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Beyond the Modernity Complex: Abd al-Hakīm Qāsim’s Re-Writing of the Nahdah Self-Narrative

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The purpose of this paper is to study Abd al-Hakīm Qāsim’s Ayyām al-insān al-sabah (1969; The Seven Days of Man) and its sequel al-Mahdī (1977) as post-Nahdah self-narratives that leave behind the complex encounter with the West and bypass thereby the modernity binary of a backward tradition versus the offers of a European civilization. The schizophrenic narratives of encounter have confined Arabic narrative and limited its potential to engage individual experience in a dynamic social life. The post-Nahdah narrative interrogates other facts on the ground that relate to the nation-state, selfhood, family, communal life and religion. Abd al-Hakīm Qāsim’s Ayyām al-insān al-sabah is a pioneering text in this respect and deserves full attention in order to understand the radical shift in Arabic literature after 1967. Its mode of self-narration is not subservient to the canonical autobiography of Tāhā Husayn, and its unfolding takes place among contending powers where space implicates characters in action and enables human agency to have full play beyond the Nahdah legacy of cultural dependency.

Affiliations: 1: Columbia University


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