Life on Hold

Author: Fahd Al-Atiq

Publishing House: The American University in Cairo Press

Publication Year: 2012

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 124

Fahd Al-Atiq‘s ‘Life on Hold‘, is a profound exploration of memory and its power to evoke the past vividly, beginning with the narrator’s recollection of a woman’s scent. This novel “Life on Hold” grapples with deep philosophical questions about the distinction between the soul and the body, and the human relationship with their original place after leaving it. The story introduces ‘Azim Al-Zaman,’ a character in a pivotal moment with his boss, discussing job security versus the risk of seeking better opportunities – a metaphor for life’s eternal struggle between stability and ambition.

Al-Atiq masterfully portrays the constant balancing act of life’s aspirations, the journey towards them, and the inevitable changes in one’s path. The novel emphasizes the idea of postponement – the delay of dreams and ambitions while life’s daily grind takes over. The protagonist, once applauded for his performance in a university play, finds post-graduation life to be a stark contrast – a theater of absurdity, where dreams like writing become deferred amidst a life filled with corruption, travel, and nightlife.

Accordingly, the novel touches on the theme of migration for a better life – the journey of the soul and mind to adapt to new surroundings. It questions whether a person truly migrates if their mind remains tethered to the old place. Suggesting that memory constantly battles with adapting to the new. Al-Atiq poses the question: Do postponed blessings lose their joy upon attainment, or does the desire for an unknown happiness keep one yearning for the past?

Furthermore, the novel’s brevity is its strength, as Al-Atiq skillfully weaves past and present, maintaining coherence in thought and rhythm in prose. His language is free from pretense, making every line meaningful and rich. The narrative explores the struggle to accept change as a natural part of life, suggesting that awareness of this often comes too late.

 Al-Atiq concludes with the separation of soul and body as a liberation from the weariness of life and a return to the eternal existence. Finally, in ‘Life on Hold,’ he traverses a long narrative journey in a short novel, showcasing his adeptness in portraying the human condition from its emergence from nothingness to its eventual return, awaiting the realization of its eternal essence.”

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