The Grub Hunter

The Grub Hunter

Publishing House: Thaqafa Publishing

Publication Year: 2010

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 148

“The Grub Hunter” by the Sudanese author Amir Tag Elsir spans 148 pages across 20 chapters. It was published by Dar Thaqafa for Publishing and Distribution in collaboration with Al-Ikhtilaf Publications in Algeria in 2010 and made it to the shortlist for the 2011 Arabic Booker Prize. It was later republished by Dar Al Saqi in 2016.

“The Grub Hunter” novel narrates the story of “Abdullah Harfash,” a retired security officer who aspires to become a novelist after reading about a flower seller who wrote a novel featuring a woman from the African diaspora, and a repentant prostitute in Saigon who wrote two novels. Hence, he decides to shadow the novelist (A.T.) to benefit from his experience in mastering the art of novel writing at the Qasr Al-Jamiz café.

Abdullah Harfash is fundamentally an elderly man, a former security officer, and a report writer for security agencies. Having lived a long life, he learned how to hide his emotions and was dedicated to his job. However, he lost his leg in one of his missions, which prompted him to change his life for a different one, marked by a wooden leg.

Exploring the Interplay Between Writing and Reality: Harfash’s Literary Odyssey

Due to his habit of writing reports and his use of yellow paper, he decided to identify the differences between report writing and novel writing; thus, he joined the novelist (A.T.) and read his novel “Eva Died on My Bed.” Harfash begins his novelistic journey by writing a chapter that recalls events from a previous case he worked on. With the report writer within him taking over, the chapter gradually turns into a security report, exposing him to the novelist (A.T.).

The novelist (A.T.) is arrested and placed in a cell, prompting Harfash to plead with his superiors for his release so as not to halt his literary journey. He also turns to reading more novels and seeks a literary character around whom he can build his novel. In this quest, he finds an ideal character in his aunt’s husband, a masseur obsessed with theatre, who performs trivial theatrical roles distinctively.

Harfash shares with the novelist the idea of using his aunt’s husband as inspiration for his upcoming novel and attempts to gather details from the aunt’s husband about his past and life to enhance his story. With the novelist’s disappearance and rumors of him starting a new novel, Harfash suspects that the novelist has stolen his idea, prompting him to search for him.

At this time, Harfash is called back to his former job, where he is surprised by his director’s desire to reinstate him and use his new connections in the literary world to write reports about intellectuals. This ends his literary journey, bringing him back to square one. In the end, Harfash meets the novelist again after completing his new novel, only to be surprised that he is the protagonist, concluding the novel with the closure of the circular plot constructed by the author.

Read More About Amir Tag Elsir

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