On Monday evening, May 11th 2020, Qatari Forum for Authors held a new session of the “Read Me, I Am This Book” initiative sessions. This initiative is part of the project related to establishing criticism. This project attracts critical competent intellectuals from the Arab world and beyond, who study new narratives, such as stories and novels and discuss issues of literatures in general. Additionally, the project promotes the culture of criticism among writers and authors.
During that session, which was moderated by Dr. Abdel-Haq Belabed, professor of criticism at Qatar University, Dr. Ali Nesr was invited to talk about “Qatar Life in Narrative: Between Originality and Modernity”. The lecture streamed on the Forum’s Youtube channel.
At the beginning of the session, Dr. Abdel-Haq Belabed introduced Dr. Ali Nesr as a critic, who specializes in narrative and poetic studies and who has a distinguished presence in conferences and seminars inside and outside the Arab world. Dr. Nesr has published many researches on novel and poetry, such as his prominent critical book “Vision of the World in Arabic Novel”, which is studied by many students and those who are interested in criticism. Dr. Nesr also writes novels and poetry.
On the title he chose regarding Qatari novel and narration, Belabed said that through this title, he would discuss a significant model of an early example of Qatari novel writing, which is the novel ” Ahlam al-bahr al-qadima (The Old Dreams of the Sea), written by Shu’a’ Khalifa. He added that his research focuses on important narrative landmarks and mechanisms, while monitoring social transformations and turns in Qatar, ranging between originality and modernity.
For his part and through his research paper, Dr. Ali Nesr explained that no era has been free from a serious conflict between originality and modernity, imitation and innovation or stillness and transformation as a phenomenon at various levels. He noted that literature, in its various forms, has never been immune from that kind of conflict. Rather, it has reflected on pages of literature leaving its imprints clear, whether it was in the form of a literary work, essay, criticism or description. He added that there is often a conflict between two sides; the first team called for adhering to values and guidelines passed on by fathers and grandparents. It celebrated the past as a refuge for preserving national and religious identity; whereas they accused the second team of being an intruder who came from overseas to erase a culture that is difficult to shake. He continued that the second team called for departing from that past, under the pretext of interacting with civil life and urbanization which impose modern values that we cannot lock our windows and doors against them because they are our salvation and way out of poverty and backwardness to prosperity and safety. A third team had to emerge out of this conflict, working to reconcile the two approaches, the conservative and the modern, and taking from heritage what could be utilized in modern days.
With regard to Shu’a’ Khalifa’s novel ” Ahlam al-bahr al-qadima (The Old Dreams of the Sea), Dr. Ali Nesr believed that it is like a stage on which she shows aspects of that conflict. Upon reading the title, the reader feels it and sees what is expected lying ahead, as two words “old and dream” are terms of conflict. He emphasized that this is the case for almost two generations, who are very concerned with “dream” and it occupy a wide space of their cognitive thinking. He pointed out that the writer shows the first generation in the first hundred pages of the story. The father, Hamad, and his wife, Lulwa, and some other secondary characters existing beside the two main characters form the core dynamics of the story. These characters contribute to fueling that conflict, which is confined to poverty and richness, as the story shows that Lulwa’s most desired ambitions are delicious food and a beautiful house, while Hamad is attached to his past and norms, through his hunting equipment, which is considered not just as moral wealth, but also as life standards. The second party of the story features the second generation, represented by the two daughters, (Sheikha) and (Noura) as the two main heroines. They form an extension of the previous characters, as they portray that conflict with fundamental changes imposed by the current situation where transformations occur as a result of the oil boom that turned life upside down and worked to improve it, while imposing standards and values that are consistent with the nature of those changes. The daughter, Sheikha, has the same aspirations as her mother, while Noura represents the team that reconciles the authenticity of the past by holding on to her father’s legacy and equipment, which is fit to be displayed in an archaeology museum, and the oil present accompanied by economical, urban and social openness of life.
The Qatari Forum for Authors continues its cultural activities as a cultural body, affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Sports. It aims at caring for authors, especially upgrading their cultural level, in accordance with the Minister of Culture and Sports Resolution No. (91) of 2018, establishing the Qatari Forum for Authors and approving its Articles and Memorandum of Association.