My Space To Reflect!

Hi all,

I've created this blog to share my thoughts.. I like reading a lot & love to reflect on my readings and on my thoughts too These Day I'm writing my 1st novel, a novel that's weird both in topic and style! I'll be posting some extracts from it as it takes shape.. I appreciate any feedback from you.. You will also find some of my works here as well Do share your thoughts with me

Thank you :-)

Jul 1, 2007

My Reaction to Mahfoudh's "Awlad Haritna"

In his controversial novel “Awlad Haritna” (Children of Our Quarter), Najeeb Mahfoudh weaves a religious as well as social allegory. Using sacred religious figures like God, Adam, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, Mahfoudh has antagonized a lot of critics in Egypt and the Muslim world at large. On the surface, the novel gives a rather pessimistic account of the history of “Harat AlGebelawi” (AlGebelawi Quarter), named after its founder. Then, it goes on to portray life in this quarter” throughout the tyrannical rule of AlGebelawi’s descendants, and the inhabitants’ struggle for their existence to survive reigns of terror.

However, if one reads a little deeper, one would perceive that Mahfoudh is actually retelling the history of humanity. He is narrating the story of mankind and its ancient sins and dramas, the sins of pride, seduction, disobedience, jealousy, treachery and murder to name a few. Mahfoudh’s novel draws heavily on the dichotomy and interplay between good and evil as early as Adam and Satin. And just as God sends His messengers when humanity sinks into the abyss of darkness to illuminate the world with true knowledge and justice, Mahfoudh’s ‘heroic’ characters emerge timely to fight bullies, oppression and inequity whenever they dominate.

AlGebelawi symbolises none other than God! The novel starts with him building a huge three-storey house with a magnificent walled garden in the middle of “AlMaqatam” desert. He also owns the whole neighbourhood in which he builds “AlWaqf”, which later on ignites a family feud that goes on for ages. One day he calls his five sons into his meeting room where he announces, to everyone’s surprise, that Adham, his youngest son, (from his second wife) will be in charge of “AlWaqf”. Adrees, the eldest son, gets outraged by his father’s UNFAIR, UNWISE decision. He curses his step brother and keeps making jibes at him about his mother’s low base and dark skin. AlGebelawi ejects Adrees from the house and orders never to be let in again. The other sons keep silent discontentedly! But Adrees swears revenge and declares it war against Adham.

Adrees becomes a bandit, but turns to trick to get his revenge. He takes a conciliatory approach to Adham and asks him to secretly peek into their father’s will and Ten Commandments to make sure whether he is still included in the will. Adham rebuffs the request but later on gets coaxed by his wife who is also curious to know the contents of the will. They get caught red-handed rummaging through AlGebelawi’s safe, and are then expelled from the house to wander in the barren desert not far away from the still vengeful Adrees! Twenty years later, Adham lives yet another tragedy. One of his sons, blinded by anger and jealousy, kills his twin brother and secretly burries him to cover up his despicable crime. Anguished Adham dies soon afterwards, mourning the good old days he’s spent in the heavenly garden in THE BIG HOUSE.

Old and feeble, and after his sons are all dead, AlGebelawi retires from public life and secludes himself in his big empty house. He leaves the “Waqf” and quarter to his descendents to manage. For decades or maybe centuries the ones in power abuse the public money and hire some bullies to shut people up and keep them under tight control. People look up at AlGebelawi’s BIG house, which witnesses their dramas and tragedies with indifference, and ask desperately (and furiously at times) for AlGebelawi to come down and put things right! He does not! Yet in the nick of time a hero (e.g. Jabal, Rifaa’ah, Qasim and Arafa) would come along to save the quarter, guided by AlGebelawi’s spirit or even person in some cases. As time passes on, each of these heroic characters becomes part of the folk tales, recited and sung with “Rubabah”. However, soon after their deaths, greed and selfishness take hold of the “Waqf” keepers and eventually life goes back to a tragic, inhumane state! Towards the end of the novel AlGebelawi finally dies! The last of the heroes is killed. Evil prevails. Nonetheless, people at the quarter are ridiculously hopeful about the future!

Religious symbolism aside, I think the central theme Mahfoudh depicts here is youth’s disillusionment and frustration at their helplessness and their spiritual bewilderment in the face of dogmatic, oppressive, feudal systems.

Attlal Al-Abri

1 comment:

Viper said...

hi attlal... thx for the excelent review

am about to finish it now... i felt uncomfortable with the events in the story that coincide same events with the prophets stories...

Najeeb Mahfoudh however denied that he meant god and the prophet in this story( according to the publisher)

the main point i get from this story is: human always repeat the same sin since the creation of this live until today... (greed on money and other live pleasures)...which make few people control the treasures of earth to satisfy them self on account of the majority