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Georg Lukács and the Improbable Realism of Sun Allah Ibrāhīm’s The Committee

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By a traditional definition of “realism” Sun Allah Ibrāhīm’s The Committee is perhaps the least “realistic” of his novels. The novel ends, for example, with the protagonist eating himself. This paper examines The Committee through the lens of the Marxist critic Georg Lukács’s definition of realism, a definition that prioritizes hope over feasibility. The opposite of realism for Lukács is modernism, which he defines, among other ways, by its dependence on allegory. I argue that by Lukács’s definition The Committee is a work of realism. Despite the novel’s air of gloom, I find in it elements of hope. I also argue that the gruesome ending does not have to be read allegorically. And though the protagonist does eat himself, I argue that this can be read as a feat of activism, a crucial component in Lukács’s definition of realism. I conclude by arguing for the relevance of the ideas of Georg Lukács and Sun Allah Ibrāhīm’s 28 year-old novel.

Affiliations: 1: Hunter College of the City University of New York


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