February 29, 2024

“The Night Mail”: The Intimacy of Paper Messages in the Digital Age

The Night Mail Review

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Paper’s Intimacy

Hoda Barakat masterfully wove a narrative theme in “The Night Mail” that playfully engaged the hearts of readers. This theme revolves around the essence of five paper letters in the digital age, inviting your senses to capture the aroma of paper, allowing its yellowing to reside in your memory, and letting you touch the folded pages of these messages. Beside your desk, a waste bin holds dozens of torn letters, creating a visual composition in your imagination reminiscent of European cinematic frames.

Barakat endowed the paper letters with a transparent intimacy, offering an emotional outpouring that is both endearing and exaggerated, adding a layer of revelation that deepens the mystery.

Being nocturnal, this aligns with the novel’s title, “The Night Mail,” as these missives don’t reach anyone. Add to this the obsession of the letter writers fearing surveillance; even if delivered, they fall into the hands of unintended recipients, rendering the letters one-sided.

“I won’t send it to you by mail, of course; I’ll find a way to give it to you or slip it to you during my planned visit to your prison.”

The carriers of The Night Mail bear a heavy burden, feeling an excessive responsibility for their letters. Ironically, this diligence sometimes causes some letters to either languish in drawers or fall into the wrong hands.

“I regret forgetting it in my pocket, as if I had abandoned a precious trust, despite knowing that the chances of delivering this letter were almost nonexistent…”

In “The Night Mail,” Hoda Barakat seamlessly blends two literary genres: epistolary literature and exile literature. This fusion doesn’t disrupt the reader, maintaining the text’s structural integrity.

Adapting to Pain

Regarding the pain experienced by the characters, it remains shrouded in mystery, a manifestation of childhood experiences that, even when employing defensive tactics like repression and suppression, persist. In their five letters, the characters do not transcend this pain, making it a recursive and escalating force rooted in childhood psychological residues tied to their family relationships.

“I no longer care about the pain…”

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