How many times can one be taken on the wings of a book towards a yet unexplored horizon?
Probably many …
This could be the best gift of life….
The unfinished never-ending exploration of books… and of course, those who wrote them.
A novel, translation, a book of history … it doesn’t matter. What one thing for sure will happen to the reader is the state of hallucinated ride on those and beyond the unexplored horizons of reality that is so mixed with epic, myth and disturbed emotions of how the past is so unchanged from the present.
Azazel has been given to me as a gift from three different people who I happened to have just met in the last seven years. It was also recommended by almost everyone who read it, but somehow, when I started reading it back then it didn’t catch me. I felt lost in the details of the world that was so unknown to me, yet it spoke my language and was knocking on the very gates of Jerusalem and walking within its walls.
I admit, it felt an embarrassment…
I have those moments when I don’t practically fit with the general taste.
Like my feelings towards the Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish. I feel ashamed to say that I don’t like him. In Darwish case, my judgment is not because of him, but because of how exploited his name and his verses has become by my people. Yet. He remains unique… and yet, it says a lot that such people remain single … our culture is sadly not producing more of such legends… or they become legendary after they die.
My moment of embarrassment with Azazel was different … the book couldn’t get to me, and everyone was just claiming that this was a masterpiece of writing, and worse, people were just insisting that it is me who should read this book.
When I read “in the shadow of the snake,” I thought I made a bargain with my negligence. I fell in love with the writer, with the plot, with the characters. I even disregarded many of the apparent weakness in the expertise of planning in that novel.
I just love it when an Arab author, especially a man (actually they are most men), can speak with such smoothness on the inner depths of women with a none “feminist” approach.
Feminism and I are also a complexed issue. I keep declaring high and loud; I am not a feminist. I wouldn’t say I have anything against feminists. But I do have a problem in framing myself within a category from one side, and, having to be a feminist to fight for women’s rights from the other side. Being a woman is being a woman. My fights are about what I can and cannot. What I am and am not. What I want to be and don’t want. It is not about how equal I am with the man or not. I don’t seek equality with men. I don’t see me in need of proving my capabilities and my “cans” and “can not.” Being a woman is just like being a man … each with his \her own perfect and imperfect making that makes life… life.
After a recommendation from a trustful scholar and friend some weeks ago upon discussing Youssef Zeidan (the author), he said: this is a novel you cannot read. It is brilliant in the making. Brilliance in the message. Brilliance in the way the writer maneuvered around it all within the pages and the critiques.”
This was an important factor for my provocation, especially that I have three copies of that novel staring at me on my shelves. Of course the recent stars of attacks around Y. Zeidan was as well important for me to make my move in grabbing the book.
I just closed the novel with a choking sensation in my mind that captured me for the last week, in the middle of being forced to study for a final in Islamic religious groups that squeezed my head and pressured my heart.
Questions that started from the first page and ended unanswered with the last;
Who is Azazel? Who is the author? Is the author the translator? Or is it the narrator? Is Zeidan Hypa? Or Is Zeidan the medium that Azazel facilitated for this time-machine exodus that forces us again and again and again into asking the same question of our living existence: the status of women. The influence of religion. And Azazel?
While the questions remained unanswered, and the wondering around the journey Zeidan made us ride still shadowed by the dust of the last traces of the sandy deserts and the remains of whatever is left from that history within a stone or a monument, with the sounds of the hitting waves of those seas. Zeidan brilliantly positioned “women” in masterly creative roles, which included her mastering the situation and having the power on nothing less but a creator, even though, she ended in the three times of her appearances in a sorrowful tragic destination. Octavia, the playful widow, Hypatia, the splendid scientist, Marta, the beautiful divorced singer, all made the best of who they were, without any attempt to pretend anything else. They filled his existence of emptiness that can only be full with one woman of those.
The power of women despite their never ending position of deterioration, inequity and extortion that history partnered in portraying and implementing, is challenged by “man’s” weakness and defeat despite the power that history described him within and along has been implementing.
The manipulation that people are assigning themselves as speakers on behalf of God, whether in a religion or atheist believes? Men dressing God’s simple rules of life on earth by man’s intention of control. A switch that continues to confuse us, either in a uniform of a man of God or man of State. A state of living that still manipulates us, with different names and people. With various religions and cults. With different places and times.
Whether it is a novel that destroys “religion” and mystifies the “weakness” in our satins or justifies them, or equalizes them or just identifies us with them …
Azazel… himself …
Whether responsible for the cruelty of this creation, or just an alibi for our Conscience. As vulnerable and as unseen …as Azazel himself…. Remains the trigger that sends us to a slumber or awakens us with full consciousness, as the story of our lives, our universe, and our creation …goes on.