Middle East/North African Lit discussion

Memory in the Flesh
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2011cruise book diving(official) > Memory in the Flesh (Jan/Feb) 2011

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Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
Here we are discussing Memory in the Flesh by Ahlam Mosteghanemi

Enjoy ! :)


Rania (raniahcom) Memory in the Flesh
This prize-winning novel, written by an Algerian woman writer " Ahlam Mustaganmy".
A story of a homeland& heroes of that land. Khaled who shows his patriotism in different ways. His painting that holds bridges of "Constantine", his love to that girl who changes his life.

This novel describes love by a beautiful gentle words, it talks about feelings- we all pass with it- in a smart cute way.

It blossoms the feelings inside you, and make you taste the sweetness of love and longing to your homeland.

I hope you all will enjoy the reading :)


message 3: by Niledaughter (last edited Jan 06, 2011 12:44AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
Thank you Rania :)

I wanted to make a point clear here , because it was already mentioned during voting .

(Memory in the flesh) is the 1st part of a trilogy :
http://www.goodreads.com/series/55346


Did you read the three parts ? if not , reading one part was not a problem , right? I believe she did not start it as a trilogy? all reviews I read did not concentrate on the necessity of reading the three parts , what do you think ?

N.B
I could not reach an English translation of the 3rd part .


message 4: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - added it

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
My copy should arrive today or tomorrow! I'll try to start reading this weekend. Looking forward to discussing it!


Rania (raniahcom) Hello Nile daughter :)
every part of trilogy is unique in it's way, and every one tells different story about the same character "the girl Hayat", but they are connected in a nice way...
so you don't have to read the three parts, but if you did you will enjoy it more :)

I will search for a English translation for the third part, if I find anything I will tell you

regards,
Rania



Nile daughter wrote: "Thank you Rania :)

I wanted to make a point clear here , because it was already mentioned during voting .

(Memory in the flesh) is the 1st part of a trilogy :
http://www.goodreads.com/series..."



message 6: by Niledaughter (last edited Jan 11, 2011 09:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
Thank you so much Rania :) I was delayed because I need to finish a book in my hands firist, but I am willing to joing this RC soon (inshaa alah) :o

Any one started reading ?


message 7: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - added it

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
i'm still waiting for mine to come...
:(


okyrhoe | 141 comments As I mentioned in another post I'll try to read Memory in the Flesh soon.
It's buried somewhere in the evergrowing Mount To-Be-Read at home!


message 9: by Bernadette (new) - added it

Bernadette (bernadettesimpson) | 205 comments I couldn't find this title so I'll be reading Chaos of the Senses, which is the second book in the trilogy. I look forward to following your discussion of the first book and hope the second one reads okay on its own!


Alicatte | 14 comments I'm a novice when it comes to Arabic literature--that's why I wanted to join this book group. If I say anything stupid, be kind. I learned -- well, I probably just got a taste because some of these ideas are so outside an American's understanding -- about the concept of the martyr in Arabic culture and the anguish of the exile. The complexity of Khaled's relationship to his homeland truly struck me; his country is his mother, daughter, lover, jail warden, killer. To me, that was the most affecting part of the novel.


Rania (raniahcom) Hello Okyrhow :)
I hope you will enjoy it, waiting your feedback about it :)


okyrhoe wrote: "As I mentioned in another post I'll try to read Memory in the Flesh soon.
It's buried somewhere in the evergrowing Mount To-Be-Read at home!"



Rania (raniahcom) Dear Bernadette, :)
Reading each part alone is fine :)
but don't miss the first part when you can, I read Chaos of the Senses and it's as great as Memory in the Flesh ...
Enjoy the reading :)

Bernadette wrote: "I couldn't find this title so I'll be reading Chaos of the Senses, which is the second book in the trilogy. I look forward to following your discussion of the first book and hope the second one rea..."


Rania (raniahcom) Hey Alicatte :)

your comment touch a sensitive line in the novel :)
it is the land, the mother & the lover... each one of them reflect the other & it is related to it...
they represent the same concept which is " homeland" ...

am so glad that you could read it Alicatte :)



Alicatte wrote: "I'm a novice when it comes to Arabic literature--that's why I wanted to join this book group. If I say anything stupid, be kind. I learned -- well, I probably just got a taste because some of these..."


message 14: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - added it

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
Alicatte said, "I'm a novice when it comes to Arabic literature--that's why I wanted to join this book group. If I say anything stupid, be kind."

No worries! i hope we are all participating with kindness in mind! we are all here to learn from each other and we each come from a different angle and with different experiences. :D


Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
I only read 6 pages , I felt the power in language , unfortunately I am reading it in pdf format , and now I do not have the ability to read a digital book , I hope I will be able to come back to it before the end of the month .
Is there anybody else reading this book?


message 16: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - added it

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
I have it but I haven't read it yet. I am about to finish Wolf Dreams and I hope to start this one over the weekend.


okyrhoe | 141 comments Nile daughter wrote: "I only read 6 pages , I felt the power in language"

Hi from Athens!

Are you reading it in English or in Arabic?

I have read roughly one third of the English translation and I can't say I am particularly impressed by the text so far.

I do want to share my responses to the narrative but I'm not sure whether it's time to start doing so (obviously there are readers who've not yet or just started). I wrote about 5 paragraphs here and then removed them, even though I tried not to reveal any spoilers.


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments I have finished the first two chapters of the English translation but haven't had a chance to read all the prior comments yet. Will try to catch up with them and post something more in the next day or two.


Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
Okyrhoe:
I am reading it in Arabic , no ...go ahead and share your ideas , This will encourage others

Catherine , I am glad you were able to find it , waiting for your comments .


message 20: by DubaiReader (new)

DubaiReader | 30 comments I'm sticking my neck out here a bit but surely if this is a discussion thread then we should be able to discuss spoilers too. Perhaps just add a warning before hand so those of us who haven't read it yet can avoid the comments.

I'm waiting to borrow a copy from Hiba who lives about an hour from me. She's kindly agreed to loan me her copy when she comes to Dubai for the Lit fest in March.
She will read my copy of Wolf Dreams so everyone is happy :)

I think she's following this thread but hasn't spoken yet!!


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments Finished with Chapter 3. Mild Spoilers. Here are some of my thoughts so far:

Striking phrases and segments with poetic language BUT I find the repeated use of "feminine" and occasional "irony" to be annoying -- problems with translation or in the original? Also I do not like Khaled referring to his love or the memory of his love in the second person. Perhaps makes for a stronger love interest or personal connection by using "you" instead of she, but I find it irritating.

I like the comparison of the woman to the city and his painting of the bridge that he feels connects the two. As Alicatte mentions in message 10, I am also appreciating the sense of exile in the novel and Khaled's connections with and love for his homeland and Constantine. I am curious though about Khaled and why he has not gone back to Constantine, seems like a self-imposed exile.

I think he did mention something about why he left, freedom to paint what he wanted and not be subject to so much editing, but couldn't he go back to visit? I know there was a timeline mentioned somewhere toward the beginning but I didn't note it. The first three chapters take place about 25 years after his fighting in the war and losing his arm and so would be in the 1980s?


message 22: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - added it

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
oh gosh, i started to post about spoiler tags yesterday! do you guys know about them? you can (view spoiler) (go ahead and look).

the only problem is that if someone replies directly to a comment with a spoiler in it, the spoiler will not be hidden in the reply. so be careful!


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments Marieke wrote: "oh gosh, i started to post about spoiler tags yesterday! do you guys know about them? you can [spoilers removed] (go ahead and look). The only problem is that if someone replies directly to a comm..."

Maireke, my problem is that I'm never sure what is a spoiler unless it is really obvious (e.g. someone dies or a character has something totally unexpected happen), -- I don't think anything I wrote would spoil the book for others, but I feel like I should issue the warning anyway. And yes, I see what you mean about it showing up in the response.


message 24: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - added it

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
that's generally how i think about a spoiler, too, catherine...i think what you wrote is spoiler-free. in the africa group i moderate, some people refrain from reading the threads at all until they've read the book. i am one of those who likes to talk about it while i'm reading, so i read your posts even though i haven't started this book yet. :D


message 25: by Beatrice (new)

Beatrice I really want to read this book but I was not able to get it at the Seattle, WA library. I will try later.


message 26: by Hiba (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hiba Essa (hibaessa) | 23 comments I've read "Memory in the flesh" by Ahlam Mostaghanemi over a year ago and can still say it is one of my favorite books - my girldfriends and I discuss it till date!!

This book has won the Naguib Mahfouz prize for Arabic literature. I believe i is both for its outstanding story plot and writing style! This is a novel, a love story, a long prose poem, and a symbolic historical account which leaves the reader at the edge of their seat.

The language is powerful, haunting and invited me to learn more about Algeria before and after independence.

"Chaos of the senses" (the second part, though not related) sits on my shelf calling out to me! Perhaps it'll be my next next next read!


message 27: by Hiba (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hiba Essa (hibaessa) | 23 comments DubaiReader wrote: "I'm sticking my neck out here a bit but surely if this is a discussion thread then we should be able to discuss spoilers too. Perhaps just add a warning before hand so those of us who haven't read ..."

Dubai Reader, I hope you will enjoy the book as much as I did and I look forward to reading your views - Just posted mine :)


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments Middle of Chapter 4, Page 151 - English Translation
Khaleld's thoughts on artists and creativity are poetic and the subject matter of an exiled Algerian artist/writer in Paris is interesting, the love part not so much for me. I'm stuck in the middle of Chapter 4 -- (view spoiler)


message 29: by DubaiReader (new)

DubaiReader | 30 comments Aha!
Hiba!
You finally joined us :)
I loved your comments about the book - I'm looking forward to it even more now.


okyrhoe | 141 comments my comments, up to the end of Ch. 3 (English edition)

The narrative starts off with a bit of fussing over writer's block; the blank white pages staring back at Khaled as he begins writing (and later on he mentions the blank canvas that the painter must confront). This theme is echoed some pages later, in the mention of the white dress worn by Hayat's cousin on the opening night of the exhibition.
Since the narrator is addressing Hayat specifically (as if writing an extended letter to her), he doesn't dwell on minute background details (the kind of information that a third-person narrative would likely include). Khalid's exposition is primarily about those specific things which are deeply etched in his memory, and which have "meaning" as well for Hayat. There are repeated over and over, discussed and described from various angles -> his mother's bracelet, the naming of Hayat, the blonde woman in the painting, the empty sleeve, the significance of bridges, etc.
All these are symbols and images, imbued with a particular & subjective significance, but insufficient as elements forming a complete picture of their relationship. The objects & symbols evoke specific memories, but the direct relationship between those images & events to the (narrative) present aren't always clearly accounted for.
For example, Khaled identifies the bracelet as belonging to his mother, yet we are not told whether Hayat is aware of this provenance. So far she has only spoken that she knows it is old and from Constantine, but she hasn’t clearly acknowledged the personal connection. For this I find that the nature of the relationship between Khaled & Hayat is -at this point- one-sided.
Anyway, what's interesting is that there is a dual narrative simultaneously unfolding. Khaled is writing to Hayat, exposing his past & current emotional states, in a highly charged & subjective tone, and at the same time Khaled the storyteller is re-creating conversations from their first meetings, in a relatively objective (so it seeems) manner.
There is a binary narrative unfolding, but there are too many instances of lack of clarity (maybe even intentional omission on the part of the narrator) for the reader to fully appreciate the words on the page. Maybe this is the fault of translation. Oblique references & meanings may be better transmitted & understood in the Arabic original; from my reading I feel the nuances aren’t carried off successfully in the English text. The readers of the Arabic original extol the poetic qualities of the text, something I personally can’t say about the English version. So my approach I have to admit is focused primarily on the structural aspects of the novel – the characters, the plot and the narration.
I interpret Hayat as primarily a symbol, another image, rather than a three-dimensional character on her own. Up to the point where I've read, she lacks an independent existence (problem of the narrative voice, as Catherine has pointed out), and this in my opinion weakens the plot development. I am not sure whether she has a 'role' to play, or whether she is -like the bracelet, the blank sheet of paper, the white canvas, the blond figure in the portrait, etc. - merely a symbol or an image that is the starting point for the narrator’s extended monologue. So far, Khaled hasn't provided the reader with a three-dimensional depiction of Hayat. As with the portrait of the blond woman, he paints only a partial image.
The primary story is the interplay between Khaled's first person voice directed specifically at Hayat, as it is interwoven with Khaled's recollection of past conversations and events. The first is a one-sided and subjective exposition, the latter is a (hopefully accurate) dialogue between the two characters.
This dialectic between Khaled's dual voice/state of mind has potential, and I hope it will lead to something more interesting further on. I don't know where this narrative is going; will Hayat soon develop into an active voice/character in the novel? I wonder if this reluctance of the narrator/painter to depict the female "flesh" (psyche) will have any bearing on the rest of the story.


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments okyrhoe wrote: "my comments, up to the end of Ch. 3 (English edition) The narrative starts off with a bit of fussing over writer's block; the blank white pages staring back at Khaled as he begins writing (and ..."

Well written, Okyrhoe. You have added to my understanding and appreciation of the book. I made it through a few more pages yesterday but still struggling with Chapter 4.


message 32: by Bernadette (new) - added it

Bernadette (bernadettesimpson) | 205 comments okyrhoe wrote: "The readers of the Arabic original extol the poetic qualities of the text, something I personally can’t say about the English version."

I felt the same thing about Chaos of the Senses. While there were some beautiful passages, I'm sure much of it was better in Arabic. And in the translation I'm reading, better copy editing would have helped, too!


message 33: by Niledaughter (last edited Feb 25, 2011 12:53PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
I am so glad the discussion is getting on progress :D I am in the middle of chapter two , I confess I was delayed and I am generally slow !

To all English version readers , I came across a comment by Marcia about translation criticism , but I guess she did not have time to write more :(

In Arabic so far , the poetic language is the most significant part , I need to dive more in the book , you know , this book was a mystery to me , my friends whether rate it as 5 or as 1 !! that is why I wanted to explore why , I guess we will face this struggle in here !

Okyrhoe , I read your post partially but I will get back to it when I make achieve more progress .

Heba , this was a very encouraging post :)

Catherine , it seems that the novel gave you hard time reading ?


Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 41 comments Nile daughter wrote: "Catherine, it seems that the novel gave you hard time reading ? "
Yes, I did struggle through the first half and then pushed my way through the last part. There were some things I found very annoying (second person narration and poor copy editing) and it seemed to go on and on ad nauseum about his unrequited love for the woman and for his homeland. I liked Wolf Dreams more and The Bleeding of the Stone best.


message 35: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - added it

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
I'm becoming more and more curious about this book!


message 36: by okyrhoe (last edited Feb 19, 2011 06:39AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

okyrhoe | 141 comments A quick note to say I finished Memory in the Flesh this morning.
The second half of the book (ch. 4 onwards) is so different from the first half! Finally there are developments, a story begins to unfold....


message 37: by Niledaughter (last edited Feb 21, 2011 02:23AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
Catherine wrote: "There were some things I found very annoying (second person narration and poor copy editing) and it seemed to go on and on ad nauseum about his unrequited love for the woman and for his homeland..."

Hmm , I must tell I am not enjoying the narration (slow). But in Arabic , the language is very rich with metaphors ..very poetic , even if it is not my personal taste in reading (I do not like reading poetry in general ). you know she was praised by Nizar Qabbani who is one of the most popular Arab poets .

The part I liked is to force me to imagine and love Constantine ! I am not sure why he tried to transform Constantine to a woman ..his beloved young girl , why he made Hayatte a represntation of home ? I really thought about this point deeply with okyrhoe analytical post in my mind and I am waiting for the end .

okyrhoe wrote: "A quick note to say I finished Memory in the Flesh this morning.
The second half of the book (ch. 4 onwards) is so different from the first half! Finally there are developments, a story begins t..."


This seems possitive ?


okyrhoe | 141 comments In the novel, Khalid decides to devote his paintings to the bridges of Constantine.

I was reading something online today and this statement caught my attention:
"I will never be the stereotype many perceive me to be. I cannot look at any situation as “us versus them” because I am both but neither, I was just born as a human bridge. Neither here nor there. When you are put into that position, you have to assess everything from a human perspective first and foremost because, before race or ethnicity, you are simply human. My existence is in itself political and my music is the soundtrack to it."


message 39: by Niledaughter (last edited Feb 22, 2011 03:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
okyrhoe wrote: "In the novel, Khalid decides to devote his paintings to the bridges of Constantine.

I was reading something online today and this statement caught my attention:
"I will never be the stereotype ..."


You know , the way Khaled talks about Constantine or Algeria as home that was Corrupted is the most powerful item .

Now I am convinced that He decided that Hayatte is Algeria , she is not a person , she dressed in white (white Algeria) dugter of resistance (her father ) holding heritage ( bracelet) with Arabic identity (writes in Arabic) , young and beautiful (open future)..all ; so he can not resiste loving her madly , but she is selfish ? he wants to say something ...I want to read more .

******
Okyrhoe , that was nice , we need a lot of these bridges :) is the writer a known musician?


message 40: by okyrhoe (last edited Feb 23, 2011 10:02AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

okyrhoe | 141 comments Nile daughter wrote: "...we need a lot of these bridges :) is the writer a known musician?

He's Lowkey, a British rapper.

Nile daughter wrote: "Now I am convinced that He decided that Hayatte is Algeria , she is not a person..."

I wasn't sure in the first half of the novel. After chapter 3 things become more overtly political - that is, Khalid expresses his political opinions openly, and we learn many details of the complex relationship he has with his homeland. In the last half of the book, it is very reasonable to view Hayat as a personification of Algeria, as the "motherland".

If Hayat represents Algeria, then Khalid's relationship with the French woman, Catherine, is about "France". There is no deep emotional bond with her, yet she is still signficant to him. They understand each other on an intellectual level, as opposed to the emotional connection with Hayat.
I got the impression that for Khalid his relationship with Catherine is a political statement. I can see him as the "bridge" between France and Algeria. Despite all the suffering caused by the struggle against the colonial forces, he is still capable of reconciling with the idea/ideals of France, as personified through Catherine.


Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
I started chapter 4 , now Ziad is about to appear , we will see what he presents .

I got more used to the narration, when I saw Catherine (our friend here) reading (the white Tiger ) , I remembered it has the same narration but author used sarcasm (laughing with tears from pain).

Back to here , Ahlam's language is still beautiful , she is really capable of playing with the figurative language in a magical way , when she started to talk circumstances after independence I could not help thinking of Egypt after 1952 .

Okyrhoe, I liked your note about Catherine (the French Character ) , by moving on I hope I will have a whole clear picture .

N.B
Lowkey ; an Iraqi descent ! interesting Topics to deal with , thanks for the info.


Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
I finished it , well …It is a depressing piece where Algeria is no different from any other Arabic country , moved from colonization to corruption and oppression .

I did not realize much the rule of Zeiad , I will think about the book more , I may add more thoughts later …


Hesper | 39 comments I just started this yesterday, and so far it looks to be interesting, if a little meandering. Looking forward to seeing how it develops.


Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
Hesper wrote: "I just started this yesterday, and so far it looks to be interesting, if a little meandering. Looking forward to seeing how it develops."

Good luck and waiting for your opinion :)


Hesper | 39 comments Finished it and I quite liked it. That is to say, I liked it once I got past the language, which is cumbrous in places (a translation issue?), and once it became obvious that Hayat was less of a real person to Khaled and way more of a symbol of everything he had lost and fought for.

The entire book, in fact, seems laden with symbols, like Bilal, Khaled's former neighbor, who was tortured and castrated in prison, a symbolic sterilization of all their revolutionary ideals. And that's not even touching Hayat and Catherine and the bridges he paints over and over.

It's a very interesting narrative choice, and one that isn't easy to pull off. Here, I think, it works because Khaled's voice is so well articulated.

What really grabbed me, though, is something that kind of ties in with the Orientalism discussion. So basically, the psychological process through which he transforms Hayat into a symbol of Algeria, in spite of what her identity as a person may be, is similar to the process at work with Orientalism. He's not concerned with the real woman, but with what she represents; her identity becomes subsumed into a projected ideal.

All in all, there's some seriously scathing social critique going on here, and it's kind of directed at everyone. It seems really politically oriented to me. How was this book received in Algeria, does anyone know?

I noticed most reviews of it here are in Arabic, and they tend to be four and five stars, but from what Google translate was able to reveal, they mostly focus on the beautiful language and not so much on the social criticism.


Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
Hesper that was very interesting!

Hesper wrote: "All in all, there's some seriously scathing social critique going on here, and it's kind of directed at everyone. It seems really politically oriented to me. How was this book received in Algeria, does anyone know?

I noticed most reviews of it here are in Arabic, and they tend to be four and five stars, but from what Google translate was able to reveal, they mostly focus on the beautiful language and not so much on the social criticism...."


As far as I know ; the book was very popular and bestselling not only in Algeria , in all Arab countries , Ahlam became a phenomenon and this novel was followed by anther two novels to be a trilogy , also it was produced as a TV series . the novel success was basically because it was written in Arabic - most Algerian authors writes in French – but not just Arabic but Poetic Arabic and had been braised by Nizar Qabbani . of course the political criticism that the novel presented was part of its success .

Regarding symbolism , I think you may find okyrhoe's posst (message 30 and 40) interesting . Since we speak of Orientalism in here or the relation between east and west in general . I think it is even interesting to get back to this book after discussing Season of Migration to the North and The Map of Love , all of them intersected in this area .

BTW
For the translation , yes there was some complains about it , but I read it in Arabic .


Hesper | 39 comments That's very interesting information, Nile daughter. Thanks! Was the TV series equally well received?

And yes, I found okyrhoe's posts very useful. That's why I didn't reiterate the Hayat-Alegeria, Catherine-France connection; she had already covered it.


message 48: by Marieke, Former moderator (new) - added it

Marieke | 1179 comments Mod
can we watch the tv series on the internet??


message 49: by Niledaughter (last edited May 31, 2011 12:03AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Niledaughter | 2798 comments Mod
Hesper wrote: "That's very interesting information, Nile daughter. Thanks! Was the TV series equally well received?

And yes, I found okyrhoe's posts very useful. That's why I didn't reiterate the Hayat-Aleger..."


You are welcome :) wow ...I was not sure you had enough time to read all the posts !

I am not sure about the tv series reactions, it is Syrian – Algerian production , it was just out in a less than a year (in a time when there is so much Competition out there (high season for TV) and the channel that broacasted it is not that popular , so you can not really tell . anther point is that the series dialogue was in standard rich Arabic as the novel , this would not attract the majority of audiences , TV recipient is so different from literature recipient .


Marieke ,here is the TV series:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5YsFK...


Hesper | 39 comments Wow, they sassed that up for TV. Definitely not how I pictured Khaled; old yes, balding and well-fed not so much. He comes across so hungry and possessed on the page, it was difficult to imagine him as anything other than gaunt.

Makes me wish I had better Arabic than what one semester managed to give me, because I'd like to understand what they're saying, and how the page-to-screen transition was handled. From the credits, it looks considerably less subtle.


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