The Rape a Tunisian Novel Printed in Cairo after a Twenty-year Ban
Cairo-Sayed Rizq: Shams for Publishing & Media printed Tunisian author Hedi Thabet’s novel The Rape after it was banned more than twenty years due to its audacity in depicting the political and ideological scene in Tunisia during the sixties, and observing the sociological and socio-cultural transformations in society which made publishers fear publishing it.
Rape in the novel took on many manifestations, including raping the body to which the characters of the novel are subject like Alati, and Warda, the girl who joined in a secret arrangement, raping the soul to which society as a whole is subject, and raping thought to which the intellectual is subject.
In her reading of The Rape, Egyptian critic Hoaida Saleh said,
“When political ideology becomes an engine for creation,
the writer bends to read history. Thus, the novel becomes
a mirror, in which the writer basically means the cultural
and the civilisational in their social and religious
manifestations, that reflects the civilisational scene.”
After his experience in science fiction literature, Hedi Thabet won The Golden Comar in 2004 for his novel The Carnations Don’t Live in the Desert.
In his new novel the writer observes the sociological and socio-cultural transformations that happened in society through his answers to questions pertaining to features of identity that still stir debate.
The novel tore the curtain of ready-made interpretations imposed by society. It is the curtain that prevents the discovery of the fields of the human experience that are neglected by other means of interpretations that provide knowledge—be it philosophical or religious or psychological or other. These interpretations would not be available and convincing to the recipient unless through the novelist who became required to see the world in its tiniest details in a deep way and through a vision that is different from the one of others, and to say what others did not say.
Through this narration which takes threads from history and politics the writer draws a picture of himself, his society, his history, his values, and his position. Thus, narration is considered the means to which everyone without exception resorts to express themselves and others.
The writer discusses issues and taboos which we are still currently discussing. He introduces to us a large and intertwined number of people who are intersecting and are in equilibrium in representing the sociological and cultural scene of society and who with difference in their tendencies were crushed by all sorts of defeats and debacles.
The Death of the Boy:
The protagonist of the novel who represents the Tunisian people is Alati, that young man who is imprisoned on the reason of the events of turmoil that followed the death of the boy in the alley of Albourj Quarter and who is subjected to all kinds of torture until he informs against the members of the arrangement, but he refuses to give any information about the Communist Leftist arrangement. Despite his strong belief in his values and principles, he at the end swerves from them due to repetitive defeats and the bodily and intellectual rape to which he was subject.
After the failure of his vocation through the Leftist arrangement, he leaves for Paris where he meets one of the Fundamentalists who uses all psychological means to deceive and attract him to a thought that is in opposition to his former convictions. Then he suggests a travel to Pakistan for him, a travel that seems enigmatic. So he accepts and inclines to adopt the Fundamentalist thought and he moves from the farthest Left to the farthest Right. He is brainwashed. Eventually, he is conscripted as a soldier by the radical Fundamentalists and he heads to Pakistan.
A Visual Language:
Through his transparent narration that is rich with analysis, questioning, and description Hedi Thabet succeeds in deconstructing the ready-made constants and in shaking them through constructing a special image of the characters who help him build the imaginative world of the text. He also succeeds in observing the details of place through a successful visual language.
The temporal line in the novel grew upward since the moment of the first event (the killing of the boy) and even in the last scene (the travel of Alati to Pakistan), as if the novel came between two temporal parentheses that open onto an ending that opens the horizon of the reader’s expectation.
The writer mastered the use of narration through the omnipresent narrator who is able to dive inside the characters and describe their conflicts, pains, and dreams. Besides, the transparent language helped him convey the meaning in a way similar to the shoot that is aimed at a definite goal that is revealing what is not spoken about in the Tunisian and Arab past.
This review appeared in ensan.net 11/03/2008 by Sayed Rizq.
You can read the original text in Arabic here.
Translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi.