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Literary Representations of Trauma, Memory, and Identity in the Novels of Elias Khoury and Rabī' Jābir

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Nineteen years after the end of the long Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), we find that traumas and memories of the war years still haunt the novels of many Lebanese writers. For example, images of the civil war as well as everyday life in the post-war era permeate recent narratives of such novelists as Elias Khoury, Rabī' Jābir, 'Ulwiyya Subuh, Nadā Awar Jarrār, and Rābih 'Alameddīne. The war experience has defined and shaped the writing techniques and narrative stylistics of a number of Lebanese novelists who belong to different generations. How do novelists fictionalise the traumas associated with an experience such as the civil war? In this study, I aim to investigate three related themes, namely trauma, memory, and identity by exploring Elias Khoury's two early novels Gates of the City [Abwāb al-Madīnah] and The White Faces [al-Wujūh al-Baydā'], which were both published in 1981, whilst drawing comparisons between them and Rabī Jābir's novel Rālf Rizqallah in the Mirror [Rālf Rizqallah fī al-Mir'āt], which was published in 1997. Despite the time span which separates Jābir's novel from those of Khoury, Jābir's text shares some significant characteristics with The White Faces in relation to novelistic form and structure, whilst overlapping with some themes of Gates of the City, particularly in the representation of such traumatic disorders as disorientation, nightmares, depression and severe anxiety when reflecting on the experience of the civil war. Thus, this study will address and discuss two interrelated questions: how do Khoury and Jābir fictionalise the experiences of trauma, memory, and identity in the three novels? And, in what ways are such representations significant in relation to living through the Lebanese civil war?

Affiliations: 1: University of Manchester


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