By Muhammad Siddiq
This booklet explores the advanced dating among the unconventional and identification in sleek Arab tradition against a backdrop of up to date Egypt. It makes use of the instance of the Egyptian novel to interrogate the basis causes – spiritual, social, political, and mental – of the lingering id predicament that has Arab tradition for a minimum of centuries.
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One final point is worth noting in this multilayered collocation. The invocation of the spirit of ancient Egypt as the source of inspiration for curing Egypt’s modern ills deliberately elides crucial epochs of Egypt’s long history. Not altogether surprisingly, these are the intervening Arab/Islamic centuries. Only a willful misreading of the massive evidence could have allowed the nascent consciousness of an Arab nationalist to translate al-Hakim’s Francophile and Pharaonic sympathies into anti-Western, Arab nationalist ideological terms.
Mahfouz himself has said as much, though less directly: “The vernacular, ‘ammiyya, is a reactionary movement, the fusha, by contrast, is progressive. 44 Whichever way one chooses to interpret the implications of this linguistic choice, its intrinsic relevance to the thematics of identity in the novel is self-evident. 11 A GENRE AT WAR For here lie the roots of two major and abiding binary opposites in modern Arab identity: local/regional vs. Pan-Arab, and colloquial, spoken dialects vs. the written fusha, that is, formal or standard Arabic.
By the same logic does the Arabic novel often appear to carry on the cultural work left unfinished by the Arab Awakening (nahda). In fact, there is a discreet but compelling affinity between the theme and trajectory of Mahfouz’s controversial novel and the general secularizing drift of the nahda, even though Mahfouz’ bold postulation of the symbolic death of Jabalawi/“God” (or the idea of God, as he confided to Philip Stewart)55 in this novel crosses a formidable epistemological and psychological barrier in ArabIslamic culture.
Arab Culture, Identity and the Novel: Genre, Identity and Agency in Egyptian Fiction (Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Literatures) by Muhammad Siddiq