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Sufism in the Contemporary Arabic Novel
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Sufism in the Contemporary Arabic Novel (Paperback)

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Synopsis

Close readings of nine contemporary Arab novelists who use Sufism as a literary strategy. Although Sufi characters - saints, dervishes, wanderers - occur regularly in modern Arabic literature, a select group of novelists seeks to interrogate Sufism as a system of thought and language. In the work of writers like Naguib Mahfouz, Gamal Al-Ghitany, Tahar Ouettar, Ibrahim Al-Koni, Mahmud Al-Mas'adi and Tayeb Salih we see a strong intertextual relationship with the Sufi masters of the past, including Al-Hallaj, Ibn Arabi, Al-Niffari and Al-Suhrawardi. This relationship becomes a means of interrogating the limits of the creative self, individuality, rationality and the manifold possibilities offered by literature, seeking in a dialogue with the mystical heritage a way of preserving a self under siege from the overwhelming forces of oppression and reaction that have characterized the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It looks at works such as Ghitany's Kitab Al-Tajalliyat [The Book of Theophanies], where the title and style imitate Ibn 'Arabi; Ouettar's Al-Waliyy Al-Taher [The Holy Saint], where the protagonist allegorizes Algerian history, and multiple works by Ibrahim Al-Koni.

It traces references and allusions to the mediaeval Sufis, including Junayd, Al-Niffari, Ibn 'Arabi, Rumi and 'Attar.

Ziad Elmarsafy is Reader in the Department of English and Related Literature, University of York. He is author of The Enlightenment Qur'an: The Politics of Translation and the Construction of Islam (Oneworld Publications, 2009).

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