July 16, 2007

Swan Song


"The Swan Song" is also a fairly new novel by Mekkawi Said only available in Arabic for the moment, but should soon be translated as it is the kind of literature that appeals to foreign publishers, and globalized culture. It is a well written book and describes the events that lead to the conscious decision of getting out through suicide by a Cairene middle age man disappointed by the present as a way to find the lost treasures of his past. It does not discuss the metaphysical side of the decision but it describes what leads him into the final decision. The anti hero narrator acknowledges "Lately, I started feeling they are surrounding me everywhere. I even started dreaming of them. Whenever, I walk around, either in downtown that I love so much and that I know well, or where I was born and bred the Pyramids area, or even in El Hussein area that I love so much, and all I see is foreigners. All I overhear is different languages but no Arabic.
They always meet me face to face... nobody by my side , nobody behind me... while they are crowded lines of them filling my horizon".
After many events involving memories of a horny and successful movie producer and of his death induced by the appalling way he is treated by his recently turned Islamic fundamentalist son, memories of a money making trip to the Gulf states with a friend and of the loss of his first love due to a one in a million kind of accident, the details of torrid affairs with a girl from Upper Egypt who had been raped by her uncle, and a "foreign researcher" that makes him work (according to the hero) for ends of her own, and those of his friend with a Korean who soon dies of breast cancer, the trip into ordinary madness his friend embarks upon as a result, and many more, he ends by stepping into the vacuum while sucking on a cocktail of medicinal drugs. "The street expands to the horizon it is overcrowded with humans, animals and soulless creatures. I can hear their breathing, and even their moves as they move out to let me through without once looking at me or moving towards me, I start seeing a white stretch of vacuum and at the other side I see many people waving at me, there is Youssef Helmy and his martyred son, my mother and Julia, Hend and Samantha. When I finally step into the stretch of vacuum everything stops and I can not see or hear anything".

The story discusses the many frustrations of a few generations of Egyptians, those born from the early forties to to the late sixties, inspired by some personal experiences of the author and by few "mediatized affairs" that probably influenced a way or another any of those.
But even without the keys to the symbols of the tale, it should still be an enjoyable, compelling and worthy read.

1 comment:

makakawy said...

the language struck me as amazingly poor and the plot is even poorer.. I do not know what's up with those guys who can only narrate what happens around them with very little fantasy.. well at least I'd be expecting some smart observations and remarks on what everyone knows and follows in our daily life..
on the other hand.. talking of the novel as a source for some non Egypt residents to know one additional aspect of the country.. I think even there it may achieve a very modest success..
Sorry to say all that.. Makawy is a very sweet person.. but.. I am