Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel

Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel: Nation-State, Modernity and Tradition

Wen-chin Ouyang
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt3fgt9s
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel
    Book Description:

    The Arabic novel has emerged as a major genre in the Arabic literary field since the second half of the twentieth century. Gaber Asfour, a major Egyptian intellectual and critic, has termed the turn of the twenty-first century 'the age of the novel' in Arab culture. This book tells the story of the Arabic novel's search for form, taking stock of the ways in which the form and identity politics of this genre engage with aesthetics, ethics and politics in a cross-cultural context and from a transnational perspective.To date scholarship on the Arabic novel has been preoccupied with postcolonial or nationalist discourses on identity and culture. This book extends our understanding of the genre by moving beyond this approach to consider the Arabic novel within the triangle of the nation-state, modernity and tradition. It shows the ways in which the Arabic novel has taken shape in the intercultural exchanges between East and West, and past and present.It takes the love story as the central trope through which the Arabic novel tells the tale of its search for form in a world mapped by conflicting ideas. This tale is presented as a series of failed, illegitimate love affairs, all tainted by its suspicion of the legitimacy of the nation, modernity and tradition, and above all by its misgivings about its own propriety.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-5505-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Prologue PRESENTING THE PAST: THE ARABIC NOVEL AND THE DIALECTICS OF MODERNISATION
    (pp. 1-34)

    In his assessment of the Arabic novel, Yūsuf Idrīs (1927–91) characteristically undermined the efforts of all contemporary Arab novelists. While writing about Mexican novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Idrīs underscores the contrast between the success of Autumn of the Patriarch in ‘Mexicanising’ the novel, as well as his own in ‘Egyptianising’ drama, and the failure of all Arab novelists in ‘Arabicising’ the novel.¹ Idrīs, whose fame rests on his successful, bold experiments in the Arabic short story and drama, is clearly engaged in self-promotion. He is alluding to his success in creating an Egyptian theatre and authentic Egyptian plays (riwāyāt...

  5. PART I MAPPING THE NATION:: PLACE, SPACE, TEXT
    • Chapter 1 NATION-STATE
      (pp. 37-71)

      In 1990, Toni Morrison, already at the time a renowned Pulitzer-winning African-American writer and Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University, was invited to deliver three William E. Massey Sr lectures in the history of American Civilisation at Harvard University. Morrison began her lectures on ‘whiteness and the literary imagination’ with the formulation of a desire: ‘to put forth an argument for extending the study of American literature into what I hope will be a wider landscape’.¹ In these lectures, Morrison demonstrated how the seemingly ‘white’ landscape of American literature has been haunted by the unspoken presence of ‘blackness’. The...

    • Chapter 2 NATION-WITHOUT-STATE
      (pp. 72-116)

      It is only possible for the opposition to lay claim to the desert, a recurring theme in the Arabic novel, because the desert has often been thought of as ‘no-man’s-land’ in the predominantly city-centred writings pretty much throughout Arabic literary history. The celebration of the desert in pre-Islamic poetry was quickly usurped and used as a metaphor of transformation of the individual and even the imagined community especially in the twentieth century. In al-Sayyāb’s reworking of the qaṣīda, the desert disappears from his landscape but is replaced with the fertile lands of Mesopotamia. In the Khiṭaṭ works of Mubārak and...

  6. PART II LOVE:: LEGITIMACY OF THE NATION, AUTHENTICITY OF THE NOVEL
    • Chapter 3 LEGITIMACY OF THE NATION
      (pp. 119-158)

      Il Postino (1995; The postman), an Italian film constructed around Pablo Neruda’s sojourn, or exile, in Italy, brought to the attention of the world many of Neruda’s love poems. The film’s Oscar contentions popularised further his love story with Matilde and, more importantly, it accentuated the relationship between poetry, love and politics. There is another dimension of Neruda’s poetry that is equally poignant though not necessarily meaningful to those who have not experienced living away from home. Here, Matilde is synonymous with Chile. Neruda in effect re-imagines and inscribes the homeland he remembers on the body of his beloved. In...

    • Chapter 4 IMPROPRIETY OF THE STATE
      (pp. 159-188)

      Mahfouz’s novel, Layālī alf layla, is more than just a political allegory; rather, it is also a piece of ‘mirror for princes’ that partakes in the education not only of the ruler but also of the ruled. The cautionary tales he tells are precisely the didactic lessons that lie at the heart of a workable blueprint for the rise of the nation-state. ‘Nūr al-Dīn and Dunyazād’, a condensed, dense morality tale recreated from intertexuality with multiple cycles of stories from the Nights, begins the instructions on power. The lessons continue for the rest of the novel, as the chapters each...

  7. PART III DESIRE:: ARAB EXPERIENCES OF MODERNITY
    • Chapter Five DECOLONISATION
      (pp. 191-235)

      I begin my exploration of the experience of modernity in the Arabic novel with T. S. Eliot because of his ubiquitous presence in an early form of poetic modernism that has continued to exert influence on Arab literary imaginary. I will not speak of The Waste Land, the landmark collection of poems and its titular poem that marked Eliot’s own rise as one of the key architects of poetic modernism in the world. Instead I turn to ‘The Journey of the Magi’, a less glamorous poem written at a later but more critical stage in Eliot’s life. This is not...

    • Chapter 6 MODERNISATION
      (pp. 236-272)

      The twin(n)ed ontological and epistemological crisis begun in ‘The Magi of the East’, put through ‘The Mariner and the Dervish’, and complicated in ‘The Many Faces of Sindbād’ finds a fuller expression in Al-Sindbād fī rḥilatihi al-thāmina (1960; The eighth voyage of Sindbād).¹ The earlier three poems taken together give a sense of the ways in which disillusion and alienation attendant to degeneration of civilisation lead to homelessness, exile and wandering. All this is cast in an apocalyptic vision where humanity is steeped in hell on earth and doomed to perpetual yearning for paradise. The self is hopelessly lost and...

  8. Afterword THE FUTURE IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY
    (pp. 273-275)

    Arabic cultural and literary heritage is everywhere in the Arabic novel. The past is an indispensable stitch in the fabric of the modern nation-state and a crucial ingredient in the recipe of Arab modernisation. The form of the Arabic novel takes shape in its imagining and allegorisation of nation, as well as in its narration of modernity and modernisation. Its narrative trajectories are bound by the territorial borders of the nation-state, and driven by the projects of modernisation expected to take place on this new geographical locus. In the present’s mobilisation of the past, the past comes to be the...

  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 276-290)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 291-298)