Tarif Al-Khalidi writes: Samia Mahrez on Ibrahim Naji .. An intimate visit that had to wait a long time

Posted on: Friday, 29 April 2022 – 20:40 | Last updated: Friday 29 April, 2022 – 20:40

Al-Khalidi Tariff
Palestinian University.

Among his books are “The Gospel According to the Muslim Narration” and his translation of the Koran into English
Samia Mahrez is a university specializing in comparative English literature and a literary critic
One of her last works is “Cairo Literary Life, One Hundred Years in the Heart of the City” (2011).
He’s my grandfather, the famous poet Ibrahim Nagy, who wrote the lyrics for the song “Al Atlal”, but who is this man?
There is something like a silent revolution that is shaking today in what we used to call the truth in history as well as in biography.
One of the signs of this reversal is the growing interest in historiography at the expense of history, in the literary style of historians and historians, not in the narration and the amount of truth thereof, in the original plot of the text, not in the essentially not. an honest record of events. Perhaps this reversal stems from the prevailing political discourse, which some see as promoting the “post-truth” argument. As for biographies, many of them carry titles such as “The Legend of So and So” or “The Invention of So and So,” as if we have lost hope of writing a clear, consistent, and sequential biography over time. This coup has not yet reached the Arab world, but its echoes have begun to be heard, as in this beautiful and creative book.
A new kind of biography
The book begins with a mural of Ibrahim Nagy, the author’s maternal grandfather. An image as if it were from the world of fantasy, because the book is essentially a story of a picture reminiscent of the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. The reader accompanies the author in her childhood as she ponders the picture: “Of course he is my grandfather, the famous poet Ibrahim Nagy, who wrote the lyrics for the song“ Al Atlal ”one of the most famous songs sung by Kawkab. Al Sharq Umm Kulthum, but who is this man? What is my relationship with him? As the image of Dorian Gray grows old over time, so the author and the image travel together to find answers to these two questions. The author repeatedly insists: “This is not a biography, but a visit! The reader can answer: Yes, it’s a visit by two people to Ibrahim Naji and Samia Mahrez, and the time in this visit is not consecutive, but rather like stations gradually revealing the tender out of the picture and then disguising it, and flirt at a distance with the biography and then do not follow its terms, it is a “biography” of a completely new type where it intersects The biography / photo with the biography you are writing, maybe we should have a get a new name for it: the interactive biography.
The image of the wall soon generates photos of models from Naji’s blogs, diaries, and personal papers that all appear to have been scattered or quickly collected from a writer’s desk after his death, and I wish they were more clearly printed for old eyes. Samia does not attempt to arrange these scatterers or place them in a specific rally, as a traditional biographer might do, and so she suggests to the reader that the human personality is scattered and conflicting in nature, or that one of us , ie of the human race, is in fact a group of characters that can not be sorted and classified.The packaging is shrouded in dense fog.
Is this the life of Ibrahim Naji, or rather his? Question marks are very widespread in a sublime “visit” because it is like someone knocking on a door and hearing only faint answers.
The visit actually begins when the author gets Ibrahim Nagy’s papers that were in the possession of his favorite daughter, that’s Aunt Samia. At first glance, it would seem that the author has found a treasure or an archive that anyone planning to write a biography would wish for. But this archive ultimately turns out to be a mixture of shit and chubby: various draft poems, complete and incomplete, personal and official letters, incomplete texts of soliloquy, love and reproach, opportunistic thoughts, pages of diaries of different dates, scattered translations from English etc., so it’s no wonder the “visit” is full of question marks, how can we tie a thread, even if it is a thin one, between all those disparate particles, the author turns to her mother and finds not any explanations to help her find her alone when she knocks on the door.
The author opens the dark door of Ibrahim Naji’s house with much trembling, and even with a degree of fear, for she has nothing but a dim lamp on this visit, from which she sees only a few shadows here and there. not. The ingenuity of the visitor is that she does not distract, assume or pretend that she knows the unknowable, but leaves the shadows alone, and only explores what the dim light allows her. Slowly, the visitor expresses some concern about her when she discovers that she is the same age as Ibrahim, which gives her the courage to approach him and touch his feelings and emotions.
‘Ruins’ survived
So, who is Ibrahim Nagy, and what does his photo reveal to the visitor? The latter calls us to meditate on the poem “Al Atlal” as written by Naji, not as Umm Kulthum sang it Nothing: dreams, wakefulness, illusions, funerals, ghosts, shadows, boredom, despair, fate, blindness, nostalgia, freedom, forgiveness, mourning, regret and injustice. As for tangible and tangible images, it includes drowning, thorns, waves, corpses, buildings, abyss structures, wind, slaughter, ashes, blood, tyrants, narrow graves, cobwebs, a broken dagger, demons, flowers, tweets and melodies. . It is, of course, a love poem, but it is a love that transcends love to reveal the whole world of the poet, for whenever he tries to reach out his hand to his beloved, he is covered by the absurdity and injustice of his life. Yes, there were moments of happiness, but the memory of it in a time of despair is reminiscent of the verses of the poet Dante, which was very close to our poet’s heart: There is no greater pain than in a time of misery to remember that happy time.
With the brilliance of the Impressionist artist, Samia Mahrez paints the picture of the wall: Ibrahim Nagy, the doctor who offered and offered, and received nothing from his superiors in the ministry, except neglect and injustice, the lover who loves him chained and suffocated him. by his strict devotion to his family in spite of the presence of a woman who did not share his heart and mind, the intellectual and writer who was one of the teachers of his generation, often interrupted by jealousy and hypocrisy, and once Mahrez finished drawing, it was revealed to the reader that she had become his “friend”. The picture that hung on the wall started moving and the snake moved in it until we could approach her and touch her, feel some of her feelings. and hear her voice, even if it is from afar.
Very rarely does one of us come across such a book that inhabits its reader like a ghost lives.We turn with passion when we turn over a fascinating photo album.It is a new literary genre and an unforgettable visit .

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