الرواية الصوفية في الأدب المغاربي / The Sufi Novel in the Maghreb



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غزول, فريال جبوري; Ghazoul, Ferial J.

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Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[The distinctive contribution of the Maghreb to contemporary world literature is its formulation of a "Sufi novel," where the sacred dimension and the narrative plot intertwine. Such novels have been written by novelists of the five countries of the Maghreb and are shared by both genders, different generations of writers, and Maghrebi writing in both Arabic and French. This concern of Maghrebi writers with mysticism and the sacred is not surprising for the history and culture of the Maghreb are permeated with Sufi ways. However, the approach to the sacred varies in these novels reflecting individual temperaments as well as the significance of the place and time of writing. The article investigates how the mystic novel in the Maghreb is shaped by analyzing an example from each of the five countries of the Maghreb. Nazif al-hajar (When the Rock Bleeds) of Ibrahim al-Kuni (Libya) focuses on totemism while evoking ecological and ethical concerns, wrapped up in Sufi and mythic discourse. On the other hand, Mawlid al-nisyan (The Birth of Oblivion) by Mahmud al-Mas'idi (Tunisia) has a philosophical focus in its mystic orientation, in such a way that it can be identified as Islamic existentialism. As for Loin de Médine (Far from Medina), written in French by Assia Djebar (Algeria), a preoccupation with history predominates; the novel sketches the rise of Islam, emphasizing the role of women in Arabia in general, and in the family of the Prophet in particular. Djebar extracts scattered references to women by Islamic historians, and complements this elliptical narrative with her visionary imagination. Al-'Asha' al-sufli (The Subterranean Supper) of Mohammed Chergui (Morocco), reads like an extended ritual, where the protagonist is initiated into the secrets of a profound relationship (see the translation of a chapter from the novel in the English section of this issue). This journey into the depth of the soul with its lyrical and mystic tones qualifies the novel as "ritualistic." In the novel entitled Al-Qabr al-majhul aw al-usul (The Anonymous Grave or The Origins), the author Ahmad Wuld 'Abd al-Qadir (Mauritania) depicts - with a sociological/anthropological eye - the tribal divisions in Mauritania in the mid nineteenth century before the advent of colonialism and modern technology. Narrative agents endowed with mystic power-whether the glorified shrine, the possessed young man or the woman fortune-teller - are stripped of their supernatural halos. In this case, the concern with the Sufi element is subverted by a realism that aims at demystifying rather than reinforcing popular veneration for "sanctity."]

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