Son'allah Ibrahim's al-Talassus: The politics of modernity in Egypt through the child-narrator's lens

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Son'allah Ibrahim's al-Talassus (translated as Stealth by Hosam Aboul-Ela, 2009) is a novel about the coming of age of a child through his deeply troubled relationship with his ageing father during the year 1948 when Egypt was still under British colonialism and monarchical rule. It is also the year of the Palestinian Nakba, when the Arabs and the Zionists were fighting in Palestine on the eve of the declaration of the state of Israel. This article focuses on the significance of recounting the events of the novel and this specific period in Egyptian and Arab history through the lens of the child-narrator. In the Arab world, Ibrahim is celebrated for his modernist stylistics and innovative writing devices and techniques. He has developed his novelistic project over more than 40 years through a variety of narrative structures whilst stirring massive debate and extended discussions in relation to his novelistic forms and content. In this context, al-Talassus is read here as an exploration into the complex and undefined emotions of a child who is bearing witness to his father's demise through poverty and ill-health during a period in Egypt's history which is perceived as modern through the child's lens. It is the child who maps out for the reader the politics of modernity by chronicling the details of everyday events, routines, conversations, and encounters. The article draws on Henri Lefebvre's perception of the quotidian as a philosophical concept in his work Everyday Life in the Modern World, in order to shed some light on the role which this concept plays in the life of Ibrahim's young protagonist. It also reflects on the Palestinian writer Faisal Darraj's analysis of Ibrahim's treatment of historical time as deriving from everyday time, as if everyday time becomes the master of all Time. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-427
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2011


  • al-Talassus
  • Egypt
  • modernity
  • Son'allah Ibrahim


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