a mild pain like the feather of a bird moving quietly from one place to another…

ألم خفيف كريشة طائر تنتقل بهدوء من مكان لآخر

When I first heard about this novel, I couldn’t help but laugh at the extremely long title, thinking it’s gonna be another el halazona yamma el halazona. Why on earth would a writer choose a 9 words title for his first novel!!! Then I got to know that the writer Alaa Khaled is the one responsible for Amkenah (literally: places), which is a magazine specifically interested in the “culture of the place”, and in my opinion is one of the best in discussing and reviewing cultural trends related to “places”, may it be neighborhoods, oases, villages,,, etc, so I was a bit encouraged to buy it and maybe read it in some point.

(Spoiler warning)

This novel is definitely very different from other Arabic novels, and breaks lots of the common trends of the Egyptian literature*, for instance, there is actually no single plot for the 380 pages. At the beginning you find yourself in front of tens of different names intertwined together with numerous relations, and you actually consider getting a pen and a paper to write all the names and how they are related. Then bit by bit you discover that the common theme is the street where the narrator lives with his family, and from this point you start to see Alexandria as a whole from the narrator’s lens.

The short storytelling runs around the narrator’s direct family, and moves constantly to his extended family, his neighbors and his friends, without a specific order. This gives the novel at the beginning a chaotic feeling, then bit by bit you let yourself get withdrawn with the small intimate details depicting the different personalities and relationships, unintentionally relating them to incidents and people you actually know.

Throughout the stories, I didn’t feel the pain the author mentioned in the title, except for the constant feeling of nostalgia to the good old days. However I was struck hard with the final parts talking about the death of his father, and how he felt about it. Maybe because I recently passed through this painful experience, that I felt tears running afresh, and only then did I understand the meaning of the title…. a mild pain like the feather of a bird moving quietly from one place to another…

* I am not a literature specialist, and this is an opinion of a common reader, please let me know if there are other similar works if you heard about them.

And here are some quotes:

أي وداع يفتح في نفسي مسارات للدموع . بالرغم من إنهاء خدمتي في الجيش و عودتي للحياه التي أحبها ، و يجب علي في هذه الحالة أن أكون فرحان ، بل طائرا من الفرح . و لكن ليس هذا ما شعرت به . فأي مكان عشنا فيه  ، ثم تركناه يحمل جزء منا . أننا نودع هذا الجزء الذي لن نستعيده  مرة أخرى إلا عبر الذكريات  .‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎


5 responses to “a mild pain like the feather of a bird moving quietly from one place to another…

  1. I haven’t read that book yet, but I think I will after reading your comments.
    I came also to express my admiration of your blog.
    I like the way you write, so down to earth, unpretentious, and very cultured and I like your choice of topics.
    The exciting thing about it all is that you write in English. You are an Arab, of that I’m sure; and an Egyptian to boot. But your command of English is remarkable.
    That’s what draws me here. I’m Egyptian too but have been living overseas for a long time and feel more comfortable with English. I will never forget Arabic (constantly read it, I love it, and I wish I could write the way I see it written sometimes).
    I’m glad I found your blog; it’s quite interesting and contains lots of interesting issues. I stumbled on it when I was searching the web for something or someone who read “Utopia” by Dr Ahmad Khaled Tawfik. I felt straight after reading it that I was about to burst and needed to share my feelings with someone.
    Thanks again and glad you came back after stopping for the last 2 months.

  2. Pingback: الحكاية علامة شفاء الراوي « Kaleidoscope

  3. Pingback: Reading Alexandria, Egypt | Arabic Literature (in English)

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