Splendor of Doubt between Reality and Fantasy Narration and Plot in Tayeb Saliha
The renowned Sudanese novelist Tayeb Salih was born in northern Sudan(1929-2010), namely at Al-Dabah village, which has become a symbol through which he depicted the heritage of his birth place in his world-class novels and narrations, translated into dozens of languages around the globe.
Salih was a complete author with a deep and diversified culture where his competency in both Arab and English languages enabled him to maintain an encyclopedic knowledge in linguistics, islamic jurisprudence, philosophy, psychology, politics, anthropology, literature, poetry, theater and media, matter which in turn availed him with the skill and wit to tell, describe, analyze, compare, criticize and translate in an easy and sweet style that captivates the mind and soul.
The question which arises here is that: Has Tayeb Salih adopted the western narrative style as an example or just taken from the modern Arab literature that realistic vision to feature his characters and their worlds together with their concerns which are saturated with the heritage of the region?
No doubt that the product of the writer is the fruit of his individual and intellectual genius where the source of his creativity is to initiate a rich experience mixed with innate, such the innate which set him at the top at the rural and urban areas of North Sudan, full of all forms of natural storytelling.
No doubt that criticism and literary and artistic perception have bewilderedly stood in front of the texts of the creative writers, confused with the flow and perception, because those texts have completely overturned the scales of critical study and programs, or so said the most famous modern critics.
Tayeb Salih has written great and unmatched texts without seeking for the literary glory which he well-deserved.
1- In his Novel “Mansi- A Remarkable Being in His own Way”, Tayeb Salih introduces himself as a narrator in the sense in the classical Arabic culture which is relating to reporting, narrating and storytelling.
The narrator begins by introducing his main character in a strange manner: “He was not important to the world standards, but important in the eyes of few people like me who accepted him as he is and loved him wars and all, a man who covered the short life journey leaping, occupied a space bigger than was available and made a great glamour within the boundaries of the world in which he moved.” (Unofficial translation).
With the above introduction, the narrator paved the way for the events and movements of Mansi and gave him many nicknames to cover that short life which was full of stances; in a novel that comprised of 34 different scenes. The narrator, who was the author himself, modeled his novel on reporting, narrating or storytelling and in a style that is simple and rich of streaming information as it is always the way in his other novels such as the Season of Migration to the North, the Wedding of Zein, Bandarshah and others.
2- To enrich the novel, bring about the required appeal and pull the reader to the strangeness which characterizes the narration, the narrator invented many names for the same character including Ahmed Mansi, Mansi, Yousuf, Bashtaourus, Michael and Joseph. All these names represented a role in the main character’s theatre of life which extends from the United State, Europe, Africa, Asia and way down to Australia, i.e. all continents of the world… This is Tayeb Salih’s universality and deep thinking which stand on his international encyclopedic knowledge and culture where he smoothly transfers the cultures of those peoples and nations as if he were part of them with full knowledge of their traditions and heritages- a comprehensive knowledge that was enriched by experience and right vision.
In field of professions, he said Mansi worked as a porter, a nurse, a teacher, an actor, an interpreter, a writer, a university professor, a businessman and a clown, while in the area of ??religion, he indicated that Mansi was born a religious, left beind Christian children and a Muslim widow and Muslim children.
The reader of this novel stands confused between reality and fantasy as he/she wonders whether reality and fantasy were combined together or the narration is a real fact with names, locations, events and sometimes witnesses!!! By referring to other Tayeb Salih’s novels such as the Season of Migration to the North, the Wedding of Zein and others, the reader finds this conformity between reality and fantasy and feels as if he/she is wandering in real valleys, plains, cities and rooms, which prompts doubts that Mansi is a marvel of a writer who knows his stuff- a writer who apprehended the human soul and made it a ride for his pen which neither have mercy or give a break… it is the same style which brings imagination close to reality and even integrated with, without making any confusion for the reader or disharmony in the storytelling.
3- Another area of distinction is the narrator’s descriptive capabilities, namely when he reviews the economic situation of Mansi, his friend, for whom he spared no name. Here also comes the movement and expansion in the probabilities of that movement to make the narration easier with a branched circled plot that is open to all possibilities for the recipient: “When I first met him, he was a poor and destitute man, and when he died, he left behind a two hundred acres farm of the finest lands in the south of England, a palace with wings, a swimming pool, stables and cars. He also left behind a farm of one hundred acres in Virginia in the United States, a restaurant and a tourism company.” (Unofficial translation)… The narrator indicated the extent of this movement and rich life of Mansi in his travels, his career and his religion in addition to the influence of all these in his different live experiences which eventually made him rich despite his short life.
4- The novel reaches the peak of realism when the narrator tells the story of Mansi’s death: “When I heard the news of his death, I called his home at the outskirts of Southampton in England. A voice of an American young guy, his eldest son Simon, answered me. I learned from him that death took his father without warning as he was completely healthy, where he suffered from liver cancer that ended his life within weeks. I was then in Sudan… I thought about asking him how he managed the funeral of his father and he told me that they had not buried him yet, after around ten days since he died, and that they were waiting for the proceedings to complete to cremate his body … I told him that his father is a Muslim man and that body cremation is forbidden for Muslims.” (Unofficial translation)… His son did not know that his father was Muslim, but the narrator told us at the introduction that he was Muslim and Christian, i.e. diversified even in his beliefs.
5- No doubt that Tayeb Salih maintains immense descriptive skills where he depicted Mansi in a breathtaking manner: “if the stature of Mansi was one or two inches shorter he would have become a midget.” (Unofficial translation) Here the author did not say short, but instead used the word midget as a metaphor. He goes on his description, saying “As his age advanced, his body has become flabby and he developed a big belly and a jutting out back… as if you are looking at a ball smashed into two halves, an upper halve and a lower halve. He was very careful about his appearance. He wore silk T-shirts and luxurious suits… He had used to purchase suits in dozens and he must have left many of them after his death that unfortunately nobody would benefit from them, because I doubt that there would be one person like Mansi in this entire world.” (Unofficial translation).
The narrator kept indicating the distinction of his friend in everything, in his movement, his work, his looks and his content… he is a unique friend that the narrator loved and imparted on him qualities that he believed he was worth of.
The novel needs intensive readings to bring out the embodied connotations and apprehend the interesting narration which took us to all corners of the world.
The Novel (Mansi- A Remarkable Being in His own Way) lies in 198 pages with 34 scenes.
By Ali Aba Yazid – (Sudan now Info)
Posted on May 22, 2013, in Sudan life style and tagged English language, Season of Migration, Season of Migration to the North (New York Review Books Classics), Sudan, Tayeb Salih, Wedding of Zein. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.