Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel

Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel: Nation-State, Modernity and Tradition

Wen-chin Ouyang
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt3fgsq4
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  • Book Info
    Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel
    Book Description:

    Wen-chin Ouyang shows how the Arabic novel has taken shape in the intercultural networks of exchange between East and West, past and present. This has created a politics of nostalgia which can be traced to discourses on aesthetics, ethics and politics that are relevant to cultural and literary transformations of the Arabic speaking world in the 19th and 20th centuries. She explores the work of novelists including Naguib Mahfouz, 'Abd al-Khaliq al-Rikabi, Jamal al-Ghitani, Ben Salem Himmich, Ali Mubarak, Adonis, Mahmoud Darwish and Nizar Qabbani to reveal nostalgia and madness as the tropes through which the Arabic novel writes its own history: a story of grappling with and resisting the hegemony of both the state and cultural heritage.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-5570-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Foreword IN THE REALM OF MEMORY
    (pp. v-x)

    The modern imagining of nation on a geographical site is necessarily twi(n)ned with an impulse to rewrite history in a way that gives the modern nation roots in the immemorial past. History is, as Pierre Nora shows us in his stupendous project on the reconstruction of the French past, Realms of Memory, a matter of tinkering with collective memory that inevitably crystallises on a place, a locus, or, in modern times, the site of nation.¹ ‘The association of the words lieu and mémoire in French proved to have profound connotations – historical, intellectual emotional, and largely unconscious (the effect was something...

  4. PART I NOSTALGIA:: POLITICS OF THE PAST
    • Chapter 1 ‘THE INVENTION OF TRADITION’
      (pp. 3-43)

      The 100 Love Letters (1970) by Nizār Qabbānī (1923–98) are, in one important respect, homage to Pablo Neruda’s The 100 Love Sonnets. It is not possible, in Neruda’s sonnets or Qabbānī’s letters, to divorce the woman from the nation.² But Neruda and Qabbānī do not have the same political agenda in their respective collections of love poems. While the exiled Neruda nostalgically carves the geography of Chile onto the body of his beloved Matilda, Qabbānī revolutionises the Arabic language, not so much through bringing to the fore the repressed sexual underground, as Mahfouz does in Palace of Desire, but...

    • Chapter 2 THE MYSTERIOUS (DIS)APPEARANCE OF TRADITION
      (pp. 44-74)

      In Youssef Chahine’s 1997 film, Al-maṣīr (Destiny), the occasionally violent conflict between the secularists and religious fundamentalists in Egypt today is portrayed as a clash between the ideology of Ibn Rushd (Averroes), the well-known Andalusian Muslim philosopher, and that of the followers of al-Ghazzālī, religious fanatics who would impose their own world view at all costs. The irreconcilable difference lies in the position of both with regard to human reason, the will of the individual and life, symbolised by worldly pleasures, such as love, music and dancing. Whereas Ibn Rushd is portrayed as a champion of all, al-Ghazzālī is made...

  5. PART II MADNESS:: IN THE RUINS OF DREAM AND MEMORY
    • Chapter 3 SEMIOLOGY OF MADNESS
      (pp. 77-110)

      There has been all too much investment in the nation-state ideologically and emotionally, and, more importantly, epistemologically and ontologically. Since the end of the first half of the twentieth century, all hopes for the future have been pinned on the nation-state. Decolonisation and modernisation, two of the main projects of twentieth-century Arab nationalism, have been invested in the ‘imagined political community’ that was to rise out of the ashes of ‘religious community’ and ‘dynastic realm’ and take ‘proper’ shape as nation-state in the shadows of empire. This nation-state, imagined as modern, progressive and democratic that is simultaneously authentic and historical,...

    • Chapter 4 SEMIOTICS OF TYRANNY
      (pp. 111-140)

      Muhawi speaks of Dhākira li l-nisyān as Darwīsh’s ‘attempt to get the Lebanese phase of Palestinian history, the madness that was Beirut (junūn Beirut, also meaning “possession by Beirut”) and his attachment to the city out of his system’.¹ He also situates the Palestinian exit from Beirut within the larger context of Palestinian exile, both of which experiences have made an indelible impact on Palestinian understanding of reality. This understanding is reflected in Darwīsh’s language, which is here marked by what Muhawi calls ‘reversal’ or

      a juxtaposition, whether of two segments of the text or two (or more) perspectives. For...

  6. PART III NARRATING THE NATION:: TIME, HISTORY, STORY
    • Chapter 5 HISTORY
      (pp. 143-183)

      I find Davenport’s pronouncement on the relationship between geography and history tantalisingly appropriate for my exploration of the Arabic novel, for it elegantly sums up a key theoretical principle underpinning any discussion of Arabic narrative and storytelling at the juncture of the transformation from the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern’ in the recent history of Arab culture and literature. Davenport not only places the stake of geography and history in each other, but also opens up the imagination to the forces of geography and history. He allows the imagination to be mapped by our notions of space and time and, more...

    • Chapter 6 STORY
      (pp. 184-223)

      Ḥarāfīsh provoked no controversy and generated less criticism. It seems universally liked by Mahfouz’s critics. It has been variably called a utopian fantasy, ḥulm al-madīna al-fāḍilaAl-madīna al-fāḍila being al-Fārābī’s description of ideal community; an epic of death and rebirth;² an allegory of the search for metaphysical Truth and social justice;³ a national myth structured around an epic hero, recognised from the signs of his extraordinary birth, being orphaned very early in life, and his all-human traits;⁴ and even a magic-realist epic of man’s search for social justice.⁵ It is all these and more. I have no intention of exhausting...

  7. Epilogue POST-NATIONAL IMPULSES
    (pp. 224-227)

    Lowenthal is here speaking of what he calls ‘Heritage Crusades’, or a variety of practices that seek to revere, even sanctify, traces, remnants and objects belonging to the past that points to a plurality of our possible links with the past, including history, tradition, memory and myth today. To be Possessed by the Past (1996) is responsive to contemporary alienation from the past, when The Past is a Foreign Country (1985). The modern alienation of the past, that the past is no longer subject to knowledge, has precipitated ‘Heritage Crusades’, for ‘so alien a past is too hard to bear’,...

  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 228-241)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 242-246)