Научная статья на тему 'Yemen and the Arab world in Wajdi al-Ahdal’s novels: from parody to realism'

Yemen and the Arab world in Wajdi al-Ahdal’s novels: from parody to realism Текст научной статьи по специальности «Языкознание и литературоведение»

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Ключевые слова
АРАБСКАЯ ЛИТЕРАТУРА / АРАБСКИЙ РОМАН / ЙЕМЕН / ВАДЖДИ АЛЬ-АХДАЛ / ПОСТМОДЕРНИЗМ / ПАРОДИЯ

Аннотация научной статьи по языкознанию и литературоведению, автор научной работы — Suvorov M.

Since the early 1990s, Yemeni fiction has developed a style of writing that modern literary studies tend to consider one of the manifestations of postmodern aesthetics. This style was evidently born by a social feeling of the time that can be described as an “ideological deadlock”. This style, whose main feature is total irony expressed mostly in the form of parody, is best seen in the works of Wajdi al-Ahdal (born in 1973), one of the most discussed and translated Yemeni authors. The writer has now gone all the way from pronounced postmodernism, expressed in parody, to mature realism with its inherent picture of the inner world of the hero. In his earlier novels one can see such characteristic features of postmodernism as total parody, the relativistic nature of puppet characters, grotesque and black humor (often related to the sexual and physiological sphere), direct or parodic use of texts, plots and stylistic codes of written medieval heritage and oral folklore, a mix of genres and styles, undermining the stylistic and genre codes. Meanwhile, in his later novels we see absolutely realistic plots (although with elements of mysticism) and typical Yemeni characters with their vividly represented inner worlds. However, no matter what strategy the writer uses in a particular novel postmodern or realistic one its goal is to portray as impressively as possible the social and cultural backwardness of Yemen and the Arab world as a whole.

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ЙЕМЕН И АРАБСКИЙ МИР В РОМАНАХ ВАДЖДИ АЛЬ-АХДАЛЯ: ОТ ЛИТЕРАТУРНОЙ ПАРОДИИ К РЕАЛИЗМУ

С начала 1990-х годов в йеменской художественной литературе сложился стиль письма, который современные литературоведческие исследования склонны считать одним из проявлений эстетики постмодернизма. Этот стиль, очевидно, был рожден социальным чувством того времени, которое можно назвать «идеологическим тупиком». Этот стиль, главной чертой которого является ирония, выраженная в основном в форме пародии, лучше всего виден в работах Ваджди аль-Ахдала (1973 года рождения), одного из наиболее обсуждаемых и переводимых йеменских писателей. Данный писатель прошел путь от выраженного постмодернизма в форме пародии, до зрелого реализма с присущей ему картиной внутреннего мира героя. В его ранних романах можно увидеть такие характерные черты постмодернизма, как тотальная пародия, релятивистский характер кукольных персонажей, гротеск и черный юмор (часто связанные с сексуальной и физиологической сферой), прямое или пародийное использование текстов, сюжетов и стилевых кодов письменное средневековое наследие и устный фольклор, микс жанров и стилей, подрывая стилистические и жанровые коды. Между тем, в его более поздних романах видны абсолютно реалистичные сюжеты (хотя и с элементами мистики) и типичные йеменские персонажы с их ярко представленными внутренними мирами. Однако независимо от того, какую стратегию использует писатель в конкретном романе постмодернистском или реалистическом его целью является как можно более впечатляюще изобразить социальную и культурную отсталость Йемена и арабского мира в целом.

Текст научной работы на тему «Yemen and the Arab world in Wajdi al-Ahdal’s novels: from parody to realism»

УДК 821.411.21

Оригинальная статья Original Paper

YEMEN AND THE ARAB WORLD IN WAJDI AL-AHDAL'S NOVELS:

FROM PARODY TO REALISM

Mikhail N. Suvorov

St. Petersburg State University

soumike@mail. ru

Submitted: January 25, 2020 Поступила в редакцию: 25 января 2020 г. Reviewed: February 15, 2020 Одобрена рецензентами: 15 февраля 2020 г. Accepted: February 23, 2020 Принята к публикации:23 февраля 2020 г.

Abstract

Since the early 1990s, Yemeni fiction has developed a style of writing that modern literary studies tend to consider one of the manifestations of postmodern aesthetics. This style was evidently born by a social feeling of the time that can be described as an "ideological deadlock". This style, whose main feature is total irony expressed mostly in the form of parody, is best seen in the works of Wajdi al-Ahdal (born in 1973), one of the most discussed and translated Yemeni authors. The writer has now gone all the way from pronounced postmodernism, expressed in parody, to mature realism with its inherent picture of the inner world of the hero. In his earlier novels one can see such characteristic features of postmodernism as total parody, the relativistic nature of puppet characters, grotesque and black humor (often related to the sexual and physiological sphere), direct or parodic use of texts, plots and stylistic codes of written medieval heritage and oral folklore, a mix of genres and styles, undermining the stylistic and genre codes. Meanwhile, in his later novels we see absolutely realistic plots (although with elements of mysticism) and typical Yemeni characters with their vividly represented inner worlds. However, no matter what strategy the writer uses in a particular novel - postmodern or realistic one - its goal is to portray as impressively as possible the social and cultural backwardness of Yemen and the Arab world as a whole.

Keywords: Arab literature, Arab novel, Yemen, Wajdi al-Ahdal, postmodernism, parody

For citation: Suvorov, M. N. (2020). Yemen and the Arab World in Wajdi Al-Ahdal's novels: from parody to realism. Eurasian Arabic Studies, 9, 51-64.

ЙЕМЕН И АРАБСКИЙ МИР В РОМАНАХ ВАДЖДИ АЛЬ-АХДАЛЯ: ОТ ЛИТЕРАТУРНОЙ ПАРОДИИ К РЕАЛИЗМУ

М. Н. Суворов

Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет

soumike@mail. т

Аннотация

С начала 1990-х годов в йеменской художественной литературе сложился стиль письма, который современные литературоведческие исследования склонны считать одним из проявлений эстетики постмодернизма. Этот стиль, очевидно, был рожден социальным чувством того времени, которое можно назвать «идеологическим тупиком». Этот стиль, главной чертой которого является ирония, выраженная в основном в форме пародии, лучше всего виден в работах Ваджди аль-Ахдала (1973 года рождения), одного из наиболее обсуждаемых и переводимых йеменских писателей. Данный писатель прошел путь от выраженного постмодернизма в форме пародии, до зрелого реализма с присущей ему картиной внутреннего мира героя. В его ранних романах можно увидеть такие характерные черты постмодернизма, как тотальная пародия, релятивистский характер кукольных персонажей, гротеск и черный юмор (часто связанные с сексуальной и физиологической сферой), прямое или пародийное использование текстов, сюжетов и стилевых кодов письменное средневековое наследие и устный фольклор, микс жанров и стилей, подрывая стилистические и жанровые коды. Между тем, в его более поздних романах видны абсолютно реалистичные сюжеты (хотя и с элементами мистики) и типичные йеменские персонажы с их ярко представленными внутренними мирами. Однако независимо от того, какую стратегию использует писатель в конкретном романе - постмодернистском или реалистическом - его целью является как можно более впечатляюще изобразить социальную и культурную отсталость Йемена и арабского мира в целом.

Ключевые слова: Арабская литература, арабский роман, Йемен, Ваджди аль-Ахдал, постмодернизм, пародия

Для цитирования: Суворов М. Н. Йемен и Арабский мир в романах Ваджди аль-Ахдаля: от литературной пародии к реализму // Арабистика Евразии. 2020. № 9. С.51-64. (на английском языке)

INTRODUCTION

Since the early 1990s, Yemeni fiction has developed a style of writing that modern literary studies tend to consider one of the manifestations of postmodern aesthetics. This manner seems to reflect changes in the minds of some of the creative intelligentsia in Yemen, generated by a social feeling that can be described as an "ideological deadlock". First of all, we are talking about disappointment in the results of the two Yemeni revolutions (1962 in North Yemen and 1963 in South Yemen) and the understanding that the "bright future" promised by the revolutions has not come and is unlikely to come soon. A new generation of writers that appeared on the literary scene at this time knew little about "the achievements of the revolution" which in public mind had turned by then into a simulacrum. Not being able to compare the present with the pre-revolutionary era, they could not see what exactly these endlessly mentioned in official speeches "achievements" meant, whereas the situation in the country in their memory had always been deplorable. New ideological trends almost immediately showed their simulative nature. Thus, Islamic fundamentalism promised to restore social justice, but in reality only dragged society to the medieval state. For most Yemeni writers, it has been and is being rejected, and some of their works seem to be written as if "to spite" the fundamentalists. On the other hand, the values of Western civilization, embodied in such concepts as democracy, freedom of opinion, human rights, etc., are not a reality in Yemen, but only the subject of endless speculation in official rhetoric, which causes thinking people only a sense of irritation.

All this combined, obviously, contributed to the feeling that any ideology, any beliefs, any declared goals are nothing more than simulacra, is worthy only of irony. It is total irony expressed mostly in the form of parody that has become for some Yemeni authors the key concept defining their way of interpreting everything that happens in the world around them. This is most evident in the work of Wajdi Muhammad al-Ahdal, whose career as a novelist is discussed below. MATERIALS AND METHODS

Wajdi Muhammad al-Ahdal (born in 1973), one of the most discussed and translated Yemeni authors, appeared on the literary scene in 1998 when he published his first collection of short stories (or, better, short texts) titled The Flower of the Traveler: a

narrative cocktail. Everything in this collection - from the parodic content of the texts to its internal design - demonstrated the pronounced postmodern orientation of the young author. The next three collections were equally parodic, and increasingly this parody concerned the socio-cultural realities of modern Yemen. This parodic trend in al-Ahdal's writings culminated in his first novel, Mountain Boats (2002). The novel immediately received highly negative response from one of the Yemeni literary critics, who wrote that al-Ahdal's work flouts all moral and religious foundations of society. Public scandal broke out, the book was removed from bookstores, the Imam of the main mosque of Sanaa publicly accused the writer of apostasy, after which the threat of death by the hands of Islamic fundamentalists forced al-Ahdal to leave Yemen for Syria.

The text of Mountain Boats is divided into seven chapters called "oars" (mijdaf). This obviously determined the title of the novel, which is hard to explain by anything else. The first "oar" occupies almost half of the novel, other "oars" are about ten pages in length each.

Parody action in the first "oar" takes place in the market at Bab al-Yemen, the medieval gate in the city wall of Sanaa, which is a famous symbol of Yemeni traditionalism. The "oar" is composed of thirteen independent scenes, whose nature can be grasped from the first two of them:

"Bearded young men clamber up ladders and tear off posters of secular slogans stuck to the stone walls of Bab al-Yemen.

Beardless young men descend on ropes from the walls of Bab al-Yemen to stick secular slogans on top of Islamist ones.

First, the young men test their fighting skills in a funny way knocking down ladders and breaking ropes, then things take a terrible turn, with dead and wounded, and the third slogan wins - a slogan stained with blood, the meaning of which is unclear. Policemen cordon off Bab al-Yemen after making sure that all the murderers have fled.

Next to the wooden gate of Bab al-Yemen, which had been burned by a shell fired by unknown cannon, there sat on the ground a woman in black named Atika who worked in the morning as an employee of a Muslim charity that helps orphans and in the evening engaged in begging with the help of infants. Atika preferred to beg with a one-month-old infant named Mazbaja because she drove away boredom by telling Mazbaja the story of his adulterous mother, who died in al-Thawra hospital as a result of a medical error. This happened because a stupid nurse had ignored the doctor's instructions and instead of giving the woman a drug that relieves birth pain

she injected her a huge dose of anaesthetic. As for Mazbaja's father, he was a godless university student who dropped out of school and disappeared as soon as his unmarried neighbor showed signs of pregnancy.

The nurse sold the corpse of the woman to the anatomical office of the medical faculty and also received a twenty-first-grade gold necklace from Hajja Taqiyya, the head of the Yemeni female beggars, in exchange for Mazbaja, who was then sold at a very high price to the Muslim charity that helps orphans.

Atika was telling Mazbaja the story of his family for the purpose of taking out her evil on him and justifying the feeling of dislike that she felt for him. It was as if she was taking revenge on his parents, who had committed adultery, by keeping the baby wrapped in a thin white swaddling cloth in the evening and at night despite the cold of winters in Sanaa.

One day Mazbaja revenged himself. Seizing the moment when his penis was uncovered, he sent a stream of urine directly into Atika's mouth, drenching her face so that the urine then dripped from it.

From the laughter of passers-by the gates of Bab al-Yemen doubled in size, and the long rainbow was finally able to penetrate into old Sanaa.

Atika's hatred for the baby instantly reached its limit and surged over the edge. As if possessed, she grabbed his penis and began to pull it with all her strength trying to tear it off. The penis did not come off, but instead began to stretch out in Atika's hand and then suddenly wrapped around her neck and tightened into a dead knot. Passers-by who tried to save Atika from suffocation failed. They couldn't loosen the noos e around her neck, so they buried the two of them together in the same grave. Angel Munkir reported that Mazbaja went to heaven and turned into a yellow hoopoe.

And angel Nakir reported that Atika went to hell and settled in the most luxurious casino there because she was forever determined to dance naked in front of the late Arab leaders"1 (al-Ahdal, 2002, p. 11-14).

The final scene in the first "oar" introduces the story of Sa'ida, a young female beggar, whose adventures are described in the following six chapters. The realistic image of the space created in the novel is composed of numerous socio-cultural realities of Yemen. The novel presents almost all segments of the country's population with their own ways of life, occupations, religious, and political affiliations. Typical problems of Yemen are also reflected, such as women's powerlessness and domestic violence, arbitrariness of the police and other law

1 This and the following citations are translated into English by M. Suvorov.

enforcement bodies, total corruption, religious fanaticism, and murders on religious grounds.

However, all this realistic background is overshadowed by many details of caricature character and by outright parodic action. An exhibitionist university professor climbs up the city wall and, revealing his penis, gives a lecture to the crowd about strong historical ties between food consumption and sex. A bedouin from Maghrib, who works in Sanaa as a butcher, rapes a virgin simply because he loves fresh blood. A police officer, who "interrogates" four detained homosexuals, forces them to have nonstop sex with each other and then gives them rifles and sends them on a mission -because all his subordinates are at the moment occupied with other tasks. Scenes of such kind are abundant in the novel.

The realistic narrative code is also undermined in the novel by the "fairy-tale" course of events and by many recognizable fairy-tale details in the story of two protagonists, Sa'ida and Sayf. Sa'ida is captured by an Ethiopian refugee Abraham, a modern incarnation of the fabulous Ogre or dragon. Sayf, an offspring of one of the noble families of the city, who is playing here the role of a modern Prince, kills the monster with the help of four brave men and cuts off his head, then brings Sa'ida to his family Palace. Further, according to the usual fairy-tale scenario, the happy wedding should take place.

However, this fairy-tale narrative code is also undermined by parodic details. The would-be "Princess" Sa'ida suffers from seizures, during which she bites her broken wrist disgusting other people. The "monster" Abraham earns a living by wiping the glass of passing cars. Having captivated Sa'ida he rapes her all night long in an unnatural way, so that she even loses the ability to stay on her feet. The "Prince" Sayf, oppressed by his stepfather, is prone to bouts of depression and relieves his suffering by going outdoors and crying out curses. Four brave men who help him to kill the monster are the homosexuals sent by the police. In fact, Sayf doesn't participate in the battle, he only provides homosexual "heroes" with food. In the end of the novel Sa'ida gets married - not to Sayf, who by then is killed by his stepfather, but to the Imam of the main mosque of Sanaa, who simply buys her for money. Fearing that family life boredom may lead Sa'ida to adultery, her husband forces her to learn the Quran and hadith by heart.

Despite the presence in the novel of a number of antagonistic social forces (Islamists against civil opposition, Islamists against intellectuals and science, the state against Islamists, the police against perverts, etc.), their totally parodic portrayal deprives

them of antagonistic character and obscures the author's preferences, which is a characteristic feature of postmodernism.

The personal problems caused by the scandal around Mountain Boats did not make al-Ahdal give up his hard, ironic style, which he retained in his second novel, Donkey among Songs (2004). In the novel, which has formal features of realistic detective thriller, the writer depicted the same socio-cultural space as in Mountain Boats, namely the life of Yemeni capital in many of its manifestations. However, in the new novel he paid more attention to historical and political realities: to parliamentary elections, to unrest caused by rising prices, to the Civil war of 1994. The text, like in Mountain Boats, is full of scenes of violence, especially sexual violence, which looks in the novel as a characteristic feature of all the spheres of life in Yemen: family, religious, political. Imam of a mosque, using his position, seduces and rapes a boy. A sheikh who cures people with the help of the Quran uses treatment sessions to satisfy his lust. A leader of the ruling party, who suffers from impotence, takes pleasure in nightly beating his wife and his servant with a belt. A group of police officers pounces lustily on a young woman in order to extract a video cassette with a provocative record which she hid between her legs. A young man shoots dead his cousins, who came to visit him, because one of them is going to marry a girl whom the young man likes. A detective who is investigating brutal murders of three young women turns out to be the wanted murderer. One may estimate that it is this daily violence, practiced at all levels, that constitutes the main theme of the novel. However, the gravity of the situation is levelled in the novel by inherent in al-Ahadl's writing phantasmagoria, grotesque, and parody.

Al-Ahdal's third novel, The Quarantine Philosopher (2007), combines features of a satirical parable, a parody of dystopia, and a political novel. The action takes place in a cemetery Zayma which symbolizes the Arab world, and the characters are grave worms. The Arab world is hinted at by the identity of two characters: the founder of a "ramli" madhhab (i.e. a school of Islamic jurisprudence) Ibn Zayma and his faithful follower Big Qahtani, the ruler of the cemetery, whose name goes back to Qahtan, the ancestor of the southern Arabs. At the same time, the name of Big Qahtani alludes to Orwellian Big Brother, and the grave worms - to Orwellian Animal Farm. Besides, the tandem of Ibn Zayma and Big Qahtani alludes to many similar tandems in history: Marx and Lenin, Lenin and Stalin, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Ibn Saud, etc. The world described in the novel has absolutely all features of the human world with all its social and political institutions. Only two minor details remind the reader from time to time that the story is not about people, but about worms: the characters eat

dead bodies' flesh and drink oil. Oil is undoubtedly another hint at the Near East. However, this corpse-and-oil diet is not natural for the worms in the novel, but imposed on them by the ideology of "ramli" madhhab, which fact may suggest the worms' initial human nature.

The essence of the story is in that a worm named Mash'al al-Hijazi, who had been sent by religious circles of the cemetery Zayma to teach "ramli" madhhab to emigrants living in the cemetery of London, after completing his mission receives philosophical education and returns home, obsessed with the idea of "humanizing" the worms. The philosopher's method of humanizing the worms is in that a worm who wishes to become a human should strive to become the best in his profession. The writer, therefore, seems to be suggesting that Arabs are not humans, they only have to become humans. However, the high level of terrorist Bender bin Tuheimar's professionalism convinces the philosopher of the fallacy of his method of humanizing. He then finds another method: to become a human a worm should eat books instead of dead bodies' flesh and drink water instead of oil. The author, perhaps, suggests that to become a real man one should be a "bookworm", i. e. a bibliophile, which al-Ahdal himself is.

The twists and turns of the philosopher's fate are closely related to the socio-political events taking place at the cemetery Zayma, parodying events that actually took place in the Arab-Muslim world in recent decades. The writer parodies the ongoing conflict of ideas of globalism and traditionalism in the Middle East, and the formation of Islamic fundamentalism, which took place not without support from the United States, and the subsequent conversion of fundamentalists against the West, and the terrorist attack of September 11, and American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Caricature characters in the novel, often endowed with "talking" names, are recognizable in world politics. Here are an American diplomat Mr. Wilson, who has a huge influence on the government of Zayma, and the smug Big Qahtani, who is fond of breeding horses and therefore serves as a parody of any of the rulers of the Gulf states, and other representatives of the local aristocracy, who collect purebred goats, and the insidious Mut'ib al-Madi, the spiritual leader of the fundamentalists, who suffers from complexes acquired in childhood. Prototypes of some characters are easily recognized: thus, the reader has no doubt that Bender bin Tuheimar in the novel is Osama bin Laden, and the persecuted writer Hausali in the novel is Wajdi al-Ahdal himself.

At the same time, some characters in the novel may be perceived as parodies of various historical figures. This is especially true of the philosopher Mash'al al-Hijazi,

in whom the reader can simultaneously see some of the modern public figures, and some of the leaders of the Arab national liberation movement of the second half of the 20th century, and some of the famous Muslim reformers and educators, such as Muhammad Abduh or Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, and even the prophet Muhammad, a native of Hejaz (or Hijaz, hence al-Hijazi). Like many of them, the philosopher Mash'al al-Hijazi experiences periods of rise, fall, and new rise in his life. The narrative style in the novel is a mixture and alternation of various genre codes: satirical parable, Orwellian dystopia, political novel with its inherent media citation, detective story, social Arabic novel with its sentimentality, and even fairy tale. Although such a combination of different genre codes gave the novel certain compositional looseness, its thematic relevance and originality of its form were highly appreciated by Arab critics. The novel was nominated for the 2008 Booker prize for Arab novelists, and this fact demonstrated that Arab readership had developed by the time a taste for posmodernist literature.

In his fourth novel, A Land without Sky (2008) (in English published translation - A Land without Jasmine, 2012), al-Ahdal abandoned parody and portrayed the life of Yemen in realistic manner. The novel can be attributed to the mystical detective genre. The story starts with the disappearance of a girl named Sama (which in Arabic means Sky) who is a student in the University of Sanaa, and the whole story is devoted to the subsequent investigation.

Since the story is told by different characters - the detective, his assistant, the University canteen manager, the boy who loves the girl, and the girl's mother - the reader learns much about the background of the girl's disappearance and about different sides of the investigation. This "polyphony" allows the author to accurately depict the psychology of the characters and to touch upon some aspects of Yemeni social life which are not widely discussed: disempowerment of women, corruption, the savagery of the tribal mentality, the wilderness of some popular beliefs, and the like.

The most terrible episode of the story - in fact, the culmination of its realistic component - is the sadistic murder of the boy who loves the girl, committed by members of the girl's tribe, who thought that the boy might be involved in the girl's disappearance. The girl's disappearance is considered a dishonor for the tribe, and the tribesmen are concerned about restoration of their honor by taking revenge on whoever may be suspected of being the offender. Having murdered the boy the tribesmen consider their task accomplished and forget about the girl.

The fate of the girl interests the tribesmen only in connection with the matter of their honor, as evidenced by the following passage in the detective's narration: "The missing Sama belongs to a fierce tribe whose members never part with weapons. For them, the honor of a tribeswoman is a red line, the offender of which -whoever he might be - will inevitably die. I heard them threaten the father of the missing girl that if they found his daughter devoid of her virginity, a thousand bullets would tear her body to pieces" (al-Ahdal, 2008, p. 35).

In the novel - for the first time in Yemeni fiction - the writer depicted the youth love in an explicit and realistic way, with all its sexual components, physical sensations and experiences of a teenager during puberty. All this had previously been a "forbidden" theme in the national literature.

The realistic development of events in the novel is periodically interrupted by reports from different narrators that on the eve of the girl's disappearance they saw her in the University garden talking to an old man whose features and behavior hint to the reader at his mystical essence. It is this old man who showed the boy, later murdered by the tribesmen, the place where the girl's personal belongings were hidden. In the final chapter of the story, the mother of the missing girl while reading her daughter's diary finds in it a description of the girl's dream that sheds light on t he circumstances of her disappearance. In this dream, a strange old man who had already appeared to the girl in her previous dreams meets her in the University garden and shows her a white book that does not contain any text. In response to the girl's ques tion about what he wants from her the old man says that he wants to fulfill her most secret desire. A moment later the girl is being overcome by a feeling of unearthly bliss, accompanied by a sense of her own disappearance from the material world. When the University canteen manager, who saw the old man and the girl talking in the garden, asks the old man where the girl went, he shows him pages of his book, that are now filled with text.

The reader may estimate that the girl disappeared from the disgusting world of people having turned into the text of a book. Thus, by using his favorite trick (found as well in his earlier short stories) of turning a person into a book and vice versa al-Ahdal seems to hint that everything described in the novel was a kind of the author's game, the goal of which was the composition of the story itself.

Al-Ahdal's fifth novel, Happy Land of Intrigues (2018), is a semi-detective story which unfolds in the realities of the information war of the last decade of President Ali Abdulla Saleh's rule in Yemen. The protagonist is an experienced journalist working in a pro-regime newspaper in Sanaa. The story begins when the editor-in-

chief sends the journalist on a business trip to al-Hudayda province with the purpose of journalistic coverage of a scandalous incident. A local sheikh, who is a prominent member of the ruling party and one of the tribal leaders on whom the regime relies, was detained by the police on suspicion of raping an eight-year-old girl. On the instructions of the editor-in-chief the journalist distorts the evidences of the raped girl in order to change the negative public opinion about the sheikh to the opposite, to sympathy for him as a victim of an unfair accusation. From that moment all the journalist's activities turn into an information war against opposition journalists, human rights activists, and a few decent representatives of the law enforcement bodies. He wages this war on the pages of his newspaper and on Facebook. The reader realizes that the protagonist doesn't care about the truth, he simply writes for money what the editor-in-chief wants him to write. In addition to large sums of money, expensive alcohol drinks, and cigarettes which the journalist receives from the regime as a payment for his services he is provided also with young "concubines". His next task in al-Hudayda is to deny or to obscure the death of a seven-year-old girl who had been brutally raped by her adult husband. This task also implies defaming those who demand justice. This information war comes to its culmination when the journalist participates in raider capture of an opposition newspaper. However, soon after this capture the regime gives the journalist away as a sacrifice in this information war. Finally, the journalist finds his death in a traffic accident of a mystical nature . RESULTS

Summarizing what was said earlier, it should be noted that Wajdi al-Ahdal has now gone all the way from pronounced postmodernism, whose main feature is total parody, to mature realism with its inherent picture of the inner world of the hero. Indeed, in Mountain Boats and in The Quarantine Philosopher, and also to some extent in Donkey among Songs, we see such characteristic features of postmodernism as total parody, the relativistic nature of puppet characters, grotesque and black humor (often related to the sexual and physiological sphere), direct or parodic use of texts, plots and stylistic codes of written medieval heritage and oral folklore, a mix of genres and styles, undermining the stylistic and genre codes. Meanwhile, in A Land without Sky and in Happy Land of Intrigues we see absolutely realistic plots (although with elements of mysticism) and typical Yemeni characters with their vividly represented inner worlds. However, no matter what strategy the writer uses in a particular novel - postmodern or realistic one - its goal is to portray as impressively

2 For a more detailed analysis of the novel see (Suvorov, 2019).

as possible the social and cultural backwardness of Yemen and the Arab world as a whole. This backwardness is manifested in such features of Arab society as women's powerlessness, high level of violence, corruption, religious fundamentalism, archaic traditions and wild beliefs. CONCLUSION

Several features distinguish Wajdi al-Ahdal from other Yemeni novelists. First, it is his constant experimentation in the field of narrative strategy. Secondly, it is his boldness in treating topics that are tabooed by Arabs' religious and cultural tradition. And third, it is his ability, rare for Yemeni novelists, to create fascinating dynamic stories, set out without excessive verbosity.

Al-Ahdal's novels are discussed by Arab and Western readers, critics and scholars. Three of his novels were translated into European languages: Mountain Boats into French, Donkey among Songs into Italian, A Land without Sky into English and Russian.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

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7. al-Ahdal, Wajdi. (2010). Un asino in mezzo ai suoni. Alberobello: Poiesis. 322 p.

8. al-Ahdal, Wajdi. (2011). Barques de montagne. Paris: Bachari. 96 p.

9. al-Ahdal, Wajdi. (2012). A Land without Jasmine. Berkshire: Garnet Publishing. 94 p.

10.Аль-Ахдаль В. Страна без Неба // Литературно-философский журнал «Четки» / Перев. с араб. и комментарии В. Г. Попова. М., 2011. № 3 (13). С 71-116.

11. Suvorov, M.N. Two Novels about the Information War in Yemen on the Eve of the Revolution of 2011. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Asian and African Studies, 2019, vol. 11, issue 3, pp. 298-310. https://doi.org/10.21638/spbu13.2019.304

BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

1. al-Ahdal, WajdT. (1998). Zahrat al-'abir: kuktayl hika'T [Flower of the Traveler: a narrative cocktail)]. Sanaa, Yemen: al-Maktaba al-wataniyya. 45 p. (In Arabic)

2. al-Ahdal, WajdT. (2002). Qawarib jabaliyya [Mountain Boats]. Beirut, Lebanon: Riad El-Rayyes Books S.A.R.L. 122 p. (In Arabic)

3. al-Ahdal, WajdT. (2004). Himar bayn al-aghanT [Donkey among Songs]. Beirut, Lebanon: Riad El-Rayyes Books S.A.R.L. 262 p. (In Arabic)

4. al-Ahdal, WajdT. (2007). Faylasüf al-KarantTna [The Quarantine Philosopher]. Sanaa, Lebanon: Markaz 'UbadT li-l-dirasat wa-l-nashr. 550 p. (In Arabic)

5. al-Ahdal, WajdT. (2008). Bilad bila Sama' [A Land without Sky]. Sanaa, Lebanon: Markaz 'UbadT li-l-dirasat wa-l-nashr. 172 p. (In Arabic)

6. al-Ahdal, WajdT. (2018). Ard al-mu'amarat al-sa'Tda [Happy Land of Intrigues]. Beirut: Nawfal (Naufal). 310 p. (In Arabic)

7. al-Ahdal, Wajdi. (2010). Un asino in mezzo ai suoni [Donkey among Songs] (Trans.). Alberobello: Poiesis. 322 p. (In Italian)

8. al-Ahdal, Wajdi. (2011). Barques de montagne [Mountain Boats] (Trans.). Paris: Bachari. 96 p. (In French)

9. al-Ahdal, Wajdi. (2012). A Land without Jasmine. Berkshire: Garnet Publishing. 94 p.

10.al-Ahdal, Wajdi. (2011). Strana bez Neba [A Land without Sky] (V.G. Popov, Trans.). Literaturno-filosofskiy zhurnal "Chyotki" [Literary and philosophical journal Chyotki], 3 (13), 71-116. (In Russian)

11. Suvorov, M.N. Two Novels about the Information War in Yemen on the Eve of the Revolution of 2011. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Asian and African Studies, 2019, vol. 11, issue 3, pp. 298-310. https://doi.org/10.21638/spbu13.2019.304

Информация об авторе

Доктор филологических наук Михаил Николаевич Суворов Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет 19903, Санкт-Петербург,

Университетская набережная, 7-9 Россия

soum ike @mail. ru

Раскрытие информации о конфликте интересов: Автор заявляет об отсутствии конфликта интересов.

Conflicts of Interest Disclosure: The author declares Conflicts of Interest Disclosure.

Information about the author

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Doctor of Philology

Mikhail Nikolaevich Suvorov

St. Petersburg State University

19903, Saint-Petersburg, 7-9

Universitetskaya nab.

Russia

soumike@mail.ru

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