Arab lives into homogenous totalities. Abu-Jaber succeeds in drawing a complex tableau of Arab American subjectivities—attending thereby to their daily lives, traumata, and joys, and harnessing their histories and aspirations with those of multiple other ethnicities. The ultimate effect is the demystification of the imperial designs at the heart of Middle Eastern politics and a reconfiguration of Arabness through a retrospective reactivation of Andalusian conviviality. The active forces of such banal but telling tropes as cooking, romance, and storytelling are mobilized in the process of depoliticizing

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Arabness while opening it up to the energies, tensions, and influences of the Andalusian modus vivendi. Crescent chronicles the psychic disarray of Hanif Al Eyad (also known as Han)—an exiled Iraqi professor at UCLA—as he attempts to integrate and be integrated into the sociocultural milieu of a small Arab American community existing within a bigger Iranian American community in a part of Los Angeles called Irangeles. Obviously, the setting of an ethnic community within yet another ethnic community is evocative of the concentric circles of belonging and the multiple dynamics of proximity and distance that both nurture and withhold the process of homecoming—of becoming rather than being Arab. In fact, much of the novel reads like a psycho-sociology of everyday homing—an indefatigable exercise in taming, seducing, and socializing an oryx that remains nevertheless attuned to the desert and the open road. In a parallel—and more important—move, Crescent also chronicles the awakening of a second-generation, middle-aged Arab American woman to the forgotten portions of her Arab identity. At the outset of the novel, Sirine moves to work as a chef at a Lebanese restaurant called Nadia’s Café after having worked for years in French, Italian, and “Californian” restaurants. Thenceforth, she is prompted to delve into her deceased parents’ old recipes and to begin cooking “the favorite—but almost forgotten—dishes of her childhood.”23 There follows a refreshing journey of self-discovery and cultural reinvention as Sirine meets Han and tries to teach him about America and Han meets Sirine and tries to teach her about Iraq and the Arab world. In the McCarthyistic atmosphere of post-9/11 and the heightened politicization of Arab identity, it is only fair, Abu-Jaber seems to contend, that the likes of Sirine should first become aware of the portions of her identity that might need to be accounted for, even prior to understanding how such portions have a concrete bearing on her otherwise tranquil American identity. The unfolding of the story of Sirine and Han is punctuated by the parallel unfolding of yet another story that Sirine’s uncle tells. This parallel story involves a very compelling search for and rescue of Abdelrahman Salahadin—a mythical character whose name blends together Andalusian and Muslim glory—but who is now a “drowned Arab” who “makes money by selling himself off, then pretending to drown while escaping.”24 Abdelrahman in Andalusian history refers to the Umyyad emir [prince] who escaped the Abbasid massacre of his ruling family in 750 ce and fled from Baghdad through North Africa to Al-Andalus, which he reached in 755 ce. A year later, he became the founder and governor of Cordoba; he declared himself emir of the Iberian Peninsula and began to build the early glory of Al-Andalus, including the Great Mosque of Gordoba in 785, which was

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later enlarged by his successors (one of whom—Abdelrahman III, who named himself the Umayyad caliph in 929—built Medinat al-Zahra, one of the biggest royal palaces in the medieval world). Known as the S.aqr Quraish [Falcon of Qarish], a name given to him by the Abbasid caliph, Abdelrahman not only deterred the French King Charlemagne from taking Saragossa in 778, but also invested in the cultivation of the arts and sciences. Abdelrahman’s feats crystallized quintessential elements of the Andalusian imaginary. During his reign, there emerged a brand of Islamic culture open to multiple currents of influence, integrating and nourishing them under what might be called, following Marshall G. S. Hodgson, an “Islamicate culture.”25 As Maria Rosa Menocal argues, “This was a chapter in Europe’s culture when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived side by side and, despite their intractable differences and enduring hostilities, nourished a complex culture of tolerance.”26 The “Salahadin” portion of Abu-Jaber’s character’s name refers, of course, to the Kurdish Muslim leader Salahadin Al-Ayyubi, who besieged Jerusalem for more than a dozen days before he captured it on October 2, 1187, after eighty-eight years of crusader rule. A great warrior, Salahadin respected and earned the respect of Richard the Lion Heart, king of England and leader of the third crusade. He is known as much for his mercilessness as mercifulness, which came to prominence when he entered Jerusalem peacefully and, even though he longed for revenge, he did not massacre the Christians like the first crusaders had the Muslims. The uncle’s story feels at first like no more than an intolerable digression, an endurance test for the reader’s patience, but toward the end of the novel— when Han re-emerges in Iraq bearing the name of the mythical figure of the uncle’s story, i.e., Abdelrahman Salahadin—it becomes of particular relevance to an understanding of the competing mythical, historical, and cultural forces that factor in the makeup of an Arab and an Arab American identity. When Han reappears in Iraq under the name of Abdelrahman Salahadin, not only does myth merge with reality, but also reality itself (here Arabness) becomes too unstable to brook any prediscursive or operational locus of referentiality. The lines between the “drowned Arab” and the “found Arab” blur, much as the lines between being and becoming Arab shift within—and simultaneously transform—the force-fields of cultural identities and the dominant constructions, standards, and solid formations they coddle and conceal via a dizzying number of procedures and tactics. The mythical story told by the uncle which revolves around the figure of the “drowned Arab”—and which is self-professedly “moralless”—brings into cognizance the difficulties, implications and risks of the very fact of

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being Arab, even for someone whose name combines quintessential elements of Arabness and Islamicateness as Abdelrahman Salahadin. Sirine’s uncle states: Abdelrahman knows he might be free, but he is still an Arab. No one ever wants to be the Arab—it’s too old and too tragic and too mysterious and too exasperating and too lonely for anyone but an actual Arab to put up with for very long. Essentially, it’s an image problem. Ask anyone, Persians, Turks, even Lebanese and Egyptians—none of them want to be the Arab. They say things like, well, really we’re Indo-Russian-AsianEuropean-Chaldeans. So in the end, the only one who gets to be the Arab is the same little old Bedouin with his goats and his sheep and his poetry about his goats and his sheep, because he doesn’t know he’s the Arab, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.27 Clearly, the uncle contends that being Arab is possible or operational, that is to say livable, only when it is no longer possible—that is, when one is emptied of the consciousness of being Arab. On the one hand, being Arab without the knowledge and cognition of being Arab is in many ways to be less than human. On the other, being Arab has become such a politically energized and saturated category that it cannot exist independently of the racializing battery of metaphors that empty it out of existence, nor independently of the multilayered visual and discursive powers with which it is surrounded and of which it is an effect. The compelling figure of the “drowned Arab” condenses the ways that Arab diasporic and migrant subjectivities—like the Moors from which they descend, in the near and yet far past of Al-Andalus—have passed out of existence, drowned, as it were, in the plethora of seemingly authoritative discourses that compete to interrupt and hijack the Arab’s intimate sense of who he or she is in the present. No wonder, then, that Aziz, the Syrian poet in the novel, published a book of poetry titled Half Moor.28 Given that Damascus was the capital of the Umayyad dynasty from which Abdurrahman, founder of Cordoba, descends—and given that Abdelrahman himself was half Moor or half Berber from his mother’s side—Aziz is warranted to reclaim a Moorish connection to his current Syrianness. Whether, however, being “half Moor” is being insufficiently Arab or less than Moor remains to be determined, but the invocation of the Moor is of special resonance with the current posture of whoever chooses to identify or is ultimately racialized as the Arab. By and large, the uncle’s story demonstrates the ways in which being Arab has become the site of an interdiction, a confinement to a choice between two

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alternative non-existences. In the first, there is the non-existence associated with the romanticized and largely prelapsarian Bedouin life. The sense of Arabness in Bedouin life is—according to the uncle and Abu-Jaber behind him—non-existent because it remains insulated from and fundamentally insouciant of the trouble and traumata of its very existence. Abu-Jaber seems to suggest, in other words, that one is not Arab without the pain of being Arab, only a drowned one. The second alternative does not promise much of an existence either, since to identify as Arab—that is, to take stock of one’s own Arabness—is to surrender it to the preexisting discourses that hijack, confiscate, and empty it out of the social text of its largely elegiac and diasporic content in the service of an objectifying and terrifying perception. It is, indeed, an uncanny feeling to live within the prison-house of one’s Arabness without having the power to own it or appropriate it away from the discourses that cluster thickly around, under, and above it. Arabness cannot, therefore, possibly be understood from within a Hegelian model of politics of recognition as long as the discursive power structures that grant recognition are the very ones that usurp, withhold, or suspend it. The question—which is perched on a paradox—is how to transform those structures of recognition without running the risk of becoming unrecognizable to oneself or, by implication, to the dizzying number of overlapping connectivities that sustain both the continuums of becoming and contingencies of selfhood. As Judith Butler argues in a number of her recent writings, one’s own identity is inaugurated by and predicated upon a sociality that very much surpasses one’s own sense of oneself/selfhood such that it becomes theoretically implausible to pretend to transform the rules of such sociality without acquiescing to transforming oneself in the process.29 To strive to reconfigure Arabness is therefore inseparable from transforming it, in which case the bearers or claimants of Arabness will consent—even unknowingly—to undergo a transformation as well. They ought, in other words, to brave the chiastic traffic between the fixities of being and the untidiness of becoming. In Abu-Jaber’s Crescent, this daunting theoretical problem is confronted at the level of everyday practice, that is, at the level of what might be called performative Arabness. For the “radical everydayness of everyday life acts,” unfolds, in Claire Colebrook’s economized distillation of both Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau, “as a disruptive and redemptive force, a way of thinking beyond the closure of constituted powers.”30 Indeed, in order to disarticulate the power discourses that saturate the phenomenology of being—indeed, the prospect of becoming—Arab, Abu-Jaber chooses to focus on the social text of everyday life of the Arab diaspora in Los Angeles.

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By staging the inadequate and jarring overlap between the discursive production and circulation of Arabness and the performative and everyday rehearsal of Arabness, the novel manages—albeit provisionally—to figure forth a complex mosaic of Arab singularities on American soil. In particular, the novel dramatizes, with compelling poignancy, the piercing sense of dislocation and alienation that permeates Arab exilic identity and the invigorating promise of Andalusian community. Abu-Jaber does not seem to have a taste for squabbling over the philosophical and intellectual privileges and alleged pleasures of exile, which many postcolonial writers and critics boasted about and then derided. Instead, she delves into the real, everyday experiences of Arab Americans as they incessantly find themselves arched in what Marwan Hassan calls the “eloquent vulnerability” of being Arab.31 In countering the heightened politicization of Arab identity and culture, and reclaiming a measure of Arabness, there is always the lurking risk of ending up naturalizing it (and thereby going back retrogressively to square one) or initiating a narcissistic cultivation of Arabness that is, psychoanalytically speaking, consistent with one of the potential vicissitudes of melancholic attachments and identifications insofar as such cathectic bonds involve regressions into infantile fantasies of self-sufficiency and passive-active omnipotence. This is obviously not an easy task, given that when identity is politicized, it becomes an almost impossible endeavor to depoliticize it without further politicizing it. It is thus in the delicate balance between the purposive impulse to reclaim an identity and the sustained interrogation of any essentializing inclinations of that identity—by way of a Foucauldian morale de l’inconfort, or ethics of discomfort—that Abu-Jaber seeks to reinvent Arabness in tandem with rethinking the multicultural under the auspices of the powerful metaphor of Andalusia.32 If the glory of Al-Andalus is attached, at least in its early beginnings, to Abdelrahman, then it becomes patently clear that it is partly the work of the competing forces of exile, nostalgia and homecoming—all of which Abdelrahman experienced first-hand but he transformed them, along with himself, into a productive mix that redounded to his own and Al-Andalus’ greater benefit. While not without a difference in degree, the second-generation Arab American Sirine and the banished Han adopt a similar exilic discourse, and seem to be both inhabited by elsewhere communities, faces and places—as if those were the necessary combustible ingredients of longing that would fuel the pursuit of belonging. Sirine confesses, “I guess I’m looking for my home, a little bit. I mean, even though I live here, I have this feeling that my real home is somewhere else somehow.”33 Han goes even further, “The fact

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of exile is bigger than everything else in my life. Leaving my country was like—I don’t know—like part of my body was torn away. I have phantom pains from the loss of that part—I am haunted by myself. I don’t know—does any of that make sense? It’s as if I’m trying to describe something that I am not, that’s no longer here.”34 Han is twice removed from his own self. First, he is exiled from himself since he can no longer recognize himself after having submerged part of himself somewhere else. Second, he is haunted by the ghostly returns of that lost part of himself to such an extent that he becomes further alienated from his former self. In other words, Han’s exilic experience is, first, defined by a loss and, second, by the insistent returns of that very loss to plague him even further. Little wonder, then, that he “really can’t get the geography of [the] town,” as he tells Sirine, “It seems like things keep swimming around me. I think I know where something is, then it’s gone.”35 This unremitting sense of loss, however, becomes agentive: it proffers the desires and energies necessary for initiating modalities of belonging beyond any uncritical longings for an originary home. It was clearly the incentive that drove Han and Sirine into a romantic relationship that eventually painted broad strokes of the sociocultural entanglements of which it is an effect, and for which Nadia Café provided the setting and the common ground—a mini Andalusia of Arabicate (rather than Islamicate) culture in operation. Lubricated by creative cooking, music, poetry—and, in the words of AbuJaber in the above epigraph, almost all “the sorts of things that people get up to when you leave them in the sun for a while”—the gatherings of exiles, immigrants, and multiple ethnicities that Nadia Café hosted precipitated not only a counterintuitive and tragically human(e) sense of Arabness, but also a number of intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic alliances and identifications of profoundly empowering effects, even if of unresolved tensions, contraries, and differences. In many ways, Nadia Café reactivates the Andalusian imaginary of conviviality, if by conviviality we mean a workable measure of ta‘ayush [coexistence] in which “radical openness … makes nonsense of closed, fixed, and reified identity and turns attention toward the always unpredictable mechanisms of identifications.”36 It bears repeating in passing here that Abu-Jaber’s reactivation of the Andalusian imaginary for presentist concerns is not an isolated case, but is part and parcel of an expanding literary canon that brought together such different writers as Salman Rushdie, Tariq Ali, Radwa Ashur and Amin Maalouf—all of whom variably engaged with the trope of Andalusia in search of counterintuitive latencies with which to detoxify and rethink the present. In her most recent book, titled Mezzaterra, the Anglo-Egyptian

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novelist Ahdaf Soueif finds a similar creative Andalusian space in 1960s Egypt: “Growing up Egyptian in the Sixties,” she points out, “meant growing up Muslim/Christian/Egyptian/Arab/African/Mediterranean/Nonaligned/Socialist but happy with small-scale capitalism.”37 “Mezzaterra” for her means the resulting common and generative ground which vanished, as Soueif laments, in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. In Abu-Jaber’s Crescent, Nadia Café is the gravitational center of this Andalusia of cultural diversity and conviviality, a social text of performing Arabness and cultural coexistence which destabilize and frustrate discursive regularities about the Arab ethno-diaspora. Nadia Café is the meeting place of Arabs and non-Arabs alike, including Americans, Persians, Iraqis, and many others. In a suggestive gesture toward breaking free from the confines of geopolitical origins in favor of transnational ties, Abu-Jaber calls four of the regular customers of Nadia Café Schamaal [North], Jenoob [South], Shark [East], and Gharb [West].38 The deployment of Nadia Café as a metaphor of Andalusia and the spatial process of food-making and eating as yet another metaphor for the promotion of cultural understanding cannot be overstated. I have no intention here to go over “the thousand and one dish” described in the novel—described in even greater detail in AbuJaber’s later memoir-cookbook, The Language of Baklava—but it is only fair to point out, by way of concluding, some of the limits of an Andalusia of diversity predicated upon what might be referred to as a type of “cuisine multiculturalism.”39 Abu-Jaber’s novel might bring upon itself the reproach of promoting a superficial form of multiculturalism and of failing therefore to encourage the deep understanding of the Arab culture that it seeks to reinvent through the rhetorical powers of Andalusian conviviality. In other words, cuisine multiculturalism might help to invent Arabness for Arab Americans, but might as well convert American customers into cuisine multiculturalists— that is, into a breed of multiculturalist who would only entertain a fetishistic and consumerist relationship to the culture that furnishes them with the dishes they love. However, Abu-Jaber’s restaging of everyday Arabness by conjuring up Andalusian cultural and culinary diversity constitutes perhaps a demand for the impossible that nevertheless aims at expanding the horizon of the possible. Everyday Arabness is the promissory act that closes the gap between diasporic displacement and cultural belonging (and, by extension, between cultural translation and transculturation) and thus frustrates the essentialist imaginaire that continues to cast long shadows on the singular plural actualities of lived experiences. The promise of an Andalusia of cultural

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diversity becomes from this perspective a productive and empowering pursuit precisely because it entices us to demand the impossible while continually raising the threshold of the possible—by exposing and deconstructing the limits of cuisine multiculturalism. Much like the dishes that Sirine composes on a daily basis, the promise of an Andalusia of cultural diversity is an everyday process of reinvention—a renewed commitment to an ethics of discomfort—a continually unsatisfied deconstruction of the figures of possibility that ultimately serve to flesh out the promise of Andalusian convivencia or of Egyptian mezzaterra.

Notes 1. Mahmoud Makki, “The Political History of Muslim Spain,” in The Legacy of Muslim Spain, ed. Salma Khadra Jayyusi (Boston, MA: Brill, 1994), 77–8. This chapter first appeared in Comparative Literature Studies 45.2 (2008): 228–46. It is reproduced here by permission of Penn State Press. 2. See Abbas Hamdani, “An Islamic Background to the Voyages of Discovery,” in The Legacy of Muslim Spain, 289–93. 3. Anouar Majid, Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the PostAndalusian Age (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 58. 4. Marwan Hassan, Velocities of Zero: Conquest, Colonization and the Destruction of Cultures (Toronto: TSAR, 2002), 35. 5. Majid, Freedom and Orthodoxy, x. 6. Edward Said, Freud and the Non-European (New York: Verso, 2003), 25. 7. Richard Fletcher, Moorish Spain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 174. See also Edward Rothstein, “Was the Islam of Old Spain Truly Tolerant?” New York Times, September 27, 2003, accessed October 20, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/27/arts/was-the-islam-of-old-spaintruly-tolerant.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm. 8. Fletcher, Moorish Spain, 174–75. 9. See Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” The Atlantic Monthly, September 1990, accessed October 20, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/ magazine/archive/1990/09/the-roots-of-muslim-rage/304643/; Bernard Lewis, Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Age of Discovery (New York: Oxford, 1995); as well as Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996). 10. Driss Chraïbi, La Civilisation, Ma Mère! ... (Paris: Editions Denoël, 1972), 88–9, trans. Hugh Harter, Mother Comes of Age (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998), 66. 11. See James Joyce, Ulysses, ed. Declan Kiberd (New York: Penguin, 1992). 12. See William Granara, “Extensio Animae: The Artful Ways of Remembering ‘Al-Andalus,’ ” Journal of Social Affairs 19.75 (2002), 45–72. I discuss the

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13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36.

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concept of “Arab melancholia” in more detail in a book manuscript in progress, tentatively titled Arab Melancholia: Toward an Affective Theory of Cultural Empowerment. Diana Abu-Jaber, Crescent (New York: Norton, 2003), 79. Diana Abu-Jaber and Robin E. Field, “An Interview with Diana Abu-Jaber,” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 219. William Granara, “Nostalgia, Arab Nationalism, and the Andalusian Chronotope in the Evolution of the Modern Arabic Novel,” Journal of Arabic Literature 36.1 (2005): 60. Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 8. Ibid., 5. Edward Said, Freud and the Non-European, 42, 45. Nouri Gana, “Of Contrapuntology: Said’s Freud,” Theory & Event 7.2 (2004): 11. Jonathan Ray, “Beyond Tolerance and Persecution: Reassessing Our Approach to Medieval Convivencia,” Jewish Social Studies 11.2 (2005): 2. Ella Shohat, Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 213. See also Hisham D. Aidi, “The Interference of al-Andalus: Spain, Islam and the West,” Social Text 87/24.2 (2006): 67–88. Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1993), 61. Abu-Jaber, Crescent, 22. Ibid., 39. Marshall G. S. Hodgson, “The Role of Islam in World History,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 1.2 (1970): 106. Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (New York: Little, Brown, 2002), 11. Abu-Jaber, Crescent, 54–5. Ibid., 35. See Judith Butler, Undoing Gender (New York: Routledge, 2004), and Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (New York: Verso, 2004). Claire Colebrook, “The Politics and Potential of Everyday Life,” New Literary History 33.4 (2002): 699. Marwan Hassan, “Intelligence,” in The Confusion of Stones: Two Novellas (Dunvegan: Cormorant, 1989), 64. See Michel Foucault, “Pour une morale de l’inconfort,” in Dits et Ecrits, vol. 3, ed. D. Defert and F. Ewald (Paris: Gallimard, 1994). Abu-Jaber, Crescent, 132. Ibid., 182, my emphasis. Ibid., 85. Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), xv.

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37. Ahdaf Soueif, Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground (London: Bloomsbury, 2004), 5. 38. Abu-Jaber, Crescent, 255. 39. I am inspired by Stanley Fish’s concept of “boutique multiculturalism” in “Boutique Multiculturalism, or Why Liberals are Incapable of Thinking about Hate Speech,” Critical Inquiry 23.2 (1997): 378–95.

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Chapter 9 E u ro p e a n d I t s O t h e r s : T h e N ove l s o f Jamal Mahjoub Jopi Nyman

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The fictions of the Sudanese British author Jamal Mahjoub (b. 1960) explore contemporary and historical encounters between Europeans, Arabs and their descendants, problematizing issues of belonging, history and identity. While Mahjoub’s early novels tended to emphasize questions of exile in a nearly existentialist manner, his more recent narratives engage with contemporary concerns and seek to construct a historical understanding of the hybrid roots and routes of modern European identity and its many-layered trajectories. Whereas The Carrier (1998) opens up a new perspective onto the constitution of European modernity through its Arab protagonist’s fate in seventeenth-century Europe, Travelling with Djinns (2003), a road novel following its main character and narrator Yasin Zahir’s journeying from Denmark to Spain in an old Peugeot, places Europeanness in a transnational framework by showing the presence of global migration in allegedly homogeneous nation-states. The often forgotten intertwinement of Europe and its Others, Arabs in particular, is at the heart of Mahjoub’s body of fiction. Dealing with both the impact of colonialist practices in non-European spaces and the resulting postcolonial questions of transculturation and identity, his novels challenge established stereotypes and narratives that emphasize the alleged superiority and purity of Europeanness. In so doing Mahjoub is writing against the discursive practices of Eurocentric orientalisms, whose representations of Arabs, in particular, have been invariably negative and denigrating. According to the now classic view presented by Edward Said in Orientalism, Western knowledge of the Orient has functioned as a means of legitimating Western cultural and political dominance. Presuming to present authoritative views, orientalism claimed that the non-Westerners are decayed and unable to govern themselves. Writing of the French

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philologist Ernest Renan’s view of the Semitic languages, Said describes Renan’s findings in the following way: “he is … proving that his Oriental languages, the Semitic languages, are inorganic, arrested, totally ossified, incapable of self-regeneration.”1 What Said suggests, then, is that orientalism is a primarily European project that seeks to distinguish an allegedly superior culture from its Others: Orientalism is never far from what Denys Hay has called the idea of Europe, a collective notion identifying “us” Europeans as against all “those” nonEuropeans, and indeed it can be argued that the major component in European culture is precisely what made that culture hegemonic both in and outside Europe: the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the non-European peoples and cultures. There is in addition the hegemony of European ideas about the Orient, themselves reiterating European superiority over Oriental backwardness, usually overriding the possibility that a more independent, or more sceptical, thinker might have had different views on the matter.2 Various Others have been particularly important for the development of modern national identities. As Stuart Hall has put it with particular reference to the making of Englishness: To be English is know yourself in relation to the French, and the hotblooded Mediterraneans, and the passionate, traumatized Russian soul. You go around the entire globe: when you know what everybody else is, then you are what they are not.3 By extension, Europeanness can be understood as a similar and allegedly unified narrative where the intra-European national difference is subservient to the imagining of the various internal and external Others threatening the unity of Europe and its shared traditions. For instance, as Iver B. Neumann suggests, such Others have included, at different points in history, Moors, Saracens, Turks and Russians—usually Europe’s “geographically immediate Eastern others.”4 To paraphrase the view of Benedict Anderson, a view telling of Europe being under threat constructs it as an imagined community: while not without “actual inequality and exploitation,” it argues to offer a shared mission based on “a deep, horizontal comradeship.”5 Since in reality the sheer multiplicity of cultural traditions in Europe and their complex historical connections and development do not support such a view, the idea of European superiority and unity can be defined as a foundational fiction,

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to use a term coined by the critical theorist Homi K. Bhabha. The function of foundational fictions is, in the view of Bhabha, to tell a preferred story of the formation of a nation—or any imagined community—in a particular way: in such narratives “the origins of national traditions turn out to be as much acts of affiliation and establishment as they are moments of disavowal, displacement, exclusion and cultural contestation.”6 Yet such narratives are always constructions seeking to homogenize and harmonize the communities in question. In this sense the making of Europeanness and European identity appears as a way of constructing a story of Europe in crisis. In such a narrative the identity of Europe resting on the significance of its past is under threat. What is threatened is a tradition allegedly shared by all Europeans. As Ash Amin puts it, this idea rests on four pillars or “myths of origin”: The prevailing Idea of Europe is based on four myths of origin: first, the supremacy of a legal system based on Roman law; second, an ethos of social solidarity and common understanding based on Christian piety and humanism; third, a democratic order rooted in recognition of the rights and freedoms of the individual; and, fourth, a universalism based on Reason and other Enlightenment principles of cosmopolitan belonging. These have been seen as the defining cultural traits of the old continent, pitched against, at different times, tribal “barbarism,” religious society, communist or communalist organization, and individualism.7 This vision of a shared tradition has generated both positive and negative effects. While it has boosted a sense of community in Europe as indicated in the European Union and its promotion of a European identity surpassing national identifications,8 its emphasis on the exceptionalism of Europe may become problematic and promote a view telling of the continent’s alleged superiority. Linked with the underside of the Enlightenment, such a view is not unconnected with the legacy of European colonization and its explicitly articulated civilizing mission. Such an understanding, articulated strongly in the discourses of European colonialism and the views of contemporary right-wing political movements in Europe, is a narrative of exclusion on the basis of racial and ethnic identity. Historically it has culminated in the expulsion of peoples considered undesired in European spaces, including, for instance, Jews, Arabs and Turks, not to mention the lack of civic rights amidst Europe’s indigenous and mobile ethnicities such as the Sami and the Roma. A vision emphasizing the superiority of the European tradition has for a long time dominated Europe’s understanding of its Others by creating

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and maintaining hierarchies and dichotomies. If Europe is understood as a civilization in the sense promoted in the famous thesis on “The Clash of Civilizations?” coined by the historian Samuel P. Huntington, its values are bound to conflict with those of other civilizations.9 Writing of Muslims in Europe in particular, Talal Asad pays attention to the ways in which the media portray Bosnian Muslims: “they may be in Europe but are not of it.”10 In other words, in discourses constructing Europe as a civilization Muslims are claimed to be unable to become Europeans: “It is precisely because Muslims are external to the [Christian] essence of Europe that ‘coexistence’ can be envisaged between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ ”11 The power of polarized views such as Huntington’s is evident in the notion of fortress Europe. This metaphor constructs Europe as a closed entity in the need of defending itself against hordes of foreign invaders. In contemporary discourses it is usually Muslim and African immigrants seeking to enter Europe who are imagined in such a manner. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has written about the recent adoption of practices in Europe that seek to police the boundary crossings by undesired people and strengthen the distinction between “us” and “them”: For the time being, Europe and its overseas outposts (such as the United States or Australia) seem to be looking for an answer to their unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar policies, that have hardly ever been previously practised in European history; inward- rather than outward-looking, centripetal rather than centrifugal, implosive rather than explosive. We have seen retrenchment; falling back upon themselves; the building of fences topped with a network of X-ray machines and close circuit television cameras; more officials being put inside immigration booths and more border guards outside; the tightening of the nets of immigration and naturalisation law; refugees being kept in closely guarded and isolated camps and others being stopped before they have a chance of claiming refugee or asylum-seeker status. In short they have been sealing their domain against the crowds knocking on their doors, while doing precious little, if anything at all, to relieve such pressure by removing its causes.12 To counter views suggesting that Europe should be apart from the rest of the world, however, a different, more inclusive conception of European identity has been articulated. Such a recasting of European identity has been thought to be crucial should the European Union enjoy the support of various national and regional communities, and be able to accommodate the

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increasing presence of diasporic and transnational communities inhabiting Europe. While their status as Europeans is often marginal, it is these communities, whose cultures are described by Stuart Hall as the “unintended effects” of globalization,13 that are able to display processes of transculturation and cultural hybridity. As new European literatures and other modes of cultural expression from Finnish-language reggae music to Turkish German cinema emerge as results of migration and cultural interchange, they contribute to more than their respective national cultures: they remap Europe in new ways and destabilize the allegedly pure categories of national and European identity. Writing of the recent emergence of multicultural and diasporic writing all over the continent, Sandra Ponzanesi and Daniela Merolla suggest that the “European borderline is now being redefined by voices which once were excluded or marginalized from its main body.”14 This reconstruction of European identity is what various cultural critics from Jacques Derrida to Julia Kristeva have addressed in discussions of strangers, hospitality and mutual recognition. If we all are strangers and migrants in this continent of shifting boundaries, Europeanness is constituted of difference rather than of unity. The aim of such a reconstitution of Europe is, as Ash Amin puts it, a political one in that in a multi-ethnic and multicultural Europe, a failure to give open publicity to the principle of empathy with the stranger, and all that it represents in shaping identities as well as ensuring cultural change, will play into the hands of ethno-nationalists and xenophobes … interested in perpetuating the fiction of homeland cultural identities in Europe.15 It is here, in the “interstices” between Europe and its Others,16 that the novels of Jamal Mahjoub can be located. As stories of estrangement from pure traditions, his fictions delve into the dilemmas haunting the subject experiencing the effects of migration. While foregrounding estrangement and pain as results of such transitions, they also posit the border as a site where the subject may reconstruct itself anew and benefit from the experience of liminality. In the terms of Homi K. Bhabha, this is the liminal space of in-betweenness where the hybrid subject—such as many of Mahjoub’s characters—is constructed.17 And what such subjects generate is what Azade Seyhan defines as transnational literature, a genre of writing that operates outside the national canon, addresses issues facing deterritorialized cultures, and speaks for those in what I call “paranational” communities and alliances. These are communities that

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exist within national borders or alongside the citizens of the host country but remain culturally and linguistically distanced from them and, in some instances, are estranged from the home and the host culture.18 It is the aim of this chapter to address the various modes of interchange between the two cultures that Mahjoub’s narratives explore. Ranging from the seventeenth century to the contemporary period, his novels explore the legacy of European colonialism for postcolonial identities by looking at questions of exile and hybridity often in a historical context. In the following sections I will provide analyses of each of his novels. I will start with a discussion of the issues of exile and unbelonging in his first two novels, Navigation of a Rainmaker (1989) and Wings of Dust (1994), whose protagonists hover between Europe and Africa. I will then discuss the confrontation between Europe and its Others in the two historical novels In the Hour of Signs (1996) and The Carrier. The fourth section is informed by a reading of Travelling with Djinns: I will pay particular attention to its representation of Europe as a potential home. In addition, by addressing the effects of global migration, my reading of the novel seeks to show that the contemporary European space is transnational and populated by several communities that were formerly barred from entering it.

The Politics of Unbelonging: Navigation of a Rainmaker and Wings of Dust Mahjoub’s early novels, Navigation of a Rainmaker and Wings of Dust, both published in the Heinemann African Writers Series, show protagonists struggling with problems of exile, unbelonging and alienation. These issues are particularly emphasized in Navigation of a Rainmaker set amidst the turmoil of 1980s Sudan replete with curfews, paramilitary troops and representatives of multinational oil businesses. The story of the novel’s protagonist, the young Tanner, with British mother and Sudanese father, is told in parallel with another narrative focusing on the predicament and trials of nomads seeking to survive in the desert’s extreme conditions made more difficult by the civil war and its effects. Unsurprisingly, the cover of the paperback edition describes the novel as “[a]n apocalyptic vision of war-torn Africa.” For Abdulrazak Gurnah, the novel’s narratives of land and its inhabitants are closely linked with each other: “the anguish of a divided individual is seen against the true tragedy of the land.”19 In the novel Tanner, the anguished Anglophone stranger employed by a multinational oil company, is shown to lead an empty life in Khartoum.

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Barely interested in his job, he prefers to sit at home, read old magazines and drowse through the afternoons: When Tanner woke again, it was dusk. He came away slowly, like a man who has no real wish to return to the world. He lay there clinging to the sense of drift that comes with sleep, but the dream state left him. It slipped away, leaving him with a longing for something he could not quite put his finger on.20 Tanner’s sense of unbelonging, being a stranger in both Europe and Africa, is at the core of the novel. To come to grips with his hyphenated identity has also been the sole reason for his coming to Sudan: The idea of travelling to the Sudan had grown in his mind over the last year or so. It began to occupy that part of him which had always been empty. The idea grew to encompass everything that seemed to be lacking from his life. Listless, he now had direction. Dejected, he now discovered hope.21 Yet the realities of the country run counter to his somewhat romantic desires. Mastering only little Arabic, Tanner remains a stranger who socializes mainly with other expatriates, including his Venezuelan girlfriend. As the promise of homeland with a clear sense of belonging (as indicated in his desire to obtain Sudanese citizenship) becomes gradually empty, the novel shows him as a drifter and apathetic character who finds relief only in frequent visits to a local brothel. This sense of unbelonging is evident in a passage telling of his disappointment with the country: It was pointless to stay on any longer. It seemed he would always be a tourist here, a foreigner anyway. It was time to try somewhere else. If he was a foreigner both here and Britain, then he would be a foreigner wherever he went and therefore he could go anywhere. The idea of going back to the low ceilings and the narrow smoke-stained walls of England didn’t much appeal. Home was nowhere in particular, so anywhere would do. He just had to get up and go.22 The novel is a not mere existentialist narrative of nauseatic life. Rather, Tanner’s dislocation is linked with his inability to construct a transcultural identity and bridge the gap between his European and African heritage. Distanced from his aged Sudanese father living in an Aberdeen bed and

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breakfast, who upon their meeting each other after ten years, tells him not to go to Sudan and instead “[f]orget about that part of [him],”23 Tanner remains in the space between the two cultures. It is only towards the end of the novel, in a malaria-induced dream during which he hears the words of the Prophet that the possibility of living in this in-betweenness is offered as an empowering solution: “You are wondering, perhaps, but I am the same as you,” said the Prophet, stroking the straggly beard on his chin. “I am also, like you, the result of the split in direction. Opposite ends of a compass joined for one fateful night. This is where the secret of my—and of course your—power comes from. You are both North and South at the same time.”24 As the possibility of linking the North and the South, Europe and Africa, is reconstructed as an opportunity, Tanner appears to find a meaning for his life, albeit for a short moment, in this position of split identity. To use the terms of Homi K. Bhabha, this position is one of hybridity that unfixes Tanner’s belief in an original or pure identity: “It is that Third Space … which constitutes the discursive conditions of enunciation that ensure that the meaning and symbols of culture have no primordial unity or fixity.”25 In the sense that Bhabha refers to the conditions of hybridity as being nightmarish and “unhomely,”26 it is important that Tanner’s reconstruction of identity occurs during a field trip to the south of Sudan, where his company has sent him to assist the mysterious black American Gilmour. The initially routine expedition transforms into a narrative of illness, violence, death and rampant civil war. Gilmour’s mission appears to mask a military and political one seeking to control the nation’s oil resources. The politics of the narrative are present in the character of Gilmour, who claims that the civil war must continue to secure the neocolonialist interests of the Americans: “It’s a small fight on the global scale, but every war is won through its minor battles. I am here to instil confusion, to sow the seeds of discontent, as it were, but in the right places.”27 Infuriated, Tanner kills Gilmour, but the American manages to shoot him before his death. The ending of the novel focuses on Tanner’s death, and suggests that his life and death have not been in vain: He saw the swirling muddy rivers, the empty villages and the dead and wounded. He saw the homeless and the nomads who had nowhere to go and he realised that such things had happened before and would come again, but those who survived would return. The rains which they waited for would one day come. ... Tanner, or the one known by that name, passed

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away in a quiet moment, somewhere between the drops of rain that fell like a wave, like a heartbeat, on the tin roof of the mission.28 Mahjoub’s second novel, Wings of Dust, explores issues of unbelonging and exile through its elderly main character and narrator Sharif, once a government official and socialite but now living lonely and exiled in a rundown hotel in France. Told in the first person as an autobiographical narrative by Sharif, the novel addresses a wide range of issues from the colonial and postcolonial eras by covering the narrator’s life from his 1920s childhood and Oxford years to his leisuredly cosmopolitan life with the American jazz singer Contessa and old age. While the novel signifies an increased awareness of the role of history in its author’s literary production, its emphasis on Sharif ’s exilic loneliness and unbelonging to either Western or North African culture links it to the thematics of the first novel. The character of Sharif connects Europe and Africa with each other to reveal some forgotten links between the continents. Through Sharif, Mahjoub presents a series of crosscultural issues including the life of African students in Britain in the 1940s, the emergence of jazz in Europe and the process of decolonization. As a result, the novel shows various black diasporas in post-World War II Europe and pays particular attention to African students and American jazz musicians. Yet Europe remains an ambivalent space: while it provides moments of intellectual and erotic liberation for Sharif and his African friends including the poet and teacher Shibshib and the Anglophile HB, the reader is frequently reminded of its racism. For Sharif, the 1950s Paris is a site of learning, “[a]n opportunity to grow,”29 where he can absorb European culture: “I felt a real thirst for the things that had previously eluded me. I studied the works of Balzac and Goethe and Nietzsche, the poetry of Baudelaire and Rilke and Mallarmé. I read Dickens avidly for the first time as well as Tolstoy and Dostoyevski.”30 For the African American musicians, Europe is imagined as a space of liberation—yet this space is one that accepts them only temporarily. Sharif ’s pessimistic view of racial tolerance, however, unveils Europe as a space where full belonging remains problematic: People like Chune and Tyrone who played with the Contessa found a freedom here which they did not have at home in the United States. Here they had respect and were constantly in demand for their skills as musicians. People speak of equality and freedom as though they were qualities of the mind that once attained would never be lost. Yet history has shown that the raised consciousness that allows them is not the result of aspiration

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or evolution, but rather a spirit that has less to do with the development of the mind than with the generosity of the times, an allowance made by the coincidence of history and place.31 This issue of history is emphasized in the novel. Sharif, when reading himself into the European cultural tradition, claims to be uncovering forgotten links between the North and the South: “I was looking for connections to my own past.”32 Like many other characters in Mahjoub’s novels who are rooted in more than one history and culture, Sharif tries to come to terms with his hybrid identity.33 In such characters Europeanness is present as much as Africanness and Arabness, a view that challenges nationalistic appeals to the alleged purity and authenticity of cultures. This hybridity of the postcolonial subject is evident in Sharif ’s description of his transformed identity: It seemed a fitting time to quit this country, this continent that registered like a dark uncharted landscape within my soul, an area of land that I myself did not understand. I knew that it existed, that part of it was a part of me, through my education and training, through that inheritance of our former masters. I had been taught about this place since that well-meaning buffoon of a teacher Mr Simbel had spoken so highly into our ears, whispering of a great kingdom. God bless his ignorance. It was time for me to return, to count the damage and assess myself against the measure of my past. It was time to go home.34 By exploring the return to the homeland as both a political and personal dilemma, the novel shows that the safety of home is an illusion. In Wings of Dust, the promise of decolonization turns into corruption, repeated coups d’état and mindless military rule. In such an era anyone, including Sharif, now a regional administrator, is liable to become a threat to the government, which eventually leads to his forced exile. The narrative emphasizing the loss of liberal democracy is paralleled with another one lamenting the loss of democratic rights in a state increasingly controlled by Islamic fundamentalism. Its rise is recast as the dawning of a new era of a particular kind: “a new age of doubt in which the dictates of men who fear discourse and debate dominate.”35 To counter monological narratives such as colonialist discourse and fundamentalism, the novel emphasizes the role of historical knowledge and voices we need to remember. For example, the narrator comments on historical amnesia in contemporary Sudan by remarking ironically that “[t] hose who can remember are dangerous, for they might recall that there is an

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alternative to this madness.”36 This need to remember is also shown to be one of Sharif ’s characteristics: in the view of Tyrone, Sharif “was looking … for the chord changes in history.”37 Ultimately, the novel defines the acts of writing and storytelling as ways of voicing neglected histories. Through them, Mahjoub suggests, it is possible to find a home in the world: “I shall create a space in the world with my story, a space of honesty, compassion and rebellion. I shall re-invent a place which I can call home.”38 Home, then, is linked more to the mobility of the migrant subject than to a particular geographical place.

Historicizing Euro-Arab Encounters: In the Hour of Signs and The Carrier While the first two novels place their emphasis on the individual’s sense of unbelonging and mixed responses to living between two cultures, the focus in the historical novels In the Hour of Signs and The Carrier is more on the interaction between the cultures and their mutual interdependence. This is seen in the way in which these novels become narratives of encounters between Europeans and Arabs. Whereas In the Hour of Signs explores the rise of the Mahdist state in late nineteenth-century Sudan, The Carrier sends a seventeenth-century Arab scientist to Europe to find out about the development of Western technology. Although both novels look at the violence embedded in such contacts, In the Hour of Signs is a particularly striking attempt to revisit British colonial history in the Sudan. Focusing on the period 1881–98, the novel explores the emergence of the Mahdists from several perspectives including those of the Arab scholar Hawi, the British officer Ellesworth and the epileptic slave girl Noon. Characterized by an “epic” approach to portray the period,39 the novel brings to the fore the clash between colonial politics and anti-colonial resistance. The religious leader Muhammad Ahmad al Mahdi, the son of a boat builder and a self-proclaimed successor of Prophet Muhammed, and his followers fight against secularization which they associate with Europeans and their allies. Their mission is evident in Mahdi’s words addressed to a native representative of colonial authority: The people whom you represent have squandered their dignity and corrupted the meaning of the word “Islam.” You drink wine and smoke tobacco. You have been consumed by the vanities of the world. … You wear the garments of the European infidels. We wear the simple clothes of our land.40

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The novel is deeply anchored in historical and military events of the period. For instance, it portrays the death of General Gordon and the famous battle of Omdurman in September 1898 (referred to as the eponymous “hour” in the novel) where the troops of the British general Kitchener defeated the Mahdists led by Khalifa Abdullahi, the prophet’s successor. The violent nature of the battle is emphatically depicted in the novel: The plains were scattered with the bodies of the faithful: old men, young boys, children armed with carved wooden swords. The soldiers advanced cautiously, bayonets fixed, prodding the last vestiges of life from the blood-soaked rags. Behind the soldiers came the looters—an unpleasant crowd of scavengers who had attached themselves to the column at various points along the road from Cairo. There were good pickings here. The groans of the dying lingered on through the night.41 This battle leading to the death of around 11,000 Mahdists has been seen to mark the ending of the Mahdist state.42 Regardless of this, Mahjoub’s novel is not one of imperial heroism. The use of multiple perspectives to narrate the historical events makes possible a critical revisioning of the period: while some of the British officers are shown to quote Kipling in the barracks,43 the character of Major Ellesworth provides a critical view. Traumatized and transformed by his experiences, and unable to adapt to civilian life in Britain, he re-enlists in the army: “He had begun to dream of the river.”44 Through Ellesworth, the novel addresses the ambiguity of colonial space and shows how formerly firm identities lose their former status in new cultural settings. Yet in the era of cultural confrontations depicted in the novel, there is little possibility for transculturation. To underline this, the moderate Islamic scholar and teacher Hawi is lynched in the final chapter of the novel by a group of commoners: “they turn against anything which reminds them of this truth—against strangeness, the outsider.”45 This pessimism is, indeed, what Katharine Elliott finds central to the novel when she suggests in her review that the “reader’s reaction is likely to be a grim one—a profound awareness that man refuses to learn from history, because he is blind to the guises in which it repeats itself.”46 The other historical novel, The Carrier, concentrates on problematizing the issues of belonging and home. By focusing on the journey of the seventeenth-century Arab scholar and scientist Rashid al-Kenzy from Africa to Europe and to Denmark, this traveler’s tale critically examines cultural contacts between Europe and its Others. In so doing it shows that no space,

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regardless of appeals by promoters of the alleged purity of cultural and national traditions, exists in a vacuum but is always shaped by cultural interchange. In an interview Mahjoub says that the reason for setting Rashid’s story in history is to counter contemporary conceptions: “every nation has its own popular misunderstanding of its own history.”47 While Rashid’s original aim is to learn about the telescope, the recent Dutch invention, he never reaches the Netherlands but ends up shipwrecked in Denmark. Incarcerated and tortured by the Danes, the black man is saved by the Danish astronomer Verner Heinesen and his learned sister Sigrid, both of whom he befriends. Yet the local reaction to their privileging of science over religion leads to violence and murder: the end of the novel finds Heinesen dead, his house burnt and Rashid back in movement. This story of migrancy and exile has a parallel narrative, that of Rashid’s twentieth-century counterpart historian and archaeologist Hassan. An immigrant to Denmark, Hassan finds in Rashid’s narrative a site for self-reflection and a way of countering nationalist narratives emphasizing the purity of Nordic lands. Rather than celebrating the opening up of transnational spaces, The Carrier chooses to emphasize that xenophobia and racism shade cultural contacts and problematize the feelings of home and belonging. The Carrier revisits critically the narrative perspective of the traveler’s tale by selecting a non-Western character as its protagonist. The role of oriental (or American or Asian) space usually exoticized by the Western traveler, as suggested by Edward Said, is now played by a Europe that is Othered and explored by a non-European protagonist. Like his numerous Western counterparts, this traveler is captured by savage natives poking irons at him: Rashid is subjected to a medical examination by a Danish doctor. This space is contrasted with the civilized seventeenth-century Mediterranean spaces that Rashid is familiar with. For Rashid, the shores of Jutland are spaces inhabited by Others “speak[ing] the language of forest creatures.”48 The Danes of the period are “[m]uddy children”49 and “exhausted men covered in soot and grime.”50 As put in the novel, “[t]heir faces were grimy with sweat and dirt, their hands were hardened and bruised from work. Their clothes were simple, rough garments.”51 To emphasize the role of racist and xenophobic views, both Rashid and Hassan are harassed by the Danes in the novel. In their view Rashid is an embodiment of evil, an “apprentice of Satan’s, whose body is the color of darkness, a sure sign of his tarnished spirit? He carries the blackness of Lucifer into the world;”52 the Danish youth considers Hassan a freak. While the text’s repeated representation of racism appears to promote its

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universality, it should be noted that The Carrier is not merely a roman à thèse. Its critique is directed at colonial discourse and the ideology of nationalism. By critiquing them, the novel challenges Eurocentric models contrasting center and periphery: it shows that all European spaces, regardless of whether they are remote, rural and uncivilized like seventeenth-century Jutland, have their silenced histories of migration and may function as spaces where the reconstruction of identity is possible. As the archaeologist Hassan rewrites the allegedly racially homogeneous past of the rural Danish village, the novel shows that no space is without external influence. As a result, the racism of its contemporary inhabitants, their spraying of foam onto Hassan’s windows and the nailing of a toy monkey onto his door,53 are signs of their desire to remain within the security of fixed boundaries and identities deemed necessary to defend their fantasy of purity. By showing that Hassan knows more of the history of the village and its inhabitants than they do themselves, the novel argues for a historical understanding of cultural contacts. When the inhabitants’ naturalized image of the ethnically homogenous nation-state is contrasted with the hybrid multicultural history of Europe and its migrations, The Carrier questions the prevailing ideological paradigm stressing national purity. As Theo D’Haen describes the novel, “the entire book is a powerful warning as to the terrible consequences of religious bigotry, racial prejudice and cultural chauvinism: all of these only lead to losses all around, never to gains.”54 By contrasting the nationalist politics of location and rootedness with a more cosmopolitan narrative of mobility, the novel shows how cultural contacts transform the subject experiencing them. This is evident in the description of Rashid’s changing perspective: So he struggles day after day to try to fathom the knowledge of this new world. He has been drawn into a net where all that he has learned previously serves only to tie his feet more firmly. He must fight to break free, but where will that leave him? He is afraid that he will lose everything, including his mind, to end his days shackled to a post like a dumb animal, staring vacantly at the sky, his soul eaten by the stars.55 As Rashid learns about the Western models of astronomy, he also teaches the Heinesens about the other tradition through his translations of Eastern scholarship, thus changing through dialogue their understanding of scientific models.56 Through this learning process the novel not only shows that identity is a process, always in flux, but it also seeks to argue that European and non-European models of knowledge have historically interacted with

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others.57 This idea of the transformation of identity is particularly important in the novel. As Sigrid puts it in her words to Rashid: “ ‘Your perspective is changing,’ she says. ‘It is nothing to be afraid of.’ ”58 Such changes, personal and cultural, the novel suggests, may be able to create a sense of synergy and be beneficial to both. When Rashid seeks to learn more about Sigrid, the East reaching towards the West, the novel uses the trope of translation to mark the transformation of identity: “He is looking for a translation, a transformation, a change of form. A metamorphosis that would enable him to reach her.”59

Contemporary European Migrants in Travelling with Djinns Exploring the effects of exile and migration on the construction of contemporary European identity, Travelling with Djinns differs from the earlier novels in its direct probing of Europeanness. In this novel—as also in the recent The Drift Latitudes (2006)—the migrant identities which formerly fluctuated between Europe and other spaces are now shown to be central to the making of European identity. To contribute to debates concerning the characteristics of such an identity, Travelling with Djinns addresses the constitution of Europeanness by using a migrant narrator, the Sudaneseborn and British-educated journalist Yasin Zahir, who comments on various markers of cultural memory, including the canon of European literature and a range of historical sites and events. For Mahjoub, migrant identity is not a mere romanticization: it is a site of critical intervention that urges us to address the historical and hybridized construction of European identity and shows how Europeanness is negotiated amidst more global flows of migration. The novel is deeply embedded in discourses and effects of globalization, as is evident in its references to Euro-American cinema and contemporary consumer culture shaping the lives and dreams of people all over the world. The novel explores questions of exile and migrancy from a perspective that seeks to problematize contemporary Western discourses on nation, identity and belonging. These issues are most prominent in the protagonist Yasin, whose marriage to the Danish Ellen is shown to be failing. Seeking to escape from the stressful situation, in a condition complicated by the traumas related to the death of his parents and the rifts between his siblings, the djinns of the title that follow him wherever he goes, Yasin leaves Ellen’s family home after a row, takes his young son and sets off in an old car. Yet his wanderings are more than personal: they can be seen as

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ways of discussing migrancy in contemporary Europe. Moving from one nation-state to another, first from Denmark to Germany and then from France to Spain, Yasin reveals his sense of being merely a trespasser in Europe, “with the mental framework of a transient, an outsider, not seeing myself anywhere.”60 His outsider status is emphasized with reference to racial difference: upon entering Germany, his car is searched more closely than those of others, regardless of European agreements the border guards claim not to know about.61 While such a European space appears to be dominated by forms of racism and xenophobia and thus provides few possibilities for identification, it cannot exist without its migrant Others, especially Africans.62 As examples of contemporary migration, the novel includes such characters as Haya, the West Saharan prostitute who becomes one of the travelers for a short period, and the African migrants selling “compact discs and sunglasses” in front of the Louvre.63 As the novel claims, these young men “from places like Dakar and Conakry, from Lomé, Abidjan and Bamako” have no full access to the memorials of the European (colonialist) cultural tradition but are doomed to remain outside: “Paying to stand and gaze at old paintings comes low on the list of priorities when you are trying to eke out a living from the pavements.”64 This image of African refugees turning their back on the Louvre and selling toy cars made of sardine tins furthers the novel’s critique of the inequalities of neocolonialist capitalism. The promise of Europe, it suggests, is not only economic, one “of a better life”: for many, including Yasin, it is a fantasy generated by popular media, a “Technicolor dream.”65 Regardless of its critique of Europe’s inability to deal with increased migrancy, the novel does not promote a simple thesis of blind acceptance of difference peculiar to some forms of cultural relativism. This is most evident in its representation of the role of Islam in the narrator’s sister Yasmina and her husband Umar, the son of a major businessman. After her marriage Yasmina becomes a devout Muslim, whose beliefs become stronger upon the family’s relocation to Britain. When describing their family, the novel is embedded in debates about isolationism, paranoia and anti-Western sentiment. Living in a housing estate near Canterbury, Kent, their life is described as being conducted in “a hermetically sealed microcosm to deflect the dilemmas of post-national, post-industrial existence; how to have your Squeezy Cheez Rings and frozen Macaroni Surprise! without becoming part of the society that produced them.”66 Refusing to accept the views of Western media—there are no newspapers in the house apart from the free local paper entering the apartment through the letterbox, and the TV set

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is turned off during all current affairs broadcasts—their attempt to deny its existence is ambiguous. While enjoying the consumerism of Western modernity, they refuse its values and views and prefer alternative modes of belief and knowledge, combining religion and internet-based conspiracy theories. As the novel describes their response to the moral decay they find evident in Western lifestyle: So they dug themselves in deep. They lived with the curtains drawn all day. They built a wall of Prawn Flavoured Puffs and Toastypops around them and, literally, began to pray. Like modern-day Puritans terrified of the freedom they found in the New World, they needed to compensate, to make up for the lack of boundaries by hardening their own peripheral delineations. They were building a fort.67 The effect of the representation of Yasmina and Umar is not merely to explore the dangers of ghettoization and marginalization in contemporary Britain. As the novel stresses their increasing distance from the rest of their secular family, it is argued that religion functions as a newly found safe haven for them and provides them with transnational identities. The increasing importance of religion is clearly presented in the scene telling of Yasin’s father’s funeral, which is taken over by the funeral helpers from Umar’s mosque. “[T]he common men, the hordes, the salt of the Muslim earth, bulky and well fed, with curly beards and woolly glares, their peasant simpleness part of their essential credentials” are contrasted with Dad’s old friends, “the well-heeled lot Dad had known in Bayswater and Edgware Road, the exiled journalists from Baghdad and Damascus, the poets from Lebanon.”68 In this episode the novel pits religious bigotry against pluralism, and ironically shows how the representatives of the former oversee and desire to control the funeral of an Arab liberal who has been jailed for his attempts to promote plurality, democracy and freedom of speech. As an old friend of his attempts to recite the Qur’an, the “well-padded men in Doc Marten boots and turbans”69 object and force the elderly literature professor away, claiming that the Qur’an is “for the living”—“Nobody else had ever heard this before.”70 When pressed, Umar defends his friends by saying that “[t]hey only mean it out of respect,” to which Yasin responds: “How about showing respect for his friends?”71 In contrasting the choices of the siblings with each other—religious Yasmina, wannabe rock star-cum-drug dealer Muk and the wandering Arab Yasin—the novel distinguishes between an apparently false desire to pin down and fix one’s identity and an understanding promoting its mobile and

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changing character. Yasin identifies himself with the latter, as is evident in the Prologue of the novel: “I sometimes think I envy those people who know where they belong; writers who have a language and a history that is granted them with no catches, no hooks.”72 Rather than desiring fixedness, Yasin sees himself as a nomad, a constant traveller who lives in the space of inbetweenness, not in a geographically fixed home. Comparing himself to the protagonist of Thomas Berger’s novel, Little Big Man, who shuffles between Western and Native American cultures,73 Yasin’s identity is that of a migrant and a nomad, a trespasser in the world of nation-states: I belong to that nomad tribe, the great unwashed, those people born in the joins between continental shelves, in the unclaimed interstices between time zones, strung across latitudes. A tribe of no fixed locus, the homeless, the stateless. I have the two passports and quite a variety of other documents to identify me, all of which tell the world where I have been, but not what I am, nor where I am going to. My language is bastard tongue of necessity, improvisation, bad grammar and continual misunderstandings. ... My nation is a random list of places on the map that I have passed through, upon which I have no claim. Some might say that I have been assimilated, but they would be wrong. Others would say I am alienated and ought to be better integrated by now, but that too would be to miss the point. This is the way of things.74 Rather than praising nomadism as a romanticized choice as promoted in postcolonial and postmodernist discourses, this passage supports an understanding of migrant identity as a continuous process peculiar to the diasporic experience. The ideas of homelessness and statelessness evoked pinpoint the migrant’s transnational and diasporic identity that differs from Yasmina’s attempt to locate herself in a community of believers claiming to possess the truth. For Yasin, identity is a process, and the genre of the road novel aims towards a change as depicted in the final chapters of the novel. Such a transformation is hinted at in the last sentences of the Prologue that evoke metaphors of movement and mobility: “There was always time later, further on, up ahead, round the next bend. And that’s how most of us go through life, until something comes along to change that. And in my case it wasn’t so much a what as a who.”75 This idea of transformation is in the novel linked to the notion of reconciliation: Yasin needs to link himself to his son and brother. The notion of constant movement is emphasized with the help of intertextuality to the extent that Maria Jesus Carbacos Traseira describes the novel as “a

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transcultural artefact.”76 The key narrative explicitly employed is the myth of the Flying Dutchman telling of a captain doomed to roam the oceans until he meets a woman who is willing to die for him. To pinpoint the global mobility of culture, however, the novel replaces Wagner’s version with the 1951 film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, starring Ava Gardner and filmed in Spain in the coastal town of Blanes (though renamed as Esperanza in the film) where Yasin’s brother Muk lives. As a further way of uncovering cultural contacts between the East and the West, the novel claims that it is the poetry of Omar Khayyám that opens the film,77 linking not only cultural traditions but also the high and the popular. The novel seeks to hybridize the allegedly uniform and Eurocentric cultural tradition or civilization by revising it historically. Here the role of Yasin is important: it is the task of this racialized stranger to reconstruct Europeanness by excavating and reconstituting the aesthetic and cultural histories and traditions once thought to be in the sole possession of “Europeans”—although he is literally cut off from Europe owing to his failed marriage with the Danish Ellen. In so doing, he shows the traces that other cultures have left in Europeanness, both synchronically and diachronically, and unveils its transnational and transcultural character. In this sense the novel displays similar processes as such other forms of minority writing ranging from Turkish German to ethnic American narratives.78 As Seyhan suggests, they “represent a conscious effort to transmit a linguistic and cultural heritage that is articulated through acts of personal and collective memory. In this way, writers become chroniclers of the histories of the displaced whose stories will otherwise go unrecorded.”79 It is through an examination of the historical process of global migration and displacement that we can understand why Yasin insists on the fact that his son has to learn to know what Europe is. While this may appear as an excuse for driving down South, and is also ironic owing to European racism and xenophobia, it is understandable in the context of revising the alleged histories of Europe and its role in colonialism. As he puts it: “I want him to learn about this place, this continent where so much of our fate has been forged, one way or another. Love or loathe it he would have to learn to deal with it, this thing we call Europe.”80 The reference to the role that Europe has played in the colonization of African spaces is central to the novel: to understand Europe is to understand the intertwined histories between it and its Others and to recognize the various cultural and historical layers of Europe that are often forgotten and to see it as a transcultural construct. As Yasin puts it in a passage contrasting unrecorded histories and those written by colonizers: “My history is not

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given, but has to be taken, reclaimed, piece by solitary piece, snatched from among the pillars of centuries, the shelves of ivory scholarship. My flimsy words set against those lumbering tomes bound in leather and written in blood.”81 He also distinguishes between the two forms of historical knowledge available in and through colonial education and tells the reader how he and other schoolchildren learnt that “history consisted of foreign words like Verdun and the Treaty of Versailles, Auschwitz, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Dien Bien Phu.”82 While similar ideas of the limited role of small nations in the histories of Empire(s) have been presented in other postcolonial novels,83 Mahjoub’s novel explicitly inserts other histories and historical figures such as Attila the Hun in Europe’s story of itself. The effect is that Europe’s claims for a historical sense of difference lose their basis: as the Other is a part of the Self, Europe’s hybrid character is revealed. When Leo asks “Who were the Saracens?”, Yasin answers: “Well, they were … us.”84 While recognizing the Othering implicit in the term, the novel argues for a need to reassess Eurocentric histories to negotiate a new form of European identity. In other words, by incorporating other histories and such figures as the late nineteenth-century Sudanese religious leader Mahdi into the narrative, Mahjoub’s novel problematizes traditional historical narratives (both European and non-European) and the forms of identity they have constructed. Yet, it may be suggested, the uncovering of historical identities does not merely criticize Europe’s colonialist and racialist constitution. Simultaneously, by unveiling the link between the historical Saracens and Moors on the one hand, and the contemporary Arabs and Muslims on the other, the novel seeks to call attention to the historical constitution of Arab identities. As Travelling with Djinns reveals the mutual dependence of Europe and its Others, it shows the traces left by cultural contacts and mixing: no identity is pure or natural. To emphasize such an idea, the novel uses the notion of mobility in an interesting way. While for many people migrants and refugees are contemporary phenomena, the novel suggests that they are a further link in a long chain of human mobility that has been essential to the making of Europe: From the earliest neolithic wanderers to the Mongol hordes, from the Huguenots to the Calvinists, pilgrims, refugees, gypsies. It is a history of railway tracks and roads. A history of transgression, of frontiers and border lines being crossed and recrossed. The Romans, the Visigoths, the Jews, Bosnians, Albanians, Kosovans, the blind, the sick, the old, the crippled. These are the people upon whose sacrifice the history of

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Europe is written, and our collective history is written in the course of those migrations.85 As a result, the novel shows that the exclusive character of Europeanness as a form of identity is questioned.86 Mahjoub’s novel seems to promote the recognition of the multiplicity of Europeans as it refuses to locate European identity in a shared cultural tradition and allegedly common values—the proponents of the latter view are easily caught in the trap of polarizations and debates seeking to determine who is not European and who are Europe’s Others. As Stefania Panebianco puts it: “In an era of globalization and fragmentation, the only way to cope with the clash of identities is to develop and spread a broader concept of European identity.”87 For Mahjoub, such a European identity appears to outweigh the more parochial sense of national identity preferred by border-patrolling nation-states. The historical project of defining Europeanness is taken further in allusions and discussions of artists and writers, both Western and non-Western, who enter from the margins to play a role in the redefinition of identity. In addition to Brecht, Baldwin, Benjamin and Dumas, the most important voice belongs to the exiled Austrian-Jewish writer Joseph Roth. In a passage directed at the reader of story, Yasin suggests that writers such as Roth are able to provide the link between the present and the past, “connecting your life with that of the author, with another past, that other past which is not yours.”88 Read in the context of Yasin’s critique of colonial education and teaching of history, this suggests that in Roth’s narrative different experiences of marginalization are able to recognize each other and “the other past” becomes accessible. Like Yasin, Roth is represented as an eternal wanderer who cannot be accommodated into the dominant narratives of his own time and place, a post-World War I Europe divided by ethnic and national hatred. As Yasin describes Roth’s vision:89 In the scene of a group of silk workers relaxing by the banks of the Rhône in Lyon, he saw a reflection of Europe’s long history made flesh. In the faces of the slim, dark women working in the factories he saw the features of the Roman legionaries who had arrived in these parts two thousand years earlier. He saw the living, breathing perpetuation of something he had imagined lost for ever. Evidence of a continuity to which he felt he belonged, in which there was no distinction made, there were no exclusions, banishments, exiles. A continuity from which, as a Jew, he was being expelled.90

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While Yasin’s way of linking himself with Roth the writer makes the novel a metanarrative on the importance of writing and storytelling, 91 its effects are more than psychological and artistic as they provide a further transnational linkage between two of Europe’s others, the Arab and the Jew. In the context of the novel’s project of excavating European cultural history, this transnational coalition shows the role and importance of these—and other—minorities in the making of the continent and reveals its hybrid heritage.

Others within Europe: The Drift Latitudes In his most recent literary novel, The Drift Latitudes, Mahjoub carries on his excavations of European history by emphasizing the importance of migrants for the historical making of European identities.92 Through the stories of a German migrant, inventor Ernst Frager, and his two daughters from different marriages, the novel brings together Rachel, who has left Britain upon her marriage with a Sudanese student, and Jade, the Liverpool-born daughter of Frager and the West Indian Miranda, who seeks to accommodate herself in contemporary Britain. The silenced family connections crossing cultural and national boundaries contribute to the imagining of hidden yet shared pasts characterizing Mahjoub’s fiction. The novel shows that travel and migration characterize European identities historically. In so doing it locates its characters in transcultural frameworks such as the transatlantic culture of jazz and the everyday mobility of various ordinary border-crossers, including those forgotten by traditional histories such as refugees and migrants. By addressing the various (and forgotten) pasts of migrants, it shows how European identities are in constant flux—drifting—and how seemingly distant people and places, such as Liverpool and Sudan, are invisibly linked through silenced family connections. As a result, the novel presents alternative accounts of European pasts and transforms the identity of the continent. The use of the trope of family is particularly important in this respect: by showing that the English family consists of hybrid migrants and their descendants in wide-ranging geographical spaces and diverse cultural settings, the novel involves a critique of nationalist thinking. What its new identities and location generate is a sense of multiplicity and hybridity that takes over the allegedly “pure” spaces of privileged national identities. Consequently the novel critiques not only European nation-states with their supposedly monocultural spaces, but

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also all forms of national and cultural essentialisms. As the novel puts it, “purity was an illusion. Everything is in perpetual contention; rising and falling, growing, dying.”93 The notion of memory and the related need to understand the effects of the past on the present plays a central role in the novel. When discussing Jade’s search for her past, and the trajectory of her enigmatic father, the novel relies on the idea of haunting. As put by Waldo Schmidt, the only living person who has known Ernst Frager, memory is an “odd thing”: “[f] acts remain buried in the mind like a ghostly shadow,” but unexpectedly they may “make themselves plain.”94 While the novel presents several ghosts and moments of haunting ranging from Jade’s private collection of animal skeletons to “Shelley’s Ghost” haunting guests in a Welsh inn, the real ghosts of the story are those whom history seeks to forget, various migrants whose stories are to be remembered. Here the novel draws a parallel between European war refugees such as Ernst Frager and the contemporary forced migration of the nomadic refugees described in one of Rachel’s letters from Sudan: They walk in a single file, silently, never appearing to speak to one another, their silence a sign of unspoken communication with nature. All the more ironic because they are no longer within their own landscape, with the cattle kraals, smoky dung fires, and grass huts of the unbound tracts from where they hail, far away to the south in those muddy swamplands of theirs. They have been plucked out and set down here like spindly butterflies pinned to a sheet of vellum. Here in a sleepy suburban side street in a run-down quarter on the outskirts of the capital city of a backwater nation of the world. Not a nation at all, really, but a collection of disparate peoples herded together by the muddle-headed rulers of a bygone imperial age. We live in the wake of history like a new picture that sits badly in an old frame.95 Some of these migrants, the novel suggests, have found their way to Europe, where they live and work, often silent, unnamed and in dire conditions, yet performing necessary tasks in the supermarkets and construction sites. What is haunting the West in the silent presence of the migrant is a constant reminder of the shameful colonial past. As a further sign of this, after her mother’s funeral Rachel thinks about her family’s past, she characterizes it in a particular way, as a “revenant history, never concluded, the fruit of that nebulous, unresolved desire to make sense of it all.”96 Such histories, often contingent and drifting, are the stories that we need to listen to in order to

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understand the encounters between Europeans and their Others. What The Drift Latitudes emphasizes is that these Others are always within Europe, not beyond it.

Coda The novels of Jamal Mahjoub are involved in an ethico-political project of historicizing cultural encounters. They show that the contemporary is deeply rooted in past histories, and that the desired self-image promoted in today’s West is based on an exclusion of its Others and a suppression of unwelcome pasts. What the progression of his narratives reveals is that modern European identity is not monolithic but consists of various different strands. Rather than primordial and stable, it is changing and drifting, both synchronically and diachronically. The excavation of histories, a metaphor that is particularly important in The Carrier, comes to play an increasingly more central role in Mahjoub’s novels. By embedding personal narratives in the web of intercultural exchange, his fictions reveal the interdependence of Europe and its Others and show how their histories and identities are intertwined. This idea is captured aptly in The Drift Latitudes, a novel that links Germany, Britain and Africa with each other. Through the languages of music and architecture, it unfolds hidden stories about the German refugee Ernst Frager and his family, stories from the past that change the life of those to whom they are passed on: The estuary mud was riddled with shaved fragments, the crumbled remnants of wood, pewter, bone and iron, scattered by the waves, awaiting an archaeologist and an appreciated age to dig them out. Stories that remain untold until their weight is lifted from the mud.97 These stories, regardless of the traumas they may evoke, have to be remembered and retold. The notion of memory, cultural and personal, gains increasing importance in Mahjoub’s novels, and it also plays a central role in his latest works set in contemporary Cairo and featuring Makana, a traumatized private investigator and a refugee from Sudan. The first volume in the well-received series, The Golden Scales: A Makana Mystery, was published in 2012, and the second one, Dogstar Rising, in early 2013. As the first novel shows, through the use of the detective novel form, Mahjoub is able to comment on issues ranging from political corruption to transnational crime, while retaining a focus on migration, dislocation, and memory. In The Golden Scales, the case to be investigated demands that Makana delves

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into the past to locate the silenced connections between the characters of the novel. These pasts, as the novel shows, are international and crosscultural, which appears to link the novel with his other work. Through his expanding work, Jamal Mahjoub has shown how the stories excavated from the past transform personal lives and revise received understandings of European and Arab identities.98

Notes 1. Edward Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995 [1978]), 145. 2. Ibid., 7. 3. Stuart Hall, “The Local and the Global: Globalization and Ethnicity,” in Culture, Globalization and the World System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity, ed. Anthony D. King (London: Macmillan, 1991), 21. See also Jopi Nyman, Under English Eyes: Constructions of Europe in Early Twentieth-Century British Fiction (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000). 4. Iver B. Neumann, Uses of the Other: The “East” in European Identity Formation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 15. 5. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Spread and Origins of Nationalism, rev. edn (London: Verso, 1991 [1983]), 7. 6. Homi K. Bhabha, “Introduction: Narrating the Nation,” in Nation and Narration, ed. Homi K. Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990), 5. 7. Ash Amin, “Multi-Ethnicity and the Idea of Europe,” Theory, Culture and Society 21.2 (2004): 2. 8. See Emanuele Castano, “European Identity: A Social-Psychological Perspective,” Transnational Identities: Becoming European in the EU, ed. Richard Herrmann et al. (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), 40–58. 9. Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72.3 (1993): 22–49. 10. Talal Asad, “Muslims and European Identity: Can Europe Represent Islam?” in The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union, ed. Anthony Pagden (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 213; emphasis original. 11. Ibid., 213. 12. Zygmunt Bauman, “Who Is Seeking Asylum—And from What?” Mediactive: Ideas, Knowledge, Culture 4 (2005): 104. 13. Stuart Hall, “Conclusion: The Multi-Cultural Question,” in Un/Settled Multiculturalism: Diasporas, Entanglements, Transruptions, ed. Barnor Hesse (London: Zed Books, 2000), 216. 14. Sandra Ponzanesi and Daniela Merolla, Introduction, in Migrant Cartographies: New Cultural and Literary Spaces in Post-Colonial Europe, ed. Sandra Ponzanesi and Daniela Merolla (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), 6.

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15. 16. 17. 18.

Amin, “Multi-Ethnicity and the Idea of Europe,” 4. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 2. Ibid., 37. Azade Seyhan, Writing Outside the Nation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 10. Abdulrazak Gurnah, review of Navigation of a Rainmaker, by Jamal Mahjoub, Wasafiri 12 (Autumn 1990): 43. Jamal Mahjoub, Navigation of a Rainmaker (Oxford: Heinemann, 1989), 10. Ibid., 15–16. Ibid., 105. Ibid., 18. Ibid., 158. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 37. Ibid., 9. Mahjoub, Navigation, 168. Ibid., 183–84. Jamal Mahjoub, Wings of Dust (Oxford: Heinemann, 1994), 79. Ibid., 80. Ibid., 81. Ibid., 80. Tina Steiner’s Translated People, Translated Texts: Language and Migration in Contemporary African Literature (Manchester: St Jerome Publishing, 2009) reads Wings of Dust and The Carrier as addressing the various possibilities offered by the notion of translation as a way of conveying new “knowledge across cultural, linguistic and religious boundaries” (67). In Steiner’s view, both novels show that crosscultural work and contacts may carve new ways of relating to the Other (69). Mahjoub, Wings of Dust, 134–5. Ibid., 5. Ibid., 5. Ibid., 80. Ibid., 5. James Gibbs, review of In the Hour of Signs, by Jamal Mahjoub, World Literature Today 71 (1997): 444. Jamal Mahjoub, In the Hour of Signs (Oxford: Heinemann, 1994), 12. Ibid., 237. P. M. Holt and M. W. Daly, A History of the Sudan from the Coming of Islam to the Present Day, 4th edn (London: Longman, 1988), 111–12. See Mahjoub, In the Hour, 211–12. Ibid., 210. Ibid., 247. Katharine Elliott, “War with the Khedive,” review of In the Hour of Signs, by Jamal Mahjoub, Times Literary Supplement, February 28, 1997, 23.

19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33.

34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46.

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47. Jean Sévry, “Interviewing Jamal Mahjoub,” Commonwealth: Essays and Studies 23.2 (2001): 91. 48. Jamal Mahjoub, The Carrier (London: Phoenix House, 1998), 174. For a detailed reading of this novel, see Jopi Nyman’s Home, Identity, and Mobility in Contemporary Diasporic Fiction (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009), 57–77, and “Migrancies and Modernities in Jamal Mahjoub’s The Carrier,” Nordic Journal of English Studies 1.2 (2001): 249–69. 49. Mahjoub, The Carrier, 260. 50. Ibid., 261. 51. Ibid., 260. 52. Ibid., 263. 53. See ibid., 257. 54. Theo D’Haen, “Stranger in a Strange Land: Jamal Mahjoub’s The Carrier,” in Migrant Cartographies: New Cultural and Literary Spaces in Post-Colonial Europe, ed. Sandra Ponzanesi and Daniela Merolla (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), 132. 55. Mahjoub, The Carrier, 215. 56. See also Steiner, Translated, 92–3. 57. Sten Pultz Moslund’s rich reading of the role of telescope in the novel as presented in his Migration, Literature and Hybridity: The Different Speeds of Transcultural Change (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) elaborates on the effect of cultural encounters: “the telescope dramatizes the idea of ‘perspectivism’ that Sigrid introduces to Rashid; that is to say, the telescope epitomizes the novel’s representation and blending of a variety of different discursive epistemologies—or lenses—through with we observe and thus represent and construct the world” (155). 58. Mahjoub, The Carrier, 238. 59. Ibid., 249. 60. Jamal Mahjoub, Travelling with Djinns (London: Chatto and Windus, 2003), 22–3. 61. See ibid., 10. 62. Maria Jesus Carbacos Traseira proposes in “A Straight Elliptical Wobble: Afro-European Transculturalism and Jamal Mahjoub’s Travelling with Djinns,” in Border-Crossings: Narrative and Demarcation in Postcolonial Literatures and Media, ed. Russell West-Pavlov, Justus Makokha, and Jennifer Wawrzinek (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012) that the novel be read in the context of Afro-European literature (193). 63. Mahjoub, Travelling, 105. 64. Ibid. 65. Ibid., 70. 66. Ibid., 279. 67. Ibid., 280. 68. Ibid., 325.

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69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78.

Ibid., 326. Ibid., 327. Ibid. Ibid., 4. See ibid., 147. Ibid., 4–5. Ibid., 5. Traseira, “A Straight Elliptical Wobble,” 197. Mahjoub, Travelling, 308. I am here referring to recent work by scholars reading ethnic narratives in their global context(s). For an overview, see Shelley Fisher Fishkin, “Crossroads of Cultures: The Transnational Turn in American Studies—Presidential Address to the American Studies Association, November 12, 2004,” American Quarterly 57 (2005): 17–57. See also Paul Jay, Global Matters: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010). Seyhan, Writing Outside the Nation, 12. Mahjoub, Travelling, 22. Ibid., 5. Ibid., 62. See, for example, Caryl Phillips’s A State of Independence (1986). See also Kenneth Parker, “ ‘Black British’ Writers: (Very) Cross Currents in ‘British’ Culture,” Postcolonialism and Cultural Resistance, ed. Jopi Nyman and John A. Stotesbury (Joensuu: University of Joensuu, 1999), 35–6. Mahjoub, Travelling, 58. Ibid., 173. Traseira presents a similar reading of the passage: “The novel’s intention to draw attention to the presence of non-European cultures and their legacies could not be expressed in any clearer terms. Contemporary experiences of postcolonial migrations are but the latest episodes of movements and encounters of people in a history of the world, and of Europe in particular. To those advocating rigid categories to describe what one is or is not, the novel suggests, Europe is the result of processes by which those very categories were contested, revised, expanded” (“A Straight Elliptical Wobble,” 198). Stefania Panebianco, “European Citizenship and European Identity: From Treaty Provisions to Public Opinion Attitudes,” in Who Are the Europeans Now?, ed. Edward Moxon-Browne (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 18. Mahjoub, Travelling, 301. The reference is to Joseph Roth’s description of Lyons, France, based on his travels in southern France in 1925. See Joseph Roth, The White Cities: Reports from France 1925–39, trans. with an introduction by Michael Hofmann (London: Granta, 2004), 77–84. Mahjoub, Travelling, 302. For an explicit comparison, see ibid., 302.

79. 80. 81. 82. 83.

84. 85. 86.

87. 88. 89.

90. 91.

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92. For a more detailed reading of the novel see Jopi Nyman, “Beyond Liverpool, 1957: Travel, Diaspora, and Migration in Jamal Mahjob’s The Drift Latitudes,” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 46.3 (2011): 493–511. 93. Jamal Mahjoub, The Drift Latitudes (London: Chatto and Windus, 2006), 177. 94. Ibid., 184. 95. Ibid., 11. 96. Ibid., 42; emphasis added. 97. Ibid., 192. 98. I thank the Academy of Finland (Project 205780) for their financial support.

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Chapter 10 Space, Embodiment, Identity and Re s i s t a n c e i n t h e N ove l s o f Fa d i a Fa q i r Lindsey Moore

F o rc e - F i e l d s t h e n ov e l s o F Fa d i a FaQ i r

I collapsed and started calling al-Shater Hasan at the top of my voice. Roll into oblivion. Roll into another identity. Depart this body.1 Was it possible to walk out of my skin, my past, my name?2 In an interview I conducted with Fadia Faqir in 2010, the author stressed her interest in characters who are “very low on the social scale … down-and-outs … I haven’t got any characters [in my new book] that are middle class, rich or privileged. That strata or segment of society does not hold my attention.”3 This focus on the marginal and underprivileged, both in the Arab world and British settings, is one factor that distinguishes Faqir’s fiction, to date, from that of other critically important women writers of Arab origin resident in (or affiliated to) the U.K. context, notably Ahdaf Soueif and Leila Aboulela. Another is Faqir’s formal experimentation with what she has described as “Arabized” English style.4 With reference to the Garnet Arab Women Writers series of which she was the editor, Faqir explains her desire to promote awareness of Arab culture amongst readers in English.5 Instead of focusing on Arab literature written in English, however—its component parts are, with the exception of Faqir’s contributions, all translated from Arabic—the series was conceived as a means of highlighting “Arab women’s alternative stories” which “create a different language where the patriarch is lampooned and ridiculed, and where women’s daily experiences and oral culture are placed at the centre of the discourse.”6 The same recentering of Arab women’s experiences and stories can be identified in Faqir’s own fiction and is the subject of this chapter.7 My discussion of Pillars of Salt (1996) and My Name is Salma (2007, published in the United States as The Cry of the Dove)8 examines the spatial,

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communitarian, corporeal and narrational paradigms foregrounded in these novels. The first part of the chapter discusses the presentation, in Pillars of Salt, of home, prison and asylum as analogous sites of female disempowerment, but also as spaces that might generate collaborative tactics of debunking (post)colonial complicities with local patriarchies and of prioritizing women’s embodied experiences. In the second part, I consider the extension of Faqir’s critical focus to migrant space, examining ways in which My Name is Salma exemplifies encounters with the “scattered hegemonies”9 of patriarchies and feminisms which are integral to the definition of community boundaries and intersect in complex ways with transnational mobilities. The problematic of “identity” flagged up in Pillars of Salt (see my first epigraph above) becomes more complicated and more consciously problematic for the migrant protagonist of My Name is Salma (see my second epigraph). In the third part, I elaborate on the theme of women’s creative tactics of resistance to dominant narratives and, in related fashion, consider the author’s formal experimentation with hybrid or “translational” narrative style. Each stage of the discussion emphasizes the “force-fields” in which the author locates her female protagonists, underscoring the fact that “Muslim women’s experiences . . . are, like all women’s experiences, ambiguous and highly variable, marked by subordination and opportunity, mobility and immobility, security and insecurity.”10

Home, Prison, Asylum11 Identification of the domestic sphere as a setting in which women’s bodies, as objects of patriarchal exchange, are contained, and a concomitant critique of home as a locus of particular forms of (re)production and relatedness, are staples of feminist theory.12 More specifically, as Caroline Nagel observes, “dichotomous conceptions of public-private space . . . dominate the literature on women in Arab/Muslim societies.”13 While such an approach can be problematized, it is clear that, owing to the overdetermination of “women’s spaces” as cultural boundary markers in colonial, tribal, nationalist and Islamist discourses pertaining to the Middle East and North Africa,14 domestic space has been a persistent problematic for feminist creative workers and analysts of the region. Part of the issue is that the construction of postcolonial identity often involves a “homing” or “reclaiming and reprocessing of habits, objects, names and histories that have been uprooted,”15 in which domestic space can be (re)imagined as a haven of traditional values. In this part of the chapter, I explore a homology drawn in Faqir’s fiction

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between home, prison and asylum, which exposes ways in which domestic settings narrowly define women’s opportunities for self-realization and undercuts, through hyperbole, a persistently gendered dichotomization of social space in Arab contexts.16 Both Pillars of Salt and My Name is Salma exploit a recurrent trope of Arab/Muslim women’s confined bodies, conflating home with psychiatric asylum and/or prison in a critique of dominant constructions of woman’s “proper place.” I use Pillars of Salt to exemplify this problematic before moving on to discuss ways in which My Name is Salma, through a doubling of local and migrant settings, further complicates our understanding of women’s marginal spaces. Let us first recall Foucault’s analysis of disciplinary power that manages marginal subjects in what he terms “heterotopias of deviation” such as psychiatric hospitals and prisons.17 The assignation of place depends on two modes of control: first, the establishment of binaries (such as sane/mad or normal/aberrant) and, second, the assignment of the latter in each pair to a subordinate place in society’s fabric through processes of naming, characterizing, prescribing and proscribing. The system relies on the production of recursive, docile bodies that behave in a particular way because they may be watched by an observer positioned as invisible and disembodied. Although this implies an internalization of norms that can be difficult to resist, it also means that power operates within a network of social relations—a forcefield—rather than from a fixed position.18 Pillars of Salt, narrated in three voices, is set during and immediately after the British occupation of Jordan (then Transjordan) between 1921 and 1956. In the narrative present, just after independence, two women—Maha, from a settled Bedouin community in the village of Hamia and Um Saad, a Syrian-born resident of Amman—are incarcerated in Fuhais psychiatric hospital in the Jordanian capital. The asylum functions as a metonym of an unjust society which writes women’s bodies across the social spectrum into reductive scripts and places them under permanent surveillance. Within the world of the text, the asylum space exemplifies woman’s ascribed place in “a well-closed room.”19 The two women’s stories are intercut and formally framed by that of Sami Al-Adjnabi, a self-styled guardian of morality set up as an unreliable and increasingly dangerous storyteller. As his surname indicates (ajnabi means foreigner),20 he is partly an outsider to the Jordanian settings of the novel and forms a strategic alliance with Maha’s brother Daffash, a dissolute “modernizer,” and “[his] friend the English traveller, who turned over every pebble … measured the land and … called it the ‘Mandate’.” These men are not only imbricated in colonial power structures; they are also cannily poised to

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dominate the impending postcolonial order. Maha, by contrast, is described in essentialist and ahistorical terms by Al-Adjnabi as “a deer that had been roaming the deserts of Arabia since Eve, made out of our father Adam’s crooked rib, was cast out of heaven.” He also casts her as avatar of “the first female child . . . buried alive by the tribe of Bani-Qur’aish”—Prophet Mohammed’s tribe—an event that “set the blood-feud between men and women.” This suggests that Maha, as representative of women, is always already excluded from political space and entombed in Arab Islamic metanarratives. As she puts it, I am sure in Allah’s everlasting records I do not exist, my name is not even scribbled in the well-kept book of fortune. Maha became an open land where every shepherd could graze his sheep, where every nurse could stick her needles. Al-Adjnabi’s project is further to discredit her as a dissident figure, a “woman who challenged and [eventually] surrendered” to what he presents as an immutable and translocal patriarchal order.21 Restrictive constructions of woman’s place are shown to cut across rural and urban locations and, to some extent, class.22 Um Saad, who describes herself as “an urban woman from Amman,” repeatedly refers to “the shutter and the star-shaped holes” through which, at home, she projected her desire for the outside world of the city.23 She is obliged to leave school once she reaches adolescence, punished for an innocent encounter with the man she desires, forced to marry someone else and eventually rendered homeless when her husband takes a second wife. Home for Maha is in some ways less constrained—she is, by financial necessity, involved in working the family land and continues to cultivate a vegetable plot after her marriage. Her relatively extensive mobility is condoned by father and husband; her husband loves her precisely for the courage that she inherits from her maternal grandmother and her father is in perpetual mourning for her mother. Maha’s formidable matrilineal inheritance suggests aspects of a more egalitarian gender tradition than tends officially to be propagated.24 In the eyes of the wider community, however—with her mother-in-law functioning as intermediary and surveillant25—Maha’s gender status is compromised by returning after marriage to work her father’s land, a period of infertility and then immoderate grief when her husband, who participates in uprisings against the colonial government, is killed by British forces. Finally cheated of both her land and her son by her brother Daffash, in collaboration with the British and with Al-Adjnabi, she is forced to flee to the mountains.

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When she refuses exile and returns to fight for her rightful inheritance, she is forcibly removed to the asylum. Maha is dispossessed and unhomed by a brother who accedes to postcolonial modernity literally in her place, whereas Um Saad’s situation is the product of inequalities enshrined in family law which does not change with liberation from the British.26 In fact, the status of both women is radically reduced with the advent of Jordanian independence. Um Saad explicitly locates “the beginning of my slavery” in 1956.27 The inclusion of a British doctor “who rules us like a king” in the aftermath of the formal independence of the country consolidates the novel’s representation of an alliance between two contiguous frameworks of dominance and containment: patriarchy (in its local and regional manifestations) and (post)colonial rule.28 Pillars of Salt imagines ways in which colonial and patriarchal frameworks of confinement have been mutually productive. This then necessitates modes of resistance that can be defined as decolonizing and feminist, as I will discuss in the third part of this chapter.

Migration, Margins, Mappings Faqir presents “scattered” or interlocking Arab and Western paradigms for the production of gender norms which attempt to contain and frame women. She does this in relation, first, to culturally specific parameters of women’s “proper” sexuality; second, to specific definitions of community; and third, to the production of civilizational narratives that pit “the West” against the Arab Muslim “rest.” In 2001, Faqir published an article in Third World Quarterly on the underdocumented issue of intra-family femicide in Jordan.29 The author has explained that this issue and the (not directly related) circumstances relating to the loss of custody of her own child produced a “winter of despair” that delayed the writing of what would become her third novel.30 This, My Name is Salma, is written exclusively from the perspective of a Bedouin woman originally from a settled village community in an unnamed country in the Levant (which is identifiably Jordan). Faqir has also described the novel as her first attempt to engage directly with the British society in which she lives, suggesting that “it reflects a rite of passage and survival” and an attempt at “re-creating a significant kind of Arab immigrant experience” in English, a point to which I will return.31 Although the narrative is not presented chronologically (for reasons I discuss anon), the story begins when the eponymous Salma, a shepherd, has a sexual relationship out of wedlock, falls pregnant and is rejected by her

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lover. Echoing the concerns of Pillars of Salt with women’s constrained corporeal expression, mobility and agency, Salma’s life narrative is determined from the outset by her gender. She realizes belatedly that sexual maturation and desire are potentially deadly, as repeated collocations of perfume and poison suggest.32 Prompted by her mother, who fears that her brother will attempt to kill her, and after a failed termination attempt, Salma seeks the help of a local teacher, who arranges for her to go into protective custody. In this example of the prison/asylum trope—the only difference here is that the “prisoner” will be allowed to leave, but she does not know this33—Salma gives birth to a daughter who is immediately removed, on the advice of her fellow inmate but without Salma’s consent. About six years later, with the help of a Catholic women’s charity, Salma is smuggled out of jail, across the border and to a convent in the Beqaa Valley by a Lebanese civil nun. She subsequently migrates by ship to Britain with an English nun. Despite legal adoption by this Miss Asher, Salma is detained by the U.K. Border Agency on arrival and forced to seek asylum status. Salma’s journey is defined by a series of “prisons,” real and metaphorical, beginning with (in this case Bedouin) tribal attributions of primary value to verifiable patrineality, hence definitions of community, ensured by a strict policing of women’s sexuality.34 Salma reflects that we congregated in groups, families, clans, tribes; our honor must be protected, our blood must be avenged; eating together, sleeping together ten to a room or a tent, our destiny shackled together in a chain.35 As Amir H. Jafri states, honor relates both to a defensive definition of a group’s social boundaries in the face of competing claims and to the formation of the masculine self in relation to community regard. As such, a so-called “honor crime” can be read as “a vivid rhetorical move” which symbolically and performatively reinforces normative masculinity and community boundaries. Having transgressed the sexual norms of her community, thereby putatively necessitating the restoration of family honor through the murder of the transgressing woman,36 Salma’s social position becomes increasingly marginal even as she has recourse to a series of “asylum” spaces: first protective imprisonment in a women’s cell, as noted above, then what David Farrier, drawing on Jacques Derrida’s critique of hospitality, has described as “conditional [immigrant] presence dependent on the discretion of the [national] host.”37 In Exeter, where she goes to seek work and which provides the setting of the narrative present, Salma—now going by the name of Sally Asher—describes

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herself privately (and incorrectly) as an “illegal immigrant,” a “fugitive with a record” and an “alien.”38 The novel maps urban life through a cartography of exclusion, semi-invisibility, deprivation and alienation that shadows “official” British space and tentatively gestures toward modes of potential affiliation between outsiders: In the early evening the city [of Exeter] belonged to us, the homeless, drug addicts, alcoholics and immigrants, to those who either were without a family or were trying to blot out their history. In this space between five and seven we would spread and conquer like moss that grows between the cracks in the pavement. Salma’s friend Parvin, who she meets in a women’s hostel after the latter’s flight from an unwanted marriage arranged by her Pakistani parents, contributes to an oppositional recasting of this scene, suggesting that “we are like shingles. Invisible, snakelike. It slides around your body and suddenly erupts on your skin and then sting, sting.”39 To a limited extent, the novel constitutes “a symbolic act of carving out of space” typical of what Mark Stein calls the “Black British novel of transformation.”40 However, the emphasis, at least on the thematic level, falls less on British cultural transformation than on marginality, evoked through the crepuscular—shadowy and time-limited—“colonization” of urban space by the underprivileged and excluded.41 At the level of form, this novel, unlike earlier fiction by the same author, is told from a single perspective. However, Salma’s past—in another place, under another name, in another language—constantly erupts into the space and time of exile. While there are also “translational” issues at stake, as I discuss shortly, the non-chronological structure most obviously reflects the processes of traumatic memory. Our protagonist strives for a “born again” status as Sally, ideally “an English rose, white, confident, with an elegant English accent, and a pony.” However, her query—“Was it possible to walk out of my skin, my past, my name?” (my second epigraph)—suggests rhetorically that the attempt is doomed. In Exeter, Salma/Sally “walk[s] shackled to nothing but my nightmares.” Her discontinuous identity is represented via synesthetic modes of memory in which smells and tastes catalyze the unpredictable but enduring traumatic presence of the past. Smelling greasy food, for example, Salma/Sally recalls that A few years ago, I tasted my first fish and chips, but my mountainous Arab stomach could not digest the fat, which floated in my tummy for

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days. Salma resisted, but Sally must adapt. I kept looking up adapt in the Oxford English Dictionary: Adapt: fit, adjust, change . . .42 In her dealings with white Britons, Salma/Sally believes she must disguise her status as “a Muslim Bedouin Arab woman from the desert on the run.” This is partly in order to preemptively offset racist assumptions—for example, she pretends apple juice is beer “so whoever approached me would think that I was open-minded, not an inflexible Muslim immigrant”—but also to avoid being tracked down by her family. On this latter point, Salma’s sense that she is living on “borrowed time” casts her British “asylum” as a hiatus in the working out of her family’s revenge. The novel is repeatedly proleptic as well as reflective of trauma when it invokes Salma’s hallucinatory visions of a vengeful kinsman: she is cast as “a woman with a twisted neck looking both ways.” A return to her homeland, even after an interval of years, will in all likelihood result in the protagonist’s murder. This is indeed what appears to happen at the end of the novel: Salma is shot in the forehead at the grave of her daughter, herself recently murdered in belated vengeance for her mother’s crime.43 The mobilization, then undercutting, of a “victim-escapee” motif in this novel is further contextualized by an implied awareness of the ways in which orientalist stereotypes and civilizational discourses of power cohere around the figure of “the Muslim woman,” particularly in the aftermath of 9/11 (the context of publication, if not the novel’s setting).44 Salma/Sally is preoccupied with concealing the fact that she “came from dark countries, with blood feuds and hostages.”45 She fantasizes, though, about a “sensitive, generous, rich white Englishman, who was dying to meet an exotic woman like me with dark eyes, skin, hair and deeds. I would rub my olive skin against him, and—puff—like magic, I would turn white.” She also compares the “savage love” she had for Hamdan, which led to her pregnancy—and which reads as a negative outworking of Maha’s relationship with Harb in Pillars of Salt—with anodyne Western romance myths epitomized by a poster of Pretty Woman.46 Interestingly, the former is not unequivocally rejected and Sally’s eventual marriage to a Briton (her university tutor John) is presented as relatively pragmatic and uninspiring. Sally’s views on gender relations are not only contradictory; they are multiply expressive of false consciousness, symptomatic of an internalization of various reductive (cross)cultural identity scripts. These include the Western romance myth of female self-realization and social uplift through marriage; an orientalist construction of Arabs and/or Muslims as non-white; definitions of female “dishonor;” and the

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“victim-escapee” trajectory beloved of Western publishers of Arab women’s texts, referred to above. The outward expansion of the imprisonment trope to include Salma’s precarious British “asylum” status militates against our understanding of Salma’s journey as one oriented towards female emancipation, thus problematizing a civilizational teleology. Moreover, I would argue that because Salma does not critically comprehend the gendered logic of her original situation, a positive resolution to her story is foreclosed. The (temporary) resolution of what is ostensibly a romance plot, which ends in her eventual marriage to John and produces a brief period of stability and integration in a mixed community, is structurally undermined as central to Salma’s/Sally’s story and represents another foreclosed teleology. In Exeter, Salma/Sally goes to considerable lengths to discipline her body according to what are presented as Western constructions of female desirability and of what a woman is and does. The point is ironically underscored in the opening scene of the novel, in which “I stuck a liner to my pants, pulled them up my shaved and oiled legs and realized that I was free at last.” The protagonist’s outward reconstruction begins as a strategy of economic survival: while they are still resident in the hostel, the more savvy Parvin instructs her to “Lighten up! Groom yourself ! Sell yourself !” and to remove her headscarf, a visible marker of cultural difference, in a bid to find employment.47 A recurrent emphasis on grooming has wider significance, however. The author explains that I wanted to show that Arab women are oppressed in a certain way, but western women are oppressed in another way. [In the West], women have to conform to certain images and standards of beauty and to sell ourselves, objectify ourselves ... Both environments are oppressive, but in different ways. In each case, there are penalties for not conforming.48 Sally’s attempt to “shed her skin” is, moreover, figured as repression of what she sees as the dark otherness of her “natural” body. Blackness is repeatedly linked to shame, particularly of having “deserted” her child but once again also reflective of a deeper internalization of cultural constructions of gender norms.49 Salma/Sally remains metaphorically imprisoned by internalized constructions of honor, overlaid by a more superficial assimilation of dominant modes of gendered self-presentation in a migrant context. The novel’s critical mapping of British “asylum” space is sensitive to the complex intersection of gender, ethnicity and economic (im)mobility. Salma/Sally struggles to find work, to access healthcare facilities and to

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make friends. As she observes, it is predominantly English men who make social overtures to her, underlining the novel’s framing of sex as a highly risky aspect of socialization and sociability for women. Salma/Sally notes that “no” is an inappropriate word for an immigrant, but is herself rejected without explanation after sex: “curves” only temporarily replace “color” in the eyes of desiring others.50 Forays into British nightlife are cast as precarious attempts to use her body to survive and also suggest an inability to transcend the corporeal causality of her Jordanian history. Moreover, imprisoned by her past, Salma is motivated by self-destructive impulses related to the trauma of separation from her daughter. It is tragically inevitable that she accelerates her brother’s recuperation of “honor” by voluntarily returning to Jordan.

Decoding, Reframing, Disappearing Spatial theorists have taught us that because space is culturally and historically produced, it is simultaneously contestable: it should be seen as “a stake, the locus of projects and actions deployed as part of specific strategies, and hence also the object of wagers on the future—wagers which are articulated, if never completely.”51 It is by now common practice to differentiate between place as static location and space as “practiced place,” the latter an actualization of individual and social operations on a particular terrain.52 Feminist geographers Alison Blunt and Gillian Rose recommend that we think of gendered space “less as a geography imposed by patriarchal structures, and more as a social process of symbolic encoding and decoding” that (re) produces and potentially redefines spatial, symbolic and social orders.53 Domestic space is often portrayed (not exclusively) by Arab Muslim women as both densely populated and internally differentiated by forcefields; that is, hierarchies of authority and networks of affiliation and influence. It can also be conceived, somewhat against the grain, as a space of collaborative female creative production and contestation of public norms, values and grand narratives.54 Relevant to this discussion is what Jafri, in exploring alternatives to the patriarchal “message” which “honor crime” transmits (see above), describes as “kairotic” interruptions of hegemonic discourses, on a spectrum which includes strategic intervention in textual, political and legal domains by women who can articulate their own position—Faqir’s different kinds of writing on “honor crime” provide salient examples—to tactics deployed by subalterns, such as Faqir’s fictional protagonists, which include embodied protest and oral testimony.55 As Sara Ahmed et al. point out, “staying at home does not necessarily mean being

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fixed” and the domestic realm can both produce and be the product of resistant narratives to hegemonic productions of home.56 In the first part of this chapter, I suggested that because women have historically been produced as “delegates of men’s materiality,”57 or relegated to and contained within the domestic sphere, “women’s” space can be seen in Foucauldian terms as a heterotopia, or space of crisis, deviation and temporal discontinuity. When the home is presented as homologous with and legible as prison and/or asylum, the composite trope draws our attention to the heterotopic quality of marginal space. It thus makes it amenable to de- and re-coding, oppositional reconfiguration and imperfectly or partially articulated “wagers on the future.” Jafri refers to kairos presumably to emphasize a similarly tactical response to opportunities.58 In Pillars of Salt, Um Saad relays to Maha the story of being caught looking through the “star-shaped holes” of the domestic shutters and beaten by her father. This initiates one of several references she makes to the “vanishing cap” of al-Shater Hasan from Alf Layla wa Layla (The Arabian Nights or One Thousand and One Nights) which enables “disappearing” into different identities (see my first epigraph). But Um Saad goes on: “Can you cast off your identity like dirty underwear? Can you?” Maha initially responds: “Identity? What is identity. I think I have none.” But later, when Um Saad tells of her father’s rejection of a formal proposal of marriage by her beloved and her ensuing nervous collapse, Maha “began understanding what Um Saad meant when she spoke of ‘identity’.”59 Maha’s initial incomprehension throws self-conscious individualistic norms—implicitly associated with Um Saad’s relatively sophisticated, partly educated background—into critical relief, suggesting that Maha has not hitherto thought of herself as separate from family, clan and husband; by extension, exile from her home has negated all sense of self.60 Where she identifies with her interlocutor, however, is in the patriarchal thwarting of women’s desire, specifically for a man but with wider implications to do with free will, mobility and self-determination. What is also interesting about the passage cited above is its presentation of surface and depth. Whereas the man in “The Vanishing Cap” can assume external identities at will and thereby act on his desires, Maha and Um Saad, like Salma, are irrevocably defined by (im)propriety.61 A sense of female self is here located, like “dirty underwear,” where social norms define the body. Saba Mahmood reminds us of what Foucault calls the paradox of subjectivation: the very processes and conditions that secure a subject’s subordination are also the means by which she becomes a self-conscious identity and agent ... Stated otherwise,

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one may argue that the set of capacities inhering in a subject—that is, the abilities that define her modes of agency—are not the residue of an undominated self that existed prior to the operations of power but are themselves the products of those operations. Mahmood goes on: In contrast to a long tradition of feminist scholarship that treated norms as an external social imposition that constrain the individual, [Judith] Butler forces us to rethink this external-internal opposition by arguing that social norms are the necessary ground through which the subject is realized and comes to enact her agency.62 An assumption that agency equates to emancipation from or transcendence of social structures (which, however, in the Foucauldian/Butlerian formulation construct the self and the very idea of “the self ”) is problematized here and, I have been suggesting, in Faqir’s fiction to date. However, there is a degree of performative dissidence opened up in the reiteration of norms: echoing Blunt’s and Rose’s description of the possibilities of recoding space, Mahmood reminds us that “agency for Butler is grounded in the essential openness of each iteration and the possibility that it may fail or be reappropriated or resignified for purposes other than the consolidation of norms.”63 We recall Faqir’s privileging of “Arab women’s alternative stories” which parody and supplement grand patriarchal narratives, particularly through a privileging of oral culture. While Robert Irwin argues that “it is difficult to argue that the story collection [Alf Layla wa Layla] as a whole, with its diverse constituents, presents a case for either misogyny or feminism,”64 Faqir’s frequent reference to the tales suggests an affiliation with feminist rereadings of that “text.”65 The emphasis is often, as in Faqir’s work, on The Arabian Nights as marginalized and counterhegemonic folk culture and particularly on the frame narrative which positions Shahrazad (Sheherazade) as a narrator telling stories to save her life. Shahrazad, who— at least until the frame narrative closes—seduces the vengefully misogynist King Shahriyar with her narrative as well as her body can be seen to impose an alternative economy of desire, transposing it from a voyeuristic to a textual/oral/auditory plane.66 She counters authoritarian rule and teleology, produces panoptic visions from the bedroom and produces an enduringly popular cultural form, all in the interests of the wider female community. Muhsin al Musawi suggests that she is the paradigmatic boundary-crosser, manipulating narratological, spatial and temporal thresholds.67

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Faqir explains that “I see the storyteller [Al-Adjnabi in Pillars of Salt] as an Orientalist in cahoots with both the colonial forces and indigenous patriarchy—the three work hand-in-hand. That’s what the women are trying to resist through their simple narratives.”68 It is of central importance that Maha and Al-Adjnabi are rival storytellers. The title of the novel evokes the forced exile of Lot’s family in the destruction of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Jordan river plain: Lot’s wife, looking back on her home, is turned into a pillar of salt and ash.69 In Al-Adjnabi’s patently erroneous version of events, the intertextual link hyperbolizes and makes allegorical Maha’s sexual “deviance” and so her (that is, women’s) necessary and ongoing punishment. Spying on Maha as she receives treatment from a faith healer for her temporary infertility, Al-Adjnabi frames her as a lesbian who brings down the wrath of God on her people. Maha’s story, grounded in direct experience, disproves—to the reader— Al-Adjnabi’s rendering of events. The gynosocial setting of the asylum room in which collaborative storytelling takes place also, to some extent, counters his homophobic version of the story. Moreover, Maha’s transmission of Um Saad’s life-story belies the latter’s belief that, once incarcerated, she will never be able to cross the threshold in the opposite direction, unlike Al-Shater Hasan (see my first epigraph). A similar use of a prisoner as narrator of other women’s stories that allow them to fly, at least imaginatively, beyond confining physical and discursive frames is found in Salwa Bakr’s novel The Golden Chariot (1991, 1995).70 The transmission and empathic witnessing of women’s experiences also features in My Name is Salma, in which Salma gradually recounts the story of Madam Lamaa, a fellow prisoner forced by divorce and impoverishment into prostitution. It is not incidental that both Maha and Um Saad in Pillars of Salt and Salma and Parvin in My Name is Salma exchange stories in bed, evoking Shahrazad and her sister Dinarzad, whose role is to act, from under the king’s bed, as witness, protector and prompt to her storytelling sister. Intriguingly, Irwin draws our attention to a ninth-century textual fragment, to date the oldest prototype of Alf Layla wa Layla to survive in manuscript form, in which Dinazad asks Shirazad, if she is not asleep, to tell her a story and give “examples of the excellencies and shortcomings, the cunning and stupidity, the generosity and avarice, and the courage and cowardice that are in man, instinctive or acquired, or pertain to his distinctive characteristics or to courtly manners, Syrian or Bedouin.”71

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There is no reference in this version to either King Shahriyar or his brother Shahzaman; Dinazad is the sole interlocutor of her sister’s stories.72 In both of Faqir’s novels, women’s shared memories, also largely in the absence of men, expose and temporarily transcend the “mud walls imprisoning us” of a patriarchal economy predicated on sexual double standards, conceptions of female honor and the social surveillance which this supposedly necessitates. These counternarratives emphasize women’s socially dissident and so constantly thwarted desires. Al-Adjnabi sees Maha’s abilities to “spin and recite spells all night long,” inherited from her mother, as dangerous occult powers, precisely because they speak truth to power.73 Interestingly, the term kairos, whilst primarily linked to classical rhetoric, appears to have etymological connections with, among other things, weaving.74 Both mother and daughter also literally weave carpets, Maha in order to “protect [the Jordanian valley] from aggressive assaulters, from the forgetful sun and the raids of enemies.”75 Al-Adjnabi, a rival “yarn-spinner,” is just such an outsider, although in patriarchal terms he represents local/regional authority.76 In depicting Maha—increasingly hysterically—as shrew, witch, devil, hyena, ghoul and black widow, he seems to sense that she everywhere exceeds the terms at his disposal. Having said this, he recounts what remains the “authoritative” version of Maha’s story in the world of the text. Although the novel posits potentially emancipatory trajectories through the use of gynocentric stories of experience and versions of history emerging from spaces of radical constraint, Faqir posits tenuous modes of resistance to the patriarchal norms which colonialism appears to have reinforced. When the English doctor—still present in the aftermath of independence—threatens to increase the women’s medication if they do not stop talking, they respond with the only other weapon, apart from storytelling, at their disposal: laughter.77 Eventually, however, each woman is given electro-shock treatment and her oppositional irony fades away. The use of (at least one) hostile interloper to frame the stories of women disenfranchised on the cusp of Jordanian independence also announces Faqir’s interest in what Geoffrey Nash has termed “the Anglo-Arab encounter.”78 Faqir has said that One of the things I wanted to do with Pillars was to push the narrative and the English as far as possible, to Arabize it … to create ... a hybrid English. Therefore I used the oral tradition and the Qur’an and the Arabian Nights in the storyteller’s section ... But I also wanted to say something about how the Arab world is perceived ... I created a narrator who paints a picture of Arabs that’s not true.79

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I have suggested ways in which Pillars of Salt, in particular, evokes Alf Layla wa Layla both thematically and through its counterposed patriarchal/ colonial and collaborative/postcolonial female narratives, hence pointing to ways in which Faqir lends a culturally hybrid texture to that novel. The latter point made above about crosscultural representation refers to a more critical (if somewhat oblique) “translational” or, to refer back to Salma’s dictionary search, “adaptational” technique. Pillars of Salt, Faqir suggests in her interview, ironically deploys The Arabian Nights as orientalist text par excellence, at least in terms of its reception history.80 Ascertainable here is Faqir’s negotiation of the tricky politics of writing about Arab culture in English, hence for non-Arab and migrant and/ or elite English-reading Arab audiences. There is evidence that she, with some other Arab women writers in European languages, wishes to shortcircuit a power/knowledge nexus in which local/regional patriarchy, Islamic authority, Arabic (and, in some contexts, postcolonial Arabization programs) are hegemonically intertwined.81 This does, however, produce a (perhaps irresolvable) paradox in which an alternative feminist circuit of literary production and reception bypasses the very people it purports to represent. I began this chapter by observing that Faqir favors non-privileged protagonists, particularly female ones, and it is worth noting that Maha, for example, would not speak English, let alone read it. Somewhat differently burdened by the issue of cultural representation, given its partial migrant focus, My Name is Salma more explicitly foregrounds reductive modes of perception of Arabs and Muslims in migrant space, although the emphasis remains on ways in which these “frames” intersect with and consolidate (cross)cultural gender scripts, as I have illustrated. The more recent novel is also able, owing to its setting partially in Britain, explicitly to perform, as part of the plot, the effects of carrying across one reality to another, with attendant untranslatable elements. When recalling her first encounter with fish and chips (cited in the second part of this chapter), Salma/Sally thinks: An immigration officer might decide to use my ability to digest fish as a test for my loyalty to the Queen. I chewed on the parts that were still frozen and said to the young man who bought them for me, with tears in my eyes, “Yumma! It’s delicious.” “Yummy!” he said rebuking me.82 While the point is made with a degree of humor, the underlying pathos is clear: Salma’s/Sally’s attempt to assimilate both English food and the English language results in vocal and embodied expressions of sorrow, pain

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and fear and a stern reminder that she must express herself in the “proper” manner. An interesting innovation on the Anglo-Arab novel is provided in My Name is Salma by a triangulation of British, Arab and South Asian-affiliated characters and subplots (we might also note the transnational network of women’s rights advocates that coordinates Salma’s flight through the Levant and into Britain). In the house in which Salma/Sally lodges, norms are represented in relative and contesting terms: landlady Liz objects to the “long black hairs” that apparently get everywhere, while Salma wages secret war on Liz’s dirty house: “I was a goddamn Muslim and had to be pure and clean,” she says with heavy irony.83 But it turns out—a little heavyhandedly—that Liz’s racism is the effect of spending her youth in colonial India and exemplifies the ambivalent fear and desire that characterize the production of stereotypes:84 her drunken rants and old letters reveal an old love affair with an Indian servant. As Parvin says to Salma: “What is left of the Empire are those little islands of nostalgia.”85 Salma’s/Sally’s friendships with British-born Parvin, her Indian neighbor Sadiq and (eventually) first and second-generation immigrant Algerian kebab-sellers widens the lens to something akin to transnational Muslim solidarity in migrant space. This is against a backdrop where Christian churches are portrayed as “old, decaying and dark houses of God” inhabited only by “the odd alcoholic or homeless person.” Salma comments that “[r]eligion was as weak as tea in this country” and there is no crisis attached to John’s conversion to Islam in order to marry her. Christianity, like whiteness, is nevertheless embedded in definitions of Britishness, as we see when Salma attempts to enter the country and a guard asks her Christian name: ‘Muslim no Christian.’ ‘Name? Nome? Izmak?’ he said. ‘Ismi? Ismi? Saally Ashiir.’ ‘Christ!,’ he said.86 Against this majority backdrop, Salma/Sally identifies—in highly ambivalent fashion—as “a goddamn Muslim,” agreeing with Parvin that “ ‘Muslim is fucking complicated’ ”, particularly (according to the stories of these characters) for a woman. Salma/Sally refuses to pray. The hypocrisy of a situation in which her father told her that “You are lucky to be born a Muslim … because your final abode is paradise” and then does not prevent her persecution, necessary exile and brutal murder is strongly implied.87 This chapter has aimed to contextualize what can be perceived as a

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pessimistic orientation (despite the frequent use of black humor) in the plotting of Faqir’s narratives about (predominantly) Arab women. Her female protagonists certainly decode and re-code “female space” through their creative, particularly storytelling, practices but their “wagers on the future”—in postcolonial Jordan and in the U.K.—and tactics of resistance prove futile, at least in relation to plot endings. These women do not, in fact, survive: their disappearance into oblivion, to recall my first epigraph, is diegetically real rather than metaphorical. As such, different “homes”— whether in Jordanian rural or urban settings, homologous prison and asylum spaces, or migrant contexts—prove not only dangerous, but ultimately uninhabitable. This is partly the effect of Faqir’s distinctive emphasis, to date, on the (fictional) experiences of women located in multiply marginal positions. Her fiction powerfully evokes ways in which gender “norms” are reinforced both within class and kinship groups alienated from power centers in the Arab world and by racist and classist assumptions about Arabs and Muslims in Britain and beyond. Her protagonists strive towards postcolonial and feminist objectives of self-determination, mobility and (social, economic, sexual and discursive) agency which they are structurally incapable of articulating fully or directly. While it would be naïve to believe that literature will have a direct impact upon such intertwined and enduring problems, Faqir’s writing clearly locates itself within a feminist politics of recentering and “speaking truth to power.”

Notes 1. Fadia Faqir, Pillars of Salt (London: Quartet, 1996), 109. 2. Fadia Faqir, My Name is Salma (London: Doubleday, 2007), 38. 3. Lindsey Moore, “ ‘You Arrive at a Truth, not the Truth’: An Interview with Fadia Faqir,” Postcolonial Text 6.2 (2011): 11, accessed January 1, 2012, http:// postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/view/1320/1157. Born in 1956 in Jordan, Faqir worked as a journalist before moving to the U.K. in the 1980s. She is the author of three published novels to date, as well as short stories, plays and incisive scholarship on gender and democracy in Arab and Muslim contexts. The specific novel discussed in this quotation is At the Midnight Kitchen, not yet published in its entirety. Its prologue was published in the U.S. literary magazine Weber: The Contemporary West as “Al Qaeda’s Kitchen” and won their fiction award in 2009, accessed January 1, 2013, http://weberstudies.weber. edu/archive/archive%20D%20Vol.%2021.225.2/Vol.%2025.1/Fadia%20 Faqir%20Fic.htm. 4. Moore, “ ‘You Arrive,’ ” 7. 5. Ibid., 5.

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6. Fadia Faqir, introduction to In the Eye of the Mirror, by Liana Badr, trans. Samira Kawar (Reading: Garnet, 1991), ix. The series comprised Fadia Faqir, ed., In the House of Silence: Autobiographical Essays by Arab Women Writers (Reading: Garnet, 1998) and translated novels from Arabic into English by Hoda Barakat, Hamida Naana, Salwa Bakr, Liana Badr and Alia Mamdouh. For a discussion of its aims and critical reception, see Anastasia Valassopoulos, Contemporary Arab Women Writers: Cultural Expression in Context (London: Routledge, 2007), ch. 4. 7. Faqir’s first novel, Nisanit (1987), set during the first Palestinian intifada, juxtaposes Palestinian militant and Israeli interrogator perspectives. This inaugurates a formal polyphonic strategy characteristic of her work to date: “My fictional strategy is partly a reaction to journalism. I felt the constraints of being a journalist, so moved away from reportage to multi-layered, multiperspectival, hopefully more complex strategies of representation” (Moore, “ ‘You Arrive,’ ” 3). 8. I hereafter use the British title exclusively, because it more effectively captures the identity struggle of the protagonist which is my focus. 9. See Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan, eds, Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994). 10. Caroline Nagel, introduction to Geographies of Muslim Women: Gender, Religion and Space, ed. Ghazi-Walid Falah and Caroline Nagel (New York: Guilford Press, 2005), 4. 11. An earlier version of my reading of Pillars can be found in Lindsey Moore, Arab, Muslim, Woman: Voice and Vision in Postcolonial Literature and Film (London: Routledge, 2008), 105–7. I thank Routledge for allowing me to reproduce aspects of that reading. 12. See, for example, Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca: Cornell, 1985); and Nira Yuval-Davis and Floya Anthias, eds, Woman-Nation-State (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989). 13. Nagel, introduction to Geographies, 11. 14. See Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem, trans. Myrna Godzich and Wlad Godzich (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986); Fatima Mernissi, Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Muslim Society (London: Saqi, 1985); Marnia Lazreg, “Islamism and the Recolonization of Algeria,” in Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in the Maghrib: History, Culture and Politics, ed. Ali Abdellatif Ahmida (New York: Palgrave, 2000). 15. Sara Ahmed et al., introduction to Uprootings/Regroundings: Questions of Home and Migration, ed. Sara Ahmed et al. (Oxford: Berg, 2003), 9. 16. Moore, Arab, ch. 4, discusses these issues with reference to a wider body of work. To cite one example of the continued critical significance of this issue, in a discussion of five Tunisian texts which pays due attention to variables of class, language and urban/rural/diaspora location and to Tunisia’s relatively liberal

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17. 18. 19. 20.

21. 22.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h personal status laws, Marc Brosseau and Leila Ayari nevertheless emphasize ways in which the novels foreground “spatial and social segregation [as] experienced from a woman’s point of view” (“Writing Place and Gender in Novels by Tunisian Women,” in Falah and Nagel, Geographies, 276). Michel Foucault, “Different Spaces,” trans. Robert Hurley, in Michel Foucault: Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology, ed. James D. Faubian (London: Allen Lane, 1998), 180. See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Allen Lane, 1977). Faqir, Pillars, 22. The name Sami, in Arabic, means elevated, sublime or supreme; its usage here seems parodic. Maha means both “wild cow,” referencing her occupation as shepherd, and “beautiful eyes”: hers are frequently mentioned by her husband, Harb, whose name (harb) means war. Faqir, Pillars, 3, 2, 2–3, 3, 6, 2. Um Saad is lower-middle class. Her initial reaction to Maha is (unsuccessfully) to refuse to share a room with a “grinning Bedouin” (Faqir, Pillars, 7). The scene is echoed in Faqir’s subsequent novel, when Parvin, a British-Pakistani, objects to sharing a hostel room with Maha, an Arab. Faqir, Pillars, 7, 54. Her grandmother also acted on her desires and eloped with someone from a different tribe. This might imply that so-called “traditions” are in fact reinforced under the colonial order and so impact relatively heavily upon her granddaughter. Maha makes repeated reference to her mother-in-law’s pipe smoke infiltrating her room and reflective space. Jordanian laws pertaining to the limited punishment of honor crime are neither tribal nor Islamic in origin, but rather can be traced back to the French penal code instantiated under the Ottoman Empire. See Fadia Faqir, “Intrafamily Femicide in Defence of Honor: The Case of Jordan,” Third World Quarterly 22: 1 (2001): 73. As the novel’s historical chronology explains, formal independence from Britain was granted in 1946 but the complete independence of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was not achieved until 1956. Um Saad refers here to Independence Day celebrations and uses the official postcolonial name of the country (Faqir, Pillars, 190, 189). Faqir, Pillars, 190. Maha’s husband, who rebels against colonial rule and is not a member of the emerging indigenous elite, must on these terms be structurally eliminated. Faqir, “Intrafamily,” claims that about twenty-five women a year are murdered by their families, giving Jordan one of the highest rates of intrafamily femicide in the world. Figures are approximate: the actual number of victims is almost certainly higher and linked to a rising number of (possibly forced) female

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suicides. A reduction of penalty is operable for men committing grievous bodily harm or murder if female zina’ (adultery or sex out of wedlock) is suspected (72). Personal communication with the author, June 17, 2009. See also Fadia Faqir, “Divorce Cost Me My Son,” The Northern Echo, May 28, 2007 and Faqir, My Name, Afterword. Moore, “ ‘You Arrive,’ ” 8. Faqir, My Name, 8, 19. Prison officer Salim assures Salma that “as far as the state is concerned, you are innocent” (Faqir, My Name, 58). But given the state’s frequent failure to prosecute and appropriately punish honor crimes observed in Faqir, “Intrafamily”, we can infer implied skepticism on the part of the author. Although coverage of honor crimes often focuses on Arab and South Asian Muslim communities, including diaspora ones, which have the highest incidences of these crimes, they are not peculiar to a particular geographical area or belief system. They can also be perpetrated against men, which does not change the overarching fact of a patriarchal system of exchange, authority and gender coding. Faqir uses the term “neo-patriarchy” to describe power relations influenced not only by gender, but also class and clan factors; in short, proximity to or distance from central power structures (“Intrafamily,” 67). She also explains that in Jordan (and more widely) a cultural phenomenon is reinforced by nominally and selectively Islamic precepts. Faqir, My Name, 249. Amir H. Jafri, Honor Killing: Dilemma, Ritual, Understanding (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 20, 12, Preface. Perpetrators of honor crimes are most commonly male agnates of a woman’s family who “consider it their duty to restore their family honor by killing their kinswoman who has acted outside the acceptable code of what is considered honorable behaviour” (4). While Jafri’s main focus is Pakistan, Faqir similarly comments on the centrality of reputation and rumor to “honor” incidents in Arab contexts (“Intrafamily,” 70). David Farrier, “Terms of Hospitality: Abdulrazak Gurnah’s By the Sea,” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 43.3 (2008): 121. Faqir, My Name, 24, 31, 34. Ibid., 25. Mark Stein, Black British Literature: Novels of Transformation (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2004), 30. In a wider sense, Faqir notes the relative paucity of British Arab literature to date (Moore, “ ‘You Arrive,’ ” 9). Faqir, My Name, 10, 38, 249, 9. Ibid., 27, 59, 9, 273, 283. See Amal Amireh and Lisa Suhair-Majaj, introduction to Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers (New York: Garland, 2000), 5, and Moore, “ ‘You Arrive,’ ” 6, on the marketing of Faqir’s novels (not by the author’s choice) using images of veiled women that are either

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h disconnected from or reductive of textual content. Lila Abu-Lughod, among others, notes the instrumentalist function which Muslim women serve in terms of a longstanding cultural politics that opposes “the West” to “Islam” (“Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and its Others,” American Anthropologist 104: 3 (2002)). Faqir, My Name, 247. Ibid., 46, 13. Ibid., 7–8, 46 Moore, “ ‘You Arrive,’ ” 8. Although speaking about the different (pluri)linguistic context of Pakistan, Jafri draws our attention to the vernacular “blackness” of transgressive sexual acts in, for example, karo kari, literally “blackened man, blackened woman” (Honor Killing, 2). Analysts note that honor, in a range of socio-linguistic contexts which include Kabyle, Turkish and Arabic, is gendered in dichotomous ways. Joanne Payton, in “Collective Crimes, Collective Victims: A Case Study of the Murder of Banaz Mahmod,” in Honor, Violence, Women and Islam, ed. Mohammad Mazher Idress and Tahir Abbas (London: Routledge, 2011), 69, summarizes: “ ‘Honor’ in its more feminine aspect is located in negative, passive characteristics: stoicism, endurance, obedience, chastity, domesticity, servitude. In its more masculine form it features active and positive qualities: dynamism, generosity, confidence, dominance and violence. Female ‘honor’ is static: it can neither be increased or regained, and once lost is lost forever. Male ‘honor’ by contrast is dynamic, and maintained and increased through active participation and competition in the life of the community, and as such is in a constant state of flux.” I am grateful to Berivan Saltik for this source and quotation. See also Faqir, “Intrafamily,” 71. Faqir, My Name, 30, 156. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 142–3, my emphasis. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Randall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 117. Alison Blunt and Gillian Rose, introduction to Writing Women and Space: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies, ed. Alison Blunt and Gillian Rose (New York: Guilford, 1994), 3. See, for example, Fatima Mernissi, The Harem Within: Tales of a Moroccan Girlhood (London: Bantam, 1994), also published as Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Moroccan Girlhood. Jafri, Honor Killing, 105–6. Ahmed et al., introduction to Uprootings/Regroundings, 1, 2. Elizabeth Grosz, Space, Time and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies (New York: Routlege, 1995), 122. Kairos means a propitious moment, from the Greek “opportunity.” Faqir, My Name, 86, 109.

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60. For a summary of feminist theories that critique the privileged individual self, see Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 13ff. Maha’s lack of identification with the term “identity” could be read as an oblique critique of Enlightenment notions of the rational, coherent self, particularly as understanding dawns once Um Saad emphasizes a more embodied, relational self. There are echoes, in other words, of both postcolonial and poststructuralist critiques of the “self ” as this has been conceptualized in Western thought. 61. Robert Irwin explains that shatir (pl. shuttar) most commonly means “a loose, immoral person, a cunning man, a sharper” and in Alf Layla wa Layla tends to be used in the sense of “crafty rogue,” The Arabian Nights: A Companion, 2nd edn (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009), 148. 62. Mahmood, Politics, 17, 19. 63. Ibid., 19. 64. Irwin, Arabian Nights, 160. 65. Critical examples include Suzanne Gauch, Liberating Shahrazad: Feminism, Postcolonialism, and Islam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007); and Fedwa Malti-Douglas, Woman’s Body, Woman’s Word: Gender and Discourse in Arabo-Islamic Writing (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). 66. See Malti-Douglas, Woman’s Body, ch. 1. 67. Muhsin al Musawi, The Postcolonial Arabic Novel: Debating Ambivalence (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 4, 5. 68. Moore, “ ‘You Arrive,’ ” 7. 69. Genesis 19: 23. 70. The fact that Bakr’s original title Al ‘Arabah al Dhahabiyyah la Tas‘ad ila-lSama’ (1991) translates as “the golden chariot does not reach the sky” signals the provisional nature of emancipation through narration. 71. Irwin, Arabian Nights, 51. 72. Compare the following version in Hussain Hadawy, trans. The Arabian Nights, ed. Muhsin Mahdi (New York: W. W. Norton, 1990), 21: “[W]hen Shahrayar took [Shahrazad] to bed and began to fondle her, she wept, and when he asked her, ‘Why are you crying?’ she replied, ‘I have a sister, and I wish to bid her good-bye before daybreak.’ Then the king sent for the sister, who came and went to sleep under the bed. When the night wore on, she woke up and waited until the king had satisfied himself with her sister Shahrazad and they were by now all fully awake. Then Dinarzad cleared her throat and said, ‘Sister, if you are not sleepy, tell us one of your lovely little tales to while away the night, before I bid you good-bye at daybreak.’ ” 73. Faqir, Pillars, 14, 30. 74. “Kairos is a word with layers of meaning; most usually, it is defined in terms of its Classical Greek courtroom nuances: winning an argument requires a deft combination of creating and recognizing the right time and right place for making the argument in the first place. However, the word has roots in both weaving

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75.

76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81.

82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h (suggesting the creation of an opening) and archery (denoting the seizing of, and striking forcefully through, an opening).” Eric Charles White, Kaironomia: On the Will-to-Invent (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 13. Faqir, Pillars, 112. Variations on this theme include the use of sewing and oppositional silence in My Name is Salma: Maha thinks in prison that “[i]f I kept stitching and fasting, if I kept silent, I would slip slowly out of my body like a snake shedding her old skin” (52). Faqir, Pillars, 4. Ibid., 118. Geoffrey Nash, The Anglo-Arab Encounter: Fiction and Autobiography by Arab Writers in English (New York: Peter Lang, 2007). Moore, “ ‘You Arrive,’ ” 7. Ibid., 7. See also Gauch, Liberating Shahrazad. Faqir, In the House, draws attention to the vulnerability of Arab women writers and artists to censorship (13), violence, imprisonment and reductive criticism (176–78). Another notable writer who repeatedly critiques the intersection of Islam(ization), Arabization and (post)colonial patriarchy is Assia Djebar, of Algerian Berber origin, who writes in French. The Egyptian writer Nawal el Saadawi also deconstructs this nexus, but in Arabic (see Moore, Arab, 20). Faqir, My Name, 9. Ibid., 16. Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), ch. 3. Faqir, My Name, 14. Ibid., 39, 40. Ibid., 253, 17.

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Chapter 11 T h e A r a b C a n a d i a n N ove l a n d t h e R i s e o f R a w i H a ge 1 F. Elizabeth Dahab

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No one can barricade against the powerful, fleeting semen of the hungry and the oppressed. Rawi Hage2 Anglophone Arab Canadian literature is part and parcel of a trilingual (French, English, Arabic) body of writing that emerged in the 1970s at the hands of first-generation Canadians of Arab descent. It counts more than 250 volumes and much more in the form of contributions to literary magazines. This writing is marked by an originality bound to enrich the cultural context in which it was born, infusing that locus with memorial vestiges of the old countries left behind. It is comprised of great works in all genres: fiction (short and long), drama, poetry, and non-fiction, in this descending order. This writing covers styles ranging from the realist to the postmodernist. It fulfills thrice over the definition given by Deleuze and Guattari to minor literatures, namely that a minor literature is not a literature produced in a minor language, but one a minority has produced in a major language.3 It bears the mark of the political and the collective value of utterances the above-mentioned French critics have qualified as some of the characteristics of minor literatures. Furthermore, whether collective, individual, spatial, sensorial or cultural, the salvaging of memory plays a crucial role in the created texts, for the necessity to restore the past is a prevalent feature in literature of exile, notably the one of concern to us here. A contrapuntal awareness of the here and there, and the now and then, marks its pages. Furthermore, extra-territoriality, in-betweenness, and estrangement, features that characterize exilic literatures in general, are also found in Arab Canadian literature, whose authors, in many cases, already belonged to ethnic minorities in the countries of origin. Arab Canadian literature as a whole

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has yet to be consecrated by the Canadian government policy of support for ethnic studies, a policy that was institutionalized in 1971 through the official recognition of the concept of multiculturalism and epitomized by the 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which allegedly aims at the preservation and enhancement of Canada’s multiethnic heritage. The aim of this chapter is twofold. In the first half, it will provide a brief historiographical account of the emergence and development of Arab Canadian literature, with special emphasis on the English novel over the last decades. In the second half of this chapter, I will put forth an in-depth case study (including a brief biography and aspects of literary reception) of a relatively new, unique figure, Rawi Hage, the Anglophone Québécois novelist whose 2006 début novel (De Niro’s Game) shook the international literary scene, and whose 2012 novel, Carnival, is equally promising. I will be dealing specifically and closely with his second novel, Cockroach (2008), for which I will provide a close reading since it is, to my mind, one of the frankest critiques of Canadian multiculturalism to be published so far.

Arab Canadian Literature and the Rise of the Novel There are approximately forty Arab Canadian writers, of whom about twenty-five have produced a major body of work (one or more titles); the rest have a minor production (principally publications in reviews and magazines). A significant number of the writers are Egyptian and Lebanese while the others originate from the Maghreb, Iraq, and Syria. A fair number of those writers settled mostly in Québec and Ontario. The languages mastered amongst them, other than Arabic, are French, English, German, Armenian, Hebrew, and Italian. They have a variety of religious backgrounds and denominations: Coptic-Orthodox, Greek-Orthodox, Catholic, Maronite, Protestant, Anglican, Muslim and Jewish. Except for Marwan Hassan and Ruba Nadda, who are Canadian-born, with Lebanese and Syrian immigrant parents, a large proportion of Arab Canadian writers immigrated to Canada between 1963 and 1974 inclusively, while several did so in the 1950s, late 1970s or 1980s. Such is the case for Naïm Kattan who immigrated in 1954; Abla Farhoud in 1951, then again in 1973 after an interruption of eight years; Nadine Ltaif in 1980; Wajdi Mouawad in 1983, and Rawi Hage in 1992 via New York where he spent eight years prior to his immigration to Canada. Some in the group of Canadian writers of Arab origins are mediators who have played a significant role in the transmission and diffusion of their own products and those of other writers through the publishing houses and literary reviews they founded:

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Saad Elkhadem founded York Press in 1974 in New Brunswick, just one year after he created The International Fiction Review in 1973. Rostom Publishing was founded in Ottawa in 1984 by Kamal Rostom; in it he published his own Arabic writings and the writings of fellow countrymen, sometimes in French or English translation. Overall, about 10–15 per cent of Arab Canadian literature is produced in Arabic, while over 60 per cent is written in French, the remainder being written in English.4 Some of the Arab Canadian writers grew up in their countries more versed in French as a language of thought and creative expression than in Arabic (as was the case with Anne Marie Alonzo, Antoun, Hédi Bouraoui, Nadia Ghalem, Andrée Dahan, Abla Farhoud, Mona LatifGhattas, Nadine Ltaif, Mouhoub, and Vasco Varoujean) as a result of the strong presence of French culture among the upper classes (in the Middle East) and its pervasive influence in the Maghreb. The choice of French as a means of expression for those authors was thus a natural one. As a rule, writers who immigrated to English Canada at a fairly young age or those who are Canadian born (Marwan Hassan and Rubba Nadda) chose English as a means of literary expression. Those who left their native country at an older age, such as Kamal Rostom (a published writer in his native Egypt) continued to write in Arabic, sometimes becoming writers/translators. The originality of Elkhadem’s status amidst his fellow writers of Arabic origins is not only the fact that he continued to write in Arabic after settling in Canada (at the relatively mature age of thirty-six), but also that virtually the totality of his Canadian production was published by York Press, translated by the Egyptian critic, Saad El Gabalawy (Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Calgary), cast in bilingual editions (Arabic-English): two languages, two countries, multiple perspectives, and an array of shifting foci partaking in the larger postmodern vision shared by a number of transnational writers. In some instances, Elkhadem himself was the translator of his own writing, much in the tradition of Beckett and Brecht, themselves writers/translators of their own literary production. For this reason, and because of the literary production component of the initial appearance of his work in Canada having been simultaneously (and invariably so) Arabic and English in the same volumes, an equalizing position of the power of the two languages, Elkhadem can be legitimately considered as the first producer in Canada of Arab novellas in English. When it comes to the choice of language as a means of literary expression, Rawi Hage stands out as a stark exception to the rule. Hage’s works can be located at once in the categories of Arab Canadian literature and Anglo Quebec literature, which has recently started to attract scholarly

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attention. In fact, even though he arrived in Montréal from Lebanon, via New York, in his late twenties, Hage still chose to write his novels in English, his third language after Arabic and French, and to do so in the heart of French Canada, a fact that has certainly raised a great number of nationalist Québécois eyebrows. Take, for instance, the example of a 2007 article in the highly respected Montréal daily, Le Devoir. The reviewer of the French translation of Hage’s début novel seemed subtextually to bemoan the fact that despite French being his first language after Arabic, Hage still chose to write in English.5 Indeed, albeit less so now than in the 1980s, the question of national literary affiliation or belonging, is one that still haunts academic discourse today in Canada, particularly so when it comes to the debate over the literary belonging of Anglophone literature produced in Québec. I myself observed signs of this ongoing debate in May 2008 during the annual meeting of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association held in Vancouver, British Columbia. In a talk partially subtitled “Anglo-Québec Literature and the Figures of National Literary Identity,” the speaker, then a doctoral candidate at the university of Montréal,6 expatiated on the idea that as recently as 1997, during a colloquium held at the university of Montréal on English Québec (titled “Le Québec anglais: littérature et culture”), a renowned Québécois critic (Gilles Marcotte) insisted that an Anglo Québec literature is an oxymoron, since, by definition, true Québécois literature can only be produced in French, and that by the same token, one cannot even speak of an Anglo Québécois literature.7 How does this strict categorization of national literary identification vis-à-vis Anglophone Canadians living in Québec (roughly 10 per cent of the population of the province) affect other Québec populations? Subsequently, that same Marcotte wrote in 1999 that it was after all easier to accept the plurality of present-day Montréal than it is to accept a still contentious French/English duality attached to the city. So, is an Anglophone Quebecer English Canadian or is he simply a Canadian Anglophone living in (mostly) Francophone Québec? In a dictionary of contemporary Québécois writers, the criteria of inclusion are said to be territorial, not ethnic. Hence, Acadian writers as well as Anglophone writers born in Québec, but having lived long enough in English Canada, are excluded. Included, however, are writers born elsewhere but having lived long enough in Québec to identify with it.8 The Francophone writers Alonzo, Ghalem, Kattan, Naaman, and Varoujean are thus included in this dictionary.9 There is more at stake here in these politics of inclusion. Suffice it to say that in Québec, Arab Canadian literature is produced by minorities twice or thrice removed from the motherland and from dominant systems,

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namely the French and English Canadian literary institutions. The first degree of removal would be the political alienation in which Québec itself stands in relation to the rest of Canada (and North America): a minority within a majority. The second degree of removal for the foreign-born writer would be precisely this foreignness, hovering at the periphery of major systems whether or not she writes in the language of the two founding nations. Without going further into the identitarian imbroglio involved in this issue, I would say that as a rule (and herein lies the genius of allegorization of Rawi Hage), one that plays into the subtle politics of writing, if an immigrant writer opts for the major ambient language as a means of assimilation into the mainstream, he will infuse it with his alienation, for his is the language of exile, a language that rewrites syntax or has the impertinence of doing so. Deleuze and Guattari will call it “reterritorialisation.”10 Other Canadian researchers have named it “the language of difference” or “ethnic writing.” All things considered, and in contradistinction to Marcotte’s prejudice outlined above, Rawi Hage’s works belong necessarily at once to Anglo Québec literature and Arab Canadian literature. In fact, as with most of his counterparts in Arab North American literature, he belongs to literary figures who, to quote Terzian, “in straddling three or more cultures, are characterized by their triadic relationship to their colonial legacy, country of origin, and adopted homeland.”11 The emergence of the Anglo Arab Canadian novel dates back to the pioneering writings of Saad Elkhadem. His very first Arab Canadian novellas are Rijal (1967) [Men] and Ajnihah min Rasas (Wings of Lead, 1971); they were written in Arabic in Canada, with an English translation by the author in 1994. Wings of Lead portrays the tribulations of an Egyptian student in Vienna, and provides one of the first landmarks of Anglophone Arab Canadian literature. This was preceded by the first two Francophone novels of Arab Canadian literature in 1975: Kattan’s Adieu Babylone, the first of a trilogy depicting the life of an adolescent in Baghdad, and Varoujean’s Les Raisins verts, both of which were followed in 1977 by Les Fruits arrachés (Kattan), where the protagonist leaves Baghdad and discovers the West in Paris, and Les Pâturages de la rancoeur (Varoujean), depicting the life of a hardened and cruel landowner in a small Syrian village. These two Francophone writers, divergent as their writing may be, seem to have led the scene in the 1970s, especially in the realm of non-fiction: Naim Kattan’s essay, Le Réel et le théâtral (1970), was the recipient of the first literary prize for an Arab author (Prix France-Canada). The number of publications, represented mainly by novels and short stories, boomed in the 1980s and stabilized in the 1990s. On the English

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and Arabic fronts, Kamal Rostom edited and published a first anthology featuring eleven writers, titled Arab-Canadian Writing: Stories, Memoirs and Reminiscences (1989). This was succeeded in 1991 by Rostom’s own collection of Arabic short stories, Qisas Arabiya-Kanadiya: Arabi Takannad (Arabic-Canadian Short Stories: A Canadianized Arab). On the English front, Elkhadem published a series of novellas, The Ulysses Trilogy (1988) and Al-Ta‘un (The Plague, 1989) translated from Arabic by Saad el-Gabalawy. Marwan Hassan produced The Confusion of Stones: Two Novellas (1989), which constitute the first Arab Canadian Anglophone novellas. In 1991, Marwan Hassan came up with The Memory Garden of Miguel Carranza, the first full-fledged Anglophone novel of Arab Canadian writing. Whereas, on the Francophone front, names such as Kattan, Alonzo, Bouraoui, Ghalem, Ghattas, and Farhoud were leading the way, many new names rose to prominence overnight in various scattered Canadian cities, creating the impression of an instant Arab Canadian literature. Antoine Karamé and Toufik El Hadj-Moussa were publishing in Sherbrooke; Bernard Antoun, Michel Khalo, and Nadine Ltaif in Montréal; Elie Tarakdjian in Athabasca. Books of poetry also started to appear in French. The production in all genres, especially novellas and novels, continued well into the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium. Wajdi Mouawad made an outstanding début as a playwright with the first part of his internationally acclaimed dramatic trilogy exploring the ravages of war: Littoral (1999) followed by Incendies (2003), and Forêts (2006). Farhoud, primarily a playwright, discovered her talent in another genre in 1998 with a first, successful novel, Le Bonheur a la queue glissante (Dounia-a-World) that was to be followed by two others. Again, on the Anglophone novelistic front, Marwan Hassan came up with three mystery novels: Dust Numbers (2003), The Lost Patent (2004) and As the Crow Dies (2005). However, because of their thematic fabric and settings, these thrillers can well be considered as belonging to mainstream Anglophone Canadian literature. On the Arab Anglophone front, on the other hand, Rawi Hage, as mentioned before, emerged as a singular and intriguing figure in 2006 with his début English novel, De Niro’s Game, followed by Cockroach in 2008, a vibrant turning point in the history of Arab Canadian writing, and the subject of the second half of this chapter. In September 2012, Hage published his third novel, Carnival, already nominated for a handful of awards. Like Saad Elkahem before him, Hage writes from the standpoint of exilic distance, but unlike Elkhadem’s writing, Hage’s elevates the exilic paradigm to a new, higher, transcendental level of estrangement. In fact, a rich, varied, and unfolding tradition stretches from Elkhadem’s first Arabic/English

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novellas in the 1970s, through the 1980s with Marwan Hassan’s first English novels, all the way to Rawi Hage’s own contributions to the Arab novel in English in the new millennium. The question I would like to pursue in the remainder of this first part is as follows: what are some of the most salient characteristics of this cultural diasporic tradition? To begin answering this question, I should invoke Edward Said’s view of the quintessence of that which generates thematic clusters of binary oppositions in exilic works: For an exile, habits of life, expression, or activity in the new environment inevitably occur against the memory of these things in another environment. Thus both the old and the new environments are vivid, actual, occurring together contrapuntally.”12 This contrapuntal consciousness described by the late Columbia professor is indeed manifested in the earlier phase of Arab Canadian literature through the recurrence of such thematic dialectical pairs as enculturation/ acculturation, discrimination/equality, unemployment/work, freedom/ constraint, poverty/prosperity, alienation/love between parents and children, the cold weather/the heat of the sun, and memories of wars and times of peace. In this respect, it is Elkhadem’s highly experimental Thulathiyat al-Misri al-Ta’ir (Trilogy of the Flying Egyptian, 1990–2) that can be said to best illustrate this interplay, namely the thematic of immigration and exile, resentment and love of one’s native land, dislocation, reverse migration, disorientation, and assimilation in what the protagonist of the first volume, The Canadian Adventures of the Flying Egyptian (1990), ambivalently calls “the cold melting pot”13 and “the land of courtesy and freedom.14 Through this trilogy, Elkhadem did something quite remarkable; he managed to give voice and shape to the experience of Egyptian immigrants, many of whom were Anglophone and did not speak French; after the debacle of the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, they had fled en masse to Québec hoping to find peace and calm. Instead, they anxiously witnessed the escalating French Canadian separatist turmoil culminating in the 1970 October Crisis. Trudeau’s declaration of the War Measures Act in order to counter the Québec Liberation Front’s acts of terrorism reawakened painful memories and the trauma experienced under Nasser’s military regime for the protagonist and for hundreds of other Egyptian immigrants. As the narrator of Canadian Adventures of the Flying Egyptian observes: We arrived in 67, leaving Egypt humiliated and beaten and in ruins, and came to rich, lovely, joyful Canada … and right away, brother, in the same

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year political disturbances started, followed by assassination, sabotage, suspension of the rule of law and mass arrest, without a hint or warning.15 The lexical field—“humiliated and beaten and in ruins,” as opposed to “rich, lovely, joyful”—tells of a contrapuntal awareness exacerbated by hope and the vagaries of history. No wonder many Egyptians fled once more in the mid-1970s from Québec to the U.S. or to English Canada, linguistically more congenial places. In a riveting collection entitled Exil et littérature, Sgard has aptly qualified the power of exile as a double-edged sword, harbinger of both torment and creative impulse: “The experience of exile […] entertains an interplay between the here and there, past and future, between nostalgia and hope, between exclusion and inclusion […].”16 Indeed, through a variety of selfreflexive devices, The Flying Egyptian trilogy writes a story that portrays at once the dual experience of immigration and artistic creation. It reflects the ontological link between spatial displacement and linguistic estrangement, and it is marked with the collective value of utterances characteristic of minor literatures. In the first volume of Elkhadem’s trilogy, a metafictional work that provides invaluable insights into literary creation, the writer has died in mysterious circumstances before finishing his work; the writer/ character struggles to design a story that embodies the themes of exile and immigration. The second volume, Chronicle of The Flying Egyptian In Canada (1991), takes the shape of an annotated biography based on recorded interviews in Canada with the protagonist’s Egyptian friends and acquaintances who convey at random their subjective perceptions and memories of him; the third volume, Crash Landing of the Flying Egyptian (1992), is haunted by nightmarish memories of the protagonist/narrator’s childhood in his not-so-beloved native land, Egypt, which he calls “the land of nonexistent opportunities.”17 It witnesses the resurrection of the authornarrator-protagonist in non-human form, perhaps a butterfly, hovering on the margin of oblivion and attempting to summarize the accumulated events of a lifetime in fewer than 200 words. The result is a hybrid novella, biographical and fictional, open-ended and unfinished, precisely akin to the limbo where dwells the Exile, between two unconquerable spaces. Likewise, in Marwan Hassan’s 1989 novellas (The Confusion of Stones and Intelligence), Canada and Lebanon constitute the major settings between which the protagonist goes back and forth in an effort to forge for himself a modicum of a space transcending the physical or psychological violence encountered by him in both countries alternatively; Hassan’s 1991 novel, The Memory Garden of Miguel Carranza, carries this theme of dislocation

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a step further, elevating it to a poignant allegory of Canadian “Everyday Arabness,”18 wherein a neurosurgical operation is performed on a young protagonist to obliterate haunting memories of a prior existence elsewhere, notably Lebanon of the 1980s. Memory, whether collective, individual, spatial, sensorial or cultural, plays a crucial role, for the necessity to restore the past is a prevalent feature in exilic Anglo Arab literature. In a moving passage, Edward Said characterizes “the achievements of exile” as being “permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind forever.”19 Does the exilic writer’s effort consist in salvaging this loss? In fact, it is significant that “the massive referent” (to quote Berrouêt-Oriol and Fournier)20 that marked Arab Canadian literature in the first two decades of its development is that of the native, abandoned country, whether real—as when it evoked a whole youth spent there (which is the case with Rawi Hage and Naim Kattan who went to Québec as adults)—or vague, unreal, as in the case of the Italian Canadian Marco Micone or Anne Marie Alonzo, who left very young. Works marked by the presence of absence sprung from vestiges of memory. The vision of the country of origin from the vantage point of exile, however, is not a uniform one among Québécois Canadian writers of Arab origins. For the author-protagonist-narrator of Elkhadem’s works, childhood experiences “left all the sails of [his] life in tatters.” Life in the country of origin is evoked as “dark and suffocating,” “a homeland dominated by Nasser’s terror and corruption.”21 Similarly, Chafia, the protagonist of Ghalem’s Les Jardins de cristal (1981), evokes Algeria and the traumas of civil war through the distorted prism of mental illness. For Varoujean, by contrast, happy recollections of his childhood in Késsab, an Armenian village in Syria, are evoked in great detail.22 The mark of the political and the collective value of utterances, which Deleuze and Guattari qualified as two of three main characteristics of minor literatures, can be illustrated by Saad Elkhadem’s novellas, especially The Plague (1989). It is a satirical work banned in Egypt where nameless characters, identified by a number assigned to each, happen to meet in a visa office in Cairo as they attempt to escape from the oppression and brutality of Nasser’s regime. Their conversations are restrained and marked by intense fear and suspicion of each other and of the government. In the words of Elkhadem’s translator, “The Plague depicts potently the dark force of dictatorship, with its tempestuous fury, which leaves people vulnerable and defenseless against the insidious power of evil. This is a haunting novella with unusual complexity.”23 I spoke earlier of Marwan Hassan’s evocation of Lebanon in his early fiction. Curiously, Rawi Hage’s first two novels echo Hassan’s 1989 and 1991

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novellas/novel except that they are more substantial (in size and in tenor), more radical, and significantly more picturesque in imagery and language alike. Moreover, whereas Hassan extolls stability and reterritorialization, Hage seeks the joys of deterritorialization and mobility, and glorifies the position of internal exile as a favorable stance for self-empowerment, rebellion, and re-marginalization. Both writers are to be credited for having carved a niche for diasporic Arab fictional production in English, and for having done so by establishing a correlation between madness and uprootedness, and between the latter and a renegotiation, or re-incubation of identity, as a result of post-traumatic stress disorders (PSTD). Both writers, in the words of Terzian, “offer a more recent articulation of diasporic consciousness that recognizes exile as a transformative state that transcends ideological, cultural, economic, national boundaries.”24 Perhaps the major divide between Hassan and Hage lies simply in a generational gap that redefines diasporic consciousness into one that is transnational, trans-linguistic, and transethnic—one in perpetual reshaping after having long given up the longing to belong somewhere. Though Hassan’s and Hage’s writings both bear witness to the trauma of the Lebanese civil war (just as several other writers do, including most notably the Francophone playwrights Abla Farhoud and Wajdi Mouawad in the 1997 Game of Patience and the 2005 Scorched, respectively), it is undoubtedly Rawi Hage’s début novel, De Niro’s Game (2006), that bears the most lyrical testimonials to the psychosocial ravages of the Lebanese civil war in Beirut, the author’s birthplace. The continuity between this first novel and the following one, Cockroach (2008), is striking, as will become clear below. “You could almost view the two books as a pair,” wrote Lynn Henry, the editor who has the merit of having discovered Rawi Hage, having pulled his first manuscript from a slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts.25 In fact, Cockroach conveys a sample of the hardships of daily life, not in Beirut as in its predecessor, but in some of Montréal’s struggling communities of the early 1990s. Even though the narrator himself is Arab, the cultural community portrayed by him is not; as I discuss below, it mostly consists of Iranian refugees living in the vicinity of the student ghetto near McGill University in downtown Montréal. This in itself is a first occurrence in Arab Canadian literature: the transvergence of interest between members of two different ethnic minorities (Arab and Iranian) demonstrates an implicit underlying attitude that the boundaries separating the various Canadian “third solitudes” are no longer restrictive. Thus, the novel constitutes an innovative strand in Arab Canadian writing, moving the latter thematically forward by portraying the imbrication of the

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Arab protagonist with the Canadian “ethnic other,” with the implications this move entails, and paradigmatically through the self-righteous plunge of the protagonist anti-hero into an elaborate underground. Cockroach may herald a new era in Arab Canadian writing, for in it we are well past the oppositional tortured individual who walks around trying either to understand, assimilate or to transcend his own otherness (like Kattan’s Meir or Hassan’s Azlam). We are past the agonizing recollections of the not-sobeloved homeland typical of Elkhadem’s nightmarish social stories. We are past the search for one’s roots typical of Mouawad’s work. And if Marwan Hassan’s characters bear their wounds as obstacles to normalcy, Hage’s protagonists, whether “back home” or in Canada, on the other hand, exalt their perverse singularities and celebrate them. A new paradigm in the Arab novel in English is thus initiated by Hage whose Cockroach is “deeply concerned with class, economic disempowerment, unemployment, and misery among various groups of immigrants.”26 In fact, in Hage’s 2008 novel, we are in the presence of an immigrant claiming his right to possess the earth, the imperialism of insecthood so to speak! The whole novel with its overarching cockroach trope can stand as a metaphor for the underdog of the brown variety barely surviving and eking a living in a world frozen in hostility, an apt extrapolation in our post-9/11 global society marked with increased distrust of the Muslim other. Nobody before ever dared to willfully morph into a bug in Montréal. A lost, torn apart, traumatized, victimized and dispossessed exile-immigrant-refugee, perhaps, but a bug (and a cockroach at that)—never! Very daring of Hage who may have gotten fed up with the sham “industry of otherness,” and hence ventured to co-opt it and give it back full blown in extravagant colors. What Rawi Hage communicated through his cockroach allegory he subsequently paraphrased when questioned about the future of migrant communities and host nations: “Integration is fragile and fake if egalitarian values are not unequivocally established.”27

Plunging Underground: Rawi Hage and the Rise of the Cockroach Born in Beirut in the mid-1960s to a Christian middle-class family, Rawi Hage grew up in Lebanon, educated in French and Arabic in a bilingual Maronite school located in East Beirut. He was nine years old at the onset of the Lebanese civil war (1975–90) that split Beirut into a Christian east and a Muslim west. In 1984, the eighteen-year-old Hage moved by himself to New York City where he learned most of his English, and where he held a series

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of odd jobs, notably in a warehouse, a shoe store and a restaurant. While helping a photographer friend of his, Hage incidentally discovered a gift for photography, and in view of pursuing his talent, he emigrated to Montréal in 1992, to study visual arts. There again he held a series of odd jobs, as a retirement home security guard, then as a commercial photographer and a taxi driver while completing an Arts Diploma at Dawson College, followed by a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Concordia. Hage started experimenting with fiction at Concordia, writing succinct narratives on postcards that were to become part of an exhibit of photo prints he set up in 2001 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Québec). He started publishing short stories in small magazines while earning his Master of Fine Arts from the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM). It is during his tenure at UQAM, at the relatively advanced age of forty-two, that Hage launched in Toronto his début novel, De Niro’s Game (2006), winner of the glamorous 2008 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, an award that catapulted the author to the center stage of international fame. His début novel was hailed by the IMPAC granting jury as “a magnificent achievement for a writer writing in a third language.”28 Two years later, Cockroach (2008) was published, this time in New York. Hage has the merit of being the second Canadian writer to win the IMPAC award (with its impressive cash value in euros equivalent to 160,000 Canadian dollars) since its creation in 1996, and the very first Canadian writer of Arab origins to do so.29 De Niro’s Game (2006) was a finalist in 2006 for two major English Canadian awards, the Governor General’s Award for fiction and the Giller Prize. Furthermore, it was the recipient of two Québec prizes, albeit Anglophone ones, namely the Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction and the McAuslan First Book Prize. Cockroach (2008), likewise, won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction awarded by the Québec Writers’ Federation and was also short-listed for three more awards, the Scotia Bank Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and Canada’s most prestigious award, the Governor General’s Award. To date, De Niro’s Game has been translated into twenty languages and Cockroach into sixteen. In 2007, with unprecedented speed (barely a year after publication), De Niro’s Game was translated into French by Sophie Voillot and published by Editions Alto, a newly founded (2005) Québec publishing house, under the title Parfum de poussière [Dust Perfume]; shortly after, the author was awarded Prix des Libraires du Québec prize for the French edition. Likewise, in 2009 Sophie Voillot produced a fine French translation of Cockroach under the judicious, slightly altered French title Le Cafard (Editions Alto), a title signifying at once “the blues” and “the cockroach.” In

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fact, “Cockroach Blues” splendidly fits the overarching theme of the novel. In the fall of 2012, Hage brought forth his third novel, Carnival, a novel set in Montréal, like its predecessor. Only this time, the protagonist, Fly, is a taxi driver who navigates the underbelly of this city carrying on his flying carpet all types of marginals, from prostitutes to drug dealers to social activists and poets. Like De Niro’s Game did, Carnival was awarded the $2,000 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction from the Québec Writers’ Federation. A reviewer judiciously noted that, “Carnival intensifies Cockroach’s looseness and misanthropy, aiming for something as chaotic, confusing, and outlandish as the celebration from which it takes its name.”30 Notwithstanding the seemingly incidental nature of his trajectory as a writer/artist, a trajectory that has undoubtedly been curtailed by the war and the impoverished years he lived through as a struggling menial worker in North America, Rawi Hage stands out among Arab Canadian authors with regard to the instant fame and recognition (followed by a highly unusual immediate translation into French in Québec) he has achieved practically at the first try, and in his early forties, barely fourteen years after moving to and living in Canada. Besides, Hage seems to be the only Lebanese Canadian writer to date living in Montréal but writing in English (his third language), having published his début work first in English Canada then in the U.S., even though he belongs to a breed of writers that has traditionally been the target of dismissal and denial on the part of the separatist Québécois intellectual establishment that prefers to forgo the existence of an Anglophone literature in Québec. The reception of Cockroach in the Arab world was full of enthusiasm. Take for example the very positive book-review that appeared recently in the daily, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, where the reviewer, commenting on the German translation of the novel, brings forth Tawfiq Al-Hakim’s literary influence on Hage, especially with regard to the great Egyptian playwright’s 1956 Fate of a Cockroach.31 Similarly, a book review that was published in Aljarida by Mohamed El-Heguiry likens Hage to a whole string of European and Egyptian writers—Al-Hakim, Kafka, Dostoyevsky—who made the cockroach into a trope.32 But is that what Hage set out to do? In a 2009 interview on a cultural show of the CBC, Hage deftly contended, when questioned on his authorial intentions, that he mainly wanted to explore human nature, poverty, class, displacement, and religious fundamentalism.33 Cockroach is a first-person narrative, which, like its predecessor, can be qualified, to quote a reviewer, as “disturbingly confessional but intransigently anti-redemptive.”34 It is told by an unnamed narrator/protagonist in a colloquial style full of profanities, sprinkled with French expressions (and entirely devoid of quotation marks to signal dialogues). A recent immigrant and a petty thief in his early thirties, the

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protagonist is hungry and destitute, struggling for survival in a cold Montréal winter, in what he calls “a shithole of a rundown place” where “windows whistled and freezing snow drifted through cracks.”35 Even though his country of origin is never named and is always referred to as “back where I came from,”36 it is Lebanon in the 1980s, because of the regular mention of bombings and the presence of a militia and because of the Arabic names of characters—Mona, Suad, Naim—evoked “back home.”37 The humanity of the narrator-protagonist is ambivalent, as is suggested at the outset by the title, as well as the first epigraph to the novel, a telling quote from the nineteenth-century French zoologist, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, who believed in the transmutation of species in time: “what we call species are various transmutations of the same type.”38 It is under the auspices of this ambiguous transmutative devolution, half cockroach and “half human,”39 as he describes himself, that the protagonist-narrator engages the reader. The narrator’s dual nature in Cockroach provides him with a viable trope to deliver his own experience as well as the experience of a segment of immigrants that represents the underprivileged and the underdog, “the Montréal most Canadians fail to see,” to quote a critic.40 Hage brings into collision the opposing layers of stereotype versus reality by portraying the despair and violence experienced by some (mostly members of a marginalized, Anglophone enclave of Iranians) in a Montréal unfamiliar to those who connect it solely with beauty, charm and culture. As one of the characters points out: “Montréal, this happy romantic city, has an ugly side to it, my friend. One of the largest military-industrial complexes in North America is right here.”41 This sociopolitical criticism leveled at the city makes the latter a witness/accomplice to other dimensions of ugliness embedded in those who live in it. With regard to the protagonist-narrator himself, the patently overarching theme—“I feel like an insect, therefore I am an insect”—would color the ubiquitous cockroachness of the outward and inward elements of the entire novel, its atmosphere, style, tone, and the portrayal of some of its characters, “new comers to this land dragging their frozen selves.”42 The main antagonist of this compellingly morose account is in fact the setting itself, Montréal, or rather, the unrelenting cold weather of “this city with its case of chronic snow,”43 to quote the narrator’s quip. In a moment of bitter introspection, worn out and famished, he puts into question form his new whereabouts: “How did I end up trapped in a constantly shivering carcass, walking in a frozen city with wet cotton falling on me all the time? And on top of it, I am hungry, impoverished, and have no one, no one …”44 This state of dire lack, with the protagonist barely eking out a living on welfare

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checks and cleaning a restaurant on weekends, does not allow as much as owning proper gear to shield himself against the elements. For instance, witness the regular ordeal experienced in the course of the otherwise trivial, banal act of being a pedestrian in Montréal: The ground was frozen bumps of ice. Slippery glass. Thick and transparent. My fucking shoes, however, were totally flat on the bottom. No grip left on the soles, and in any case the soles were smooth to begin with, which made them even more slippery.45 One day, when he is in possession of newly stolen boots and warm socks to replace his perpetually half wet pair of socks he dries under his mattress every night, the narrator suddenly feels dignified, warm and stable, almost self-confident and joyful.46 The bulk of this confessional novel resides not so much in the plot, episodic at best, nor in character development. The heart of Cockroach showcases a slice of daily life with various events it has unfolded in a recent past, punctuated by figures and incidents of varying impact flashbacked to the narrator’s former past prior to immigration. The novel is divided into six chapters of unequal length, with the first sentence of each one entirely capitalized. The narrative present is the last leg of a three-tier episode on which the novel opens: the protagonist has just tried to commit suicide; he is committed thereafter to a psychiatric ward; he undergoes psychotherapy. Chapters 2 to 6 each open with the weekly compulsory meetings with Geneviève, the analyst who assesses his progress—on taxpayers’ money, she points out—after he is released from the mental hospital after his failed suicide attempt on a park tree branch. He is regularly reminded that any regression on his part would mean being recommitted to the mental hospital, and he is invited to disclose his daily undertakings. This narrative device of the weekly meetings on an “interrogation chair,47 as he calls it, sets the confessions in motion, allowing the narration to expose the main events of his troubled life in Lebanon, in answer to persistent probing into his family life in his native country. Two main turning points thus unfold: in Beirut, his sister’s unhappy marriage, then her death (prior to his immigration), a death for which he is indirectly—albeit unwittingly—responsible. It is his grief over this loss that prompted him to exile himself as cockroach: I wept until I heard echoes in the drain, like the fluttering of sails, telling me to leave. I shaved and then I sailed away from that room, that land, thinking that all was past, all was buried, all would come to an end.48

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The novel’s dénouement occurs in Montréal, the culmination of a sudden revenge mission in which the protagonist gets involved towards the last third of the novel. It features him murdering his lover Shoreh’s former rapist and jailer, Shaheed. This happens in “The Star of Iran,” the upscale restaurant where the ex-torturer is a patron and where the protagonist works. The murder constitutes the penultimate scene of the novel, followed by the definitive, intended disappearance of the narrator-protagonist into the underground through the kitchen sink, in a picturesque and vivid closing passage, worth citing in its entirety: The bodyguard had his back to me. I stuck the knife in his liver. […] The gun fell from his hand. I picked it up and aimed it at Shaheed. I shot him twice. I shot him right in the chest and he fell beneath the tablecloth. I dropped the gun and walked back to the kitchen. I looked at the water that gathered and rushed towards the drain. Then I crawled and swam above the water, and when I saw a leaf carried along by the stream of soap and water as if it were a gondola in Venice, I climbed onto it and shook like a dancing gypsy, and I steered it with my glittering wings towards the underground.49 This victorious final exit down the drain is obviously told from the viewpoint of the cockroach, to which the perspective has abruptly switched after the description of the murder. Throughout the novel, there are no fewer than twenty such narrative instances where the point of view switches from that of a person walking to that of an insect crawling.50 This dédoublement, doubling or twinning, sometimes occurs in the middle of a sentence, or in the space between one sentence and the other. It can occur in the same descriptive paragraph or in the one immediately following, as in the closing scene just quoted. The shifting perspective fulfills an important scheme. From a narrative standpoint, the subjective cockroach point of view provides a convenient vantage spot, an underbelly position from which to observe the Montréal wealthy, “Third World elite,” Francophones or Anglophones alike, in whose lives the protagonist can enter uninvited, crawling with ease under their doors, along their walls or into their food-stacked refrigerators to satisfy his hunger or steal their belongings. The following example illustrates the shifting viewpoint (within the same narrative instance) in the presence of the wealthy against whom he retaliates in his own way: one day, hungry as usual, he is in front of an upscale restaurant on St-Laurent Street, “leaning on a parked car, watching a couple eat slowly.”51 He is asked to leave by a

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security guard and refuses to abide. A police officer comes, checks his papers and reiterates the order. The couple finally come out and get into a BMW, but he manages to follow them as a cockroach: “I crawled to the edge of the pavement, rushing with my many feet, my belly just above the ground.”52 The couple drive off with him in the car. The woman makes a comment on the fact that St-Laurent Street is “becoming too noisy and crowded with all kinds of people,” and the remark makes the protagonist cringe, for he feels it is directed at the likes of him, but he has to remain still: The man must have nodded or not responded. He was the driver. She was the driven. I was the insect beneath them.53 […] At the couple’s home I stole his gold ring, his cigarettes, a Roman vase, his tie, and his shoes (I took time to carefully pick clothes that suited my dark complexion). Once I had finished checking myself in the mirror, I slipped under the garage door. And I crawled, glued to the wall, my insect’s wings vertical now and parallel to the house’s living room window.”54 In this evocative visual scene, the switching viewpoint, occurring as it does three times within the same narrative instance (twice within the closing paragraph), brings out two elements, namely, the need for the protagonist to get even with a wealthy white sample of Montréal suburbia—a constant reminder of his own contrasting degradation—and the need to do so precisely by revamping his own self-image as one able to rise likewise to elegance and classiness when appropriating the white man’s choicest apparel, which incidentally has the power to enhance his own dark complexion and to become subservient to his needs. That he was “the insect beneath them” when riding in the couple’s car, hungry, destitute, and listening to depreciating comments about the likes of him, is subsequently offset by his victorious exit along the garage wall, carrying some accessories of wealth, crawling majestically, not humiliated as usual, but proudly so, precisely with his “insect wings vertical now.” The wink in the direction of the second epigraph to this essay about the oppressed is here notable. The semen of the hungry, ubiquitous as it may be, would also become the plight of the powerful of the earth, invading and infecting them by the same token that the poor and the destitute have to suffer in their close proximity. Sometimes the protagonist will use his mutative skills likewise to get even with his own companions in misery in what makes for a metastasis, so to speak, of his spite against his contemporaries

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regardless of color. What is surmised here is that the targets of his hatred are injustice, sham, and capitalist disparity of wealth. The cockroach’s jaundiced vision of his contemporaries, Canadians and refugees alike, is that of the misanthrope irritated once and for all with humanity. Even though he affirms that he “only loved those who suffered,”55 in point of fact, with the exception of his attractive lover Shoreh and one or two other characters, his spiteful gaze does not spare most of his own compagnons de misère either, “brownies and darkies […] on the run from dictators and crumbling cities.”56 Of the colorful panoply of characters portrayed in Cockroach, some are encountered in smoky cafés on St-Laurent Street or in parties packed with Iranian exiles described as “runaway artists, displaced poets, leftist harsh-rollers, and ex-revolutionaries turned taxi drivers,”57 with background stories marked with violence and trauma, a sad legacy of Third World modern dictatorships. The following examples will illustrate the unforgiving cockroachness of the portrayal of his Montréal acquaintances by the protagonist-narrator: first in line is Reza, “the MiddleEastern hunchback,”58 a cocaine snorter and a freeloader, a restaurant sitar player who had a finger broken by the Ayatollah Khomeni’s guards. He is described as “a master charlatan who for years had managed to couch-surf in women’s houses, bewitching his hosts with his exotic tunes and stories of suffering and exile.”59 There is also the pathetic figure of “Professor Youssef,” qualified as an “empty container”60 and a “lazy, pretentious, Algerian pseudo-French intellectual”61 he met at the St-Laurent Street Artista Café, where “he sits all day […] and talks about ‘révolution et littérature’ ” until he found out one day when he crawled into the professor’s apartment that he is actually on welfare just like himself, albeit too proud to admit it, and that he was tortured in his native Algeria. A target of the protagonist-narrator’s contempt is also the wealthy Iranian owner of the upscale restaurant where he is employed as a general factotum. He is portrayed as greedy, obsequious to his rich patrons and a slave driver to his own personnel: “The Third World elite are the filth of the planet […]. Filth! They consider themselves royalty when all they are is the residue of colonial power.”62 If the above mentioned Iranian characters are portrayed with spite and negativity, either because of their complacency, their hypocrisy, or their wealth, the following ones, two of whom are women, are exonerated from the narrator’s wrath, a significant fact that unveils a compassionate side to the protagonist, for what they have in common is either their vulnerability or a past marked with intense suffering. They are Shoreh who was tortured in her native Iran and whom he mentions in the very first sentence of the novel, him being in love with her;63 Majeed, the fine Farsi poet turned cab driver,

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a friend of Shoreh’s late uncle who was executed in Iran after refusing to release the names of his comrades in the resistance movement; the compelling figure of Farhoud, the gay fellow, who was persecuted, jailed and raped in Iran by the mullahs before making a narrow, quasi miraculous escape to Afghanistan, India, then to Canada, with the help of a bisexual Canadian diplomat he met on an Indian beach; and finally Sehar, the pretty restaurant owner’s teenage daughter with whom he flirts whenever her father is out of sight. The negative portrayal of his fellow-Iranian refugees evoked above is echoed by a parallel spiteful characterization of a collection of white Canadian characters whom the protagonist comes across in a counterpoint that provides perfect balance to the narrative and adds credibility to his spiteful vision. Their wealth, their egoism, lack of compassion, and racist outlooks towards immigrants with dark complexions may be what they have in common and the reader may wonder at times who is the cockroach here after all. Worthy of mention is la gang, Sylvie and her friends, Francophone Montréalais—with sham claims to spirituality, beauty, and exoticism—characterized as “corrupt, empty, selfish, self-absorbed, capable only of seeing themselves in the reflection from the tinted glass in their fancy cars.”64 The protagonist provides the group with cocaine and is admitted to their parties, which he detests, for he represents for them, in his own words, “the fuckable, exotic, dangerous foreigner.”65 As for the Anglophone Canadians, the McGill University graduates, “sons and daughters of the wealthy,”66 they are not spared the narrator’s biting prose either, portrayed as they are as fakes who like to conceal their “old money, their future corporate jobs,” and who, meanwhile, camouflage into seedy St-Laurent Street cafés to complain about money and to “sit, drink, and shoot pool.”67 There is also the minor figure of Maître Pierre, the owner of a fancy French restaurant on Sherbrooke Street, incidentally called Le Cafard (The Cockroach), where the protagonist himself once worked as a busboy and quit when the owner— described as a “filthy human with gold braid on his sleeves and pompous posture!”—refused to promote him to waiter on account of his being too dark, “too well done for that” (“un peu trop cuit pour ça”).68 In the movement that switches the setting back and forth from Montréal to Beirut and vice versa, the main figures evoked “back home” are the protagonist’s sister, the beautiful Souad with the sentimental voice, who eloped with and married a member of the militia, Tony, eventually being killed by him on suspicion of adultery. If Tony was detested by the narrator even before he murdered his sister, that is not the case with Abou-Roro, the neighborhood thug and fearless bandit whose motto was “when one is

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hungry one should steal;”69 he took the then adolescent narrator under his wing, initiating him into his ways, and glorifying their merits in the following terms: “The underground, my friend, is a world of its own. Other humans gaze at the sky, but I say unto you, the only way through the world is to pass through the underground.” 70 Herein lies the key to Cockroach as a sequel to De Niro’s Game: the convergence with the subversive and possibly the illicit, albeit in different contexts, in historical moments when life becomes a matter of mere endurance and resilience in societies steeped in various forms of violence. A critic has noted that a traumatic quality permeates both novels stylistically; she qualifies Cockroach as “grippingly cinematic and blending an almost obsessive figurative energy with cynically dark humour and rawly violent prose that bombards the reader with 10,000 images—the stylistic equivalent of the ‘ten thousand bombs’ that haunt Beirut and the narrator in De Niro’s Game.”71 Since the underground (understood in the above quote as the illicit and the violent as opposed to the religious and the mystical) was familiar ground to the protagonist as early as his youth in his native country, it is attractive enough for him to continue dwelling in it after his exile, albeit in a different context, with different means, in what unlocks a variation of the species of undergroundedness, to evoke the law of “unity of composition” implied in the epigraph to the novel. The rapprochement here is between a city under siege and a city where one is a despised minority. This minority becomes under siege and as vulnerable as any population living in a war zone. The coping mechanisms would be the same, mere means of survival in an otherwise unbearable existence. Was that indeed what Hage set out to convey?72 In a 2009 interview on a cultural show on the CBC, shortly after the publication of his second novel, when asked if Cockroach is a metaphor for the assimilationist experience, Hage answers, “it is a metaphor for something wider […]. My protagonist was torn between staying human or joining that movement of the underprivileged and eventually act in a violent way and take power.” It is in this light that could be interpreted the retaliation and revenge mission the protagonist undertakes on behalf of his lover before descending to the literal underground down the kitchen drain. When repeatedly questioned by the insistent interviewer about precisely “why a cockroach?” Hage deftly counters, “I made it a political statement,” an allusion to the mounting suspicion that marks the rapport between East and West, between the whites and their brown counterparts living in that same West that drove the latter to leave their own countries in the first place. Says Majeed, the highly educated poet/cab driver in Cockroach: “we come to these countries

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for refuge and to find better lives, but it is these countries that made us leave our homes in the first place.”73 I referred earlier to the function of the cockroach’s point of view from a narrative perspective. On an allegorical level, the cockroach’s point of view drives home an important trope, one possibly related to the “landed refugees” (ironically mimicking the phrase “landed immigrants,” the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. “permanent residents”) as Hage’s narrator calls his fellow exiles.74 It refers to those who endure a sordid existence in “rich, lovely, joyful Canada,”75 (as the protagonist of Elkhadem’s trilogy would say); an existence aggravated by the mounting racism against Muslims (in the aftermath of 9/11), some of whom survive in the host country in a status of “an identity in negation, a hijacked identity,” to borrow Nouri Gana’s apt phrase.76 If literally a “cockroach” refers to the vermin symptomatic of poverty and filth, it symbolically could be construed as the negation of a negation, whose terms run as follows: “I am not a despicable insect. I am a human being. Not quite: I am half vermin, half human. I am a cockroach of human size.” The first negation (the thesis) being that one is not a human being (in the white acceptance of the word); the second negation (the antithesis) being that it is not true that one is not a human being; the synthesis (the negation of the negation) being that one is not a human being, but rather a special case of a cockroach/human, and a force to reckon with. “They shall inherit the earth,”77 affirms the protagonist of Cockroach about his fellow insects, in what makes for a twisted ironic echo of Jesus’ pronouncement on the meek of the earth in the Eight Beatitudes, and an obvious rapprochement. In fact, this view is supported by the ultimate scene of the novel representing the protagonist facing a human-sized fellow bug, a “striped albino cockroach standing on its two feet, leaning against the kitchen door,”78 who tantalizes him and claims him as a member of his own species. By giving his mentally deranged protagonist the lowest denominator’s vantage point, Hage cleverly manages to co-opt the image of the dangerous Other with the various stereotypes it entails, giving it back full-fledged, in the shape of the underground man, the insect-protagonist with perverse antisocial attributes highly reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s novella. The underground certainly brings to the fore Hage’s literary influences. Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground immediately comes to mind, and Hage himself acknowledges the Russian novelist’s influence on him since his adolescence.79 In fact, both Cockroach and Notes from the Underground are akin to dramatic monologues; both protagonists are full of spite towards their contemporaries; they are both poor and live in squalid quarters in a

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bustling, alienating metropolis, St Petersburg and Montréal, respectively. They are convinced of their own insectitude, and they are both nevertheless given to attacks of “loving kindness” towards humanity, once their hunger is appeased.80 In contradistinction, Hage has strongly denied the alleged literary influence of Kafka’s Metamorphosis on Cockroach, insisting that Kafka does not own the monopoly on bugs.81 Instead, he credits Knut Hamsen (1859–1952), the nineteenth-century Scandinavian writer, for his novel Hunger (1890), featuring a starving man whose sense of reality is at stake. “I took that book and transferred it to Montréal,” asserts Hage (whose trajectory, incidentally, resembles Hamsen’s own with regard to sudden fame preceded by years of dire poverty and obscurity).82 I have mentioned above Al-Hakim’s play, Fate of a Cockroach (Misir Sorsar), for it is difficult not to establish a correlation between Hage’s and Al-Hakim’s cockroaches: whereas Hage’s protagonist descends into the underground as an insect in order to attain a superior order of counterpower, Al Hakim’s protagonist, Adil, identifies with a cockroach in order to redeem a self-esteem laminated by his immediate, domineering milieu, namely his wife and his employer. Hence, in Hage’s case the cockroach becomes a means towards empowerment, speaking truth to power in a subversive manner, expressive of the politics of Arab writings in English, whereas for Al-Hakim’s protagonist, it is a means toward ego redemption. In terms of allegorizing the alienation of the individual (both external and internal) vis-à-vis an oppressive environment, both Hage’s and Al Hakim’s psychotic protagonists negotiate their renewed identity from the standpoint of an alter ego belonging to an altogether different species, the lowest of all. In what stands for a mere instance of the politics of writing an English novel to an Anglophone readership, the cockroach metaphor for Hage pans out as an incubator of identity, a transnational allegory for the diasporic wretched of the Western world, and one which is geared to raising sympathy, not offense, in readers not accustomed to such views from the edge. In my view, part of the originality of Hage’s novel, and what is unprecedented on the Canadian Arab novel-scape in English, is precisely the inherent social activist awareness the novel exhibits towards the underdog in general, without distinction of national origins: “Cockroach is deeply concerned with class, economic disempowerment, unemployment, and misery among various groups of immigrants.”83 Independent of authorial intention, it is conceivable that Hage’s portrayal of an Arab anti-hero in a post-9/11 text belonging to Arab Canadian literature is a move away from the political correctness toward freedom of contestation, artistic liberation and political satire. The protagonist-narrator may

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have been conceived after all as a reflection of a mal de vivre experienced by vulnerable foreign nationals from the Arab world in a Canada whose new multicultural legislations in the wake of 9/11 became all too subservient to the United States’ global war on terror. If this reading is viable, then Hage’s text can be said to be unique within Anglophone Arab Canadian novelistic tradition, in that it allegorizes superbly the failure of Canadian multiculturalism. As Mohamed Lotfi suggests, “Beneath its image as a noble protector of the rights of ‘minorities,’ the Canadian government creates a cultural communitarianism with its multiculturalism policy; this means that even immigrants who don’t want to fit into the mould are forced to.”84 The same critic attributes the discomfort felt by Wajdi Mouawad in presenting his film Littoral as part of the Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal to this malaise. That also explains why Mouawad’s film was criticized for the use of Québécois actors to play Arab roles. Lotfi concludes, “Racism in Quebec is also fuelled by this ambiguity between diversity and cultural communitarianism.”85 This view is consistent with Hage’s stance as well. When asked about his national allegiance as a successful writer, Hage responded, “I am not an ethnic writer. I am a cosmopolitan writer.”86 He also insisted that his portrayal of a “bleak” picture of Montréal was one necessitated by his clear vision and his lack of naivety about nations and cities. Hage seems to share the predicament of the writer caught in the stifling constraints of the politics of writing; the writer who happens to portray the underground world of the metropolis, and who risks being taxed with ingratitude. In fact, at the same occasion, Hage was quick to express his indebtedness to the Canadian “egalitarian social programs” for the creation of his two novels.87 In the 2009 interview mentioned above, when probed in the direction of the immigrant experience in Canada and the meaning of his novel, Hage cringed, contending that Cockroach was not an immigration novel after all, and that “it so happens” that the protagonist is an immigrant and the characters are likewise immigrants—“it could have been anybody else who is living hardships and maybe the tone would have been the same.”88 Certainly with regard to the Arab Canadian Anglophone novel, Cockroach strikes a new cord, unique, vibrant, and of current significance, tapping into the global dialogue of culture, power and politics. If Cockroach maps a geography of despair in a Montréal otherwise known for its Francophone cultural splendor, all told from the point of view of a protagonist who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (as a result of the civil war portrayed in De Niro’s Game), Carnival in turn continues the global positioning trope in a novel whose setting is likely Montréal, though

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it is not named as such. In fact, it could be Toronto—Eastmount, at the outskirts of Toronto, is mentioned—or anywhere else where the currency is the dollar and the city extended. The novel is told by yet another misanthropic protagonist-narrator, Fly, a taxi driver, who, in his flights in his cab/ flying carpet/airplane, tells of an underworld of pimps, prostitutes, social activists, drug dealers, homeless teenagers, greedy landlords, ruthless cops, inept psychiatrists, a whole panoply of characters that seem to complement, if not duplicate, the more focused crowd portrayed in Cockroach: “the sheer level of antiheroic bluster it [Carnival] achieves is enough to set it apart from the more domestic CanLit pack.”89 The same reviewer blames the author for having failed to do “anything new” and for going “over the top.”90 It might be so at face value but this is not all there is to the novel. The title Carnival is most fitting since it not only bespeaks a chaos akin to the “Orient,” but also evokes Fly’s past in a travelling circus (originating in Tunisia), where he was raised by a “bearded lady,” a kindly hermaphrodite with a strong sense of integrity, who took him under her wing after the death (by suicide) of his mother, a trapeze artist in the circus. This aspect is important to underscore as it explains the animal imagery and references to circus life abounding throughout the novel, justifying its title. For instance, when Fly speaks of a suburb of the city, which is yet another object of one of his misanthropic rants, these are his analogies: I’d rather fire myself from a cannon, pick up the shit of elephants and eat it, suffocate inside [the magician’s] water tank, lie beneath the running horses, or sodomize a big cat in a cage and pay the consequences than get trapped in these suburbs of cardboard, gossip, and conformity.91 The novel is divided into five acts (numbered and named as such within the book), an interesting device that suggests at the onset that the idea that “all life is a stage” is being put forth here. In fact, says Otto, one of the main characters, an intellectual activist (with a troubled childhood) turned homeless person, turned accidental murderer, a victim of a capitalist system that will inevitably produce human refuse: “this play is almost over. And we should know when to bow and when to leave,”92 before committing suicide at the outset of the “play.” Interestingly, the chapters in Carnival are actually short “scenes” (though not named as such) and there are more than seventy of them. The chapter titles mostly consist of proper, abstract, or concrete nouns, either in the singular or in the plural: “Crimes,” “Guns,” “Barrel,” “Husband,” “Mimi,” “Mary,” “Aisha,” “Lantern,” “Spiders,” “Turks,” “Jesus”, etc., a nomenclature that suggests quick visual sequences,

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photographic snapshots, fast, and vibrant, and a collage of situational, heteroclitic snippets of haphazard occurrences in what constitutes the life of a cabbie in a bustling city during carnival season. The chaos portrayed in this North American location suggests that beneath its civilized veneer, that nameless city hides in its bosom, literally or figuratively so, ferocious animals and a dog-eat-dog mentality, and that those who suffer the most are often the ones made more vulnerable by poverty, injustice, abused childhoods, or simply consumerist greed. Like its predecessor, Carnival taps into the compassionate stance towards the downand-out, except that here it does so more intensely and in a more focused manner than in Cockroach, occasionally in eloquent, heated, lyrical diatribes. Is this a deliberate move on the part of the author? When asked a question along those lines in a recent interview, Hage answered: “my novels don’t change the world but they create an awareness of possibilities and hence might contribute to change.”93 It should have become clear throughout this chapter that the relatively new contributions of Rawi Hage’s towards the rise of the Arab Canadian novel in English are notable. To quote Gana at the end of his review of Hage’s début novel, De Niro’s Game, “Hage is a talented and versatile writer who will certainly raise the threshold of Anglophone Arab Canadian fiction.”94 Two novels and six years later, one can certainly confirm that prediction.

Notes 1. A discussion of the characteristics of the writing of Francophone women authors of Arabic origins can also be found in F. Elizabeth Dahab, “Representations: Memoirs,Autobiographies, Biographies: Canadian-Francophone,” Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures, Brill Online, 2, March 4, 2013, http://www. paulyonline.brill.nl/entries/encyclopedia-of-women-and-islamic-cultures/ representations-memoirs-autobiographies-biographies-canadian-francophone-COM_001440. 2. Rawi Hage, Cockroach (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 30. 3. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka. Pour une littérature mineure (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1975), 29. 4. In the early 1990s roughly a third was produced in Arabic, half in French and the rest in English. 5. Caroline Montpetit, “Parfum de violence et de désillusion,” Le Devoir, November 17, 2007, accessed November 17, 2010, http://www.ledevoir.com/ culture/livres/164707/parfum-de-violence-et-de-desillusion. 6. Richard Cassidy, “Anglo-Québec Literature and the Figures of National Literary Identity,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Comparative

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7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28.

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t h e e d i n b u rg h c o m pa n i o n to t h e a ra b n ov e l i n e n g l i s h Literature Association, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, May 31, 2008. Gilles Marcotte, “Neil Bissoondath disait ...,” Quebec Studies, 26 (Fall/Winter 1998/1999), 11. This article is the outcome of the 1997 colloquium at the University of Montréal. Yves Légaré, ed., Dictionnaire Des Ecrivains Québécois Contemporains (Montréal: Québec-Amérique 1983), 7–8. Ibid., 30, 178, 211, 289, 388, respectively. Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, 37. Sylvia Terzian, “Arab Pluralities and Transnationality: ‘A Crisis of Diasporic Consciousness’ in Arab North- American Fiction,” unpublished PhD diss., Wilfrid Laurier University (2012), 40. Edward Said, “Reflections on Exile,” in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 186. Saad Elkhadem, Canadian Adventures of the Flying Egyptian (Fredericton: York Press, 1990), 33. Ibid., 27. Ibid., 35. Jean Sgard, “Conclusions,” in Exil et Littérature, ed. Jacques Mounier (Grenoble: Ellug, 1986), 293. Saad Elkhadem, Chronicle of the Flying Egyptian in Canada (Fredericton: York Press, 1991), 16. Nouri Gana, “Everyday Arabness: The Poethics of Arab Canadian Literature and Culture,” CR: The New Centennial Review 9.2 (2009): 22. Edward Said, “Reflections on Exile,” 173. Robert Berrouët-Oriol and Robert Fournier, “L’Emergence des écritures migrantes et métisses au Québec,” Litte Réalité: Une revue d’écrits originaux: A Journal of Creative and Original Writing 3.2 (1991), 17. Saad Elkhadem, Crash Landing of the Flying Egyptian, trans. Saad El Gabalawy, bilingual edition, English-Arabic (Fredericton: York Press, 1992), 12. Vasco Varoujean, Le Moulin du diable (Ottawa: Le Cercle du Livre de France, 1972). Saad El-Gabalawy, “Introduction,” The Plague (Fredericton: York Press, 1989), 6. Terzian, “Arab Pluralities and Transnationality,” 64. See Daniel McCabe, “The Journeys of Rawi Hage,” Quill and Quire (July 2008), accessed November 5, 2010, http://www.quillandquire.com/authors/profile. cfm?article_id=9996. Rita Sakr, “Imaginative Migrations: An Interview with the Lebanese-Canadian Writer Rawi Hage,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 47.3 (2011): 349. Ibid., 343. The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, accessed November 1, 2010, http://www.impacdublinaward.ie/2008/winner.htm. To gauge the

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29. 30. 31.

32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38.

39. 40.

41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50.

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significance of such an honor, one can note that the recent Nobel laureates Orhan Parmuk (2006) and Herta Muller (2009) had also been awarded the IMPAC for, respectively, My Name is Red in 2003 and The Land of Green Plums in 1998. The first Canadian to win this prize was Alistair MacLeod in 2001 for No Great Mischief (1999). In 2004, Ben Jelloun was awarded the IMPAC for This Blinding Absence of Light (2002). Whitlock, “Review of Rawi Hage’s Cockroach,” accessed November 9, 2012, http://www.quillandquire.com/reviews/review.cfm?review_id=7794. Salah Soliman,“Cockroach, Symbol of the Immigrant’s Plight,” Al-Quds Al-Arabi, accessed January 8, 2011, http://www.alquds.co.uk/index. asp?fname=data\2010\12\12–23\23qpt86.htm&arc=data\2010\12\12– 23\23qpt86.htm. Mohamed El-Heguiry, “Cockroach in Novels, an Expression of the Desolation of Existence,” Al Jarida, accessed January 8, 2011, http://www.aljarida.com/ aljarida/ArticlePrint.aspx?id=123062. Jian Ghomeshi, interview with Rawi Hage, QTV, February 26, 2009, accessed October 22, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srIHTSxX8m0. Gana, “Review of De Niro’s Game,” International Fiction Review 34.1 & 2 (2007): 196. Hage, Cockroach, 17. Ibid., 128. Ibid., 143. Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772–1844). He coined the principle of “unity in composition.” The quote comes from the biography written by his son Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1805–61). Etienne Saint-Hilaire partook in the Napoleonic scientific expedition to Egypt in 1798. In a telling gesture, Balzac dedicated his Comédie Humaine (1842–55) to him. Hage, Cockroach, 5 and 245. Tania Tabar, “Rawi Hage’s book Cockroach an Existential Arab Immigrant Romp,” Menassat, February 5, 2009, accessed October 12, 2006, http://www. menassat.com/?q=en/news-articles/5935-rawi-hage-s-book-cockroachexistential-arab-immigrant-romp. Hage, Cockroach, 281. Hage, Cockroach, 79. Ibid., 17. Ibid., 8–9. Ibid., 147. Ibid., 253. Ibid. 47. Ibid., 300. Ibid., 305. Ibid., 19, 26, 27, 30, 53, 79, 80, 83, 84, 89, 90, 178, 201, 210, 232.

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51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73.

Ibid., 86. Ibid., 88. Ibid., 88–9. Ibid., 90, emphasis mine. Ibid., 143. Ibid., 58. Ibid., 13. Ibid., 11. Ibid., 24–5. Ibid., 271. Ibid., 10. Ibid., 159. Ibid., 3. Ibid., 185. Ibid. Ibid., 228. Ibid. Ibid., 29. Ibid., 55. Ibid. Sakr, “Imaginative Migrations,” 345. Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire has devised that principle. Hage, Cockroach, 223. In the CBC Q interview, Hage was asked a question about this quote, and he pinpointed the fact that Mossadeq who was democratically elected in Iran in the early 1950s was overthrown in a coup backed by the U.S., following which the autocratic Shah (Mohamed Reza Pahlavi), emperor of Iran since 1941, returned and remained in power until his overthrow in 1979. Hage, Cockroach, 44. Elkhadem, Canadian Adventures, 35. Gana, “Everyday Arabness,” 22. Hage, Cockroach, 53. Ibid., 200–1. Rima Hammoudi, “Interview with Rawi Hage,” Tadamon, October 1, 2009, accessed October 20, 2010, http://www.tadamon.ca/post/4842. Hage, Cockroach, 226. Ghomeshi, “Interview with Rawi Hage,” accessed December 25, 2012, http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=srIHTSxX8m0. Ibid. Sakr, “Imaginative Migrations,” 349. Mohamed Lotfi, “Racism, Made in Quebec,” accessed January 9, 2009, www. citoyen.onf.ca/extraits/media/rac- ism_quebec.pdf. Ibid. Ghomeshi, “Interview with Rawi Hage.”

74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86.

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Ibid. Ibid. Whitlock, “Review of Rawi Hage’s Cockroach.” Ibid. Rawi Hage, Carnival (Toronto: Anansi, 2012), 137. Ibid., 213. Sakr, “Imaginative Migrations,” 349. Gana, “Review of De Niro’s Game,” 198.

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Chapter 12 T h e A r a b Au s t r a l i a n N ove l : S i t u a t i n g D i a s p o r i c a n d M u l t i c u l t u r a l L i t e r a t u re Saadi Nikro

F o rc e - F i e l d s t h e a ra b au s t ra l i a n n ov e l

The aim of this chapter is to give an account of the Arab Australian novel in English, and address a number of critical themes, mainly through a reading of Loubna Haikal’s Seducing Mr Maclean, published in Sydney in 2002. Towards this end I want to make a distinction between diasporic and multicultural literature by engaging Jad El Hage’s novel The Last Migration, also published in Sydney in 2002. In so doing I want to demonstrate the ways in which contemporary Arab Australian literature in English is located in and inventively explores a multicultural dynamic that since the 1970s informs practices of governmentality and related fields of sensibility in Australia. Engaging an Arab experience and symbolic force of Arabness in Australia—or rather, a multicultural social and political field in which this experience and symbolic force are relationally exchanged, appropriated and contested as practices of identification and belonging1—Haikal’s Seducing Mr Maclean is compelling in terms of its style and subject matter. And yet it is not so singular, as in the last few decades Arab Australian cultural production has proliferated in literature and film, theatre and performance, art and photography, as well as oral history, heritage, and curatorial practices. There is also a growing output of work by Australians with Arab backgrounds in the various fields of academia.

I While Arab immigration to Australia has been going on for well over a century, it did not intensify and become more publically visible until the 1950s when Australia became more openly welcoming to migrants of non-European backgrounds. Due to the civil war in Lebanon from the mid-1970s, Australia received a larger wave of Arab migrants and refugees. Arab migration to

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Australia is thus dominated by the Lebanese, whose first, second, third, and perhaps fourth generations currently number well over 300,000. There are also thousands of Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians and Jordanians. Since the 1990s there has also been an increasing number of Iraqi refugees and migrants coming to Australia.2 At present there are quite a few Arab Australians living and writing in Australia in English. These include novelist, essayist, and memoirist Abbas El Zein (Tell the Running Water, 2001; Leave to Remain: A Memoir, 2008); novelist Randa Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big In This?, 2005; Ten Things I Hate About Me, 2006; Where the Streets Had a Name, 2008); playwright and novelist Loubna Haikal (Seducing Mr Maclean, 2002); novelists Jad El Hage (The Last Migration: A Story of Diaspora and Love, 2002; The Myrtle Tree, 2007; One Day in April, 2011) and Nada Awar Jarrar (Somewhere, Home, 2004 – shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize; Dreams of Water, 2007; A Good Land, 2010); writer, filmmaker, and activist Paula Abood (Waiting in Space, 1999); playwright, performance artist, and community cultural worker Alissar Chidiac (The Politics of Belly Dancing, 1998); writer, filmmaker, and producer Alissar Gazal (Le[s]banese, 2008). To this list can be added the prodigious literary output of Eva Sallis (now Eva Hornung), whose Arab affiliations inform a number of her novels, most notably Hiam (1998), awarded the Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 1998, and Mahjar (2003).3 A special mention should be made of poet, librettist, and novelist David Malouf—a prolific writer whose work has earned many Australian and international awards. Although not thematically concerned with the experience of Arab identity in Australia, Malouf ’s work has made an important contribution to the way in which literary practices approach an imaginative understanding of Australian history. Foregrounding the productive relationship of language to landscape in novels such as An Imaginary Life, Remembering Babylon, The Conversations at Curlow Creek—as well as in the autobiographical 12 Edmondstone Street, and the critical A Spirit of Play: The Making of Australian Consciousness, based on his Boyer Lectures of 1998—Malouf ’s oeuvre encompasses a spatial dimension for imaginative, experiential, and critical readings of history. Lending itself to postcolonial terms of revision, Malouf ’s writings explore a settler and indigenous dynamic in which identity is implacably provisional and relational, embedded in the arduous and conflicting tremors of imagining a spatial sense of self and place.4 For my purposes here Malouf ’s work is significant because it can be called on to remind us that Arab Australians, like other migrant and indigenous

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writers, are in the main creatively engaging an experience of a multicultural, (post)colonial settler society, contributing to the ways in which cultural production in Australia imagines, constructs, and experiences public and political culture. Malouf ’s work is also significant because it suggests a way in which to critically read literary texts, in respect to how they contribute to the symbolic force of language, identity, and landscape. For it would be a narrow enterprise, I want to stress, to simply read Arab Australian literature as somehow directly representative of Arab experience. For this would only serve to transform literary texts into sociological documents, thus underestimating the craft of narrative style and inventiveness. Accordingly, as I have argued elsewhere,5 in addressing Arab Australian writing it is important to consider both the way in which the work inventively embodies (identifies, negotiates, constructs, traverses, carries) the particular tensions of its historical circumstance, and the way in which it is, or comes to be, symptomatically embedded (ideologically, politically, culturally) in such circumstances. Malouf ’s contrapuntal attentiveness to the interplay of embodiment and embeddedness is necessary if one is to avoid abstracting the work from the way in which it inventively engages history and self-understanding. While Malouf ’s work often resounds with a romantic tenor of reconciliation, to somehow recapture or recuperate a lost innocence corrupted by imperious forms of identity and related symbolic mandates, an inter-related strand of his work situates identity as historically, spatially and ecologically contingent, beyond more fanatical or purifying notions of uniqueness. In fact a compelling aspect of his work—one that can be adapted towards the question of Arab Australian literary production in English—is the productive tension between a romantic notion of reconciliation (the longing for unconditional belonging, we could say) and a critical awareness that there can be no pre-discursive or pre-social foundation by which can be assumed an essential or purified sense of identity and belonging. For example, in his Boyer Lectures Malouf talks about what he calls “waves of purifying zeal” in Australian history, and explores how the idea of “nativity” and related notion of nature has very often involved “a fanatical racism.” This, he goes on to observe, “once seemed inseparable from the very idea of nationhood … in the attempt to preserve a purity of race that would guarantee for Australians an eternally white and, if possible, eternally Protestant history.”6 Addressing, in part, ecological claims to nativity, to the way in which fanatical conservationists argue for a purification of the Australian landscape from imported fauna and flora, Malouf goes on to point out that the signifiable force of the term native is historically unstable. Advocating an alternative imaginative capacity to entertain intercultural flows, he writes: “This capacity to

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re-imagine things, to take in and adapt, might be something we should learn from, something that comes closer than a nostalgia for lost purity …”7 The tension between romantic reconciliation and its impossible prediscursive basis in Malouf ’s work has some bearing for the way in which Arab Australian novels in English embody an interactive experience of language, place and identity, or else a dislocating movement across social terrains. Whether first or second generation, this writing embodies an intercultural experience of self and place. This involves an effort to mend the disorienting experience of traveling away from one’s homeland, or else negotiating a dislocated imaginative sense of homeland carried by one’s parents. It also involves an effort to negotiate the way in which a political culture and embedded sensibilities construct and position a predominating notion of Arabness, which more recently has come to be narrowly defined, dehistoricized and essentialized through stereotypes of violence and religious fanaticism. Increasingly, then, Arab Australian writing concerns itself with themes related to a critical sense of exclusion or normative inclusion, in the context of a multicultural, (post)colonial settler society that remains insecure about accepting the intercultural scope of its history and identity. The more recent development in Arab Australian writing in English is valuable for a number of reasons. First, each published or performed text comes to stage an event of public interest, whereby certain themes relating to Arabness in Australia come to be foregrounded and addressed. Secondly, it gives Arab Australians a public voice, whereby they speak for and represent themselves, challenging the way in which they are defined by predominant political culture and sensibility. Thirdly, Arab identity itself is constrained to entertain its variability, between the generations, communities, vernaculars, confessions, and backgrounds. Finally, this literary activity serves, especially in an officially sanctioned and regulated multicultural society, to further open up a dialogue between cultures, languages, and political sensibilities— ultimately rendering Arab Australian identity open to its historical conditioning, to the tactical play of narrative inventiveness as it translates itself through variations of language and cultural landscape. In a certain sense, then, Arab Australian writing in English carries a dispositioning tenor (the Latin prefix inscribes a splitting of the singular into two) that informs diasporic or multicultural literature. This tenor suggests a variable vernacular of the language, depending on the cultural landscapes and related political sensibilities its practice inhabits, traverses, or else disinhabits. For it is important that, in foregrounding the differentiating social modalities of being embedding the symbolic force of Arab, we do not assume a singular or monolithic notion of Englishness. In fact to speak of an Arab

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Australian novel in English is to speak not only of a movement across and between sites of Arabness and Englishness, but also of a movement across and between the variability of Arabness and the variability of Englishness alike. Ultimately, it is also to suggest how such literary inventiveness contributes to the developing force of Englishness—its ability to travel across geographies and the structures of feeling, the material and symbolic practices,8 inhabiting them. In Jad El Hage’s The Last Migration, for example, there are occasional instances, apparently unremarkable, in which the very language of the novel foregrounds its dispositional tenor, such as when the narrative alludes to a couple in a romantic relationship as “an item,” and describes a swimming costume as a “cossie”—both terms travelling across and between Britain and Australia.9 In thus negotiating the variability of English languages, El Hage’s narrative embodies not only a movement across Arabness and Englishness, but the variability of Englishness itself. It is also this ability of the narrative to traverse these variable vernaculars that renders the novel a work of what we can call transculturation. Alternatively, as well as relationally, this sense of differentiation and variability can be posed in respect to a literary employment of English that to some extent does not only represent or express specific thoughts, ideas, and actions, but works as a site of translation across and between what we can call the sensibilities of Arabic and English—sensibilities that come into view through what Spivak in an early essay calls the “fraying”10 of any neat distinction between one language and another. Considering that both authors, El Hage and Haikal, have Arabic first-language backgrounds, and write novels with characters moving in and out of Arabic/English language contexts, we can understand their novels as sites of translation beyond the notion of an equivalent transaction between one language and another. In respect to cultural and political sensibility, or what Spivak calls “the rhetoricity of language,” this has some consequence for a negotiation between self-understanding and the terms in which this is publically exposed and received. Indeed, it has some consequence for a learned capacity to engage this negotiation in both semiotic and corporeal registers. In her essay Spivak is more concerned with troubling the translation of a text from one language to another. And yet her observations can be adapted to take note of this non-equivalence between languages, especially concerning the contexts in which the characters in both novels move across and between. This can be seen in the parodic and at times caricatured scope of English terms themselves, which are rendered uncanny, foregrounding their conventional resonance. In fact in Haikal’s novel it becomes less a question

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of her protagonist’s capacity to translate one language to another, but how she is constrained to translate herself, her understanding of the motivations of others and herself, through the non-equivalence of Arabic and English. In her encounter, for example, with the sexual designs of Mr Whiteside and his colleagues, she wrestles not only with their intentions and her responses, but also with an appropriate relationship between Arabic and English to make sense of the encounter: It was incredible how English took hold of my tongue, and in a way hijacked it, dictating the events that followed. I am not trying to deny responsibility for my actions by blaming it on something as simple as language. But speaking English transformed me into a foreigner, a foreigner to myself, and allowed me certain things, and maybe attitudes only foreigners were allowed.11 As Spivak has it: “The experience of contained alterity in an unknown language spoken in a different cultural milieu is uncanny.”12 While this dynamic no doubt plays a role in the very sensibility of El Hage’s The Last Migration, its political tenor is more pronounced in Seducing Mr Maclean, particularly concerning how Haikal’s protagonist is constrained to reflect upon her learning of English in Australia. In the process, language—language as a site of translating oneself into a sense of foreignness, and having sometimes to tactically deploy this foreignness in order to better inhabit or dis-inhabit established codes of difference and identity—comes to be experienced as both constraining and enabling. Methodologically, I want also to point out that in tracing the emergence of Arab Australian writing in English, one is bound to work through established critical fields of postcolonial, multicultural and ethnic studies, especially as these fields have come to influence the assessment of literary and cultural production in Australia. This is to ask whether such writing be viewed as “diasporic” or “multicultural”, “postcolonial” or “migrant”, “ethnic” or “third world”. It is also to wonder how such designations and related conceptual assemblages could abstract both the novels and my reading from their specific contexts, or the circumstances of their production and consumption. Moreover, in relation to these designations, can a common denominator of Arabness be assumed as a general historical, formal, or poetic category? Rather than proffering answers to these questions, I hope to better approach the terms by which they can be posed and explored. One important aspect of these difficult questions is how transculturation has come to more acutely define contemporary literatures written in

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the main in English, as novels and other forms of creative writing become more self-consciously intercultural in scope and effect, often exoticized and incorporated into counter-canons by a liberal interest and investment in difference and plurality. In fact transculturation has become not only a condition of contemporary literature but also a defining aspect of its critical value. What has come to be institutionally defined and engaged as “multicultural”, “postcolonial”, “migrant”, “ethnic” or “diasporic” literature is valued precisely to the extent that its variable narrative inventions articulate a sense of movement across and between cultural landscapes, transforming a sense of location into one of dislocation, as unitary visions are corrupted by difference—whether normatively regulated or unanticipated, domesticated or resistant and transformative. One critic, Elleke Boehmer, calls this “the writing of ‘not quite’ and ‘in-between’ ”, or “migrant postcolonial literature.” She observes that “the migrant text is [a] hybridity writ large and in colour,” and concludes as follows: “It is a hybridity, too, which is form-giving, lending meaning to the bewildering array of cultural translations which migrants must make.”13 Such literature reflects a variable migrant experience of crossing borders and landscapes and articulating this experience as an inventive form of literary writing, mostly in English. “Migrant writing” is “hybrid” because it transforms this wayward experience into a juxtaposition of different sets of values and expectations, a “national or historical rootlessness” that has the effect of demonstrating the conventionality of specific ways of life and related forms of symbolic exchange. For Boehmer, the link between existential experience and textual inventiveness is almost symbiotic: “Like its creators, the migrant novel itself draws attention to the regenerative experience of straddling worlds,” in respect to what she calls “flamboyant narrative traveling,” or “migrant tales,” employing techniques of “double perspective or ‘stereoscopic vision’.”14 Terms such as “hybridity,” “rootlessness,” “double perspective” and “in-betweenness” have by now been over-rehearsed by critics, and it is important not to further valorize them. As I mentioned earlier, I want to make a distinction between diasporic and multicultural writing, and illustrate this distinction through a reading of The Last Migration and Seducing Mr Maclean. While both novels make references to the civil war in Lebanon (or series of violent events between 1975 and 1990), they are more preoccupied with the theme of negotiating self and circumstance away from a country of origin, as their respective primary characters go about trying to make sense of the tensions they carry and confront, tensions motivating their thoughts, actions and relationships to others. With El Hage this is

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largely drawn through an existential, masculinist prism, unconcerned with the way in which Arab identity is constructed in the foreign environment. By contrast, Haikal’s nameless protagonist and first-person narrator is continually dislocated from a central point of reference, having to confront and work through the ways in which she is positioned, as well as dispositioned, as an Arab/Lebanese. So while El Hage’s narrative obsessively traverses a number of countries and geographical locations, Haikal’s is embedded in, and embodies, the particular tensions of political/public culture and sensibility in multicultural Australia. Both novels are intercultural in scope, although where one structures an existentially concentrated movement across space, the other is more preoccupied with inhabiting a certain place. El Hage’s novel structures an existential will to self-understanding in transit, having to gather itself through constant physical and imaginary movement. Haikal approaches Lebanese/Arab identity as a negotiation of the terms of its transplantation into foreignness—how its various hues and stammers come to be held captive by the force of essentializing terms of reference and narrative exposition, in the context of how political culture manages difference and diversity. Accordingly, I want to suggest that El Hage’s be called a diasporic novel,15 and Haikal’s a multicultural novel, precisely because the latter embodies the dilemma involved in transplanting selfhood into a pathological structure of ethnic identification. I am aware that in recent years the term “multicultural literature” has been critically reviewed because its deployment tends to implicitly support a pluralist discourse, blind to asymmetrical distributions of power and access. More significantly, the term has worked to relieve particular communities and related imaginaries from having to consider their ethnic conditioning, or else ethnicity as a field of exchange, rather than a subjective attribute. As Sneja Gunew, a Canadian-based Australian literary and cultural critic, has argued: “If the designations ‘ethnic’ or ‘multicultural’ are to have any real intellectual purchase they would need to include the specific cultural traditions of those whose ethnicity currently remains invisible, that is, the English (including the Welsh, Scots, etc.) and the Irish.”16 This insight, to be sure, requires an attentiveness to the symbolic production and practical deployment of this invisibility. Accordingly, although the term multicultural tends to encompass a reading of literature as authentic accounts of particular, ethnicized historical experience, I want to tentatively insist on the term multicultural literature, at least in respect to the way in which I develop here its circumstantiality. Concerning the notion of diaspora, the distinction between diasporic

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and multicultural further suggests that we define diaspora not simply as a binary other to the homeland, regardless of how homeland is imaginatively processed as a fixed point of departure and potential site of return. As I have argued elsewhere, the concept of diaspora requires us to think of homeland itself as a geographical site caught up in imaginary prisms of diasporic association. 17 This is to say that the journey away from the homeland involves its dispositioning as a fixed location, as it comes to be viewed from elsewhere— a re-view constrained not only by geographical displacement, but also by the way in which such displacement is framed by alternative webs of signification. So that while a multicultural text is embedded in a multicultural dynamic, exploring the pathology of ethnic identification, a diasporic text structures a pathology of desire for the homeland—a pathology, as I want to demonstrate, for which the physical act of going home is always deferred, so as to maintain its emotional and imaginative (im)possibiltity. This is to say that the emotional intensity of the desire to return, along with its investment in a sense of well- or ill-being, only works through a pathological avoidance of its physical satisfaction. Such a complex informs El Hage’s narrative.

II I have suggested that a central aspect of El Hage’s diasporic novel is its textual inventiveness, which straddles and carries over the variability of English languages into a to-and-fro movement across geographical locations. This has an existential parallel. While the protagonist and first-person narrator, Ashraf Saad, has an apartment in London, he is constantly on the move, between Amsterdam, Australia, his hometown Cana in southern Lebanon, the Arabian Gulf, and Paris—each place having significance as a site of transit, a space not to settle into as place but rather to move through. The opening pages of the novel, the Prologue, have an effect of placing the reader in this movement, inducing something of a flutter in the reader’s expectation of direct access to a sense of location, as the narrative obsessively, abruptly skips between Amsterdam, Australia, Rome, and London—drawn through a somewhat unsettled, paratactic parameter of past and present. His former lover’s daughter, Francoise, calls him to ask if they could meet; he hasn’t spoken to her since her mother’s funeral, which he couldn’t bring himself to attend: “Now here she was, telling me she’d have a few hours in London between flights—would I be here”?18 This scene of a meeting between flights is repeated at least twice more in the novel: in Amsterdam when Ashraf takes a taxi to visit Claire’s grave in the cemetery,19 and later again when in Lebanon he takes a taxi to visit his mother in Cana20—in both

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instances quickly returning to the airport so as not to miss his connecting flight. When the customs officer in Beirut asks him if he has anything to declare, he responds: “I declare that I am here in transit. Few hours only.” Lebanon itself becomes a site of diaspora (as it otherwise is for many Palestinians, Kurds, Sri Lankans and Filipinos), an unhomely place that one can visit and traverse from elsewhere, a site that reaffirms diasporic experience, not a haven from it. As I have suggested, a work of diasporic literature, in this case in English, structurally involves this dis-positioning of the homeland and simultaneously invests it with imaginative desire. Such a view offers, it seems to me, a more interesting view of diaspora that has all too often assumed an undifferentiated sense of home in terms of historical, geographical and cultural homogeneity. In the opening pages of the novel, the reader comes to experience a certain dislocation shared by the primary characters Ashraf and Claire. And while a second, more patient reading of the Prologue helps to somehow put the pieces together, the dislocating effect sustains itself well into the novel. Both character and reader cannot overcome an incipient feeling of always being elsewhere. Subtitled, “A Novel of Diaspora and Love,” the desire to be elsewhere is embodied in the figurative association of the airport, the experience of being in transit, always on the way to another part of the world, to another part of the self. With Claire in Amsterdam, his mother in Cana, and daughters in Australia, Ashraf ’s emotional entanglements are spread around the world—an emotional geography that defines his self-understanding. As he tells Claire when they first meet at a conference in Amsterdam: “Being away from loved ones … is a way of life for me. Mother in southern Lebanon, other family and friends scattered around the globe.”21 Diasporic experience, in both physical and imaginative senses, involves an acute awareness of the conventionality of borders and boundaries—that either work to contain and prevent one’s journey, or else figure as points of crossing-over. The novel explores this experience through different forms of love—the love of a son for his mother, the love of a father for his daughters, romantic and physical love, as well as the love of friendship. As Ashraf ruefully says, in the need for and commitment to love, “all boundaries seem to fall.” And yet this emotional geography is processed as a constant movement across space. The love affair with Claire is itself informed by this movement: “From then on Claire and I zigzagged between airports. A weekend, a day, a few hours between flights. A memorable day in her birthplace, Venansault. A holiday in Malta. Four precious days in London.”22 In fact, although like all novels its structure is maintained by a productive split between narrative

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and story,23 whereby time is managed and processed, The Last Migration is oriented rather by the narrative’s ability to process geography and space. Consequently, it is not so much time that informs the way in which the plot unfolds, as the way in which spatial locations are invested with an emotional intensity that is strictly personal and existential (in respect to the character Ashraf, very often bordering on an intense desire for a state of being that would not be riven by time). This could be said about both Ashraf and Claire—the management of a personal experience of space is more significant than the management of time, as spatial parameters are paramount in how a capacity for self-understanding can be maintained and exchanged. As Claire says when refusing Ashraf ’s suggestion that they live together: “Independence is crucial to my work. I can’t live with anyone. Space and silence are like air and water to me.”24 In fact, time remains almost completely fragmentary, a fugitive, circular movement whereby past events and experiences incessantly undermine any sense of the present as a stable point of orientation. “Time doesn’t seem to be moving anymore,”25 Ashraf says to the doctor he visits, relating his sorry story about the loss of Claire. Earlier, when talking to Francoise “about love and time,” Ashraf remarks that “time is irrelevant, almost non-existent, when we are in love.”26 The final pages of the novel are structured through a dream sequence that borders on the surreal, all the more striking because of an all-too-real contrast with historical references to the 1996 Israeli bombing of the U.N. compound in Cana in southern Lebanon, a building in which Lebanese civilians had sought shelter.27 El Hage includes the actual names of many of the victims, as Ashraf goes to the Lebanese embassy in London, joined by other expatriates searching for news about the plight of their families. Ashraf ’s mother, a medic taking care of survivors, sends a note to say that she will come to London. Appropriately, the novel ends in an airplane, with Ashraf, Anna, and his mother on their way to Australia. At 30,000 feet the plane levels off, and time is rehabilitated as a capacity to define a point of departure: “The flight reaches standstill speed and the shell of time is broken and past and future and present dissolve and in the end is our beginning.”28 Although Ashraf had invested in Claire a wayward search for a sense of finality, realized through romantic and physical love, she also embodies the impossibility of this quest for completion. The strength of the novel, it seems to me, lies in how it foregrounds this dynamic—a willingness to accept that in the diaspora people must continually accept themselves as irredeemably incomplete, informed by an abrupt spatial and temporal rupture, transforming their self-understanding into a journey across the fugitive terrain

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of dislocation. “I had no focus of direction,” Ashraf muses to himself at one point: “It was the going itself that mattered.”29 Claire’s characterization, in the form of the diary that survives her, as well as Ashraf ’s symptomatically played-out memory of her, provokes him into self-understanding. Photographs of his family in Lebanon adorn the walls of his apartment in London: “They’re all I have left,” he tells Claire, “My homeland isn’t my home anymore.”30 She responds by saying that “Nostalgia is a terminal disease.” In this way Claire helps to draw Ashraf away from idealizing both the past and the homeland as static, unchanging points of reference, helps him to better approach the possibility of understanding how his search for love is pathologically steeped in a desire for an imaginary homecoming. This desire for home, as I have said, informs how a particular location is translated into a site of imaginary longing for completion, for belonging. The novel demonstrates a basic split that defines diasporic experience: an irreconcilable split between the physicality of homeland and its imaginative transformation as a desired, though impossible, destination. On this theme Avtar Brah has suggested a distinction between homeland as a fixed point of reference and “a homing desire” informing diasporic experience: “the concept of diaspora offers a critique of discourses of fixed origins while taking account of a homing desire, as distinct from a desire for a ‘homeland’.”31 Such a “homing desire” works to shift the notion of homeland from a physical experience to an imaginative sensibility of dislocation, whereby the place of origin becomes itself another site of diasporic association.

III I have suggested that The Last Migration be viewed as a diasporic novel that stages an English language in transit, as well as an existential movement across and between geographical locations, pointing out that an integral aspect of its narrative lies in how it dispositions homeland itself (which can no longer be said to constitute a central site from which diasporas may be surveyed). The narrative processes this movement as a form of escape, whereby the capacity for self-understanding is never anchored in a specific site, but is rather informed by constant flight, always in transit. This is to say that the novel does not position characterization as a site of tension in the context of a specific political culture structuring fields of symbolic attachment and related processes of inclusion/exclusion, or identification/recognition. The novel does not concern itself with the way in which locations are informed by symbolic fields of ethnicized, racialized, or nationalized identifications, but rather floats above these. Whether in London or in Australia where his

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daughters live, two landscapes constituted by colonial and migrant histories, the narrative does not give Ashraf any opportunity to consider political sensibilities of identity, difference, and recognition. Conversely, Haikal’s Seducing Mr Maclean is concerned more with the tensions brought about when faced with the work of not only transporting oneself across cultural geographies and political sensibilities, but of transplanting oneself into a foreign environment, of an initiation of oneself as a foreigner. Lebaneseness or Arabness comes to be experienced as a site of foreignness, as identity and recognition become problematized. Thus, a notable difference to El Hage’s novel is how with Haikal this is explored through assemblages of ethnicity and gender, as the unnamed protagonist/narrator moves within a marginal realm between her parents’ idealized Lebaneseness (defined by them as non-Arab) and a predominant political culture that positions her as an exotic Other. The narrative creatively employs parody to explore the ways in which stereotypical identifications of self and other are structured by and appropriated through fields of power and recognition, ultimately parodying expectations of the reading process itself. Haikal’s novel gives us a sense of how Lebaneseness, more acutely aware of its foreignness as one goes about the work of transplanting oneself into Australia, is constrained to traverse what we could call a nationalist imaginary and an ethnic imaginary—a problematic we can understand in at least two senses: how one learns to trade off Lebaneseness from national to ethnic assemblages of affiliation, and how one’s Lebaneseness is translated into an ethnic assemblage of nationalist affiliation. To complicate this more, it seems to me that it is important to consider how one is constrained to identify as both ethnic Australian and ethnic Lebanese. Such questions, of course, invoke the circumstance of multicultural Australia, in which the trajectory of Haikal’s novel is symptomatically embedded, and which it inventively embodies or carries. It has much to do with the conflict of how one is constrained to conform to a hyphenated identity, to identify as both national and ethnic subject, as Australian-Lebanese (or as I have just said, ethnic Australian and ethnic Lebanese). To be sure, this complex relates to the way in which self- and other-understanding is exchanged amidst various forces, symbolic processes, or predominating narratives structuring the terms by which belonging can be accessed—which also raises the question of unbelonging, as well as the scope of longing for belonging. But before going on to address these themes in Haikal’s novel, I want to briefly outline the historical context of Australian multiculturalism. As a governmental program Australian multiculturalism emerged from the previous regime of the White Australia Policy, which had become

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politically and socially untenable after successive waves of migrants of nonEnglish speaking backgrounds came to Australia in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. These decades can be historically regarded as an uncertain period of transition between, on the one hand, a political culture structured by racialist codes of exclusivity, and, on the other, a reprocessing of difference and belonging according to a code of ethnic inclusion. The former structures a range of governmental technologies and practices informed by notions of White superiority and an interest in purifying the Australian cultural landscape from that which did not fall into standard codes of identification, while the latter embraces cultural difference and diversity as a key aspect of Australian society and culture. As Jon Stratton and Ien Ang argue, “The key to this shift lies in the new emphasis on the productivity of cultural difference—located in ethnicity—rather than in the old emphasis of race as the marker of national cultural limits.”32 To a certain extent multiculturalism arose as a response to an abrupt increase in the diversification of Australian social and cultural life, and as a strategy to maintain the viability of the state to manage national space. At first, governmental policies of assimilation were designed to delimit the visibility of migrants of non-English speaking backgrounds, positioning them as “New Australians” or “Naturalised Australians.” Later, when in the late 1960s and early 1970s migrants themselves began to question the policy of assimilation, pointing out their specific needs as particular communities (in the process constituting a sense of community itself), multiculturalism was introduced as a formal, institutionalized recognition of cultural diversity, backed up by welfare and affirmative action programs. And yet the category of New Australian was transposed into the category of ethnic, reproducing a similar binary framework of assimilation and/or integration. The transition can be termed as a restructuring of a political culture regulated by a productive binary code on which hinges the distribution of power and desire across an identifiable Self and identifiable Other: from a stereotypification and incorporation of the migrant Other as a New Australian, having the capacity to be “naturalized” and assimilated into “the Australian way of life,” to the stereotypification and incorporation of an Ethnic Other under the regime of multicultural Australia. Both political technologies, it should be noted, are similar in that they sow the reproductive terms of White superiority and hegemony. Perhaps the one could be called an inflexible assimilation of Self and Other, while multiculturalism could be termed a more flexible, digestive regime of integration. It is in this context that Haikal’s narrative creatively addresses the predicament of a national-ethnic subject trying to work through the dilemma

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of negotiating Arab/Lebanese identity as a prescribed referent regulated by restrictive codes of association, by both the narrator’s parents and the predominating political culture—both of which fail to recognize the heterogeneity and relational field of such identity, let alone appreciate how she moves in and out of a marginal space in which she tests and explores the tensions involved in negotiating normalizing assemblages of recognition.33 Such assemblages involve a multicultural dynamic in which minorities tend to be ethnicized, while a majority, in practical and imaginary terms of reference, is relieved of having to identify itself under the rubric of ethnicity. So as I mentioned above, the narrator confronts her positioning as an ethnic Lebanese and as a non-White, a positioning which retroactively structures a practical and symbolic appropriation of the multicultural nation in restrictive terms of reference. We can relate this appropriation of the nation to Ghassan Hage’s notion of “White multiculturalism”: “This White belief in one’s mastery over the nation, whether in the form of a White multiculturalism or in the form of a White racism, is what I have called the ‘White nation’ fantasy. It is a fantasy of a nation governed by White people, a fantasy of White supremacy.”34 Of course the fantasy, as I’ve been trying to suggest, works through a curious split by which Whiteness maintains privileged (in)visible forms of reference relieved of having to consider either its ethnic conditioning or its specific ethnic heterogeneity. This fantasy is suggested by that sublime question “where are you from”?—a question that not all Australians are confronted with, but that nevertheless insinuates a sense of unbelonging. Equally sublime is a question posed to Haikal in an interview: when asked whether her husband is Australian, she responds “Yes. So am I.”35 As I said above, the movement between belonging and unbelonging is informed by a dynamic that structures a notion of ethnicity as both specific and general, as both Lebanese and non-White.36 When Mr Whiteside (Haikal no doubt intended the pun), the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Haikal’s novel, patronisingly says to the narrator she is “not typical” of her “ethnic mould,”37 he evokes such a problematic, whereby her ethnicity is affirmed as a basic or essential attribute, proactively reinforcing a binary opposition of White/non-White, or else non-ethnic/ethnic. It seems to me that a reading of the novel through an exclusively existential lens, tending to portray ethnicity as a personal attribute, underestimates this peculiar, productive negativity informing Australian multiculturalism. For example, an early review of the novel remarks on the intimacy it establishes with the reader, saying that the narrator confides “her insecurities … her self created ‘personas,’ her interpretations of

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other’s responses to her ethnicity,” though does not reflect on how ethnicity is structured as a productive negation, as the Other to Whiteness. This leads the reviewer to claim, in a light-hearted manner: “the book is fairly straightforward in its narrative and is not particularly challenging in its structure, assumptions, or language, but is certainly engaging enough.”38 Indeed, early reviews of the novel approach it through a largely humanist concern, engaging universal themes of social and cultural estrangement, or else particular values deemed essential. The following passage from another review manages to do both: It would be possible to read this novel as a riotous satire, but at the cost of ignoring its best qualities—its unsentimental, honest handling of the kind of problems everyone faces as they grow up, only in this case compounded by the difficulties of learning the unfamiliar set of social and cultural skills which are essential in Australian society, without repudiating their own very different family and cultural background.39 Such an approach fails to consider the problematic I outlined above, concerning how ethnicity is conveniently positioned as the Other against which Whiteness defines itself, and how ethnicity is compartmentalized according to hyphenated identities that retroactively work to relieve Whiteness from considering its ethnic condition. I have said that Haikal’s novel explores the tensions brought about when one is faced with having to experience himself or herself as a foreigner, as Lebaneseness/Arabness is carried into, or confronted in, a foreign environment. As the term foreignness suggests (reign of fore-ness), it seems to me that this should not be understood in merely spatial terms, as a movement from one cultural landscape to another, but also as a temporal assemblage in which identity and belonging are implacably provisional, situated as a task to be achieved. This relates to the question of how Arab/Lebanese identity is predominantly structured, narrativized, symbolized and positioned in Australia, and how one is constrained to negotiate such expectations. If in answer to the question “where are you from?,” one answers “Lebanon,” the way in which the answer is received will have been mediated by established imaginaries and sensibilities which have the effect of situating the addressee’s capacity for selfhood in restrictive terms of captivity. It is precisely such expectations and/or imaginaries that Haikal’s novel creatively foregrounds through her use of parody. The narrative thus works to foreground fields of power and desire in which the narrator is positioned as an exotic Lebanese/Arab Other, and how the symbolic force of such

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otherness is managed by the predominating political culture and related modalities of sensibility. And yet Haikal’s narrative also works to deflect this through an introjective lens, exploring how such forces are subjectively processed in accordance to the seductive appeal of identification. When Professor Maclean, the Dean of the Medical School, tells her that she is “very different,” “very exotic,” she is seduced into desiring to answer his call, to somehow fit into his notion of exotic difference. Flattered and excited by his description of her as “different,” she desires to meet his expectations: “That evening I just didn’t want to go home. You can imagine why: not because I was ready to do anything unacceptable with the Professor, I simply wanted to enjoy his impression of me, his gaze.”40 Having to negotiate Maclean’s sexual advances, the narrator plays up to his expectations, as a way in which she can secure for herself a form of recognition that would enable her to enter and share a relational assemblage of power, though to be sure informed by the regulative terms of Maclean’s positional gaze—a positional gaze structured by the cultural capital he has privileged access to and can deploy in his relations to others. But this passage also suggests another interesting aspect of the novel as a whole, which concerns how the narrative works to politicize desire, to demonstrate how desire circulates differentially through a political field structuring various institutional sites. Differentially distributed and appropriated, desire and power sustain fields of political sensibility in and through which identity and self-understanding are exchanged and negotiated, depending on one’s capacity to gain the necessary cultural capital available, one’s ability to appropriate and personalize gendered, class, and/or ethnic currencies of exchange. It is not a question of having or possessing such capacities, but how they work as symbolic forms or social modalities of exchange. As exchange value, we could say, desire need not be restricted to the maintenance of institutional reproduction, but can be appropriated and invested in diverse ways. Indeed, it is precisely how Maclean can have access to and exchange such value that helps him to occupy a position of desire, whereby he can enjoy being a desirable object. While Maclean gathers and deploys this capital, he himself becomes the object of seduction, as the narrator, in order to fit in, plays up to his exoticized expectations, plays out his fantasy of an “Arabian dance of the seven veils.” As Haikal says in an interview: I constructed the main character, the narrator, as the foreigner, the young Lebanese girl, the new comer who brings the goods from the old culture and tries to set them up as the currency for survival in the new

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culture. She negotiates their worth in exchange for acceptance and a new home.41 As I said above, these “goods” are exchanged according to how they measure up to a predominant currency, or standard expectations of Lebanese/Arab Otherness, that works to manage difference. But the point here concerns how the narrator is constrained to appropriate the currency so as to gain access to a cultural materiality that helps her to fit in. In other words, she gives herself up to the terms of her domestication, willingly exchanges herself through her exotic interpellation. As Michael Humphrey observes, this exchange encompassing “recognition by the Other … accepts a simplification, reductionism and homogenisation of the narratives defining social space.”42 It is this subjectifying, affective aspect of giving-oneself-up that is often left out of discussion on how the exotic works to assimilate difference, precisely because the important aspect of agency is left out of consideration. As one writer has it: “The exotic is a symbolic-interpretative element that, among other things, allows members of one social group to understand another social group which they see as different from their own. The cultural difference is thereby assimilated.”43 Beyond, or in tension to, this more epistemologically inflected view, I would rather suggest a phenomenological register whereby the deployment of an exotic sensibility encompasses an exercise of relational exchange. We can thus think of the exotic as a social field in which the seducer is not only seduced by the terms in which they imagine the Other, but also by the other who creatively appropriates and deflects the terms of their appellation or interpellation. It is in this sense that we can understand Haikal’s remark concerning stereotypes, in the context of her narrator’s “discomfort of living in two worlds and not being quite at home in either.” “That discomfort,” she goes on to say, “was made worse by the ignorance of the people around her about her own culture, and the stereotypes she had to fight against or, at times, wear through necessity.”44 In fact Haikal’s novel brilliantly draws attention to stereotypes as domesticating, appropriative and resistant or transformative practices. “My aim,” she points out in the interview I’ve been quoting, “was to subvert the stereotype and expose the reader to the pernicious nature of stereotyping.” Using parody, Haikal’s narrative works to draw attention to the conventional aspects of stereotypes, exposing their value as currencies of exchange, demonstrating how they are deployed as vehicles for the management of a situational exchange across and between Self and Other, and how they circulate through both reproductive sites and exchange currencies of power and desire. By subverting Lebanese/Arab stereotypes—rather than simply

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countering them with alternative or authentically deemed images—the narrative is more concerned with how stereotypes are both employed as normalizing devices and counter-deployed as tactical resistant practices. Such an approach to stereotypes has been given a critical scope by Rey Chow, whose important work on ethnicity draws attention to the function of stereotypes “as a representational device, a possible tactic of aesthetic and political intervention in situations in which the deployment of stereotypes by dominant political or cultural discourses has long been a fact.”45 Certainly, in blurring “the margins of difference,” as Haikal says, her aim in writing the novel was to “open a dialogue about identity, margins, ‘the exotic other’ ”. Part of this is to demonstrate how difference is managed by those who can appropriate and deploy the capacity to do so. This is shown in the encounter I mentioned in my introduction above, when Mr Whiteside solicits the narrator to represent the Lebanese community at a Lebanese cultural festival, suggesting that she give a speech: “There will be journalists and TV commentators. You’d look good on TV. We’re trying to change the image, you know, of the Lebanese, the war, the guerrillas … You’d be great, I can see that.”46 She takes up a lunch invitation from Whiteside, to discuss the possibilities of her involvement with the festival, but only to be confronted with his sexual designs. The situation involves another man and woman, and leads her to reproduce, if only in thought, the stereotype of the lusty, sexually-charged Arab, as she tries to understand the motivations of Whiteside and his associates, “who might be offended by my dirty interpretations of their carefree attitudes.” The incident constrains her to simplify identity between two poles: “But I felt like two—you know, like two people, one local and another imported, and they wrestled in that strange room that afternoon.”47 Again, the narrative presents a complicated notion of desire and seduction as vehicles by which the outsider may gain access to social capital, as she actively plays up to the terms of her calling, turning her foreignness to potential advantage. This suggests a multicultural dynamic informed more by a compartmentalization of difference and diversity. The management of difference involves an intricate network of desire and seduction, whereby Lebanese/Arab identity is held captive by symbolic forms of exchange, as well as introjected and deployed as a struggle for recognition and access to cultural capital. A predominant theme of the novel is to foreground the pathology of Australian multiculturalism and demonstrate certain lines of escape that work through, rather than moralizingly transcend, such processes. Part of this is to draw attention to the way in which identity is caught up in regulative

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practices of power and desire, indeed demonstrate how identity is itself relational, rather than an essential quality. Unfortunately, this interventionist tactic is lost in the reviews, which tend to assert uncomplicated notions of difference and plurality. In this vein the reviewer Magdalena Ball writes: “Seducing Mr Maclean is full of lush descriptions about Lebanese culture, dancing, music, and in particular, food … It is an enjoyable and funny read which touches on an important and rarely treated subject matter by an author whose knowledge of Lebanese culture is extensive.”48 The problem here, of course, is that “Lebanese culture” is essentialized, packaged as a commodity that can be selectively consumed in the multicultural marketplace, underestimating how the novel approaches “Lebanese culture” as a construction and interactive modality structured by Australian multiculturalism and the pathology of ethnic identification.

Notes 1. As will become evident in my reading of Seducing Mr Maclean, I use the term Arabness not as a form of identification (although this is also an important register), but rather relationally, as a process of social and symbolic exchange. Thus to speak of Arabness or Arab identity in relation to belonging is also to speak of how its symbolic force is situated in a dynamic in which a predominating compass of Australian belonging involves both preservative and transformative exchanges of Othering. 2. See A. Batrouney and T. Batrouney, The Lebanese in Australia (Melbourne: AE Press, 1985); and T. Batrouney, “From ‘White Australia’ to Multiculturalism: Citizenship and Identity,” in Arab-Australians Today: Citizenship and Belonging, ed. Ghassan Hage (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2002), 37–62. 3. On the further geographical and cultural compass of literature in English by Lebanese diasporic and exilic writers, see Syrine Hout’s very recent PostWar Anglophone Lebanese Fiction: Home Matters in the Diaspora (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012). 4. This theme has been addressed by the ever-expanding critical literature on Malouf. See, for example, Samar Attar, “ ‘Yearning of Grandsons for a Language the Dead Still Speak’: Exile and the Loss of Language in David Malouf ’s Work,” in Provisional Maps: Essays on David Malouf, ed. Amanda Nettelbeck (Perth: University of Western Australia, 1994); and my essay “David Malouf: Exploring Imperial Textuality,” Postcolonial Text, 2.2 (2006), accessed December 25, 2012, http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/ view/371/811. 5. I address this in my The Fragmenting Force of Memory: Self, Literary Style, and Civil War in Lebanon (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2012). See especially the opening chapter, “Departure.”

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6. David Malouf, A Spirit of Play: The Making of Australian Consciousness (Sydney: ABC Books, 1998), 57–8. 7. Ibid., 59. 8. The influential notion of “structures of feeling” comes from the work of Raymond Williams. See his Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 32–3. 9. Jad El Hage, The Last Migration: A Novel of Diaspora and Love (Melbourne: Panache, 2002). To be sure, El Hage is writing in his second, or perhaps third, language, a remove whose writing practice inflects English language with certain flights of exaggerated prose, which works to destabilize the signifiable force of the language, at least in a provisionary fashion. 10. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “The Politics of Translation,” in Destabilizing Theory: Contemporary Feminist Debates, ed. M. Barrett and A. Phillips (London: Polity Press, 1992), 178. 11. Loubna Haikal, Seducing Mr Maclean (Sydney: Picador, 2002), 196. On the theme of translating oneself by proactively engaging the non-equivalence between languages, see my essay: “Antigone Kefala: Translating the Migratory Self,” Southerly 3 (1999): 151–8. 12. Spivak, “The Politics of Translation,” 179. 13. Elleke Boehmer, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 232–4. 14. Ibid., 241. The notions “double perspective” and “stereoscopic vision” are from Salman Rushdie’s essay, “Imaginary Homelands,” in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991 (London: Granta Books, 1991), 19. 15. In an important distinction between exilic and diasporic, in respect to the Lebanese Anglophone novel, Syrine Hout situates El Hage’s novel as “a prototype of Lebanese diasporic literature.” In her “The Last Migration,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 43.3 (2007), 288. 16. Sneja Gunew, Framing Marginality: Multicultural Literary Studies (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994), xii. 17. See my essay, “Writing Lebanese Diaspora,” Lebanese Diaspora: History, Racism, and Belonging, ed. Paul Tabar (Beirut: LAU Press, 2005), 15–29. 18. El Hage, The Last Migration, 1. 19. Ibid., 26–30. 20. Ibid., 63–72. 21. Ibid., 9. 22. Ibid., 14. 23. What Gérard Genette calls “anachrony,” Narrative Discourse, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980), 36. 24. El Hage, The Last Migration, 14. 25. Ibid., 19. 26. Ibid., 4.

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27. Cana was yet again the scene of another massacre, during the Israeli bombing of Lebanon in 2006. 28. El Hage, The Last Migration, 184. 29. Ibid., 170. 30. Ibid., 82. 31. Avtah Brah, Cartogographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities (London: Routledge, 1996), 16. 32. Jon Stratton and Ien Ang, “Multicultural Imagined Communities: Cultural Difference and National Identity in Australia and the USA,” Continuum 8.2 (1994): 148. 33. Further consideration of the text’s circumstantiality would have to take into account how Arabness has come to be essentialized in recent years in Australia as a violent and troublesome form of Otherness, a construction given further force after September 11, 2001. For a critical engagement with such themes in Australia, see Scott Poynting, Greg Noble, Paul Tabar, and Jock Collins, Bin Laden in the Suburbs: Criminalising the Arab Other (Sydney: Sydney Institute of Criminology Series, 2004). See also my review of this book in the Journal of Intercultural Studies 27.1 & 2 (2006): 249–52. More recently, see Paul Tabar, Greg Noble and Scott Poynting, On Being Lebanese in Australia: Identity, Racism and the Ethnic Field (Beirut: Lebanese American University Press, 2010). 34. Ghassan Hage, White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society (Sydney: Pluto Press, 1998), 18. 35. Michelle Griffin, “A Serve of Lebanese,” The Age, accessed June 2, 2009, http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/10/05/1033538810742.html. 36. On the theme of belonging as an intensive social field of affect, debt and moral economy, see Ghassan Hage, “The Differential Intensities of Social Reality: Migration, Participation and Guilt,” in Arab-Australians Today: Citizenship and Belonging, ed. Ghassan Hage (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2002), 192–205. 37. Haikal, Seducing Mr Maclean, 118. 38. Magdalena Ball, “A Review of Seducing Mr Maclean by Loubna Haikal,” The Compulsive Reader, accessed June 2, 2009, http://www.compulsivereader. com/html/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=210. 39. Review by Gillian Dooley, Writers’ Radio, Radio Adelaide. Broadcast on July 8, 2002, accessed June 2, 2009, http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/dspace/ handle/2328/445. 40. Haikal, Seducing Mr Maclean, 44. 41. Magdalena Ball, “Interview with Loubna Haikal,” The Compulsive Reader, accessed June 2, 2009, http://www.compulsivereader.com/html/index.php? name=News&file=article&sid=211. 42. Michael Humphrey, “Injuries and Identities: Authorizing Arab Diasporic Difference in Crisis,” in Arab-Australians Today: Citizenship and Belonging, ed. Ghassan Hage (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2002), 215.

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43. Stephen William Foster, “The Exotic as a Symbolic System,” Dialectical Anthropology 7 (1982): 21–30. 44. Ball, “Interview,” my emphasis. 45. Rey Chow, The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 53–4. 46. Haikal, Seducing Mr Maclean, 190. 47. Ibid., 195. 48. Ball, “A Review.”

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Chapter 13 I d e n t i t y, Tr a n s fo r m a t i o n a n d t h e A n gl o p h o n e A r a b N ove l Maysa Abou-Youssef Hayward

F o rc e - F i e l d s i d e n t i tY, t ra n s F o r m at i o n a n d t h e . . . . c u t

The term “Anglophone Arab novel” refers to novels written in English by writers of an Arab background. Anglophone Arab writers carry a sense of difference from both their past and their present cultures. Steven Salaita argues that these writers exist in “an inbetween state in which Arab Americans are not quite Arab according to their ethnic brethren in the Arab World and not quite American according to their co-national peers in North America.”1 For Western readers, the term “Anglophone Arab” is, like the term “Arab American,” problematic, not least because it suggests the same over-generalization found in such terms as “Asian” or “Native American.” The term establishes difference, and, as Derrida has shown, difference can be a very robust way to generate—as well as to deconstruct—meanings. Difference is multifaceted, asking for an interpretation, an insertion into the space between two cultures. Moreover, difference offers the promise of an ideology based upon difference or a hybrid of two ideologies. To discuss the cultural politics of the Anglophone Arab novel, I will examine hybridity and the transformation of identity in the novels of three Anglophone Arab writers, Mohja Kahf, Samia Serageldin, and Ahdaf Soueif. These novels share a common purpose in describing and analyzing the process of identity formation that their characters undergo. Hybridity is a dynamic, not fixed, construct and refers to both the product of different positions in the process of becoming something new and the capability of this hybrid form to engender new questions and ideas. A hybrid text has spaces within it to be filled in a process of dynamic supplementation and it opens up spaces within the reader, offering the reader a chance to transform her ideas about her own culture. Dynamic supplementation through difference is a familiar Derridean move. “Différance,” Derrida writes, describing “That Dangerous Supplement …”

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does not resist appropriation, it does not impose an exterior limit upon it. […] This means that différance makes the opposition of presence and absence possible. Without the possibility of difference, the desire of presence as such would not find its breathing space. That means by the same token that this desire carries in itself the destiny of its non-satisfaction. Différance produces what it forbids, makes possible the very thing that makes it impossible.2 Such restlessness, as Derrida describes it, creates the conditions that occur in the reading of texts from other cultures, or, in this case, from points between cultures. The carnivalesque nature of Anglophone Arab writings suggests that multiple interpretive strategies will be appropriate.3 For example, place is important in thinking about mixed identities, and place is connected to dialogics. In the novels I will examine, the characters (like the authors) divide their time between locations, East and West. Time is also at issue in the process of identity formation. An Arab identity is often connected to an earlier time of childhood, whereas in the present, the characters (again like the authors) have relocated somewhere else. Time incorporates a measure of spatial indeterminacy whether in the nostalgia for a previously tranquil sense of selfhood or in the anticipation of a new and unknown way of being (as the characters visit or revisit the Arab world from which they hailed). Finally, language plays a major role in identity formation; writers with a dual identity also face a dual linguistic identity. To explore the act of inscribing and questioning an Anglo Arab identity, I will consider Mohja Kahf ’s The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, Samia Serageldin’s The Cairo House, and Ahdaf Soueif ’s In the Eye of the Sun. I am not seeking fixed interpretations of the novels but rather a sense of play within a dynamic matrix that will help to re-situate our ideas of how writers portray the search for an Arab American or Arab British identity.

Centers and Margins: An Unstable Trope Anglophone Arab writers operate strategically from the margins of the majority culture. The margin is often seen in one of two ways: as a permanent or semi-permanent position at the edge of a culture (I am an outsider and I choose to remain so) or as a kind of new center (from my position on the margin I better understand the culture and so I am at a new center). Moreover, the center/margin construct presupposes a set of dialectics (East/West, Arab/non-Arab, male/female, Muslim/Christian, and so on) and posits a stable sense of selfhood (or of multiple selfhoods), whether in

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the acceptance of either side of the dialectic or in the creation of a hybrid synthesis of both.4 In either case, the image is of an identity relatively fixed in its relation to the culture in which it is formed. A third way of figuring this relation is possible. Anglophone Arab writings may be seen as polycentric. The writers operate not from one single center or point on the margin, but from a multiplicity of centers—perhaps better defined not as centers, but as temporary positions or pivots on which to stand while in search of the next place from which a sense of being may flow forth. Just like the creation of an Arab American or Anglo Arab identity, writing the Anglophone Arab text does not represent the creation of a permanently fixed voice from the margins or the center. Rather these inscriptive acts have for their locus a momentary presence within the Arab, American, or English culture. This writing disrupts the stability of our assumptions about these cultures by defamiliarizing our understanding of immigrant Arab identities. Within these texts, identity formation is not a completed act but is rather the initiation of a process towards understanding Arab American or Anglo Arab culture. The term “pivot” is based on a definition of pivots and centers made by Patrick Murphy in “Prolegomenon for an Ecofeminist Dialogics.” Of his Bakhtinian approach, Murphy writes, The struggle is not to abolish any type of centering but to recognize the relative nature of centers and their dynamic relationship with margins … there are centers and there are centers. One type serves as foundation, cast in stone and rendered immovable on which to stand; the other serves as pivot, a base on which to step and from which to move on to another center-as-pivot.5 The approach rests upon Bakhtin’s analysis of dialogics. In Murphy’s words, dialogics emphasiz[es] the unity of opposites and their interanimating dynamic tension … At the same time it reveals that the most fundamental relationships are not resolvable through dialectical synthesis. … [A]ny “totality” is continuously recognized as already a relativized, temporal centripetal entity in need of centrifugal destabilizing.6 Characters may state a degree of certainty about who they are (or are not) at any one point in time, but they carry within themselves a memory of past changes and a recognition that such changes are ongoing.

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Inhabitants of different Arab nations or Arab ethnic groups are often identified as having certain stereotypical traits, or, put more positively, as sharing certain cultural norms based upon common national, linguistic or ethnic backgrounds. Syrians seem different from Egyptians; Cairenes are unlike Damascenes in a number of ways. We make such assumptions even while we realize that these cultures are scarcely monolithic. Regional and religious differences abound, as do city/country, north/south, male/female, and other distinctions within a culture. While this marking of identity is common, it is dangerous. Steve Salaita points out that, It is important for scholars committed to the cultures and literatures of their own ethnic communities not to totalize our own sensibilities, for our best chance to “dismantle the hegemonic stronghold” lies not in our ability to sneakily launch a rhetorical guerilla attack, but to account for our own overlooked diversities and then inscribe them methodologically in our conversations with those we imagine to be monocultural—and in the conversations we have among ourselves.7 His caution against totalization is well taken; we all use broad categorizations for the sake of convenience, but we should not let the categories override our understandings. To an extent this tendency to totalize, to define by generalization, has carried over into the ways critics often approach those individuals who have a dual cultural identity. When a writer from Arab culture is relocated to an Anglophone one, it might seem that the writer must permanently move from one center (say Cairo or Beirut) to a new center (New York or London, Indianapolis or Durham, Montreal or Detroit). What was once the “Other” place, formerly the margin, becomes a new, fixed center, a new location for new “-isms,” such as Americanism. Since the 1990s, the new center has been seen as occupying a fixed point of hybridity—Arab-American, for example, with the hyphen in place to indicate that this is a singularity, a base from which one could now view the margins (the American world, the Arab world). An alternative formulation has been to hyphenate a specific background—Palestinian-American, Egyptian-American, or Syrian-American. While this formula seems to be an advance on the generalization of “ArabAmerican,” it only compounds the problem by rigidly identifying Arab writers or characters with stereotypes associated with the original country of background. In addition, the concept of fixed centers and margins makes us liable to locate ourselves in a relatively entrenched position. Motion is important with regard to identity. As Nouri Gana has argued, “We need …

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to situate identities in transit, in their flexible relations in the world, rather than in an identificatory and congealing manner.”8 Place is an important element in identity formation, but not in the sense of establishing a fixed, assignable set of attributes.

Place, Dialogics and the Construction of Identity Mohja Kahf presents the role of place in the process of constructing an identity. Kahf was born in Damascus, but raised in the United States, first in Indiana, then in New Jersey. Kahf ’s work—her poetry and fiction, but also her blogs, her lectures, and, particularly, her performances—exemplify a series of perspectives from which to view the mixed elements in her identity as an Arab, as an American, and particularly as a Muslim. Some commentators see Kahf as forging a new identity. Lisa Suhair Majaj, for example, notes that “within the U.S. context, Kahf suggests, the possibilities of cultural fusion and integration exist as an alternative to the stark imperatives of choice … For those “BORN! / INNA YOU-ESS-AY,” return to an old world is not possible and perhaps not even desirable: rather, Arab-American/ Muslim-American identity must be forged here, in the U.S., where “the Nile and the Euphrates/ [pour] into Passaic Valley.” And, Kahf insists, it can be done: “ ‘there’s room here for all of us.’ ” There is, Majaj believes, a “skillful integration of Arab and American identity.”9 While Kahf is certainly aware of the various claims America, the Arab world, Islam, and her own body make on her, there is an alternative to the fixed identity of “cultural fusion and integration” or to the idea that she is forging a universal human identity. In her work on sexuality and religion, for example, as in her column “Sex and the Umma” in Muslim WakeUp, Kahf expresses a constant sense of play and digression. If there is an “ArabAmerican/Muslim-American identity,” this identity is in a constant, dancing sense of motion, pivoting across America, the Arab world, and the Arab American world. And the dance never stops. Fusion seems static and fixed, and Kahf ’s performances offer anything but fixed points, either for her audience or for herself. Such play reverberates throughout The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, even in the details of its structure. Her novel starts each chapter with a quote. The carnivalesque nature of the selection is, in itself, a hybrid movement along a line of thought. From Sue Monk Kidd, to James Baldwin, to Attar and Rumi, the reader is furnished with a tapestry that parallels the emotional and panoramic discourses of the narrative. The panorama of place follows Khadra from the Indianapolis of her childhood, through college, to Syria,

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and then back to the U.S. Throughout, there is a constant interplay between the American and the Arab/Muslim cultures. An example of this interplay between cultures is seen during Khadra’s participation in the Haj: “Here she is,” Afaaf said to them [a couple of Saudi teenagers]. “My American cousin.” “Tifham arabi?” one of the guys asked Afaaf. His ghutra was pushed rakishly back on his head. “Aiwa, bifham,” Khadra retorted. … “Oh,” the guy said. “So … you’re not really American? You don’t speak Arabic with an accent.” No. I’m not really American. I’m an Arab, like you.”… “What kind of Arab?” Ghazi, said, trailing after her. “The Muslim kind,” Khadra flung behind her back. “I mean, what Arab country? I can’t tell from your accent.” It was true—her dialect was a mish-mash of Damascene, Palestinian, and Egyptian, all the Arab accents in the Dawah community. “Syria.” “Ohhh … Syria, huh,” he grinned. “Syrian girls have a reputation.”10 A little later, Ghazi makes a move on her, “pulling her veil down the back of her head and pushing his other hand up against her breasts and his mouth was grazing her now exposed neck. She was squeezed up against the car door, and then he was pushing himself on top of her, his jeaned thighs taut.” After she pushes him off, Ghazi complains, “ ‘What is it—what is the big deal—we’re not doing anything you have to worry about,’ Ghazi said thickly, ‘—we’ve got our clothes on—and you grew up in America—don’t tell me you never do stuff like this in America—’ ” And all of this on Haj. No wonder that when she leaves she is happy to get back. “ ‘Home’—she said, without thinking,” on the airplane back to Indianapolis.11 Some interesting issues arise in this scene. First, Khadra’s claimed Arab identity is immediately called into question: is she “really” an American or an Arab? She states she is the Muslim kind of Arab, as if having the religion as well as the general ethnicity were enough to establish an identity. That is not what Ghazi meant. How could she be “really” an Arab if her linguistic identity as an Arab is called into question? In the Arab world, to be Arab you must also have a nationality. But when she claims a Syrian background, that only leads Ghazi further from understanding her identity—he places her in a sexualized category of girls with a “reputation.” When this representative

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of the Arab world questions Khadra, he leaves her with no “place” to stand on. At the same time, Ghazi obviously wants to fix her identity and to dictate her being. This problematic of positioning is one Michel Foucault explored in Power. Foucault points to the dilemma we face when we are at once called to maintain a fixed identity and to break with or to change that identity.12 Ghazi’s identity inquisition performs the same function that Foucault describes, including a not-very-hidden “injunction to make a break” with her identity through her sexuality—Syrian girls are assumed to be easy. Yet Khadra escapes this placement. She is, like her dialect, a “mish-mash,” which is something different from being a hybrid. Her language and ethnicity, her religion, her sexuality, and even the places of her origins are all put into a carnivalesque play with one another. She finds herself continually pivoting as each potential center for her identity is briefly assumed and then rejected. The emphasis Kahf places on these multiple sources of identity recalls Salaita’s comments cited above, namely that we should “account for our own overlooked diversities.” I will, however, take issue with one conclusion that Salaita draws from this state of affairs. Salaita writes, Let me then focus on the central theme of my argument: that Arab Americans as an ethnic community are marginalized indelibly in English Studies and nearly every other field in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Critics can situate Arab Americans in the same type of multiethnic framework I examined earlier, but eventually Arab Americans must be analyzed based on Arab American dispositions and aspirations.13 On the one hand, Salaita makes, I believe, a tactically necessary move in articulating the need to recognize the differences between the Arab American community and other “marginalized” communities, as well as between Arab Americans and the majority culture. But, on the other, he gestures toward a concrete painting of “Arab American dispositions and aspirations.” A tactical move to create an agenda of difference is not a guarantee that such terms have a fixed counterpart in reality. Following the ideas of Patrick Murphy cited above, I would reject the notion that we should try to define Arab American or Egyptian American as any kind of a new center of identity that has a fixed locus, whether at the center or, as Salaita has it, at the margin. What are the generalized “Arab American dispositions”? What is meant by Arab American “aspirations”? These terms are new forms of the totalization of which Salaita warned. Better to see these new points of identity as a series of pivots, steps on which to stand only long

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enough “to move on to another center-as-pivot,” or, as Barbara Herrnstein Smith would have it, “contingencies” which may not be fixed truths, but are, nevertheless, very powerful markers for our sense of identity.14 Past critics and authors have talked about the process a writer goes through in “becoming an American.” More recently in our immigrant community the question has been of “what it means to be an Arab American.” Now, we are ready to forgo the dogmatic demand for fixed identities and understand Anglophone Arab writing as part of a process, a perspective in which the terms Arab, Arab American, Anglo Arab, American, English, and so on, are all in the process of continual transformation. I do agree with Salaita that “Situating Arab Americans in a multiethnic framework can facilitate a real comprehension of Arab America,”15 as long as we realize that this “real” Arab America is always in flux. Writers explore not a fixed cultural identity, but rather open a series of perspectives, a series of transformations, inviting the reader to view and hypothesize the nature of that identity, while never offering definitive answers to questions the reader might ask. The writer might posit the question “Where are you from?” but may answer with a series of places, asking a reader to follow from one pivot to another, transforming, in the process, the idea of what it means to have an ethnic identity.

Time, Indeterminacy and the Performance of Identity If identification by a fixed place is difficult, time adds further elements of indeterminacy. In these reflections on identity formation, the Anglophone Arab novel acts as a supplement, to use Derrida’s terminology.16 The Anglophone Arab novel erases much of what was previously known (about Arabs, gender, ethnicity, religion, and so on) and creates the presence of that which is not known—and that which we do not even know that we do not know. The novels act as both presence and replacement, generously growing and giving within the space of difference created by these texts. In her essay “ ‘Supplies of Grace’: The Poetry of Mohja Kahf,” on the ArteEast website, Lisa Suhair Majaj writes, I am grounded in both history and alienation. But if it is true that we are ideologically determined, it is also true that our choices allow us a measure of resistance against the larger patterns that map us, a measure of selfcreation. Constructed and reconstructed, always historically situated, identities embody the demarcation of possibilities at particular junctures. I claim the identity “Arab-American” not as a heritage passed from generation to generation, but rather as an on-going negotiation of difference.

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Similarly, in speaking of Arab American literature, Elmaz Abinader cites Majaj as saying that we need not stronger and more definitive boundaries of identity, but rather an expansion and a transformation of these boundaries. In broadening and deepening our understanding of ethnicity, we are not abandoning our Arabness, but making room for the complexity of our experiences.17 This complex process occurs over time, of course, and placing the search for a definite identity within a temporal framework introduces indeterminacy. The feeling of “presence” often elicited in these novels and commented on by the authors is the presence of a sense of difference in terms of place (not Syria, not America) but also a sense of a difference in time, from the past to a shifting now. The past rapidly disappears leaving behind unstable memories and nostalgias, a sense of différance, and not a sense of being, past or present. Derrida asks, “If différance is recognized as the obliterated origin of absence and presence, it would still remain to be known if being, before its determination into absence and presence, is already implicated in the thought of différance.” That turns out not to be so. Derrida turns the notion on its head. If différance is the “project of the mastery of the entity” which is “understood with reference to the sense of being,” then “can one not think the converse?”18 In other words, a sense of différance is where one might hope to unwrap issues of absence and presence, and not the other way around. This is the dilemma Samia Serageldin’s narrator, Gigi, faces in her attempt to rescue an identity from the past, in The Cairo House. In the novel Gigi arrives in Cairo to pick up the pieces of her past life. Gigi says, “I have come back to claim what’s mine, to find out if it is still mine: the past and the future. To discover where I belong.”19 “Who I am” is a matter both of a difference from the past (which seems at first to require a discovery of that past) and a recognition that there will be a future, but a deferred future; in other words, différance. In the first chapter of the novel (in a section entitled “Prologue: The Chameleon” in the 2000 edition), Serageldin writes, [T]he true chameleons are the ones who straddle two worlds, segueing smoothly from one to the other, adjusting language and body language, calibrating the range of emotions displayed, treading the tightrope of mannerisms and mores. If it is done well, it can look deceptively effortless, but it is never without cost. There is no hypocrisy involved, only the universal imperative underlying good manners: to do the appropriate

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thing, to make those around you comfortable. For the chameleon, it is a matter of survival. The image of the chameleon is effective in imaging how an identity can escape being seen as a determining presence (now an absence). By focusing on the verbs involved in this passage on the chameleon, it is easy to see how the idea of a fixed center slips away: “segueing,” “adjusting,” “calibrating,” and “treading a tightrope.” The anticipated source of identity is different from Kahf ’s novel. There the issue is geographic, a matter of place, for forming an identity within the context of America, Arab America, and the Arab world. Serageldin’s novel is concerned with time. She leaves Egypt for college—at a point where her identity is already, to some extent, created. In a 2000 Newsletter article, Serageldin writes: My memories of early childhood are those of a happily hybrid culture: Egyptian cuisine and French governesses; English schools and Nubian doorkeepers; celebrating the Feast of the Sacrifice and licking Italian ices on the beach in a swimsuit. Then one day, when I was a child, in the early sixties, my world came crashing down.20 Serageldin’s recollection points to the fact that even an Arab identity is a hybrid. A scene that describes well the nature of that hybridity occurs when Gigi is looking at pictures of her younger self: The girl watching from the corner, the girl I once was. Where do I start looking for her? In retrospect, she seems to have drifted along like a leaf borne downstream. When could she have changed course? I flip through an album of my own wedding pictures. These photographs are in color, and that difference in itself seems to mark a distinct shift in time and mood … I am looking at a photo of a young bride with a round, sweet face and long, dark brown hair … I can close my eyes and get under the skin of the child of nine, but when I look at the photo of the bride of nineteen it is like looking at a stranger. Somewhere in the intervening years I have lost the key to her thoughts and emotions. Perhaps it is the evolution girls go through in the process of molding themselves in the image of a feminine “other.” … They become strangers to themselves. Years later, a change in their lives can trigger a return full circle, and they rediscover their lost voice.21

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The fluid indeterminacy of identity is clear; the past holds no certainties except that the past must repeatedly be returned to in order to read the present. At the end of her Newsletter essay, Serageldin writes, concerning the publication of her novel: “There was the slight trepidation, for the natural chameleon, of showing her true colors.” One must wonder, however, whether there are “true colors” to be seen or whether we see a rainbow in the constant process of transformation. The active transformation of identity even allows the reader to change as well. Serageldin’s novel asks the reader to reflect on the ways identities are formed, and, through Bakhtinian participative thinking, to question and perhaps change their own identities.22 In the passage cited above, the questions Gigi asks of herself are also asked of the reader who then participates in Gigi’s experience of entering both a distant and a more recent past—the more recent past being the harder to re-establish. The narrator then considers whether this experience may be a general process of evolution. But the evolution is not unidirectional or linear; rather, “rediscovery” requires multiple “turn takings” in hopes of “filling gaps” in her past and present. Serageldin comes back to this image of “turn takings” at the end of the novel, as she writes, “People die inside, every day, and keep up their routine with hardly a stumble or a break. Duty and obligations keep them going round the treadmill. So it will be for me.”23 The treadmill image is not a pleasant “turn taking,” but it does show the constant returning that marks this new form of identity. In the 2005 paperback edition of The Cairo House, Serageldin adds a paragraph not found in the original 2000 edition. In the paragraph are references to the earlier scene of looking at pictures of the past. She writes, Turning a chapter, closing a book. So many metaphors we use for laying the past to rest. I have closed the album of photographs, but the images crowd my head; perhaps one day I will find a way to reconcile the past with my present. Perhaps Egypt, and the Cairo house, will be more real to me, in that town of snow-capped steeples and hockey rinks, than it would have been if I had stayed on in Zamalek. I will find it easier to conjure it from a distance …24 In other words, her ability to sense her self depends on constant shifts in time (as represented by the photographs) and place (Cairo and the U.S.), from one center-as-pivot to another. The life and death metaphor extends beyond space and time. Living while already feeling dead ironically deconstructs the very notion of how we see our lives; moreover, it creates a transformational

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moment for readers to revisit an already situated knowledge of what life means. In such a questioning process, readers join the narrator, the text, and the author in attempting to interpret a once fixed notion that becomes unstable. Seeking definitive ideological stances becomes impossible. There will always be a shifting in our continual re-conceptualizations of self. In the creative act, authors undergo a transformative shift in their process of self-understanding. Serageldin, in a May 2007 email to me, wrote, First novels in general tend to be memoirs in disguise. In the case of a hyphenated writer like myself, the typical journey in time has the specificity of being also a journey in space, geographic and cultural. Subsequent works of fiction reflect the transition from the past to the future, exploring the transplanted writer’s context in the country of adoption. Many of the short stories I wrote following The Cairo House are set in the United States; those written after September 11 reflect the seismic shift in selfawareness that inexorably affected every Arab-American, and particularly writers, when the intersection of the political and the personal became painfully inevitable. As Serageldin states, September 11 marked a change in the effects of time on the process of Arab American identity formation. Prior to that event, time could be personal, as it is in the case with Gigi and the photographs from her past. September 11 created a fixed point of definition (at least momentarily fixed) for Arab American identity in which the personal and political became intertwined. The date has tied the two cultures together more closely than would have been possible otherwise. This may be one of the openings that Serageldin uses to move beyond a quest for self identity. Later in the email she speaks of her more recent work, which shows an “evolution of a writer from opening a window on her ‘otherness’ to turning her gaze on American society.” Although Serageldin opened her email by claiming to be a “hyphenated writer,” the conclusion shows what it may be like in a post-hyphenated world, a world in which those who share a dual identity have moved beyond fixed definitions marked by hyphenation. The “evolution” is really a process of empowerment, as she goes from being an object of the gaze of others in the “window on her ‘otherness,’ ” to being fully empowered and able to turn her own gaze upon American society. The first step consists in acknowledging and “opening a window” on her “’otherness’ ” as an Arab American, or, more specifically, as an Arab American woman. Recognition of otherness, however, does not rest there, in a fixed awareness of a self defined by the majority culture. The writer does not only

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act from the margins, but creates a disruption of a stable order at the center. Serageldin uses the term “gaze” to highlight the power that she may hold over the culture at the point of pivot on which she may be (temporarily) centered. There is a political power in calling into question the ability to define an Arab identity in American or English society. Control is much easier when the persons or groups of people to be controlled are well defined. Even in a post-9/11 world, where identifications seem to be formed by world events (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, the War on Terror), the sense of self that emerges is by no means only formed in reaction to political events.

Linguistic Determinants of Identity Like Samia Serageldin, Ahdaf Soueif grew up in Egypt. She studied in both Cairo and England and eventually settled in England. Soueif, like the other two writers, is concerned with questions of identity that emerge from a movement across two cultures. Soueif ’s novel In the Eye of the Sun follows Asya, an Egyptian moving between Egypt and England. In her pursuit of a Ph.D., Asya undertakes a parallel journey of self-questioning. In the Eye of the Sun is situated between East and West. For some critics, such as Susan Muaddi Darraj, this creates a locus for the formation of a hybrid identity. Darraj writes, “Is Soueif then an English writer or an Egyptian one? Is there room to be both in the current literary landscape? Despite being a culturally sandwiched artist, caught in the middle of an East-West face-off, she seems to have created a hybrid identity that, in turn, complements both her English and Egyptian roots.”25 An “East-West face-off,” however, suggests monolithic cultures on either side, which do not really exist. A more strategic view sees that the tensions between the two sides are themselves driven by both internal and external ideological fragmentation, and not by a simple dialectics of place. Asya is studying for a degree in linguistics, analyzing language, while she was, ironically, forced to display the plural languages of her own self. In one scene, a phonetics professor asks Asya to present examples of sounds for non-Arabic speaking students. The exercise causes her to negotiate, within herself, the illocutionary force of words occupying her mind and heart: “There is a sound in Arabic that is like an ‘h’ only from lower down in the throat, isn’t there?” “Yes.”

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“Could you say a word that has it?” “Haraam.” “Ah! Did you hear that? Say it again.” “Haraam.” “And listen to that second vowel sound. Again.” “Haraam.” “Thank you … Now, Asya, please, the sound that in English is represented as ‘kh.’ Could you say a word that has that in it?” “Khiyana.” “Again. Clearly.” Asya can hear her voice in the silence of the classroom. “Khiyana.” The sounds she makes start to seem odd to her. Odd sounds without meaning. Nobody is writing or doing anything … “And there is the sound represented by ‘q’ which involves the same process as the ‘k’ but further down the throat?” Asya tries “Qur’an” but the word won’t come. The class is waiting. She tries “qaf,” but her voice just won’t come. The lecturer thinks she can’t find a word, or can’t pronounce the difficult consonant. He says, “Well, can you say your name? For the vowels and stresses?” But that is the most difficult of all. She knows it will be impossible. She shakes her head.26 Asya’s choice of her exemplary words is significant. “Haraam” means “forbidden” in both a religious and a cultural sense, but is also used colloquially to mean “not fair”; “khiyana” may be translated as “betrayal,” especially in terms of marital relationships. Asya is involved in an affair and her sense of self is complicated by her feelings of guilt that are embodied in these words, although the words could also refer to her sense of being betrayed by an unfair life. Her inability to utter the word “Qur’an” or even the letter “qaf ” which begins “Qur’an” indicates her inability to situate her religion with her self. Finally, she finds it “impossible” even to say her name. The performance (or non-performance) of these words indicates a disturbed, perhaps traumatized, self facing multiple missions: her dissertation, her marriage (interrupted by the affair), and the process of identity formation she is undergoing.27 The process of identity formation is forged in language, or in an interaction between languages (Arabic and English) and a continuously emerging sense of self. The scene also offers the Western reader the opportunity to

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stand within this process without knowing the full meanings of the terms involved. Qur’an and “haraam” may well be understood—but not the word “khiyana,” which will only be grasped by a reader of Arabic. Soueif cuts the reader adrift, as is Asya, among languages and words that are partially grasped but not fixed markers in the structure of her, or the reader’s, sense of self. The “mish-mash” of self that Kahf used to describe her lack of identity arises in part from the fact that language is not a mark of fixity. Asya uses language to explore her identity, but cannot arrive at a fixed identity through language. Even such a device as a camera, which seems to promise the ability to fix a moment, or a self, in time, is illusory. In The Cairo House, Serageldin uses a motif of photographs to suggest that although a self may be momentarily fixed or centered, time will ensure that change will happen. The self is only at a pivot, a moment of transition. In the conclusion to In the Eye of the Sun, Soueif presents a similar scene in which Asya faces the multiple senses of self across time in photographs: Home. On the wall above the mahogany and ormolu cabinet Uncle Sidki clasps the hand of a smiling Gamal ‘Abd el-Nasser. . . . Tante Muneera looks up at the camera from beneath the little hat of black tulle and, on the opposite wall, Uncle Sidki still clasps the hand of the President. But it is not only in photographs that time is arrested; it is also arrested in the mind—even though it continues to flow. . . . How can one keep up with it all? It is like—like—Asya closes her eyes as she tries to concentrate, to capture the thought. It is as though the brain were a split screen, one half examining a frozen frame, a moment where time has stopped, the other vaguely registering the continuation of the action; storing up the passing frames for closer inspection later.28 In responding to Soueif ’s novel, the reader is similarly in the position of a “split screen.” Identity may be held in place at selected points in time and space—but at the same time, identities are always in play, always in the process of transformation. Another photograph at another time might show a different person in a different set of circumstances. In his conclusion to Imaginary Homelands, Salman Rushdie invites his readers to imagine that they are in a “rambling house” in which they discover an unimportant room that has voices. He then asks us to see literature as “the one place in any society where, within the secrecy of our heads, we can hear voices talking about everything in every possible way.” Anglophone Arab writings are populated by these voices that interpellate the author and

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the reader in a transformative act that goes beyond dogmas. Rushdie justifies our attraction to that room by arguing, “It is that we, all of us, readers and writers and citizens and generals and godmen, need that little, unimportantlooking room. We do not need to call it sacred, but we need to remember that it is necessary.”29 Anglophone Arab novels have the potential to liberate ideas of fixed identities. Readers of these novels may join in that hybrid conversation, that “mish-mash” of selves, and engage in an ongoing dialogue, posing a sequence of questions, the answers to which give birth to yet more questions.

Notes I wish to thank Nouri Gana for his careful reading of and helpful comments on an earlier draft of this essay. 1. Steven Salaita, Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures, and Politics (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 124. 2. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 143. 3. As Bakhtin argues: “Carnival is a pageant without footlights and without a division into performers and spectators. In carnival everyone is an active participant, everyone communes in the carnival act. Carnival is not contemplated and, strictly speaking, nor even performed; its participants live in it, they live by its laws as long as those laws are in effect; that is, they live a carnivalistic life. Because carnivalistic life is drawn out of its usual rut, it is to some extent ‘life turned inside out,’ ‘the reverse side of the world.’ ”Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. In Theory and History of Literature, vol. 8, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 122; emphasis in the original. 4. Joane Nagel examines this issue of the dialectical construction of multiple senses of ethnic identity: “As the individual (or group) moves through daily life, ethnicity can change according to variations in the situations and audiences encountered. Ethnic identity, then, is the result of a dialectical process involving internal and external opinions and processes, as well as the individual’s selfidentification and outsiders’ ethnic designations—i.e., what you think your ethnicity is, versus what they think your ethnicity is. Since ethnicity changes situationally, the individual carries a portfolio of ethnic identities that are more or less salient in various situations and vis-à-vis various audiences. As audiences change, the socially-defined array of ethnic choices opens to the individual changes. This produces a ‘layering’ (McBeth 1989) of ethnic identities which combines with the ascriptive character of ethnicity to reveal the negotiated, problematic nature of ethnic identity.” Joanne Nagel, “Constructing Ethnicity:

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5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.

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Creating and Recreating Ethnic Identity and Culture,” Social Problems, 41.1, Special Issue on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in America (1994): 154. Murphy, Patrick D. “Prolegomenon for an Ecofeminist Dialogics,” in Feminism, Bakhtin, and the Dialogic, ed. Dale M. Bauer and S. Jaret McKinstry (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991), 51–2. Murphy, “Prolegomemnon,” 40. Salaita, Arab American, 144. Nouri Gana, “Of Contrapuntology: Said’s Freud,” Theory & Event 7.2 (2004). Lisa Suhair Majaj, ‘“Supplies of Grace”: The Poetry of Mohja Kahf,” Arte News, ArteEast, accessed December 16, 2012, http://www.arteeast.org/artenews/artenews-articles2006/september06/artenews-mohja-kahf.html. Mohja Kahf, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2006), 174–6. Khaf, Girl, 177–9. Michel Foucault, Power, trans. Robert Hurley, ed. James D. Faubion, 1979 (New York: New Press, 2000). Salaita, Arab American, 144–5. See Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). Salaita, Arab American, 145. Rather, these writers carry a sense of difference from both their past and their present cultures. Marvin Carlson summarizes Derrida on this point: “The concept of the supplement, as theorized by Derrida, provides a new way of thinking about several of the key paradoxes which bedevil theories of performance as illustration, translation, or fulfillment. Derrida insists upon two separate, somewhat contradictory, yet equally essential significations of this concept. First, the supplement ‘adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of presence. It cumulates and accumulates presence.’ Second, it ‘adds only to replace. It intervenes or insinuates itself in-the-place-of; if it fills, it is as if one fills a void.’ ” Marvin Carlson, “Theatrical Performance: Illustration, Translation, Fulfillment, or Supplement?” Theater Journal 37.1 (1985): 9. Elmaz Abinader, “Children of Al-Mahjar: Arab American Literature Spans a Century,” accessed December 16, 2012, http://www.aafusa.org/children_of_ almahjar.htm. Derrida, Of Grammatology, 143. Samia Serageldin, The Cairo House (London: Harper Perennial, 2005 [2000]), 4. All references are to the 2005 Harper Perennial edition. Samia Serageldin, Newsletter, accessed September 15, 2009, www.thecairohouse.com. Serageldin, Cairo House, 57–58. According to Roger Allen, the novel “sees the world through the eyes and angst of the individual,” “Literary History and the Arabic Novel,” World Literature Today 75.2 (2001): 211.

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23. Serageldin, Cairo House, 308. 24. Ibid. 25. Susan Muaddi Darraj, “Narrating England and Egypt: The Hybrid Fiction of Ahdaf Soueif,” Studies in the Humanities 30.1–2 (2003): 92. 26. Ahdaf Soueif, In the Eye of the Sun (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), 353–4. 27. Waïl Hassan arrives at a similar conclusion regarding language. He writes, “While derivation rules generate the forms, the semantic logic informed by a distinctive world view gives them their meanings and connotations.” Waïl Hassan, “Agency and Translational Literature: Ahdaf Soueif ’s The Map of Love,” PMLA 121.3 (2006): 758. 28. Soueif, In the Eye, 763. 29. Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991 (New York: Viking Press, 1991), 429.

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Chapter 14 Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine: A D r u z e N ove l a s Wo rl d L i t e r a t u re ? Michelle Hartman

F o rc e - F i e l d s ra b i h a la m e d d i n e ’ s i ,

the divine

One of the most formally experimental novels written in English by an Arab author, Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters is a cosmopolitan literary work open to multiple readings in diverse contexts. Its subtitle is a skillfully executed gesture to Italo Calvino, underpinning how its narrative arc is constructed through the discarded first drafts of Sarah Nour al-Din’s unfinished memoir of her fragmented life moving between Beirut, San Francisco and New York. The novel is written largely in a fast-paced American English and deals with themes and issues ranging from the Lebanese civil war to Lebanese/Arabs in the Diaspora to Arab American life to exile more generally. It is a feminist story that both includes important gay and lesbian characters and questions the values and norms of traditional Lebanese society. I, the Divine explores elements of Druze history and faith as well as the life of a seemingly rootless, nomadic Lebanese American woman. This broad reach is partly why the novel readily lends itself to interpretation within the framework of “world literature.” I, the Divine is also so interesting, however, because at the same time as it is interpellated within this global set of readings, it also can be labeled in more constricted ways. For example, it is a Lebanese novel, an Anglophone Arab novel and an Arab American novel. Here, I will take up what might seem to be an even more parochial or restrictive label—a “Druze novel”—in order to explore the tensions between this very specific identity and a world literature framework. In what follows I will argue that these two seemingly contradictory approaches are not in fact incompatible and I will show how these two rubrics can interanimate each other.

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The Druze Novel At the very outset of this chapter I would like to underline that in reading I, the Divine in this way I am not interested in laying out a set of criteria for what a Druze novel may or may not be, or to promote this as a valid or invalid category of analysis for literature.1 Moreover, I am not concerned here with this work’s “Druze content” per se. I have chosen here to focus on what might seem to be a limited identity label in order to explore the kinds of textual and political work that the protagonist’s Druze identity is doing in the novel. This will allow me to probe its boundaries as well as the ways in which it might resist or complement a broader world literature framework for analyzing the novel. Few literary works might be defined as “Druze novels” either explicitly or implicitly. Though in the last ten years a number of novels with Druze characters, themes and imagery have been published within the transnational Lebanese context, this is a relatively recent phenomenon.2 This community has rarely been represented in creative literary works by Druze or non-Druze authors, either from Lebanon or elsewhere.3 There has been, however, a long history of interest in the Druze by outsiders; this has produced a copious bibliography of works.4 The Druze community has long been portrayed as mysterious, secretive and one of the most exotic or “different” minority groups inhabiting the region.5 It is not difficult to believe that this history of (mis)representation is perhaps partly what has led to the reticence on the part of authors to depict this community in fiction read mainly by non-Druze. The problematic representation of the Druze community is compounded by literary studies of the region that have been heavily biased towards reading literary works mainly for content.6 Studies have proliferated in the field that emphasize the exoticism of works from the region, privilege their contexts and histories to the exclusion of their form and literariness and see them as sources of transparent ethnographic information. This has meant that literary techniques, strategies and at times even value have been obscured in favor of explanation and contextualization. Therefore in reading I, the Divine as a Druze novel, I will question how this history affects the work and my analysis of it. Do elements of I, the Divine that inscribe a Druze identity in it simply lend an exotic flavor to the text? What are the politics of “Druzeness” as it is expressed in the novel? Does its Druze identity expressed in American English lend the text an air of difference by subjecting it to an outsider’s gaze? How does it treat the tropes typically deployed in relation to Druze identity—a village setting, the pronunciation of the Arabic letter “qaf,” reincarnation, the specificities of marriage

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and divorce customs and so on? Below I will show how Alameddine’s novel negotiates these issues by claiming a Druze identity at the same time as it resists presenting straightforward ethnographic descriptions of the Druze community. Far from mining the text for its “Druze content,” therefore, this interpretative framework allows us to probe the boundaries and limits of the narrow literary categorization of Druzeness, the broader definition of world literature, and how these two can be used to inform each other.

Towards a World Literature Approach Particularly as it is a novel so clearly and self-consciously invested in its form, I, the Divine should not be analyzed merely in relation to its content and what it can tell us about Arabs, Lebanon, Lebanese Americans, the Druze, or their experiences.7 Moreover, a focus on form and literary technique in Arab American fiction is needed within the still emerging field of Arab American literary studies that has been occupied charting this newly popular and expanding—though surely not new—category of literary production.8 This chapter therefore takes up the challenge of the novel’s form to drive its analysis, exploring the mutually constitutive relationship between content and form in the work. Far from denying the politics of the text, I will explore how the form used in this novel itself constitutes a politics of literary expression. Alameddine’s use of the device of the first chapters to destabilize fixed and static notions of truth, I propose, can be read in parallel with the similarly multiple identities of the protagonist. Different metaphors, such as “split vision,” have been employed to capture the affective experience of existing and moving between worlds in Arab American fiction.9 Many critics have worked with the concept of hybridity in order to theorize this phenomenon in the discussion of literary works that move between places, languages and identities, particularly diasporic/exilic works.10 This is even true in a recent study of I, the Divine itself.11 Here, I argue against an interpretative framework built upon the notion of hybridity. I propose that it is a limited concept when it comes to understanding literary identity construction because it posits “sides” of a self that are inherently different and which must somehow be cobbled together. I will show how I, the Divine allows us to conceive of multiple identities differently—not as opposed parts that are fused together but rather as simultaneously coexisting within the protagonist, overlaying each other at the same time. In order to show this, I use the abandoned first chapters of the putative memoir of Sarah Nour al-Din as a metaphor for identity construction in the novel. The discarded first chapters all coexist side-by-side, labeled as opening

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chapters; they therefore are equal in importance to the novel’s progression. Though they are ordered in a hierarchy because one numbered page follows another, they are meant to exist simultaneously, at least in artifice. I argue here that identities are inscribed in the text in much the same way—offering us a definition of Druzeness, Americanness, Lebaneseness and so on, that is open, fluid and constantly in the process of constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing itself. Sarah Nour al-Din’s experiences of exile, multiple identities and moving between worlds reside within her as a creative tension that is one reality; she is an example of how many elements compete for preeminence in each of us simultaneously. At different moments different identities may be the most important to us and come to the fore, but all of the affiliations also constantly reside within us—not necessarily peacefully, but not necessarily as inherently opposed. Thus, rather than read identities in this novel as pitting the Lebanese against the American, the Arab against the exile, the Druze against the non-Druze or the local against the global, I will show how I, the Divine layers these identities together into one unified whole, by using the formal device of the first chapters to underline the contested and multiple versions of any given truth or reality, just as it does for specific given identities. I will take the intersection of gender and Druze identity in I, the Divine as a point of departure to begin understanding how these insights might help to propose a vision of world literature. If world literature is a “mode of reading” to engage “worlds beyond our own,” a “refraction of national literatures” and writing that gains in travel and translation, as David Damrosch would have it, Alameddine’s work would seem to be an ideal test case for such a framework of analysis.12 I will show below how what seems to be the narrowest identity for the text and protagonist—as Druze—actually allows them to claim a worldly, broader meaning. Its particular refractions of the “national,” here expanded to include the communitarian/religious identity of the Druze, are a particularly effective expression of the kinds of processes described by Damrosch. I, the Divine can also help to revise some of the parameters he sets out for world literature, for it can be read effectively in this mode not only in that it travels and translates well “outside its home” but that in fact it does not posit one static “home” or origin. Its conscious attention to the protagonist’s many homes and origins layered atop each other in the subsequent first chapters allow for more than one refraction of nation and origin as it looks to multiple reference points.13 This itself is a deeply political statement: I, the Divine undermines the textual authority that comes with one coherent narrative voice. Though Sarah Nour al-Din’s voice predominates as the (non-exclusive) narrator, the

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multiple first chapters genuinely challenge one hegemonic vision of reality being presented univocally. This combination of elements, as I demonstrate below, allows the novel to help us think through the possibilities for multiple coexisting identities in literary works, offering a new framework for thinking about the Arab novel—and the Druze novel—in English as world literature.

Ironic Nostalgia: The Grandfather-Granddaughter Relationship I, the Divine invokes the legendary figure of the diva Sarah Bernhardt in its title, binding her together with the text’s protagonist Sarah Nour al-Din from its outset. The imagined relationship between these two women, reinforced by the title, overcodes the entire work; frequent references to Bernhardt, including many that label her “the Divine Sarah” underline this. This title, however, also emphasizes the importance of the protagonist’s grandfather to the novel. According to the story, he both named her and also cultivated her interest in Sarah Bernhardt. He also is the person through whom Sarah hears stories about Druze history and experiences her identity as a Druze. In this section, I will explore the relationship between Sarah and Hammoud Nour al-Din in order to show how the grandfather-granddaughter relationship is used in I, the Divine to map out some of the complexities of how a Druze identity and a cosmopolitan identity can coexist and shed light on each other. The reader begins the novel with the understanding that Sarah Nour al-Din is named by her grandfather Hammoud for Sarah Bernhardt. His obsession with her is recounted in many different ways in the text and this bit of family lore is well established by less than halfway through the novel. However, like so many other details in the work, this particular version of the “truth” may not be true. The reader is compelled to question this, particularly with the introduction of the Druze Sarah. Whoever Sarah’s true namesake is, her relationship with her grandfather nonetheless frames the entire novel. The work opens, “My grandfather named me for the great Sarah Bernhardt. He considered having met her in person the most important event of his life. He talked about her endlessly. By the age of five, I was able to repeat each of his stories verbatim. And I did. My grandfather was a simple man.”14 The first of the novel’s first chapters opens with the naming of Sarah, an oblique reference to the work’s title, and—crucially—emphasizes the importance of Sarah Bernhardt to Hammoud Nour al-Din’s life. This opening of Sarah’s putative memoir emphasizes the grandfather more than it does Sarah herself, both opening and closing with statements about

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him. Indeed, the last sentence in this paragraph— “My grandfather was a simple man”—allows us a window into how Sarah thinks about this man who is so important to her. The lack of punctuation after this short, declarative sentence emphasizes its open-endedness. Indeed here the narrator seems to have trailed off from the thought that she had begun expressing. This piques the reader’s curiosity: will she continue with more stories about the grandfather’s simplicity? Or is the grandfather not so simple at all? What kind of a man is Sarah’s grandfather? If we see this grandfather-granddaughter relationship as a metaphor or metonym for the protagonist’s relationship to Lebanon, it also reconfigures the kinds of family relationships that have more typically functioned this way in Lebanese literary works written in English and French and other Arab American literature more generally. For example, fiction and poetry by Arab American writers—women writers in particular—have tended to privilege using the figure of the grandmother as the positive symbol of the distant homeland, evoking a nostalgia for this place.15 Another classic configuration of a familial relationship frequently employed as a metonym for the exilic state is the father-son or father-daughter relationship.16 This tension both invokes but also reworks nostalgia, drawing on the generational conflict in situations of emigration and exile. Syrine Hout has shown how the son’s rebellion against his father is expressed in several exilic Lebanese novels to allow for an ironic distance to the nostalgia which has permeated so many of these fictional works.17 Few authors, however, have explored the relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter. This relationship can draw upon both the nostalgic symbolic power of a kindly, older person such as we see in the grandmother-granddaughter bond, but also represent the generational issues between fathers and sons/daughters with the added angle of the gendered tensions of a father-daughter relationship. The nostalgia for tradition as well as a mythic past can therefore be inscribed right alongside the tension between generations and given a particularly gendered twist in the grandfather-granddaughter configuration. Below, I will show how the protagonist’s identity is constructed through this grandfather-granddaughter relationship, reading it through the framework of Druze identity. This relationship undergirds not only the protagonist’s sense of self, but indeed the very foundations of the text. By reconfiguring the familial relationship that is used to symbolize the complexities of homeland, exile and identity, Alameddine resists nostalgia for an idyllic Druze Lebanon, reimagining this for Sarah Nour al-Din through a feminist lens. Hammoud Nour al-Din represents patriarchal, traditional mountain Druze Lebanon but transgresses this identity even as he upholds it. For example,

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he moves beyond being an isolated Druze mountaineer in his idolization of Sarah Bernhardt, and in the early pages of the work this allows Sarah to feel that she can resist traditional female roles. As their relationship is shown to be increasingly complex and problematic, Alameddine uses it as a device through which Sarah learns to value her relationship to Lebanon and her Druze identity differently, ultimately depicting this as a feminist act. This does not develop immediately, however. The formal device of constructing the novel through first chapters means that the complexities of the situation are teased out slowly, coming to light much as they might do in a real-life family fraught with all the intertwined issues such relationships endure. The disjointed narration allows the reader to remain confused about Sarah’s situation, much as she herself was confused as a child growing up and coping with such contradictions. Sarah’s defiance of the kinds of roles imposed upon women and girls is defined from the outset of the novel as supported by her grandfather. Throughout the beginning first chapters of the book, we see Hammoud Nour al-Din as a doting grandfather who allows Sarah to live a very different sort of life than that of many of the girls around her. Indeed at first it seems as though Alameddine might be reversing the reader’s expectation that a selfdescribed “tomboy” and a patriarchal, traditional grandfather would have a conflictual relationship. Sarah lets us know that she experiences the censure of many Lebanese people because, “As a child, I was a tomboy, unaware of how girls were supposed to behave. I became a good soccer player. I excelled at mathematics in school. I wore dungarees and tennis shoes.”18 She credits her grandfather’s support with allowing her these liberties. Sarah identifies him clearly as one of the reasons that she was able to rebel against the social norms that applied to girls, because he so often reminded her that she was named for Sarah Bernhardt, I grew up believing I was the Divine Sarah. I could do anything I wanted. This gift from my grandfather was the greatest bestowed on me. Growing up female in Lebanon was not easy. No matter how much encouragement parents gave their daughters, pressures, subtle and not so subtle, led girls to hope for nothing more than a good marriage. Being the Divine Sarah, I was oblivious to such pressures, much to the consternation of many.19 This passage shows the empowerment that Sarah feels that her name gave her, allowing her to be different and play the role of tomboy. This very particular understanding of how Sarah develops her personality and persona as a rebel, flaunting Lebanese as well as American social norms, is revised

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constantly through the texts. It is notable in this regard that Alameddine stresses that Sarah is viewed as unconventional in San Francisco as well as Beirut—this is not simply a story drawing upon a tired trope of an Arab woman being liberated by Western social conventions. The continual rewriting of her life experience through first chapters indeed gives the reader a window into competing narratives of how different ways of recounting her story still lead to the same Sarah Nour al-Din. For example, there is no mention in this passage that she was allowed to be different and rebellious because she was born of an American mother. Perhaps she was allowed to pursue her affiliation with a figure like Sarah Bernhardt because her mother was always perceived of as an outsider and so she was not treated in the same way as other girls. We learn later as well that she was the youngest of the three daughters who were cut off from their mother when she was divorced from their father and left Lebanon; perhaps she was indulged in certain eccentricities for this reason. What I would emphasize here is how the formal device of the first chapters builds layers of competing realities. This forces the reader to confront not only the protagonist’s multiple versions of “truth,” but also how all of them are linked to the lasting importance of the name Sarah embedded in the work’s title. The passage cited above reveals how the name Sarah is more ambiguous than it first seems. It is notable here that she does not claim that she is Sarah Bernhardt specifically, but rather refers only to the nickname “the Divine Sarah.” I highlight this because I will argue below that it is crucial how the two Sarahs that hover above the narrator—Sarah Bernhardt and the Druze Sarah—become conflated later on. Referring to her in this way foreshadows both this conflation and the irony inscribed within it.

A Cosmopolitan Druze Identity Hammoud Nour al-Din’s role within the opening chapters of the novel is both that of a traditional, patriarchal Druze man and one who encourages his granddaughter to identify with a European diva and star of the stage. This challenges stereotypes about what a traditional Druze patriarch might be like and shows him to be a cosmopolitan figure, much like Sarah herself. In these sections of the text, we see that Hammoud appreciates Bernhardt’s art as well as her transnational appeal when he participates in the adulation of a worldwide star. The constant invocation of Sarah Bernhardt is one reason for I, the Divine’s ability to circulate as a work of world literature in the global marketplace. Indeed, part of the book’s cosmopolitanism is linked to its ability to reach across many divides, as we see embodied in the

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character of Sarah. The fact that Sarah’s grandfather is also able to do so demonstrates an interesting element of how reading the work’s relationship to Druze identity furthers its transnational identity. In one of the instances where Hammoud tells Sarah about her purported namesake the dialogue illustrates this while putting down the traditions of other religious groups, “Always. She was the Divine Sarah. She came on stage and the guy in the dress cried and cried like a little girl because Sarah was so good. Now, people from all over the world, from Brazil, from China, from Africa, they all go to Grandchamp just to see the school where the great Sarah went on stage for the first time. Nobody remembers the stupid nuns or the guy in the dress. They just want to see where the Great One began. It’s a pilgrimage. You know what a pilgrimage is?” “Yes. Like Mecca.” “Yes. Like the silly Muslims who go to Mecca and walk in white dresses”.20 By locating Grandchamp as a pilgrimage site for people from all over the (Third) world, Sarah’s grandfather emphasizes how Sarah Bernhardt brings people together. At the same time that he extols the achievements of Bernhardt’s mass appeal and bringing a diverse group of people together, however, he himself denigrates religious people who make their own pilgrimages. This line could be read as a way in which Hammoud distances himself from Muslims in particular, making fun of the Hajj and the clothes worn by people in the fulfillment of that religious obligation in Islam. The local majority population in his region of the world is Muslim, and as a member of a small community like the Druze, he asserts his difference from them specifically. In this passage he is also contrasting a religious pilgrimage, exclusive to members of a particular group, to a secular one, open to all who love this star. It is therefore relevant that Sarah follows up this dialogue immediately with a somewhat nostalgic reflection about her grandfather, I still hear him to this day. I hear his sonorous tones when I take walks. I hear his silly laugh when a crow caws. I hear his collusive whispers in the passing breeze. Don’t tell your stepmother. She can’t know about this. He had a heavy Druze accent, stressing his Qs. Whenever I hear a mountain Druze speak, I am reminded of him.21 These lines immediately place Hammoud’s transnational appreciation for Sarah Bernhardt, and his distance from Muslims, in the context of his own

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Druze identity. Represented by the particular pronunciation of the Arabic letter “qaf ”—in English here rendered as Q—often associated in Lebanon with the Druze, Sarah underlines the Druzeness of his accent, once again locating him in the context of her heritage in the Druze mountains. Like Sarah herself, this particular representation of her grandfather emphasizes his links both to the Druze mountains and world culture. Sarah’s grandfather also connects her to her Druze identity in more profound ways than a passing nostalgia for his accent. We learn a bit later in the text that he has not only been telling her stories of the Divine Sarah but also “putting strange tales in her head”—in the words of her stepmother22—about the origins of the Druze community. In this chapter, Sarah is beguiled by her grandfather’s recounting of the foundational narrative of the Druze religion. This is conveyed in the novel through a dialogue between Hammoud and Sarah, rendered in the language that one might use with a young child. He narrates the way in which a young boy al-Mansour ascends to the caliphate in Fatimid Egypt, eventually becoming Al-Hakim bi-Amrillah. This is an educational moment in the text—for Sarah, for her uncle who does not remember its details correctly and is chastised for this by Hammoud,23 and also for the reader. He emphasizes, for example, the importance of Al-Hakim bi-Amrillah as the leader of the Druze, The Caliph was going from Egypt to Syria to fight the bad Byzantines who wanted to come and take over our lands and make us all Christians … He felt bad because unlike those Christian emperors who sat in the castles and told people what to do, our Caliph was going to join his army and fight alongside his men …24 Sarah articulates her understanding of the tale in response as, “And he was a star.”25 This of course strongly resonates in the context of the novel with the way in which she understands the story of Sarah Bernhardt as told by her grandfather. He accents how special this figure is in Druze history and she relates strongly to this, partly because of her identification with the Divine Sarah, stating after he tells the story, “So I am the Prince of Believers.” Her grandfather then agrees in one sentence set apart within the text as a new paragraph, “You’re the Princess of Believers.”26 The transgressive nature of these lines is immediately evident—the young girl with a Druze father and American mother claims that she herself is the Prince of Believers, founder of the Druze faith. Her grandfather affirms this taking no account of her “purity” as a Druze or of her gender. This reinforces once again how Sarah sees herself as different and special, set

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apart from others. The childlike language of the storytelling here, both in her grandfather’s narrative voice and her own responses, allow this to be inscribed in a way that is partly humorous and meant to be indulged as one does with children. It furthers the kind of gender bending done in other passages as in where Sarah calls herself a tomboy, is one of only two girls who attends an all boys’ school and rejects “typical” female dress such as skirts and makeup. Most importantly, it echoes her belief that she can do and be anything, as highlighted in the passage quoted above. This section of text is crucial for a reading of this work as a “Druze” novel in several ways. It follows up on Hammoud’s differentiation of himself from Muslims, by underlining the difference between Druze and Christians. As in the passage cited above in which Hammoud makes fun of Muslims on Hajj, Christians here are described as “bad,” another dominant group and reference point against which the Druze community must identify themselves. This particular recounting of the founding of the religion and the Druze Call is crucial as well because another version of it will be presented less than ten pages later, as the novel is coming to a close. In a move typical of Alameddine in this novel, authoritative renditions of specific facts and events are undermined soon after they are presented, raising more questions than they answer. The destabilization of Hammoud’s story about the foundations of the Druze religion and community is central to Sarah’s understanding of who she is in the final first chapters of her unfinished memoir. We can see, however, that before this happens Sarah’s identification with Sarah Bernhardt has already become intertwined with her identity as a Druze and affiliation with this community. Though she has started to record some of the inconsistencies in her grandfather’s versions of events, she still feels that she is unique and special because of how her grandfather sees her.27 She is bound to him both through adoration of Sarah Bernhardt, revealed in his stories about her, and through his proud membership of the Druze community, which she understands through his tales about Al-Hakim bi-Amrallah. Sarah Nour al-Din imagines that she is both the Divine Sarah and also the Prince of Believers. In the following pages she learns that she is also the Druze Sarah and through this that her grandfather is not exactly who she has always thought he was.

Who is Hammoud Nour al-Din? Sarah’s happy memory of her grandfather’s accent stressing his Qs, his obsession with Sarah Bernhardt that so affected her life and his role as an

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important link to Lebanon are all shaken as she comes to realize that her grandfather is not the benevolent patriarch who she has always imagined him to be. The formal device structuring this novel, moreover, means that though we as readers are unaware of the other side of Hammoud Nour alDin, Sarah the narrator has been aware of it during the previous chapters. The narrative arc of the novel begins to incorporate passages alluding to Hammmoud’s negative side increasingly as the novel draws to a close. Once again, the elements of the text linked to Druze identity are crucial for interpreting how Sarah’s identity develops at the end of the work, particularly as she learns about the different Sarahs who she was meant to be. The first revelation about her grandfather comes when Sarah’s sister Amal is exasperated by her idolization of the old man. Likening him to Hitler, Amal points out, “He was a Machiavellian asshole, prejudiced as hell, xenophobic and bigoted. You just don’t remember him well. With you, he was all kindness and warmth; with the rest of us, he was a manipulative bastard.”28 As Sarah begins to protest, Amal continues, “You’re so naïve sometimes. He was a misogynist. He hated all us girls. He thought all women were whores. He beat Grandmother up on a regular basis. You were just too young to remember.”29 These comments jar Sarah into contemplating her relationship with her grandfather further. Amal’s analysis of their grandfather’s misogyny makes an impression on Sarah sealed by comments made by her mother in the very last lines before the penultimate first chapter of the novel. Here she learns that her mother left Lebanon, abandoning her daughters because Sarah’s beloved grandfather chased her away. Janet Foster Nour al-Din explains to Sarah that, The worst was after each of my deliveries. Did I ever tell you what he told me after you were born? He and his fucking wife were in the hospital room with me. Your father was in the waiting room playing host with all the visitors. Your grandfather picked you up and said, “You know, Janet, I love this girl so much. Do you know why?” Like an idiot, I asked, “Why?” And he said, “I love her so much because she’s the reason I am going to be able to return you to your fucking country.”30 These critiques of her grandfather give Sarah pause as the work is coming to an end. As a young woman coming of age, her grandfather supported her non-conformity but he oppressed the other women in her family. Indeed though he seemed to provide her with the space to rebel within the confines of a traditional society, she eventually does define herself in his terms. In the end, her actions can be seen not as liberating herself from patriarchal society

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completely, but simply rebelling against it, acting out her grandfather’s fantasy of a loose American woman—his complaint against her mother—who could not be integrated into Lebanese or Druze society. Like her mother, she has married only to be divorced (twice in her case); like her mother, she abandoned her son to be raised by his father in Lebanon, while she lives in the United States; like her mother, she has found no peace within herself. In the following section, I will show how Sarah builds upon this knowledge to reclaim her own Druze identity that she can integrate with her cosmopolitan self, as a feminist response to her grandfather’s misogyny and the social pressure to keep these elements distinct.

Divine and Druze: Two Sarahs in One Crushed by these realizations about her grandfather, Sarah reacts by scripting the closure of her memoir in relation to the different Sarahs who reside simultaneously within her. In the same chapter in which Amal tells Sarah about her grandfather’s appalling treatment of the women of their family, she further disillusions Sarah in her analysis of his obsession with Sarah Bernhardt, her use of vulgar language escalating with her rage, “He loved the myth, the unattainable myth of what a woman is. He had no clue who Bernhardt was. He apotheosized her. Her mother he called a whore, but according to him, Sarah lived la vie galante. Fuck that. She started out as a prostitute, like her mother, like her aunts.”31 Amal continues vehemently, querying Sarah as to whether or not she wondered why her grandfather always told her the story of the Prince of Believers and not the story of Sarah. Misunderstanding, Sarah retorts that he continually told her stories about Sarah, meaning Sarah Bernhardt. But Amal clarifies, “Not Bernhardt, dummy. Sarah, the first woman sent out on the Druze Call. You don’t even know what I’m talking about, do you? You don’t know who your real namesake is?”32 Sarah’s unsurprising response is, “No idea at all.”33 Here we learn several valuable pieces of information about Sarah Nour alDin. First, it is only according to Hammoud Nour al-Din that she is named for Sarah the diva and not the Druze Sarah. Secondly, we understand that Sarah Nour al-Din, to this point, has known very little about the history of the Druze religion and community in comparison with other people, including her own sister. Finally, it is clear that Sarah herself has been unaware of or in denial about this important link up to this point in her life. Because the novel is constructed in first chapters, however, the reader learns of certain information—like the suggestion that she is actually named for the Druze Sarah—only at the end of the novel. This means that we must think back to

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how she narrated the other chapters in a contradictory way—the narrator of course was cognizant of this throughout the entire work, even though the character learns this only at the very end. The extended paragraph about the Druze Sarah that follows this allows I, the Divine to advance a feminist message that can be read both within the framework of the Druze novel and the broader context of world literature. Here, Amal tells Sarah about the Druze Sarah’s accomplishments. For example, she recounts that Sarah was sent as the most faithful follower of what was then a new religion in which men and women were equal in the eyes of God to confirm the views of the other followers, that she led a congregation including her own father, and that she succeeded in reconfirming the vows of most of both the male and female followers of the Druze faith.34 Amal continues, “Sarah was the reason we are here. We are the direct descendants of the people she converted. Don’t you find it strange that he would not mention her? He preferred to fill your head with stories of the Divine Sarah, but not the Druze Sarah.35 Amal’s conversations with the grown Sarah echo the stories her grandfather told her as a girl. It is relevant how the brief sections of historical narration, and the family members’ analysis of them, are liberally interspersed with dialogues in colloquial American English, including profanity as well as childlike expressions. Amal’s frustration with her grandfather, evident in the expression “fuck that,” or with her sister as in, “Not Bernhardt, dummy,” for example, express the mood of their interaction in this scene. Such language stands out especially when placed amidst the longer narrations of Druze heritage and history. Alameddine uses this strategy to naturalize the unfamiliar material such as certain versions of these religious stories and “facts” about a small community, rescripting these crucial moments in the foundation of the religion and the community.36 By juxtaposing the grandfather’s stories about Al-Hakim bi-Amrillah and Amal’s stories about the Druze Sarah, the novel once again presents multiple versions of reality which question each other. These contrasts are echoed in the way in which the colloquial and even vulgar language of the text coexists with the stories of the religious heritage. This divide between the sacred and the profane reflects the divide between Sarah Bernhardt and the Druze Sarah—both of which coexist within the name Sarah and the character who animates this name in I, the Divine. The name Sarah evokes further word play because of the irony layered into the adjective “divine.” This word appears throughout the text, ostensibly in connection to Sarah Bernhardt; it is most clearly marked in the title. The irony here is that though Sarah Nour al-Din grows up believing that Sarah Bernhardt is divine, in the mundane sense of the word, she learns later

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that there is another Sarah who is in fact directly connected to the other, spiritual meaning of “divine,” because she is a Druze religious figure. The multiple senses of the word divine are therefore activated in the text, through the recounting of the story of the Druze Sarah, Sarah Nour al-Din’s true namesake. Looking back at the scene quoted above in which Sarah claims that she is the Divine Sarah,37 it is not completely clear with which Sarah she is identifying. Is Sarah Nour al-Din “divine” in the worldly sense because of her connection to Sarah Bernhardt, or in the religious sense because of her connection to the Druze Sarah?38 At first glance, of course, it seems as though she is referring to the diva, but the additional information allows us to read another layer of her character. Symbolically these two Sarahs represent the tension between but also the coexistence in the text of the global and local. The Divine Sarah Bernhardt is an actress, prostitute, beloved the world over and famous beyond bounds of nation, region or religion. The Divine Druze Sarah is a holy, religious figure known by few and not even by all the Druze— indeed Sarah Nour al-Din herself was completely unaware of her story. Ultimately, by reclaiming her namesake as the Druze Sarah, Sarah Nour al-Din is able to stake a claim to a Druze identity. The novel does not describe Sarah’s search for herself as a linear quest to find this particular identity to somehow become whole. Rather her multiple selves coexist together without any one aspect needing to be marginalized. What sets this particular articulation of a Lebanese/Arab American woman, long resident in the United States and frequently moving between worlds, apart from many other novels treating this same condition is how it works with ironic nostalgia to integrate Sarah’s layered and multiple identities. The complexity of Sarah’s relationship with her grandfather and how she eventually comes to understand her identity as a Druze enables this text to resist the typical nostalgic tropes—the natal village, the Druze mountains, her grandfather’s accent “stressing the Qs,” and other clichéd images of Lebanon. Though these elements do surface intermittently throughout the novel, in the end Alameddine inscribes a feminist message by prompting Sarah to come to terms with her name and thus her identity through this strong, positive, female Druze historical figure. Sarah Nour al-Din, therefore, becomes a Druze by the end of the novel, but even this itself is layered with a certain irony. Though her grandfather is the symbol of traditional Druze society in some ways, she can only realize a Druze identity for herself by defying him. She becomes a Druze on her own terms by no longer identifying with the Prince of Believers, but rather the Druze Sarah—better allowing her to maintain her affection for the Divine Sarah at the same time.

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Conclusions I, the Divine presents the fragmented realities of its protagonist by moving from her most universal self-identification as the Divine Sarah Bernhardt, easily accessible within the circulation of world literature, to her most local one, being named for the Druze Sarah, known to only some insiders and relatively few outsiders. Through his formal experimentation in this novel, Rabih Alameddine constructs an authorial voice with little authority, constantly questioning itself. It is within this technique that some of the politics of the text are revealed: this destabilization of the truth-value of any one version of a given narration calls into question how unified or true any one identity for a character can be. I have shown above how the play on her name and her associations with the two Sarahs to whom she is bound through her grandfather, enable Sarah Nour al-Din to claim and question more than one identity at the same time. Sarah Nour al-Din thus presents a challenge both to stereotypes about the Druze and also traditional understandings of what it is to be Druze. She is able proudly to claim this self-definition, through her connection to the Druze Sarah. Though many of her behaviors and actions fly in the face of what this might mean traditionally, she claims this identity unironically and unproblematically by the end of the work. Within the logic of the novel, Sarah is “just as Druze” as a figure like her grandfather, but the development of her identity throughout I, the Divine also allows her to redefine what this means for her. The last pages of the text show that Sarah makes sense of this through a very broad definition of community. In the final chapter, “Introduction,” Sarah is watching a television program about the importance of community to lions and their dedication to their pride. In her final redefinition in the book, she begins to see everyone around her as a lion and herself as part of a pride. Though she does not refer to the Druze community, or any of her many communities by name in this section, she does emphasize how a person’s identity can only be understood insofar as it is tied to others. I, the Divine closes with the lines, “Come meet my family. Come meet my friends. Come here, I say. Come meet my pride.”39 As in the opening chapter, the novel ends without the full stop to punctuate the final sentence, accenting that this is not the end of the tale. The lion pride is used allegorically in multiple ways, but what is important here is that it allows I, the Divine not to inscribe itself within any specific identity politics or limiting label.40 No one group or communal affiliation is privileged as Sarah Nour al-Din claims community affiliations as the way to cope with her multiple self.

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Coming into her Druze identity in relation to the Druze Sarah late in the novel enables Sarah better to make sense of her self in relation to a series of important groups of people and affiliations. Her connection to Druze-ness, moreover, is not represented as nostalgic, a return to the past or an imaginary, mythic Lebanon. Indeed nostalgic thoughts about Lebanon in the novel are fleeting and undermined by other more ironic or disconnected relations to this home. In particular, the moments in the text in which the Druze religion, community and history are dealt with explicitly are not presented as incompatible with a broader cosmopolitanism or global perspective; Druzeness is neither inward-looking nor exclusive. Sarah connects to Druze identity in a moment of feminist liberation in the text. This intersection of gender and community identity is where I, the Divine pushes at the boundaries of what Druze identity might mean as a literary categorization. Sarah is at home as a Druze, a Lebanese, an American and a feminist; though her identity is scattered and fragmented in competing versions of her life story, it is the overlap of her communities with which she identifies in the end. Locating home in a community of family and friends means that identity and belonging for Sarah is not rooted in one place. World literature, therefore, is a mode of reading particularly well suited to I, the Divine. Using the concept of world literature to interanimate the work’s Druze identity reveals how this novel is not simply a fusion of an American novel and a Lebanese novel or the integration of a Druze novel with an Arab American novel. Rather, all of these novels exist within the text, just as the conflicting versions of reality expressed in its multiple first chapters coexist. I would also emphasize here that it is not simply because the novel is written in English, accessible to a wide audience and “travels well” that it should be read in this world literature framework. Nor should it be seen as world literature because it is a “Druze novel” or an “Arab novel” written in English, somehow translating what it “is to be a Druze” into English or naturalizing Druze exoticism for a largely non-Druze audience. Rather I, the Divine contributes to a definition of world literature because of how these various elements work together to create a multilayered novel that can express many identities simultaneously. This is a Druze novel, I would suggest, only insofar as it is a feminist novel and a feminist novel only insofar as it is Druze. The same is true for it being read as local, Druze, and global, world literature. The many identities of the novel cannot be disengaged from each other any more than the many identities of its protagonist can. The two Sarahs in the end therefore do become one; they are bound together in Sarah Nour al-Din—who is both Divine and Druze.

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Notes 1. I should also be clear that I am using the label “Druze” in a specific way. I am not proposing this as a religious label but rather one of identity. The Druze identity of this novel, moreover, overlaps and coexists with its other possible identities, including Arab, Anglophone Arab, Lebanese, Lebanese/Arab American and so on. I also would stress that I in no way wish to promote this as an authentic term that would supersede or replace other labels. I am therefore using this term in a quite restricted sense. 2. Most but not all of these works are written by Druze authors, like Nada Awar Jarrar’s Somewhere, Home, Leila Barakat’s Sous les vignes du pays Druze [Under the Vines in Druze Country], and Iman Humaydan Younes’s Toot Barri [Wild Mulberries] and Hayawat Ukhra [Other Lives]. Long before these other works and before her own premature death, Rima Alameddine published short stories. 3. So far as I know, there are no Syrian or Palestinian novels by Druze authors that take up a Druze theme, plot, or identifiable characters. I am unfamiliar with Israeli writing and the representation of Palestinian/Israeli Druze in fiction. Joceyne Awad focuses on a Druze character and the community in her French-language novel about a Syrian Druze girl from the Haouran who works in Lebanon. The work is dedicated to a Druze friend who Awad claims showed her the “grandeur et dignité de cette communauté.” Jocelyn Awad, Khamsin (Paris: Albin Michel, 1994). The English-language novel The Cyclist represents a protagonist born of a “Galilean” Druze father and non-Druze mother who contemplates becoming a suicide bomber in Lebanon. Viken Berberian, The Cyclist (New York: Simon and Shuster, 2003). 4. Two bibliographies on the Druze cataloguing these works have been published already in the twenty-first century; Sahar Muakasa, Comprehensive Bibliography of the Druze Religion (New York: Druze Research and Publications Institute, 2004), and Talal Fandi and Ziad Abi-Shakra, eds and comps, The Druze Heritage: An Annotated Bibliography (Beirut: The Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies and the Druze Heritage Foundation, 2001). 5. This can be seen in scholarship as well as popular accounts of the Druze. See, for example, Robert Benton Betts, The Druze (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988). Nejla M. Abu Izzeddin, The Druzes: A New Study of their History, Faith and Society (Leiden: Brill, 1984); Kais Firro, A History of the Druzes (Leiden: Brill, 1992); and Fu’ad Khouri, Being a Druze (London: Druze Heritage Society, 2004) all seek to redress this to some extent in their “sympathetic” studies of the Druze. 6. Many critics have decried this bias that nonetheless still exists. Edward Said, for example, repeatedly pointed out this lack and need for more attention to aesthetics in the study of Arabic literature throughout his career; see Edward Said, “Embargoed Literature,” The Nation 251 (1990): 278–80. For a concrete, example of the harm this can do to a text see Steven Salaita’s analysis of a review

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of Joseph Geha’s Toldeo Stories in “Sand Niggers, Small Shops and Uncle Sam: Cultural Negotiation in the Fiction of Joseph Geha and Diana Abu Jaber,” Criticism 43: 4 (2001): 427–8. 7. In this I disagree with Kamran Rastegar who sees the device of the first chapters as not adding to the work. He also criticizes it saying that it does not do enough to show Lebanese realities, offering comparisons with Arabic-language fiction from Lebanon, translated into English. In my opinion this misses the point of what Alameddine is doing in the novel. Kamran Rastegar, “Review of I, the Divine.” See also Steven Salaita, “Sand Niggers” pp. 426–7 where he points out how this operates in a specific example, a review of Joseph Geha’s Toledo Stories. 8. More than fifteen years ago Evelyne Shakir published “Coming of Age: Arab American Literature,” MELUS 13/14:2 (1993–4): 63–80. Throughout the 1990s, criticism began, particularly by Lisa Suhair Majaj who published her call for an increase in serious criticism of Arab American literature, “New Directions: Arab American Writing at Century’s End,” in Post-Gibran: Anthology of New Arab American Writing, ed. Munir Akash and Khaled Mattawa (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999), 67–77. Much work has been done since. For projects charting the field, see Ludescher “An Overview;” Orfalea “Arab American Novel;” Steven Salaita “Sand Niggers.” Moreover, a number of anthologies have also appeared since the 1990s, for example Joanna Kadi, ed., Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab American and Arab Canadian Feminists (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1994); Munir Akash and Khaled Mattawa, eds, Post Gibran: Anthology of New Arab American Writing (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999); and Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa, eds, Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry (Northampton: Interlink, 2000). The first anthology that treats fiction exclusively is Pauline Kaldas and Khaled Mattawa, eds, Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2004). The MELUS journal that published Shakir’s piece has come out with a special Arab American edition of its journal in 2006, guest edited by Salah Hassan and Marcy Newman and in which Ludescher’s and Orfalea’s pieces appear. Steven Salaita published the first full-length monograph on Arab American fiction that provides incisive theoretical insights and charts the field in depth, Arab American Fictions, Cultures and Politics (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Other collections like Layla Al Maleh’s Arab Voices in Diaspora: Critical Perspectives on Anglophone Arab Literature (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009) contribute to this ongoing conversation. 9. Ste