Leaves of Narcissus: A Modern Arabic Novel (Modern Arabic Literature)

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You already recently rated this item. Your rating has been recorded. Write a review Rate this item: 1 2 3 4 5. Preview this item Preview this item. It spans the full history of modern Arabic literature, from its roots in western cultural influence at the end of the nineteenth century to the present-day flowering of Naguib Mahfouz's literary sons and daughters--From publisher description. Read more Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private.

The Anchor Book of Modern Arabic Fiction

Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Featuring the work of 79 outstanding writers from all over the Arabic-speaking world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, Syria in the north to Sudan in the south, this treasury of Arab voices is diverse in styles and concerns, but united by a common language. This, in turn, imposes upon her a very special perspective influenced by the fact that she herself is a character imbued with an artistic sense, a cultural sensitivity, and an inclination towards knowledge and writing.

And they do require it: my friends, my family. The nearest relations are arranging a kind little conspiracy after which you will sleep so very soundly! Negotiations commence and I exhaust the conspirators. Her inner voice merges here with the conspiratorial voice of the people surrounding her, while her consciousness is established from the very beginning as resistant rather than submissive, and as powerful rather than victimised.

Amna and Kimi are two sides of the same coin, and as such represent different facets of one character — with all the contradictions, parallelisms and intersections implied. Kimi reveals her confusion and questioning of the notions of homeland, identity and power during the periods she spends studying in Dublin.

I defend it. What is it that I am trying to defend? Whatever loyalties I have are judged suspicious in advance. What am I defending? My passport? My language? My faith? Structurally, the narrative expression of experience does not follow a traditional plot, but is stylistically reminiscent of the stream-of-consciousness technique, established by the pioneer feminist writer Virginia Woolf. The journey takes her to her childhood memories — their parallelisms and intersections between the British culture to which she was exposed at school and the Egyptian folk culture carried by nanny Amna.

Orit Bashkin, "The Arabic Novel in the Late 19th Century"

She also takes us on a journey through the experience of studying and living in Dublin; again full of political and cultural parallelisms and contradictions between the two former British colonies: Ireland and Egypt. However, Somaya Ramadan presents Kimi as belonging to the eccentric group of men and women of literary prowess, who have been subjected to all sorts of accusations from the people around them.

In the beginning they would try to start conversations with her, but with the passage of time they no longer bothered … She was a cold, distant, self-protective woman, yet on accession a bout of human warmth would overpower her aloof demeanor.

The American University in Cairo Press - books from this publisher (ISBNs begin with )

Memory goes back from the present moment, retrieving the past, while at the same time projecting on this past interpretations rather than factual events. It is here that the process of memory emerges as one of conscious selection, ordering and rewriting. Another powerful mythical presence is that of Penelope, who weaves her way through the narrative. In addition to myths, Kimi relies in her story as much as Somaya employs in her narrative other elements, namely folktales and fairytales.

When Kimi seeks a language to express herself, oral storytelling emerges as a means of communication and a way to overcome illiteracy, through the story of The King of the Atlas Mountains which she hears from Amna, and keeps waiting for its end so as to rewrite it and retell it herself. Somaya Ramadan does not limit herself by this Egyptian folktale, but in her exploration of parallels and intersections she captures the world of fairytales. The idea of parallelism and intersection is further manifested in the image of the dysfunctional pair of scissors, due to the loss of their connecting screw.

The mirror is another motif used throughout the novel via the frequent appearance of various reflections, suggesting a multiplicity of the self looking at these mirrors, and its fragmented image. Looking at the mirror and beyond it is an attempt at gathering the smithereens of the self, but it is also a process necessarily subject to an interpretation of the self according to a point of view and an intellectual perspective.

Thus the final product resembles a series of successive rings and multiple images of the self — the way it is reflected in mirrors, in water, in memory, in life, as well as in the faces and voices of others. She was writing. Once she approaches the end of the line of thread, she begins to fray it — weaves and frays and weaves endlessly.

Similarly, on the narrative level, the novel is stylistically governed by telling and re-telling — writing and erasing for the sake of re-writing. Thus, at the end of the novel, Somaya Ramadan links writing as an act of madness to writing as an act of creativity and resistance to death.

Disciples of Passion

Leaves of Narcissus does not directly belong to feminist literature in its theoretical definition which refers to the kind of writing concerned with feminist issues and based on a feminist consciousness — a consciousness defined by Gerda Lerner in the following terms: I define feminist consciousness as the awareness of women that they belong to a subordinate group; that they have suffered wrongs as a group; that their condition of subordination is not natural, but is societally determined; that they must join with other women to remedy these wrongs; and finally, that they must and can provide an alternative vision of societal organization in which women as well as men will enjoy autonomy and self-determination Lerner , The novel deals with the experience of a woman, Kimi, in her relationship with her self, and in a surrounding of other women: Amna, the mother figure at the background, little Mariam towards whom Kimi harbours a sense of guilt, her teachers at school, and even her colleagues in Dublin.

It is an experience of circles of relationships, each exposing an aspect of the tensions, parallelisms and contradictions prevalent throughout the text. Something vanished when that little screw dropped from the sewing scissors and no one replaced it. In a powerful image, the author portrays Kimi while peeling an onion and interpreting her childhood experience as having been restricted by an image of the patriarchal straight line rather than the circular structure suggested here by the feminine experience of peeling onions.

Leaves of Narcissus, like earlier Arabic novels about East-West encounters by male writers such as Tawfiq al-Hakim, Taha Hussein, and Tayeb Salih, is about a young Arab student going west in search of education.

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Here, though, the protagonist is a young woman and her destination is Ireland, a part of the West and at the same time a victim of the ravages of colonialism adding ambiguity to the customary representations of the East-West dichotomy. In this captivating novel, Somaya Ramadan displays a rare virtuosity in evoking and interlacing literary motifs from the popular to the learned, from the folk to the mythic, from the Egyptian to the Irish and poses questions rather than answers, questions that hold a mirror to our selves.

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