That is what you are. That’s what you all are …
all of you young people who served in the war.
You are a lost generation.”
Gertrude Stein telling Ernest Hemingway
“Is tomorrow a holiday,” one of my staff asked.
“Why” another countered.
It is Sabatash February.
One of my engineer Libyan friends is worthy of respect.
Middle aged, highly educated from many universities, but having the humility
to accept that he has not got all the answers.
“ I will study and let you know,” is his answer to many queries.
When I first heard him give this answer, it was a welcome change to some local friends who confidently say-
“I know everything.”
Only the fool knows everything, I think in my mind, but do not bother to correct these –I know everything – types.
Recently I sat with him, and thought about the coming anniversary.
“There is nothing you can hope from people who have become stunned by the continuous war. Why should I point to others, one of my own nephews has become totally damaged. He cannot sleep without drugs. If he sits still, the memories of what has happened disturb him. So he goes for another round of violence. It will end only with his life. What are we going to do with this generation?”
Made me remember the above remark of Gertrude Stein, which she had expanded for Hemingway.
When a young mechanic failed to repair the car quickly enough, the garage owner shouted at the boy,
“You are all a “génération perdue.”
REMEMBERING KAMAL…OF CAIRO TRILOGY
Last week-I reviewed my Reading journal- and had a relook at the Character Kamal of Cairo Trilogy.Many years ago, my friend Ibrahim Gomari gifted the Trilogy to me, as a special gift from Cairo where he stays. Many a Tripoli afternoon, I have spent reading the pages and enjoying the nuances , which are relevant even today.
The Trilogy is a panorama of Egyptian life rising out of British Colonialism.
FEB 17…The Martyrs… In the Cairo Trilogy, the character Kamal gets into an emotional debate on whether the martyr Fahmy died in vain….
As one staff thought of taking a holiday, I smiled and said..No, we will have a special reading session, remembering all the Fahmys we knew
It follows the story of Ahmad Jawad and his family through three generations.
In the third part of the Trilogy-Sugar Street- interesting interplay between forces in society in the context of the rising forces of nationalism come through.
Dialogue and conflict between different characters is used skillfully to portray these.
Class system-as shown in 1008-1009- while family members discuss a potential marriage proposal.
To quote-Page 1008-1009
In his forceful voice Abd Al Munim Shawkat replied
“Yes. One of his maternal uncles is a donkey driver and another’s a baker. He has a paternal uncle who is an attorney’s secretary.” Then he added as a reluctant concession. “But none of this detracts from the man’s work. A person should be judged for what he is, not for his family.”
Kamal realized that his nephew wanted to assert two truths no matter how contradictory: First the baseness of Fuad’s origins and second the fact that a humble background does not diminish a person’s value. He understood that Abd Al Munim was both attacking Fuad and repenting for his unfair attack because of his strong religious convictions.”
The character Kamal, son of the patriarch Ahmad Al Jawad, an English school teacher, writes a monthly philosophy column in a journal. He has many contradictions . In the night, he is transformed into a liberated voyager who traverses the limitless expanses of thought.
In the day time he is a teacher. In weekends he goes to pleasure houses.
Here are some samples of his intellectual discussions, which take place in the office of the Journal . Kamal discusses with a story teller Riyad who has been reading Kamal’s articles for many years, on issues of science and Art.
Riyad is the spiritual brother of Kamal.
Some literary theorists say that the character Kamal was closely based on Naguib Mahfouz himself, both are followers of the philosopher Bergson.
Kamal-(the philosopher) “What do you say about scientists who do not share your enthusiasm for science”
Riyad-(the story teller)- “We should not interpret the modesty of science as weakness or despair. Science provides mankind with its magic, light, guidance and miracles. It’s the religion of the future.”
On art-The story teller Riyad tells
“Can you live in absolute isolation? People need confidential advice, consolation, joy, guidance, light and journeys to all regions of the inhabited world and of the soul. That’s what art is.”
Elsewhere in the novel, once Kamal gets into an emotional debate remembering the martyr Fahmy.
Did he die in Vain?
The Trilogy dissects many interesting layers, exploring the concept of individualism, family, tribe, clan, nation in the context of Egyptian society emerging from British colonialism between the two world wars.
Bab Al Aziziya- August 2011. Do women and children continue to pay a higher price for this civil unrest? This question met with different answers and sometimes silent tears among different sections- both local Libyan citizens and foreign workers.
I smiled at the mention of holiday..on February 17….
No-there will be a Special Reading session, we will remember the many Kamals and Fahmys who are no longer physically present with us.
ONE YEAR ON-WHAT IS THE CHANGE
Families celebrating in Suq Juma. This was the heart of the revolutionary uprising in Tripoli along with Fashloom. As one friend put it
“The uprising started in Suq Juma and Fashloom, was crushed here, will
rise again here.”
After the failed February uprising, many prepared
quietly for months. That day of reckoning came on August 20,2011
2015-…Many a time, we hear sounds of gunfire from Fashloom..in the night.
TWO YEARS ON…EXAMINING BELIEF AND INTEREST
Peter Drucker once said, “if everyone understands and buys into the goal, if it’s a shared goal, it doesn’t actually matter how you are organized.” He also said “that if people do not buy into the goal, or know the goal, it doesn’t matter how you’re organized.”
There are many roads to the goal, but I think a good starting point is the belief that we can improve, can do better. As the second anniversary of the February 17 revolution comes we can pledge to build on the words of John Stuart Mill
One person with belief is equal to 99 with interest.
THREE YEARS ON…Examining ways of some businesses in Libya
Can an Airlines company do its own catering?
I asked this question to my friend who was trying to impress with his different contacts and abilities.
As one could not tell him directly that this is leading us nowhere concrete,(weeks of running around have nothing real to show, except for papers and papers) I asked him this Business model question.