KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - The Madbooli Publishing House of Cairo has recently issued a novel in Arabic entitled “El-Malika wa Sabi El-Afioon”, which may translate as: “The Queen and the Cocaine Lad”. The novel was authored by the young Sudanese writer Ms. Sara Abdel Moniem. It prints into 270 pages of medium size and relates the social, cultural and political aspects of life in Sudan over a number of decades and through various historical events.
The novel has attracted much attention by Arab and Sudanese critics alike, due to the daring plot display attitude and advanced stylistics technique adopted by its author. As the Moroccan critic Mr. Idris Zaidi explains, the author has meant to explore and comprehend the present status of Sudanese communities through historic fictional dealing with events, a fact that enables her to create a fictitious model of Sudanese communities that blends arts with history in a dramatic fictional way to accommodate and illustrate the tiniest details of daily living experiences of individuals in their most simple and traditional settings. The novel explores deeply and innovatively the historical Afro-Arab interactive relations within the Sudanese society. The name “Balqees”, as chosen by the author for the principal character in the novel, bears significant reference to this historic interaction, noted Mr. Zaidi, as it establishes a narrator-reader responsive emotional link all through the novel. Mr. Zaidi also added that Ms. Sara Abdel Moniem, as a writer, has managed to create a fictional forum through which a number of social value judgments and issues may be questioned and addressed. “Such unique technique and stylistics attitude have ranked Sara among the greatest Sudanese and Arab novel writers”, stated the Moroccan critic, Mr. Zaidi.
The Sudanese novelist and critic Mr. Eisa Al-Hilou highlighted the fact that “Sara Abdel Moniem has emerged as a talented young novelist with great potential and significant creative capabilities”. Mr. Al-Hilou remarked that one of Sara’s most notable fictional characteristics “is the fact that she draws fictional imageries of the present in such a way that will add very much to the Sudanese novelist procession, especially that she is part of a young generation of Sudanese writers”. Mr. Al-Hilou explained that there were times when certain stylistics and technical pillars had been laid down for Sudanese fiction by a number of renowned writers through great outstanding fictional works, but such works mostly relate to past historical decades of community development, and do not fully express or relate to the present decade. Fictional writing, through ages, has followed a steady pattern where new writings tend to supersede, or rather complement, old writings in line with the dialectical procession of cultural and social development of societies through varied historical stages, explained Al-Hilou. Therefore, it is essential for any novelist to relate the present surroundings of his/her age in the most expressive and responsive way; and “along this course Ms. Sara Abdel Moniem has set a distinguished landmark so far”, noted Mr. Al-Hilou. He further expressed his expectation that “Sara will represent a new international break-through for Sudanese novel writing if she continues along this same line of creative fictional writing”.
In a statement to “Sudanow”, within the same context, the Sudanese novelist and critic, Mr. Bushra Al-Fadhil, confirmed that Ms. Sara “possesses a remarkable ability for fictional imagery”. He quoted some examples from the novel such as “A passerby said he was really scared when he saw dogs climbing the walls and struggling hard to keep their claws steady on the wall for fear of slipping down”, and “Marwa had been deeply absorbed in mending some loose threads in her skirt, when she looked at her friend and murmured..”. So, here we have images of dogs struggling hard to keep their claws steady on the wall while climbing; and Marwa deeply absorbed in mending some loose threads in her skirt before murmuring something to her friend. This kind of fictional filming is prevalent throughout the whole novel, stated Bushra Al-Fadhil. Bushra likens Sara’s style to that of the Sudanese novelist Abdel-Ghani Karamalla. Another remark by Bushra Al-Fadhil drew attention to the fast moving sequence of characters within the novel, where each character makes a unique statement and disappears to be followed by another character in a sequence meant to prepare the stage for the dramatic fictional return of Balqees. Gender issues are also present and prevalent all through, stated Bushra Al-Fadhil. Mr. Bushra summed up by describing the novel as a striking example of fictional imagery that is most interesting, lively and full of action.
Algerian novelist Asia Rahahila also commented on the novel and stated that in her novel “The Queen and the Cocaine Lad” Sara Abdel-Moniem takes us through various worlds that are mixture of hope, pain, disappointment, tension and pleasure, using fictional imagery to illustrate events in such a way that materializes the statement of novelist Ala’a El-Deeb where he said; “The novel will ever remain a magical artistic creation, like an enchanted palace with uncountable number of doors and windows that overlook stretched seas, deserts, forests, humans, and are open upon history, future and the sky”. Ms. Rahahila further added that “the novel is really worth reading especially that the author has a striking ability for fictional imagery and is capable of reaching deep into her character’s psyche. The novel is also written in a very simple, clever and sarcastic style. It is a story about a beautiful little queen that was untimely delivered into this world to get raised up between a callous grandmother whose greatest dream was to find a suitable husband for her, and a kind grandfather who was in line with the small queen’s witty naughtiness and contributed a great deal to injecting her little mind with politics, thoughts and philosophy. Balqees, the beautiful queen, developed from a naughty little girl running around trying to explore the Turks’ palace and its secrets into a medical student who was actively involved in politics, only to get caught red-handed while taking part in a revolting demonstration. Then a number of events followed until she met with the cocaine lad, where the author leads us into a plot twist towards a surprise unexpected climax ending”.
On her part, Sara Abdel-Moniem stated to Sudanow that she was greatly pleased that her first novel had attracted such huge attention by Arab and Sudanese critics and novelists. She said she had always believed that universality can be attained from being active within your own country; and not from being active abroad as some may wrongly think. She added: “It is the text that attains universality and not where you reside”. Sara said that it had taken her nine years to complete writing the novel. She started the novel when she was at secondary school level, and then continued writing by night all through. However, she did acknowledge that it had been a hard experience full of painful moments, weeping and even screams while she kept weaving the lines along and around the novel characters and events, thinking that the novel will never come to an end. “But, with the novel now complete and published”, she said “I now have a feeling that I really missed the tormenting experience of pain and suffering I had been through”.
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