تباريح وقائع هندية قديمة / Yearnings for Bygone Indian Encounters



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الخراط, إدوار; al-Kharrat, Edwar

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Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[The Egyptian novelist, al-Karrat, who has been an active member of the Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization and the Afro-Asian Writers' Association, recalls in this testimony encounters and events in his personal life associated with India. In a lyrical and passionate outpouring al-Kharrat opens up his Indian recollections with his early reading of the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, first in Arabic translation and later in English. The poetry of Tagore was a close companion of al-Kharrat when he was detained for political activities in the late 1940s. Then al-Kharrat discovered Mulk Raj Anand's fiction and admired the Indian author's characterization of the dispossessed. Encounters with other younger poets and women poets from different parts of India are also affectionately mentioned. Some of their poetry has been translated into Arabic by al-Kharrat. Along with his literary reminiscences, al-Kharrat describes his many visits to India. Sensuous souks, aggressive hustlers, sumptuous meals, sublime music, erotic sculpture and demeaning poverty are all seen in terms of their impact on the beholder al-Kharrat. They invariably conjure correspondences with Egyptian places and cities: Karnak, Ghouriyya, Alexandria, a nd Tanta among others. Al-Kharrat's recollections of his visits to India are intertwined with a story of a passionate encounter whose intimacies are lyrically presented against the beauty and magic of India. The female figure in the encounter is present also in al-Kharrat's semi-autobiographical trilogy. Using the poetics of fragmentation, al-Kharrat recalls past events imaginatively: memory and desire, India and poetry, unrequited love and sensual excess, overlap in his mind. Calcutta, Bombay and New Delhi, the culturally rich cities, were the setting of an enduring passion. The diversity-in-oneness of the woman he calls Isis, Aphrodite and Rama is what he finds captured in a wooden statue of a nude in the Indian bazaar. For him, India is the land of The One Thousand and One Nights. In this voyage, simultaneously out and in, of al-Kharrat, fabulous India seems like the projection of an eye intent on contemplating equally the motifs of a carpet, the imagery of a poem and the gesture of the beloved. Prominent political figures, internationally renowned artists, emerging writers, lost friends are all in the fabric of this essay celebrating an India that stands for the land of struggles for integrity and freedom, the land of the joie de vivre and the joys of poetry, and the land of the "dream of justice," as al-Kharrat puts it.]

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