Once Upon A Time
Tareq Imam's "City of infinite walls" takes us back to the glory of the fairy tale…
The roots of Arabic tales go back to medieval times. They were orally disseminated for centuries everywhere in the world and inspired countless works in every literature known. Mesopotamian, Persian, Egyptian and Indian influence could be easily traced. The myth and lore in the tales about goblins, genies, trolls, gnomes, talking creatures, elfs, heroic characters used to be the magical ingredients that continue to add enchantment to the narratives; charm and delight readers. These tales were first introduced in the Syrian manuscripts in the fourteenth century. Notably, Arabic literature seems to witness some sort of renaissance of interest in fairy tale in recent decades.
The trend is not least among fiction writers. The Egyptian novelist Tareq Imam's new book "City of infinite walls" brings back the glory of the fairy tale. It is considered as a revolutionary move in his career as a fiction writer. He spent a whole decade weaving the thirty six tales contained in the book, from 2007 till 2017. Some of these tales were published in various literary periodicals. They were received with great applaud and attention on the part of both readers and critics. Finally he decided to release the book and already signed a publishing contract with Al-Masreya Al-lobnaneya earlier this month.
"I exerted a hell of effort and time to write this book. I built it as a huge narrative, not a collage of tales. That's why I dropped lots of tales to focus on the thirty six pieces I selected for the book as to structure a narrative sphere thematically connected, though every tale could be read separately."
In "City of Infinite Walls", the mood and tone of the tales is shaped by its setting, no specific time set whereas the place is a weird city where walls outnumber its streets. All the tales, as Imam confirmed, are connected to this one single setting. There are preternatural and eerie characters like freebooter woman, cobbler, talking shoe and the man who had never dreamed. The book creates a world where humans, birds, animals, demons and angels coexist.
Arabian Nights stand as the masterpiece ever narrated. We all know that Decameron's Boccaccio and Chaucer's Canterbury tales were inspired by the Arabian Nights. The literary technique used in the nights is frame narrative where a story is framed by another story to create a story within story often through what is called separate scene storytelling. The philosophy of the fairy tale here lies, according to Tareq, in its potentiality to express human beings at any time through fantasy. The form used echoes sort of search for something in the heart of the narrative, something deeper and hidden in the human soul.
Imam said: "I exerted a hell of effort and time to write this book. I built it as a huge narrative, not a collage of tales. That's why I dropped lots of tales to focus on the thirty six pieces I selected for the book as to structure a narrative sphere thematically connected, though every tale could be read separately."
Excerpt from the book
Story of the old man who recalls the future
"Real memory enables us to remember what we are yet to experience."
The old man used to tell the kids, as they have a long future ahead; memorable. Aged people like him own nothing but their past. To him, the past was something unknown to the memory, being nonexistent hitherto.
"Whatever we think hasn't come about occurred, in a day yet to come. Failing to recall, it would fade. We would be devoid of experiences enabling us to face up to the past when it shows up."
Thus the old man who remembers the future creates the first generation in the city able to recall the goings-on of its future on the button. They mourned calling to mind the deaths of beloved ladies that took place after years, fathers, mothers and friends who passed away in a few following months. Lucky ones own fragile memory, frail to recall something happened to them, just, after a few days
He had a special gait. He used to walk backwards, reversely. As if, contrary to all humans, he came into being at the moment of his death. So, he had never seen the world moving forward. He was advancing opposite the direction of the world. His dream was to create a generation like himself but walks like people.
They were dying; he didn't. He remained as such, held in abeyance, in silent eternity, training generation after generation on recollection, thinking of his death he anticipated, at any moment of his past.