The Libyan novel is an ambitious project and a special modern identity | immortality of the farmer

Aisha Ibrahim is a Libyan storyteller and novelist. Her novel “The War of the Gazelle” was on the longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction “The Booker” in 2020 and she believes that the Libyan novel has its own aesthetic and identity.

In this interview, Aisha Ibrahim talks about her new novel, The Sand Box, published by Mediterranean Publications.

It is a novel based on the horrific stories of Libyan women who suffered torture and murder in the Italian penal settlements, based on the reports of Paolo Valera, the only journalist who could visit and speak the Libyan prisoners in those settlements has. to the female prisoners before they disappeared forever.


Aisha Ibrahim points out that the name of the novel “The Sand Box” symbolizes Libya, according to a phrase uttered by Italian Senator Silvamini, in a session of the Italian parliament, and at that point the political forces had the controversy led over the feasibility. of directing a military campaign to Libya, it was the most prominent name, and used by the hostile Western press The government of Giovanni Giuliti, the godfather of the war.

She says, “This is the first time I choose the title of the text before I start writing it. I usually let the title change from several options until I finally decide it, but in the sandbox, in the beginning was the title, then The novel. “

A novel reminiscent of history, the events that took place on the land of Libya during the period of the Italian occupation colonies

In her novel “The Sandbox”, Ibrahim recalls the history, the events that took place on the land of Libya. The Italian occupation colonies, and here we ask her what the point or as was the beginning of the writing of the novel, and she says: “I do not know whether the intention of the question is the moment of the idea of ​​the novel, and not the starting point of the narrative, the idea was of an Italian song that caught my attention, titled ‘Tripoli is the land Beautiful Love’ was introduced by an Italian singer named Gia Garcinda, and later starred in a movie changed during the 1940s, the song caught my attention and its opportunity was traced through Italian sources, so it referred me to the general climate in Italian cities, ambitions, political struggle and the mobilization campaign for the invasion, the effect of propaganda and media campaigns to mobilize soldiers and public opinion. ”

She adds, “All I know beforehand about the colonial campaign against the western city of Tripoli is what the history books offer from the corner of Libyan jihad, and we have in the cultural and popular heritage thousands of stories covering that period, but “We do not know what about the other side? Why and how did the media, political and military mobilization take place, I traced the threads to discover other dark sides of the colonial era.”

The author points out that her novel “The Sandbox” talks about Libyan women deported to the penal colonies, and points out that the Italian press talks about this in many sources and articles, and when she returned to the Libyan sources, at least the documents available in the Libyan Jihad Center, I was amazed at how that ugly page is turned around and more than two hundred Libyan women on cold deserted islands disappear in a crime against humanity, without any fair trial. Perhaps the perpetrators cannot be brought to justice, but the novel is another ordeal for the perpetrators renewed by the number of readers, like a curse chasing the killer with each new reading.

Ibrahim explains that she tried to stay away from Libyan sources so as not to be accused of prejudice, so she was for many months digging up Italian documents, articles and research studies. There is also a long report in which he the suffering speaks of Libyan prisoners in Italian exiles, especially women.It is interesting that the Italian authorities, according to various news sources, have confirmed that a decree has been issued by the Prime Minister, Giovanni Giuliti, banning any journalist from visiting the penal colonies , after Valera revealed. scandals that overthrow the civilized project. As for the second book, it was by the Irish journalist McCulagh, who was also in Tripoli as a witness to the events of Al-Manshiyya, and he threw a card identifying him as a journalist in protest against what he seen of practices against humanity.

Experimentation is important

From “Qusayl” to “The War of the Gazelle” to “The Sandbox,” the Libyan novelist is writing about distant regions of Libyan history.

◙ A historical novel that immerses itself in a completely imaginary world

Here Ibrahim states, “I have no prior plan to write about a particular scope of history, but the subject is what attracts and fascinates me, and history, whether near or far, is an essential container for the movement of the narrative flows.The sandbox novel takes place at the beginning of the twentieth century in the era of Italian colonialism And the novel “Qusayel” deals with the seventies of the twentieth century, these are two general historical areas and many novelists have written about it , each from his own angle, and I do not address them with the aim of formulating a historical vision despite my interest in the idea of ​​rereading history through the narrative text, but what concerns me is the case Experiment in the narrative text, and the presentation of another model that keeps pace with the development of the human narrative experience in general. ”

The author refuses to call the novel “The War of the Gazelle” a historical novel, as it is a completely imaginary world, with no history other than the general framework required for any narrative work, and that framework was the Stone Age and based on some inscriptions on the rocks of the Acacus, and an orphan mummy found in a forgotten cave. , the purpose was not to present the historical context as much as to create a time-space environment for the story, and to isolate the events from any environment that any reader has known before.

And she continues, “I regret that many readers and critics in regions outside Libya, and even within, believe that what happened in the novel ‘The War of the Gazelle’ is a tradition passed down from Libyan history or “Libyan myths. It is unfair to suggest such a thing. Can history record events? Ten thousand years ago, if the age of writing did not exceed three thousand years in cuneiform and hieroglyphs.”

And she adds, “It is really unfortunate that even in the momentum of the Booker Prize during the year 2020 after the novel reached the long list, it was treated as a historical novel that conveys the legacy and history of the Libyans. , without the difficulty that the author is having in building his own imaginary novelist world that he provides from his imagination and weaves for him. ” events and legends of his own, the legends themselves in the novel were a particular substance to me, and critics know how difficult it is to build a myth and formulate it linguistically in line with the construction of the legendary narrative, which everything was inflated by some opinions that could not be an objective view of the historical narrative and the imaginary narrative, perhaps because the enormity of the narrative The imaginative act of the novel was not expected, especially for an obscure writer from Libya as a country that has not yet emerged well in the major competitions, and the “Ghazala War” has been treated with blatant injustice as a historical novel covering the ancient history of Libya and was based on the legends of the region .

fiction project

Regarding the presence of the place in her novels, she says: “When we have finished reading a novel, the fictional place is the only thing that stays in the memory. Therefore, we must pay special attention to it, by providing its details. and to illuminate the dark and hidden sides of it, and to relive it as if we were visiting it at the same time as the novel.When we experience reading a novel, we are in fact visiting a place, and when I ‘ inviting a reader to a work of mine, I must present the place furnished with its details and alive with its warmth.

She continues, “In fact, we remember the places we met, the people who left a mark in our lives that brought us together with places. We can not remember an event in our lives without the spatial background. which took place in it, so the place remains the magical feature that increases the The value and quality of the narrative text.

The author is interested in the state of experimentation in the fictional text and the presentation of another model that keeps pace with the development of the human narrative experience in general.

And on to the question: Do we have a Libyan fiction project? Her response was, “I’m glad this question was repeated for the second time. You kindly addressed it to me earlier in a dialogue that was about five years ago. At that time, I had one novel in my account,” Qusayl. “And he was not dependent on a first novel, the first novel is a matter that is available to everyone, every person can write a first novel, often available from his personal biography, but we are not sure that he does not have a novel project unless he undergoes new experiences, and experiences that do not repeat themselves.

And she continues, “It’s on the individual level, that is, as a personal opinion on my case, but on the general level, as the Libyan case, we certainly have a narrative project moving at an ambitious pace. to prove it.position in the Arabic and international narrative blog.Repeat attendance, success and excellence of the Libyan novelist’s work creates a cumulative situation that qualifies him to compete and prove his position in the highest creative forums . “

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