The first word instantly offends the reader A whore, no I am not a Whore,.. Haneen mutters while trying to figure out to which culture she belongs. She maintains this ambiguous feeling that she is Egyptian thanks to her Egyptian parents, but as she was born and raised in France, she only recognizes her self as a French Woman.
Well, this is not the only theme here, we have many visions of Jennies and Fairies: Patrick, one of her many lovers, appears in a form of a Jenni during the sexual practice as he puts together his extraordinary energy to go out of the bottle, burned in his own lust. In another spot, coming out of the bottle is synonymous to find love, or the lover who will rescue and liberate Haneen.And then the religion issue has surfaced once again: this time when Haneen falls in love with David (who appeared faintly in the previous novel), a religious Jewish young man who was also raised in France, but decided to settle in Israel, so that his faith would be completed : a kind of naive stereotypical relationship that is only used to maintain the rejection of integration between Arabs and Israelis. But, as Farghali defends, it only reflects chaos that controls her sexual life.
The abnormal sexual life she leads, proved by her involvement in group sex nights, raises the question of adultery, in a wicked attempt to grant it a legitimate face in the name of women liberty, and control on her body. Haneen simply describes herself as a whore, a destiny that she could not escape from. A captivating scene that utilized this theme artistically is when Haneen imagines that she stripped off her clothes along with her girl friend Nataly, who is also now naked, and both girls are engaged in a theatrical performance before confused, indiscriminate audience.
For those who have not read the first novel, the author created this link between the two novels: the voice of Emad, Ramis best friend, who has the autobiographical notes of his intimate friend (it is completely unclear when or where Rami has died). Emad is also there to represent the invisible world with its fascinating secrecy and imaginary feelings and thoughts. When Haneen comes back to Egypt in scholarly visit, Emads spirit reappears to guide her to the way to her mother, who disappeared surprisingly somewhere in Egypt after she gave birth to her only baby. However, the second part of the novel hosts a theoretical, metaphysical monologue by Emad, revealing his existence now in a more progressive world based on the sublime value of knowledge. A mere journey in time, this amazingly unfolded puzzle.
This very part slows down the vivid, brilliant, animated, coherent narration of Haneens accounts of her sexual relations, experiences in Paris, and her quest for the truth about her mother. But it seems, as Farghali believes, this theoretical approach is everywhere in the novel.
It is there when Haneen discusses the theme of the fairy imprisoned in a bottle, and simply expresses her wish that people live in buildings made of glass, that entails the maximum degree of transparency; a way that would have enabled her to find her lost mother. And it is also a way to impede the flow of narration, in an attempt to make this hard-to-create mix between theory and fiction, says Farghali in amazement. It is language that is targeted here, Farghali figured out. What I am trying to do is to develop a new language that combines the imaginative, the oddity with the realistic tones.But where do all this odd world made of Jennies, fairy tales and spirit of dead people come from? It is all related to my early childhood that I spent in Oman, where the local culture is deeply involved in witchcraft, and magic stories that is related to phantoms found in deserts -that make up most of the geography of the city-and it was so common that people talk about their sudden encounter of a man walking on the legs of a goat, simply as they cross the street, he recalls
In the second section of the novel, Haneen returns back to Egypt to pursue a PHd study on the norms of sexual relationships in the Egyptian society. While she looks from the window of her hotel room, she is astonished by the increasing number of vieled women on the street, and wonders if they make love with their lovers, or they are still virgin. This scholastic research helps her to understand or better see her country differently, totally different than that common stereotypical version in the western media.
His treat has perfectly emulated , as he puts it, the fashion of magic realism literature that prevailed in the nineties, but the question is does this trend still have the potential to survive, and till when? And back to the first section of the novel, which is subdivided into 7 parts, each is ended by a puzzling question raised by Haneen.
Is this intended suggestions of questions rather than answers play an artistic role, or does it reflect the social role of the author in his society? They are mere questions that suggest in a sense certain themes, but they initially are an essential part of Haneen quest for her own identity. Though she appears as a western, liberal woman, her attitudes, thoughts are too contradictory, duplicating, just as the case with the majority of middle class in Egypt.
By Tarek Barey >>in Read Me