2d. Representation of liberation in Arabic, Kurdish and Nubian Literature

Chair: Christina Phillips, University of Exeter

Contemporary Saudi Women Writers: Lifting the Veil
Noura Algahtani, University of Leeds

Since 9/11, a new generation of Saudi novelists, particularly female authors, have begun to attract the attention of readers and scholars in both the Arab and the Western world. This paper will focus on two of these novels, namely Rajaa al-Sanea’s Banat al-Riyadh (2005) translated as Girls of Riyadh (2007) , and Seba al-Harez’s Al-Akharun (2006) translated as The Others (2009) . By openly addressing sexual and religious taboos in their novels, these two writers challenged both stereotypical images of Saudi women and the traditional cultural hegemony. Despite the fact that both these works were initially banned in Saudi Arabia, they went on to attract a broad readership in the global marketplace, especially following their translation into English. It is argued that these Saudi novels were not randomly chosen for translation; but that the selection, translation and marketing processes have been conditioned and shaped by specific motivations and socio-political contexts that will be examined in this paper. Drawing on Casanova’s (2004) concept of ‘World Literature’, this paper will explore the role which English language literary publishers in the West have played in ‘liberating’ these novels from the restrictions imposed by Saudi national literary space through the process of translation. It will also reflect on the extent to which this re-categorisation of their work as ‘World Literature’ has helped female Saudi writers to gain new audience and to challenge previous ideas about centre/periphery in the Arab literary world.

Myths and Symbols of Kurdish Modern Poetry (Abdulla Goran as example)
Karwan Osman, University of Exeter

Goran employs myths and symbols in his poetry extensively. One of the considerable function of Goran’s imagery is to symbolize his vision of the political and cultural predicament in the Kurdish world. I look to the myths and symbols in Goran’s poetry as a source of his inspiration not reinterpreting them. How historical and romantic fiction can be used as a source of understanding the particular time and particular place, which the normal expression cannot. It has to be said that, the use of myth and symbol in the Kurdish classical poetry was from an aesthetic point of view and they have been used rhetorically as at that time good poetry recognised by its use of rhetoric arts and be strengthened with rhetoric techniques. Such as employ myths figures for depiction of woman beauties and angels or to describe a bad people and souls. However, in spite of his reviving Kurdish folktale myths in his poetry, Goran employ a new approach to use myths and symbols and the conflict between good and evil to show current Kurdish political world and depict conflict between new oppressors and the oppressed. Apply Kurdish myth figures as a political symbol to signify contemporary politics, the Kurdish struggle, and demonise oppressors was completely new in Kurdish modern poetry and this trend has more developed by Dilzar, Hêmin Mukriyani, Dîlan, Kakey Falah, Hasib Qaradaxi, Şêrko Bêkes, Abdulla Pashew and others.

Liberal discourse and the autobiographical Arabic novel
Shaymaa Hussein-Samy, Durham University

In his preface to the 1983 edition of his seminal book on Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, Albert Hourani hints at why he “does not try to carry the story [of liberal thought] beyond 1962.” Something about the revival of Islam, the “language of socialism” through which nationalism expressed itself, and “the broadening of the idea of Arab nationalism” signalled the end of liberal age at that time. In this paper, I address the reaction to these ideological trends in the late Arabic novel. In an era characterized by economic liberalization and the decline of pan-Arabism, can we discern the rise of a new liberal discourse in the Arabic novel? I argue that the evolution of autobiographical novels from the Eighties onwards, particularly those narrating a life of political activism, reflects a critique of the brand of socialism and nationalism that characterised the previous historical period. By comparing novels such as Ahlam Mostaghenami’s Dhakirat al-Jasad (1988) Rachid al-Daif (1995) ‘Azizi al-Sayid Kawabata Khaled al-Berry (2001) al-Dunya Ajmal Min al-Janna and Radwa Ashour’s (1999) Atyaf to novels from the older generation, such as Latifa al-Zayat’s al-Bab al-Maftuh (1960) , I demonstrate how individualism emerges as an outlook to liberate the novel from the collectivist ideologies of the previous generation. Ultimately, I show how the autobiographical form is used to assert the autonomy and the responsibility of the individual in the face of the perceived oppressiveness of the forces that Hourani claims ended the liberal age.

Freedom and Selfhood in Yusuf Zaydan’s ‘Azazil
Christina Phillips, University of Exeter

Formal religion has long been portrayed as the antithesis of freedom and liberation in the Arabic novel. In the early decades of the twentieth century Arab novelists targeted traditional religion and its institutions as an obstacle in the way of modernity and the liberal secular ideals that underpinned the nation state. In the later decades of the century, as nationalism and the ideologies that accompanied it lost credibility in the wake of 1967 and successive Arab disappointments, the negative treatment of formal religion by Arab novelists continued with the emphasis now on its incompatibility with selfhood and individual freedom. This paper explores the latter tension between religion, selfhood, freedom and liberation in Yusuf Zaydan’s 2008 novel, ‘Azazil. It reads the protagonist Hypa’s journey of self-discovery against the background of early internecine strife as a critique of formal belief and of Christianity in particular and examines the role of Satan in the text as a symbol of freedom of expression and liberation. It also deals with themes of sexual awakening, violence, guilt and scriptural intertextuality in so far as they intersect with the theme of liberation and draws comparisons with Salwa Bakr’s novel Al-Bashmuri (1998), whose protagonist’s journey of self discovery leads him, not away from the church altogether, but to mystical Islam.

From ‘Egyptian Nubian’ to ‘Nubian Egyptian’: The Evolution of Nubian Liberation Discourse in Idris ‘Ali’s Dongola: A Novel of Nubia
Christine Gilmore, University of Leeds

For decades, demands for economic, social and cultural rights from Egyptian Nubians displaced by construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1964 were marginalised by the Egyptian state. This resulted in the growth of a Nubian liberation movement known as the Ṣaḥwa Nubiyya or Nubian Awakening at the forefront of which were writers such as Idris ‘Ali whose fiction has been described as “the strongest and most controversial expression yet published of the Nubian revival” (Jacquemond, 183). Through analysis of ‘Ali’s Dongola: A Novel of Nubia (1993) this paper will seek to outline the evolution of Nubian liberation rhetoric over the course of the novel from an apparent endorsement of Nubian secession from Egypt to the reframing of Nubian identity within an expanded Egyptian national imaginary that celebrates, rather than silences, difference and is more inclusive of minorities. This suggests that the ‘post-Aswan’ generation of Nubians is more concerned in seeking solutions to broader issues facing all Egyptians than in endorsing Nubian ethno-nationalism.

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