“Sadness in my heart” by Hilal Schumann: When writing exceeds the need for rebellion

The novel “Sadness in My Heart” by Lebanese author Hilal Shoman has been published by the Khan al-Janoub Library in the German capital Berlin, and is one of the library’s first publications seeking to create a space for Arabic. create and discuss culture in Europe. This may lead to the question why the Lebanese author, who previously published four novels in well-known publishers in the Arab world, chose this library, which is still in its infancy. The answer will be understood by the reader from the first pages of the novel. Perhaps no Arab publisher is capable of taking the “risk” of printing a novel with these specifications.
Talking about a “risk” in the field of Arabic publishing does not necessarily mean facing the possibility of financial loss, due to the book’s deviation from the criteria of mass and marketing success, because it is, for example, elitist or experimental. The publisher may be subject to bans, prohibitions and possible prosecution. In the case of “Sadness in My Heart”, it is hard to imagine that a work, whose hero is a homosexual who talks casually about his life, can reach Arab readers without much difficulty.
However, reducing the book to the issue of homosexuality is very unfair to what the author wanted to say and express, and perhaps that was one of the reasons that kept him from publishing within the Arab world. It does not end with homosexuality and freedom not. of expression in general, which will waste the great richness of the text, and its multiple aesthetics. This is precisely why the work should not stay far away from readers in the Arab world, as it deserves more than being in the form of “the bold text.”
Schumann tells a story of memory, identity and alienation, which takes place between Berlin and Beirut, through calm and classical prose, and in a language close to the mundane and the ordinary. He does not seem to be very concerned about the literary and stylistic “rebellion” that plagued many Arab literary works before and after the Arab Spring. He is not trying to break “taboo” or “outrage modesty” and confront the prevailing discourse and culture of society, he would rather say what he has without great ideological, literary or political claims, even if his novel deals with all issues that are considered problematic, and perhaps this is one of the characteristics The most distinctive feature of “Hazn Fil Albi”, which makes it a sign of a new phase in Arabic writing, deserves much attention.

After the rebellion

The protagonist is a homosexual living in Berlin, of Lebanese origin, who was smuggled to Germany during the Lebanese civil war, and decided to return to his hometown, which coincided with the so-called October 17 uprising, to his to fulfill adopted father’s will, by scattering his ashes in various places in the land. It turns out that the deceased father was a fighter in the Lebanese war, and possibly involved in many crimes; And that the places in which he asked to scatter his ashes are not arbitrary, but have great significance in wartime, perhaps it would have been better not to remember them. There is nothing more than all this to write a problematic, daring and political novel, but whoever expects these things will not get in Hilal Schuman’s text what he wants.
The author’s questions differ somewhat from the questions of change, or the general social interaction with the past and memory, but can be sharpened by two questions posed by the protagonist himself: “What is love? What do I do with the ash? ” Two very subjective questions, which any man can ask himself, regardless of his origin, sexual orientation and past. “Love” occurs here not only in the familiar romantic sense, but in the sense of communication with the other; the meaning that certain persons are near or far from the individual self; How to build relationships in a world of uncertainty and stability. As for the “ashes,” it may be a symbol of what the experiences of our predecessors carried for us; The past, which we have not chosen, comes back to us only as an obscure memory. “Is this our story or the story of others?” As the novel asks.

The novel transforms all the great issues it deals with into a matter of the individual self, and it is not new in the world of literature, as many works engraved in memory humanize the great events, and connect them the impressions and feelings of individuals, but the internalization of what is external and common to Schumann takes on more intense dimensions.

On the journey of Youssef, the protagonist, from Berlin to Beirut, he meets many characters, who try to deal with their love and ashes in their own way, of his Kurdish lover Azo, who dreams of “Kurdistan”, which he does. do not know, in Berlin nightclubs; goes through Amr, a young Alexandrian who was rejected by his family because of his homosexuality; All the way to May, the daughter of the Lebanese minister, who is upset about her father and his history. It could be the story of an entire generation besieged by the ashes of the past, ending with the meeting of George Karam, the former Lebanese warrior and companion of the deceased father, who changed and addressed his political orientations and sexuality begins with the feminine pronoun, in an attempt to handle the ashes of his personal past.
The author does not portray his characters, despite their problematic tendencies and tendencies, in the form of the oppressed and the marginalized, or drowned in grief, but on the contrary, the protagonist of the novel received only goodness and understanding wherever he already gone, from dad, mom, stepdad, loved one, Lebanese friends, and even passersby at airports. “Heartbreak in his heart” is not due to direct social persecution, but can be the condition of his existence itself, and dealing with this type of grief morally is not easy at all. Shoman has never taken it easy to write his text, using ready-made formulas and sayings, and even when describing the problems facing the LGBT community in Lebanon, he presents them with the elements of its power, integration and presence, without building a romantic, vulgar, perception of oppressed women in a conservative society, because of their differences and liberating it.
Hilal Shoman, in a performance to his honor, overcame the need for “rebellion” to achieve what is more difficult and important, that is, literary maturity. This can be linked to the change in his target audience of readers: the novel, which may not be available on paper except in Europe, which will mostly be read by those who are no longer a social obstacle but rather become part of it. of their daily lives, issues of individual self-determination. And the author knew how to use this change in the interest of writing more broadly and calmly, even if it was beyond the “known.”

general internalization

It can be said that Schumann’s text is “contemporary”, with all its connotations: it has become difficult in our days to speak from a collective perspective about what is common, visions have multiplied, identities have multiplied and attempts to change is trapped. in despair, boredom and uselessness. Perhaps one of the last of these efforts in the Arab world was the October 17 uprising in Lebanon. Today, many of those who participated in these demonstrations seek individual salvation, or, if we speak in the style of the author, they seek to manage the “sadness of their heart”, by devising their own journeys, to to scatter.
The novel transforms all the major issues it deals with into a matter of the individual self, and it is not new in the literary world.The existence of war, social conflict and cultural difference except through the questions and obsessions of the hero , who was able to continue his life, with all its benefits and pleasure, even if he ignored these questions. . The author has picked up the sense of his time and formulated his own vision from it, and this is the best that can be expected of literature.

echo room

However, this perspective involves certain risks, which can be reflected in the literary accuracy of the text. It is possible to criticize the novel, due to the absence of what can be called “polyphony” in it. It is noteworthy that most of the characters, despite their different cultures, locations and orientations, speak and explain their thoughts and emotions in a very similar way, as if they were one character: the hero who grew up in Germany; The daughter of the Lebanese minister residing in Beirut; Even the manager of the minister. The whole world becomes an echo chamber for the self, which is the same author. In this sense, the novel not only describes the subjective echo chambers in our world, but has sunk it itself into repeating its own sayings, and again listening to them in different variations, and this repeated echo can give the impression of stereotyping to the reader.
But this impression does not detract from the experience and enjoyment of reading. make. works, in what may be called a transgression, from a non-historical perspective Literary, “Post-Arab Revolution Literature”.

Syrian author

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