Life of Mr. Kaf


Author: Ali Al-Shadawi,

Publishing House: Dar Towaa Publishing and Distribution

Publication Year: 2009

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 143

The novel “Life of Mr. Kaf” by the Saudi writer “Ali Al-Shadawi,” was published in 2009 by Dar Towaa Publishing and Distribution.

The author blended elements of the short story and the novel in his work “Life of Mr. Kaf” marking a new approach in Saudi Arabian literature. In this narrative, the reader holds the ultimate judgment, as the novel is experimental in nature and must be approached within this framework. The concept that the reader should be a gainer rather than a loser underscores the author’s intent. The reader envisioned by the author while writing will not merely imagine the characters, atmospheres, and landscapes but will rather co-create them.

Within the novel “Life of Mr. Kaf” there exist only stories. Each story possesses its own faces, atmospheres, and landscapes, distinct from the others. As for what constitutes the book (the novel), it is left to the reader and their personal choices.

“Ali Al-Shadawi,” does not believe that the blending of two narrative genres (the short story and the novel) is an attempt to pass off stories that may not succeed on their own when published. Nor does he view it as an attempt to elongate the events of the novel. Rather, the novel is founded on experimentation. In his mind, the idea of the book arises from the reader’s capacities, allowing them to invent stories, craft tales, and liberate themselves from the author’s inventions. Sometimes, it is the idea or principle rather than the execution that grants certain books their creative significance.

The publisher’s synopsis of the novel states: “He resembled those characters encountered by readers in Dostoevsky’s novels when their sense of suffering reaches its zenith, as if he were in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, reaching the ‘Dostoevskian’ idea: his immersion in suffering, his acceptance of the world with a resigned acceptance, while doing so in protest against it. His conscience is at ease, yet it is a conscience that finds comfort in the belief of the absence of any tranquil conscience. His complex spirit, with evil as its essential element, his profound consciousness, and the sufficiency of his will and feeling towards existence.

His immersion reached a point of unconsciousness, where there was no longer room for existence, and he found joy in his deep internal struggles. In short, his despair and collision with a dead end.

Therefore, he exposed himself to disappointment in the face of a seemingly disheartening reality, and found solace in the endless scenes his imagination could conjure for him. This Platonically idealistic lover, who had never encountered the object of his affection, possessed a type of vision that enabled him to uncover the deepest aspects of himself. Like Oedipus, who once discovered his true self profoundly, realizing he had killed his father, married his mother, and ruled the city. It is a knowledge fraught with the danger of madness, sharp and terrifying awareness, discovering what no human can bear.

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