Rebellion in the Public and the Private Sphere: Nādī al-sayyārāt by ʻAlā’ al-Aswānī

in La rivista di Arablit, a. V, n. 9-10, dicembre 2015, pp. 54-71.

Over the past five years, socio-political changes in Egypt have stemmed from and – at the same time – contributed to the emergence of a new sensitivity, which has been expressed in various forms of art such as cinema, graffiti, music and literature. As far as fiction is concerned, various subgenres (diaries, blogs and popular literature) have contributed to a renewal of the genre. This essay looks at ʻAlā’ al-Aswānī’s Nādī al-sayyārāt (Automobile Club, 2013) as an example of the aforementioned new sensitivity or revolutionary perception in fiction. In this recent novel, the author depicts everyday life and inter-class relations at the Cairo Automobile Club during the 1940s, in order to create an allegory of contemporary Egyptian society. Overtly denouncing social injustice and the network of power is certainly not new in al-Aswānī’s oeuvre. However, in Nādī al-sayyārāt, the novelist examines the process of developing a revolutionary spirit and the personal choice of taking action, with all the difficulties that this implies. My analysis focuses on how representations of rebellion in the public and the private spheres are intertwined in the novel. This aspect will be seen especially through two male characters (father and son) and two female ones. The use of time and space as meaningful narrative strategies will also be taken into consideration. Finally, Nādī al-sayyārāt will be compared to al-Aswānī’s earlier production and related to his activity as social commentator, in an attempt to identify any innovations in content and form.

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Cristina Dozio |