Elmarsafy brings together an illustrative spectrum of seminal Arab authors, and ably illuminates the persistence of Sufi idioms and voices in contemporary literary texts. He argues convincingly that these appropriations are intricately linked not only to questions of besieged national identities and ideological bankruptcy, but perhaps more pressingly to aspects of the journey of the self, the limits of the language and form of the novel, and ultimately, the very habitability of the world of the writer. --Samia Mehrez, Professor of Arabic Literature, American University in Cairo
Readers interested in how a particular work fits into the broader arabophone literary scene will appreciate Elmarsafy's thorough indexing, while those familiar with Arabic will also appreciate lengthy quotations from the original works in over 60 pages of endnotes. The volume has a helpful bibliography including plentiful French-language scholarship on Arabic literature, fiction, and literary theory more generally. Elmarsafy is to be commended on the ambitious project to encompass a large geographic expanse, and his selections are meant to be illustrative rather than encyclopaedic. The work is meticulously detailed; hence, a reader new to the field would necessarily read this work alongside a more introductory survey of trends in modern Arabic fiction. --Celene Ayat Lizzio, Brandeis University, Journal of Postcolonial Writing
Close readings of nine contemporary Arab novelists who use Sufism as a literary strategy. Although Sufi characters - saints, dervishes, wanderers - occur regularly in modern Arabic literature, a select group of novelists seeks to interrogate Sufism as a system of thought and language. In the work of writers like Naguib Mahfouz, Gamal Al-Ghitany, Tahar Ouettar, Ibrahim Al-Koni, Mahmud Al-Mas'adi and Tayeb Salih we see a strong intertextual relationship with the Sufi masters of the past, including Al-Hallaj, Ibn Arabi, Al-Niffari and Al-Suhrawardi. This relationship becomes a means of interrogating the limits of the creative self, individuality, rationality and the manifold possibilities offered by literature, seeking in a dialogue with the mystical heritage a way of preserving a self under siege from the overwhelming forces of oppression and reaction that have characterized the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It looks at works such as Ghitany's Kitab Al-Tajalliyat [The Book of Theophanies], where the title and style imitate Ibn 'Arabi; Ouettar's Al-Waliyy Al-Taher [The Holy Saint], where the protagonist allegorizes Algerian history, and multiple works by Ibrahim Al-Koni. It traces references and allusions to the mediaeval Sufis, including Junayd, Al-Niffari, Ibn 'Arabi, Rumi and 'Attar.
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