Tunisian Shadows: An Anthology of Tunisian Short Stories Edited by Abderrahman Majid Rabii. Reviewed by Mohamed Issa El Mouadeb.

A new edition of Tunisian Shadows: 43 Short Stories from Tunisian Arabic Literature was published in 342 pages. It includes short stories by Mohamed Laroussi Metoui, Mustapha Fersi, Ezzedine Madani, Mohamed Salah el-Jebri, Mohsen Ben Dhiaf, Amor Ben Salem, Samir Ayadi, Mahmoud Belaid, Mohamed Hedi Ben Salah, Abdul Qadir Ben Haj Nasr, Habib Selmi, Radwan Al-Kouni, Hassan Nasr, Ahmed Mammou, Mohamed Ridha Kefi, Nafla Dhhab, Aroussia Nalouti, Hassan Ben Othman, Slaheddine Boujah, Bouraoui Ajina, Hafidha Gara Biban, Abou Baker Ayadi, Hassouna Mosbahi, Rachida Cherni, Ibrahim Dargouthi, Massouda Abou Bakr, Saleh al-Dames, Hafidha Guesmi, Najet Adouani, Lassaad Ben Hsin, Faouzia Aloui, Mohamed Ait Mihoub, Faouzi Dinari, Hayet Erraies, Mohamed Issa El Mouadeb, Lazhar Sahraoui, Emna Oueslati, Nacceur Toumi, Mustapha Kilani, Alia Rhayem, Amel Mokhtar, Basma Chaouali, and Mounira Rezgui. Apart from the introduction of the first edition, the book also includes a new introduction by the author.

Mohamed Issa El Mouadeb is one of the writers included in this anthology. The following article is his review of this anthology.

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Tunisian Shadows Book Cover

Tunisian Shadows is an anthology of short stories edited by Tunis-based Iraqi writer Abderrahman Majid Rabii. It is published by Arab Encyclopedia House in Lebanon in a second added edition.

The book falls within the framework of introducing Tunisian literature. Rabii chose to be interested in the art of the short story through selecting 43 short stories pertaining to different  generations: From the sixties to the nineties and beyond…

“The short story” as a modern term is an art that came to the Arab culture from the West. The press contributed to establish and spread this art during the twentieth century. The corpus of the Tunisian short story began with the appearance of the first Tunisian short story around 1905 which was written in French by Hassan Hosni Abdelwahab and titled “The Last Evening in Granada.” Then it was followed by other attempts by Salah Souissi, Mohamed Manchou, and Mohamed El Fadhel Ben Achour.

But, technically speaking, the artistic short story began with Ali Douagi. Then it witnessed several transformations. On the occasion of the publication of Tunisian Shadows we need to define the characteristics of the Tunisian short story and its trends in the sixties and the nineties—the periods that are represented in the book.

-The sixties: It was a period that witnessed the emergence of the avant-garde movement. This movement craved after developing the form of the classical story, and coming up with new forms because true creation is the one that is established at the level of totalities. Thus, avant-gardists’ fictional writings were devoted to the creation of the fictional form because it is an object in itself. This made them avoid details.

Rabii included short stories of writers belonging to this generation, Mohamed Salah el-Jabri, Amor Ben Salem, Mahmoud Belaid, Ahmed Mammou, Mohamed Ridha Kefi, Nafla Dhhab, and Aroussia Nalouti chief among them.

-The nineties: The most distinctive features of this period were the final abandonment of the classical standardised writing, and the total difference from the avant-gardist story through caring for details. This was through the use of various techniques, chief among them, the poetics of discourse, the mysterious, and enriching the storytelling’s context with the attitudes of dodge and surprise.

Rabii chose short stories of writers belonging to this period. Among them, we can cite Massouda Abou Bakr, Faouzia Aloui, Rachida Cherni, Alia Rhayem, Ibrahim Dargouthi, Lazhar Sahraoui, and others.

The Tunisian short story in all its stages is a scene of revelation, a transmission of the traits of popular life and the images of the countryside and the city, a portrayal of the lesser-known and the forgotten, and a transmission of human emotions in all their situations: Love and hatred, loyalty and betrayal, deep-rootedness and orphanhood, imprisonment and liberation…

Introducing the book, Abderrahmane Majid Rabii says:

“These selections were the fruit of a personal effort that I am alone

responsible for it. They finally came as a representation of all

generations. Although some names were instated for their pioneering

value and because they represented a period that was similar to

the continuation of the late founding period, there existed some names

that were the most outstanding symbols of the generation of the

sixties, others from the following decades, and emerging names that

were not lucky to get exposure, but I bet on them because something

like certainty is stirring me that these names would serve as a fresh

reservoir for the story of the next century in Tunisia.”

Tunisian Shadows introduces a bunch of the most beautiful and quality texts of Tunisian fictional creation. It is edited by a Tunis-based Iraqi writer who lived with all generations and kept abreast of their experiences…

And the news of a country covers all its regions…

But we ask: “Why did the book mention such names and such texts?”

Rabii says: “My taste was the sole judge and the sole criterion… And someone else might disagree with me when editing a new anthology so that he/she would choose names I did not include.”

Originally appeared in the Tunisian daily Alchourouk 12/06/2012 by Mohamed Issa El Mouadeb.

You can read the original text in Arabic here.

Translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi.

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About aliznaidi

Ali Znaidi lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. He graduated with a BA in Anglo-American Studies in 2002. He teaches English at Tunisian public secondary schools. He writes poetry and has an interest in literature, languages, and literary translations. His work has appeared here and there and is scheduled to appear elsewhere . At moments of revelation, he smokes and drinks green tea with mint while pondering.
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