March 19, 2024

The Grub Hunter: How to Craft a Novel within a Novel?

The Grub Hunter

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What if a novel were written about a writer aspiring to write a novel? And what if, upon finishing it, you discover that the protagonist you’ve lived with his writing aspirations is nothing but a character within a novel of another character? In clearer terms, a novel narrates another novel within its main story, resulting in us becoming readers of a novel within a novel. “The Grub Hunter” by the Sudanese author Amir Tag Elsir spans 148 pages across twenty chapters, published by Dar Thaqafa for Publishing and Distribution in collaboration with Editions Difference in Algeria in 2010. It was shortlisted for the 2011 Arabic Booker Prize and was republished by Dar Al Saqi in 2016.

From Security Officer to Novice Novelist

The novel unfolds the story of “Abdullah Harfash,” a retired security officer, aspiring to become a novelist after reading about a flower vendor who wrote a novel with a protagonist being an African immigrant woman, and a repentant prostitute in Saigon who authored two novels. Thus, he decides to learn the basics of novel writing by associating with the novelist (A.T) at the Qasr Al-Jumayz Café.

Abdullah Harfash, fundamentally an aged man and former security officer accustomed to writing reports for security agencies, lived a long life learning how to conceal his emotions and was dedicated to his job. However, after losing his leg during a mission, he opts for a different life with a wooden leg.

Distinctive Character Details

Due to his habit of writing reports and using his yellow paper, he decided to delineate the differences between report writing and novel writing. Therefore, he joins the novelist (A.T) and reads his novel “Eva Died on My Bed.”

Harfash begins his novelistic journey with a chapter recalling events from a previous case he worked on. As the report writer within him surges, the chapter gradually turns into a security report, revealing him to the novelist (A.T).

The novelist (A.T) gets arrested and placed in a cell, prompting Harfash to plead with his superiors for his release to continue his literary journey. He also delves into reading more novels, seeking a literary character around which to construct his own story.

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