The Stoic

Publishing House: Jidar for Culture and Publishing

Publication Year: 2009

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 115

In its third edition, Hamed bin Aqeel‘s novel “Al-Rawaqi”, “The Stoic“, emerges as a significant work intertwining three characters: the king, the artist, and the narrator. The novel blurs the lines between myth, imagination, and reality. With the narrator presenting excerpts from the life and career of the late artist Taher Hussein.

“The Stoic” is a profound rediscovery of the depths of the human psyche in its engagement with art, freedom, and wisdom. It challenges the traditional understanding of literary texts, asserting that they cannot be fully comprehended solely through their linguistic system. Each text embodies an aesthetic and philosophical stance, either spontaneously or forcefully, depending on the writer’s skill. This is reflected through the environment, style, and the subject itself. George Lukács, through his sociological criticism, emphasized the relationship between literary texts and their socio-intellectual background within their historical context.

The Saudi novel phenomenon has recently garnered attention in literary and media circles. This is particularly significant considering the Saudi society’s longstanding insularity. These novels, many published under pseudonyms and others under real names. They have been celebrated by Arab readers, despite varying levels of sophistication. This acclaim is justified by the uniqueness of the Saudi society and its closed nature over a long period. Many of these novels are characterized by their bold exploration of sensitive issues. Critiquing social situations with sharp angles, addressing crises of freedom, and expressing unspoken issues. They become instrumental in breaking barriers, leading to a cognitive understanding and a creative revelation of reality and imagination.

Within this framework, “Al-Rawaqi,” the first novel by the Saudi critic and poet Hamed bin Aqeel, recently published by Dar Jidar for Culture and Publishing, can be analyzed. The 115-page novel stands apart from Aqeel’s critical writings, showcasing his philosophical leanings. The novel employs a narrative technique intertwining symbolism with reality, avoiding classic narrative paths. It chooses three narrative trajectories for its three characters (a novelist, a musician, a teacher). Whose lives intersect, except for the teacher who follows a distinct path.

The novelist, engrossed in his isolation in Jeddah. Talks about a lover who left him, and a friendship with a publisher and a musician. The musician’s journey through time and space, from Yemen to Taif and then to Jeddah, portrays his destiny entwined with his passion for music, culminating in his recognition as a renowned musician. The teacher, set apart in time & space, burdens itself with contemplations, philosophy. In addition to final thoughts on life, governance, and wisdom.

The novelist’s character in the book merges with Aqeel himself, not by our perception but by the author’s deliberate choice, as evident in the final chapter. The chapter discusses the reactions to the publication of “Al-Rawaqi” and the criticisms it faced, creating an overlap between the author and the main character.

The two narrative lines presented portray a series of disappointments with reality and relationships with others. Illustrating the social environment, its traditions, and intellectual stances through a method of disconnection and connection. Characters are not separated into distinct chapters; instead, the narrative within a single chapter shifts. With changes in font style, creating a sense of a camera moving between the worlds of these characters. Capturing the escalation of events, tensions, and internal struggles.

The nature of the characters coincides with variations in time. While the novelist’s narrative is set in present-day Jeddah, moving through its streets and cafes, the musician’s timeline oscillates between the present and the past, starting from Yemen and moving to Taif and Jeddah, exploring the world of music and its icons. The teacher takes us back to the Stoic school of philosophy. Depicting a time before Christ, focusing on Zeno the Stoic.

“Al-Rawaqi” or “the teacher” appears in the narrative separately from the other characters, with no direct connection to them, suggesting a symbolic representation of modern governance and its systems, rather than being Zeno the Stoic himself. It’s a reinterpretation of the Greek philosopher in a new, critical form, serving as a symbol only revealed through deeper reading and interpretation of “Al-Rawaqi.”

“The Stoic” offers a stimulating intellectual feast, advocating for novels that avoid excessive length and align with our fast-paced era.

Read More About Hamed bin Aqeel

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