April 24, 2024

The Memory as a Battlefield: A Reading of the Trilogy ‘The Escape from Memory

The Escape from Memory

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In contrast to his first trilogy, “No One Sleeps in Alexandria,” which was written over a period of 15 years and released in three separate parts, depicting the major transformations of the city of Alexandria across generations, Ibrahim Abdel Meguid’s latest trilogy, “The Escape from Memory,” comes in a single book comprising three interconnected narratives of one generation spanning over 720 pages.

In his 2021 trilogy “The Escape from Memory,” published by Al-Mutawassit, the renowned author Ibrahim Abdel Meguid addresses the plight of individuals suffering from Stockholm syndrome through the protagonist of the trilogy, Majdi Hebat-allah, who served a five-year prison sentence on charges related to a political case, finds himself unexpectedly longing to return to his cell upon his release. Despite enduring inner pain and turmoil, he remains in a struggle not only with the changes in his new life but also with his own shadow and the fantasies he attempts to evade.

Stockholm Syndrome and escapism

The trilogy discusses the suffering of individuals afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome and how memory becomes a realm of pain, fear, and confusion. Despite feeling a sense of injustice for the harshness and loss of time they experienced in prison, the details and memories of this life, difficult as they may be, remain a barrier for many in resuming their normal lives. Some even feel nostalgic for their life in prison, finding the loss of freedom preferable to the expansive world haunted by memories of confinement, pain, and other anxieties.

After his release from prison, the protagonist of “The Escape from Memory,” struggles with Stockholm Syndrome, as well as a conflict between his memory and his new life. Reality has become more grotesque and brutal, and Cairo is no longer the city he once knew and lived in. The rapidly accelerating consumerist lifestyle has become a reality, and memories of the past have become a burden on his shoulders as he confronts this mad world.

The issue of memory in Ibrahim Abdel Meguid’s trilogy is profound. We don’t just escape from memory when we carry details of a painful past or difficult and bitter memories, but we also escape from memory when the present becomes more painful and terrifying. When circumstances change for the worse and reality becomes more grotesque and unreasonable, individuals may find themselves unable to interpret the reasons behind such drastic changes that have befallen humanity.

Despite the characters in the novel fleeing from memory and the details of their painful pasts, Abdel Meguid escapes into his own memory, crafting for us a remarkable world of stories filled with characters, events, and details. He takes us on an intriguing journey through the streets of Cairo with its alleys and cafes, and transports us between Egypt’s coasts, deserts, valleys, and mountains.

“It’s Stockholm Syndrome, which they talked about a lot in prison, when the tortured person becomes accustomed to the personality of their torturer, submits to them, and sometimes collapses at their feet seeking their approval. How ironic is that? Does the soul of the poor person who was tortured fear any further torture? Perhaps this lies dormant in the subconscious!”

Art as an Equivalent of Freedom

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