الإنسان بين الكلمات والأشياء : عالم القص عند يحيى الطاهر عبد ﺍﻟﻠﻪ / Man Between Words and Things: The narrative Universe of Yaḥya al-Ṭāhir 'Abdalla


Nabila Ibrahim



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إبراهيم, نبيلة; Ibrahim, Nabila

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Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[Yaḥya al-Ṭāhir 'Abdalla (1938 - 1981) was an innovative Egyptian writer who rebelled against the prevalent narrative modes. Instead of writing in a mimetic mode that conventionally reproduced reality, he strove to create symbolic structures that corresponded to such reality. In his endeavors, the nuanced manipulation of language becomes extremely important in creating an interplay of significances. Using critically contemporary theories of narratology, the article presents the complex universe of Yaḥya al-Ṭāhir 'Abdalla. In his stories, a variety of characters and voices are continuously confronted with oppressive forces akin to taboos. Such forces manifest themselves psychologically and socially, coloring man's relation with his universe. The forces themselves include human and superhuman elements. Grandfather Ḥasan, for example, presides over a pyramid of oppressive forces in the village. But beyond him, there is another force of an absolute and sacred nature. In other stories, the oppression of sexual taboos is foregrounded. When 'Abdalla's stories are situated in the city, the oppressive forces are embodied in a threat carried by anonymous men chasing the inhabitants of the city. The city dwellers suffer from fear and paranoia, while the anonymous powers affect the citizens through intermediaries similar to the way Grandfather Ḥasan exercised his power. Thus in both city and village the fundamental dichotomy is between the dominating and the dominated. The city dweller makes the oppressive power a subject of speculation and keen awareness, while the villager unconsciously either gives into or rebels against it. Stylistically, 'Abdalla manages to involve things as well as men in a world characterized by oppression. Thus the description of objects comes to be more revealing than the unfolding of events. Furthermore, the ambiguities, paradoxes and ironies of 'Abdalla's language leave the text open to multiple interpretations, pointing to the fibre of life itself. In contrast, the narrative dialogue uses simple language and at times the author borrows the voice of the folk narrator telling a tale.]

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