By Rita Sakr (auth.)
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Extra resources for ‘Anticipating’ the 2011 Arab Uprisings: Revolutionary Literatures and Political Geographies
Like the establishment of the principle of transfer of power. Like the ban on forging the people’s will. All of which are basic principles in any respectable political system. I call for what the people are demanding. I don’t have a communist or Islamist ideology. [ ... ] Just tell me for God’s sake: Is it OK for one party to rule the country forever? ([my translation] Salmawy, 2011, p. 29) Other characters in the novel articulate similar statements, including the young university students and Doha who undergoes a radical change and becomes drawn to al-Zainy both emotionally and ideologically.
Studying the ‘Emerging urban metaphors in the literary production on contemporary Cairo’, Samia Mehrez writes: As the writers come to represent the city in literature, they, in turn become architects of the history of Cairo, whose literary works reconstruct and remap the city. Cairo becomes a protagonist whose existence is indispensable for the existence of the narratives themselves, not to speak of our own reading and decoding of these narratives. (2008, p. 144) Mehrez’s argument is a gateway to revisit, in the aftermath of the revolution, the intertwined literary and political histories of Cairo in which the city is the protagonist of stories of repressive and transformative autocratic and popular violence that have unfolded in revolutionary and counter-revolutionary phases.
In contrast, the liveliness of the ‘butterfly effect’ metaphor that Salmawy astutely employs throughout is more successful because it explores the inter-connected issues of tradition and religion, the oppression of the poor and the women of Egypt, and the vital potential of people power in initiating a series of political upheavals that affect a nation, region, and the world beyond the predictions of political analysts and foreign-policy experts. Perhaps this complex imaginative grasp is related to Salmawy’s own perspective as a journalist on the failures of both Arab dictators and their international sponsors to gauge popular transformations.