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Ahlam Mosteghanemi: Her Life and Work focussing on “The Art of Forgetting”

SUMAYYA KHANAM

                                                                                                                                              Research Scholar 

Department of Arabic

                                                                                                                                                A.M.U. Aligarh

Abstract:

As we all know that Arabic is a Central Semitic language and classified as a macro language that consist of 30 modern varieties, including its standard form, Modern Standard Arabic, which is derived from Classical Arabic. Like the modern written language, Modern Standard Arabic is broadly taught in schools, colleges and universities. At recent it has an international status because of its broad application in various fields all over the world; such as in literature, trade, science and technology, commerce and various other cultural activities. The two formal varieties are grouped together as literary Arabic and liturgical language of Islam.

However, there are a number of personalities that play an essential role in the development of Arabic language and literature and left behind enormous well-acknowledged works in Arabic literary field. A distinguished name among them is Ahlam Mosteghanemi (b.1953) who is an Algerian writer. This paper will describe the biographical details of Ahlam Mosteghanemi and also deals with the notable contribution that she made in the field of Arabic literature. The special focus of the study will be on her novel, “Nissyan.Com” (The Art of Forgetting), published in 2009, in which the author make suggestions for the women to move beyond the destructive men in their lives and forget them to a better and more fulfilling existence.

As, we all know that there have been rapid and impressive developments in every field of the human life all over the world. The wide expansion of education for girls and women has been played a great role in these developments and their contribution counted among one of the main pillars of these advances.

From the very beginning females gave a great participation in Arabic Literature, such as, Al-Khansa who was a great poetess of her period. Similarly, in Modern Period, we see numerous females who played a significant role in the development of Arabic Literature in all its dimensions, like, novels, plays, short stories, poetry, etc. Some prominent names are: May Ziadeh (1886-1941), Huda Shaarawi (1879-1947), Latifa al-Zayyat (1923-1996), Aisha Abd al-Rahman bint Al-Shati (1913-1998), Suhayr al-Qalamawi, Layla Ba’albakki, Zainab al-Ghazali (1917-2005), Nawal al-Sadawi (b.1931), Fadwa Tauqan (1917-2003), Fatima Mernissi (1940-2015), Radwa Ashour (1946-2014), Imam Mersal (b. 1966), etc.

Likewise, an illustrious personality of contemporary period in Arabic language and literature is Ahlam Mosteghanemi, who is the best-selling female author in the Arab World belongs to Algeria. She is an eminent novelist and poetess and known to the world as the author of the first born Algerian Arabic-language works translated into English. The experiences that she made in her childhood as the daughter of a French teacher, turned Algerian liberation fighter, helped her to shape her vision and gave spark for her writing. After the independence of Algeria, she was among the first students in the new Arabic schools, she puts enormous value to write and express herself freely in Arabic. She took the responsibilities of his family when her father was unable to provide for the family because he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown; but her father was against her working. He wanted her to study Arabic; that is what he had fought for. Somehow she managed to do both. She was first noticed for her bold Arabic poetry which had, until then, always belonged to Algerian men. As her boldness was expressed in Arabic, it sent a shock wave through the Algerian writing community. She was eventually forced to do graduate studies abroad. She gracefully made the switch from poetry to novels over many years. When she finally released her first novel, it became an instant best-seller in the Arab world, as did her next four novels. Delving into human tragedy and unfulfilled dreams, her novels have universal appeal.[1]

Ahlam Mosteghanemi was born in Tunisia on April 13, 1953 while her family was in exile. Her father Mohammed El Cherif was a well-known revolutionary leader of Tunisia; when she was born, he was in prison because of the rebellion in 1945. In 1962, after the Algerian independence, her family moves back to Algeria (Algiers), where her rational and humanist father occupied high office in the first Algerian government, and meanwhile, Ahlam was presented at the first Arabic school in Algeria. She and her classmates were among the first Algerians who were educated in Arabic and not in French. However, at the age of seventeen, when she was in Tenth standard she became popular because of her work as a daily poetry show host on the National radio under the name of “Hamasat” which means “Whispers”. She was obliged to work in order to help take care of her family.[2]

She became the first woman to publish a compilation of Arabic poetry after publishing her work “Ala Marfa al Ayyam” (To the days’ haven) in 1973. It was followed in 1976 by the release of “Al Kitaba Fi Lahdat Ouray” (The Writing in Moment OF Nudity). At the time, Ahlam was part of the first generation to acquire the right to study in Arabic after more than a century of prohibition by the French colonization.[3]

Awards and Achievement:

  • Received the Nour Foundation Prize for Women’s Creativity, Cairo, 1996
  • Received the Naguib Mahfouz Prize for Memory of the Flesh in 1998.
  • Awarded a medal of honor from Abdel Aziz Bouteflika the President of Algeria in 2006.
  • Awarded The Shield of Beirut by the Governor of Beirut in a special ceremony held at UNESCO Palace attended by 1500 people at the time her book “Nissyan.com” was published in 2009.
  • Received the 2014 Best Arabic Writer award during the Beirut International Award Festival (BIAF).
  • Acknowledged by Forbes Magazine as: The most successful Arabic writer, having exceeded sales of 2,300,000. One of the ten most influential women in the Arab world and the leading woman in literature.[4]

Some Prominent Literary Works of Ahlam Mosteghanemi:

There is a wide variety of her work in Arabic that made her a distinguished and widely known personality all over the world. The novels of Ahlam Mosteghanemi are included as prescribed books in the curricula of a number of high schools and universities world-wide, and her work has been translated into several languages, such as, French and English, as well as being printed in Braille for blind readers.[5]

However, the collection of her poems, “On the Harbour of Time” shocked the newly independent Algerian society. She was the first Algerian woman who was not only writing poetry in Arabic but also freely sharing her thoughts and ideas on subjects such as, women’s rights and romance. The Trilogy that included “Memory in the Flesh” (1993), “Chaos of the Senses” (1997), and “Bed Hopper” (2003), which explore human tragedy and unfulfilled dreams made her a best-selling sensation in the Arab literature world. “Memory in the Flesh” alone sold more than 1.2 million copies.[6] Some eminent works of Ahlam Mosteghanemi are given below with brief detail.

  • Zakirat el Jasad (Memory in the Flesh/The Bridges of Constantine): “The Bridges of Constantine” is the first novel written by an Algerian woman in Arabic that has become a bestseller. It was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 1998 in recognition of its distinction. Ahlam Mosteghanemi is able to represent more than four decades of Algerian history as they interweave with the characters’ trajectories and memories, from the revolt of 1945 in East Algeria to 1988 when, Khaled, the protagonist-narrator is writing a memoir of his in the form of the novel we read.
  • Fawda el Hawas (Chaos of the Senses): Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s second novel of her trilogy, “Chaos of the Senses”, picks up where Memory in the Flesh left off, with the story of love set in the battered and bruised Algeria of the 1990s. Mosteghanemi takes her readers through the streets of suspicion and suspense, and the ups and downs of a forbidden love affair, through a story within a story, as a writer stuck in a loveless marriage to an important military man inadvertently writes what eventually comes true. “Chaos of the Senses” was published by Dar Al-Adab in Beirut 1997, 30 printed editions.
  • Aber Sareer (Bed Hopper): “Bed Hopper” – Published by Ahlam Mosteghanemi in Beirut 2003, 22 printed editions, is the third book of her trilogy.
  • com (The Art of Forgetting): “The Art of Forgetting” is an elegant and warm-hearted meditation on love, damage, survival and restoration from an exhilarating stylist, published in 2009. As the title suggests, this book offers women advice on how to move beyond the destructive men in their lives and onto a better and more fulfilling existence. Full of wit and warmth, from an author who speaks from her heart and head at one and the same time.
  • El Aswad Yalikou Biki (Black Suits You so Well): Her long-awaited new novel, “Black Suits You so Well”, published in November 2012 by Hachette-Antoine, has sold over 200,000 copies in two months. [7]

 The Art of Forgetting (Nissyan.com):

According to Qatar News Agency (QNA), “The work Nissyan.com was the third Arab work that translated by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP) after the “Granddaughter” by Iraqi author Inaam Kachachi and another work by Palestinian author Suad Al Amiri.” And she was the first Algerian writer who signs a deal with Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP) for the translation of her last publication “Nissyan.Com” into English.[8]

The Art of Forgetting (Nissyan.com) is a break up manual for women, which will bring Ahlam closer to a female audience. Its cover page has a reference in red colour in a circle that it is banned from sale to men which is very humorous. This novel is an elegant and warm-hearted meditation on love, damage, survival and restoration from an exhilarating stylist. As the title suggests, this book offers women advice on how to move beyond the destructive men in their lives and onto a better and more fulfilling existence. Full of wit and warmth, from an author who speaks from her heart and head at one and the same time.[9]

However, the book based on 336 pages that divided in ten main parts which further subdivided into various other sections. Such as, advice worth a herd of camels, telephone forgetfulness, as the men forget, prescriptions of forgetting man, the ambushes of memory, women are forgetting, from the stories of the stupid women, tango of forgetting, female code of honor, etc. Anyhow, she starts the book with the dedication to her book library, friend, etc.

As, we mentioned above that on the cover page of the book there is a red circle containing the expression “Not for Sale to Men”. But Mosteghanemi denies that her book is “male-bashing” or a feminist manifesto. “It is a women’s inventory against masculinity and in defence of man, that captivator to whose charms we are proud to fall victim, because without him we would be neither feminine nor women”. She quotes approvingly in the book from many male Arab authors. [10] Mosteghanemi makes some sweeping assertions, in a semi-joking manner.[11]

In the novel she also describes her views related to the phone call addiction of how a person gradually be addicted on his/her phone calls. She treats phone calls as a brain disease. Actually, most of us suffer from this illness that made us limited to our phones and living an isolated life from the world.  She demonstrates how phone calls can be addiction that should be cured psychologically. Hence, people must be cautious keep away from this communication which is very dangerous for both: our mind and body.

The caption of Mosteghanemi’s The Art of Forgetting (Nissyan.com) is: “Love him as no woman has ever loved and forget him like a man forgets.” This would appear to put her in similar subject to that of American author John Gray’s hugely successful self-help book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus which stressed the differences between men and women in love relationships. But The Art of Forgetting is different from a conventional self-help book. It draws much of its inspiration from literature, and is refreshingly free of psychobabble or 12-point plans. And rather than being over-earnest in tone Mosteghanemi’s approach is one of humour and playfulness. She says she wrote the book with “a great deal of sarcasm. I want you to laugh; nothing deserves sadness.” The Art of Forgetting is intended as the first of four books on “the four seasons of love”, which Mosteghanemi identifies as “the wondrous season of encounter, the jealous season of longing, the agonised season of separation and the splendid season of forgetting”[12]

 

 

References:

[1] Ahlam Mosteghanemi Biography, Author- Editors, The Famous People.com, – The Famous People.com, https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/Ahlam-mosteghanemi-5992.php, October 30, 2017, Retrieved on: 21/04/2019.

[2] Khadidja, Boukhari and Zouleykha, Ghennou, The comparison between Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s Memory in the Flesh (2016-2017). Diss. Faculty of Letters and Languages Department of English, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, University of Tlemcen.

[3] Ahlam mosteghanemi | About English. https://www.Ahlammosteghanemi.com/about-english, retrieved on: 11/22/2018.

[4] Ahlam mosteghanemi | About English. https://www.Ahlammosteghanemi.com/about-english. Retrieved on 11/22/2018.

[5] Accomplished Algerian Novelist Ahlam Mosteghanemi. Algeria.com. https://www.algeria.com/blog/accomplished-algerian-novelist-Ahlam-mosteghanemi/. Retrieved on: 23/04/2019.

[6] Ahlam Mosteghanemi Biography, Author- Editors, The Famous People.com, – The Famous People.com, https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/Ahlam-mosteghanemi-5992.php, October 30, 2017, Retrieved on: 21/04/2019

[7] Work English | Ahlam Mosteghanemi – أحلام مستغانمي- أحلام مستغانمي- Website. https://www.Ahlammosteghanemi.com/work-english. Retrieved on: 21/04/2019.

[8] Gulf News, Qatar. Algerian Ahlam Mosteghanemi is first writer to sign deal with Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, Published:  April 14, 2010 12:11, by Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief, https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/qatar/algerian-writer-signs-deal-with-bloomsbury-qatar-foundation-publishing-1.612125. Retrieved on: 23/04/2019.

[9] https://www.Ahlammosteghanemi.com/work-english

[10] Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature https://www.banipal.co.uk/book_reviews/88/%20the-art-of-forgetting-by-Ahlam-mosteghanemi/

[11] The Art of Forgetting Ahlam Mosteghanemi Pdf. https://bamboolivin.weebly.com/blog/the-art-of-forgetting-Ahlam-mosteghanemi-pdf, published on: 3/22/2018. Retrieved on: 4/23/2019.

[12] ibid

Bibliography:

  • Mosteghanemi, Ahlam. Nissyan.com. (2010), Darul Aadab, Beirut.
  • Ahlam Mosteghanemi Biography, Author- Editors, The Famous People.com, – The Famous People.com, October 30, 2017. Retrieved on: 21/04/2019. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/Ahlam-mosteghanemi-5992.php,.
  • Khadidja, Boukhari and Zouleykha, Ghennou, The comparison between Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s Memory in the Flesh (2016-2017). Diss. Faculty of Letters and Languages Department of English, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, University of Tlemcen.
  • Ahlammosteghanemi,About English. https://www.Ahlammosteghanemi.com/about-english, retrieved on: 11/22/2018.
  • Accomplished Algerian Novelist Ahlam Mosteghanemi. Algeria.com. https://www.algeria.com/blog/accomplished-algerian-novelist-Ahlam-mosteghanemi/. Retrieved on: 23/04/2019.
  • Work English | Ahlam Mosteghanemi – أحلام مستغانمي- أحلام مستغانمي – Website. https://www.Ahlammosteghanemi.com/work-english. Retrieved on: 21/04/2019.
  • Gulf News, Qatar. Algerian Ahlam Mosteghanemi is first writer to sign deal with Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, Published:  April 14, 2010 12:11, by Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief, https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/qatar/algerian-writer-signs-deal-with-bloomsbury-qatar-foundation-publishing-1.612125. Retrieved on: 23/04/2019.
  • Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature, Retrieved on: 21/04/2019. https://www.banipal.co.uk/book_reviews/88/%20the-art-of-forgetting-by-Ahlam-mosteghanemi/.
  • The Art of Forgetting Ahlam Mosteghanemi Pdf. Published on: 03/22/2018. Retrieved on: 4/23/2019. https://bamboolivin.weebly.com/blog/the-art-of-forgetting-Ahlam-mosteghanemi-pdf,
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