“Behler Corridor” by Alaa Farghali: a revolution made by intellectuals

The novel of the Egyptian writer Alaa Farghali, “Behler Pass”, a novel about the revolution, and the export of the novel, published by “Dar Diwan”, with this feature, may make the reader wonder about which revolution the owner of “Valley of Dome” (which is Farghali’s award-winning novel) is talking about “Naguib Mahfouz Prize for Egyptian Novel” in 2021), because the Arab region is seeing a decline in the saying of the revolution, and people are abandoning it after the regression of the Arab Spring movements. However, the novel is about the revolution. More precisely, it speaks of a revolution that takes place in a theoretical framework, and intersects with the beginning of the January revolution in Egypt.

There are many things in the novel that justify saying that it is a text that revolves in the theoretical space of reality. A text that collides with its reality within the limits of elite corruption. It is a novel about the corruption of the elite, and then about the purification of this elite through the revolution. This is a dreamy view of the existence of a reformable elite in all Tehranism. It is true that the characters in the novel are corrupt, but their corruption is the corruption of the environment that pushes everyone to some type of corruption. Elite corruption therefore does not occur by itself, but rather is corruption that stems from society and the system. The narrator of the story has a critical vision that says that the change must be comprehensive and radical, and that it starts with ideas, so that it can be a feasible change.

The narrator works as a literary editor in a publishing house, dealing with reality calling for revolution, demanding it and needing it, and dealing with fiction writing looking for tools. He charts a theoretical course for the revolution, plans it and has it start with the elite, not the public. It is true that the elite he chooses, with their problems and crises, appear as part of the public. But it is a part that is transcendent above the public, a part that believes in its superiority because of the personalities’ awareness of the necessity and inevitability of change. And before that the social responsibilities that a part accepts to change the whole. Most of the novel even takes place in a society that can be described as the vanguard. But when these vanguards are led into prisons, the real heroes emerge by taking to the streets, the common people. In the final pages, Farghali’s text reveals its active heroes. These are the ones that came out in January.

The text engages its reality within the confines of elite corruption

The narrator does not mention specific dates or events that the reader can clearly and clearly find in the Egyptian reality, but through the corruption of the elite that the narrator portrays as a total corruption; From the sexual relationships that make women with no talent become writers overnight, to the writers who write their novels under pseudonyms, not to the writers who use their relationships with power to achieve some level of success. This part is agreed upon as corruption. There is also a persistent corruption of ideas behind it, as the female characters are constantly revolving in one’s space.

And the bodies, the bodies of men and women, are nothing but a commodity in a shadowy space, in which everyone likes to appear and excel in shame. Access depends on the abandonment of value. But the narrator, from his transcendent position, is in turn above the group he is talking about, as if he does not want the revolution to appear because of the weakening, decayed consciousness that only emits what is corrupt, and only utters. which crumbles and crumbles. Rather, he wanted it to appear as a solution and a purification, not as a result guided by reasons, and this detail may be a betrayal of the very reality that originally inspired the text.

So the narrator is an editor in the publishing house, and he portrays himself outside the circles of corruption, as he rejects what should be rejected and accepts what should be accepted, working on novels within the limits of their merits. He catalogs the revolution in the same way he writes a novel. He uses Naguib Mahfouz’s novels to signal the crowds to move to the squares by publishing the titles of his books with specific page and line numbers on the revolution’s Facebook page.

This choice, which looks at reality through the eye of literature, is justified by what ended the January revolution. The Egyptian writer always wants the beginning, he wants a revolution that cannot be defeated, and hopes that it will never be broken. To an extent that in the final chapters of the novel the sinners confess the sins they have committed, and reveal the corruption that has poisoned their depths by writing about what they hide from others through their personal pages on Facebook. We notice in their confessions that the security forces drove them to the attachment of corruption to the system that the narrator calls the inheritance system.

The security knows everything in such a way that its cameras and the eyes of informants seem to touch every detail of the elite’s life, from their bedrooms to their careers, and it also negotiates with them what is known against them at moments of his choice. Then comes the revolution to free the characters from their shame, from a shame that is almost as common as the shame of their existence.

A narrator who comes from the future to tell us the necessity of revolution

A quick read of the novel can see that it is running late. The revolution Farghali referred to has already happened, people have gathered in the streets, and Facebook has changed the reality of entire nations. Moreover, the revolution itself witnessed drastic changes that brought formal differences to the system against which it was founded.

But it was not a revolution against the idea as the narrator wanted it to be, and perhaps illuminates the regression of the revolutions that seemed late in Farghali’s novel. The narrative is what it suggests, without being clearly linked to a specific event, as if its ties to reality are open to it, not constrained or constrained by it. The narrator who rose above others without having a name is a narrator who comes from the future, to tell us the necessity of revolution, or if he is not from the future, he comes from a time when nothing is clear except the voice of the crowd louder and louder against the jailers, demanding freedom forever.

It is noteworthy that Alaa Farghali is an Egyptian writer and journalist, born in Minya Governorate in 1976. He studied Hebrew and Czech at Cairo and Ain Shams Universities, and between 2000 and as a journalist for a number of Egyptian and Arabic newspapers and magazines worked. 2007. “Behler Pass” is his third novel after “Khair Allah the Mountain” (2016), which won the “Sawiris prize for culture” in the Young Writers branch, and “Wadi Al-Dom” (2019), who won the “Naguib”. Mahfouz Prize” for the “Supreme Council of Culture” “.

* A novelist from Syria

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