(It’s not a wonderland: Sāq al-bāmbū (The Bamboo Stalk, 2012) by Sa‘ūd al-San‘ūsī)
in La rivista di Arablit, a. IV, n. 7-8, dicembre 2014, pp. 201-210.
Starting from the last decades of the 20th century the geography of migration in the Arab world has changed, because the final destinations of migration fluxes have changed. If for centuries people from Arab countries have crossed the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe and America, more recently they have been moving mainly to the Gulf and the wider Middle East. Literature has also begun to take into account this new phenomenon and to portray the so-called intiqāl ‘arabī, the inter-arab movement. In those novels describing the experience of migration through the perspective of the migrant, there is a shift in perceiving the destination country: before the departure the protagonist is usually fascinated by the mirage of a quick and easy-to-reach wealth and sees the country from a distance as a sort of “paradise” on earth. However – in a subsequent phase – this country soon shows its real face: mistreatment, discrimination and isolation are relatively common for migrant workers. The sense of failure, the frustration and the regret they feel are common experiences thoroughly explored in a number of works of fiction. Through the analysis of Sāq al-bāmbū (The Bamboo Stalk), Sa‘ūd al-San‘ūsī’s novel that has won the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and with examples taken from some other Arab novels describing the experiences of Arabs migrating in different Arab countries, this paper focuses on the features of this literary ‘subgenre’ and highlights the peculiarities of al-San‘ūsī’s novel. Its main character, possessing Kuwaiti citizenship, but having unequivocally Southeast Asian features, represents an original point of view within the schemes of migration literature.
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