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Papa Sartre: A Modern Arabic Novel [Hardcover]

Ali Bader

Price: CDN$ 25.50 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Sept. 15 2009 American University in Cairo Press
After a failed study mission in France, Abd al-Rahman returns home to Iraq to launch an existentialist movement akin to that of his hero. Convinced that it falls upon him to introduce his country's intellectuals to Sartre's thought, he feels especially qualified by his physical resemblance to the philosopher (except for the crossed eyes) and by his marriage to Germaine, who he claims is the great man's cousin. Meanwhile, his wealth and family prestige guarantee him an idle life spent in drinking, debauchery, and frequenting a well-known nightclub. But is his suicide an act of philosophical despair, or a reaction to his friend's affair with Germaine? A biographer chosen by his presumed friends narrates the story of a somewhat bewildered young man who - like other members of his generation - was searching for a meaning to his life. This parody of the abuses and extravagances of pseudo-philosophers in the Baghdad of the sixties throws into relief the Iraqi intellectual and cultural life of the time and the reversal of fortune of some of Iraq's wealthy and powerful families.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (Sept. 15 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9774162986
  • ISBN-13: 978-9774162985
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.2 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 422 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,431,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Ali Bader, born in Baghdad in 1964, studied philosophy and French literature and worked as a war correspondent covering the Middle East. He is the author of nine novels, many of which have won awards. He now lives in Amman, Jordan. Aida Bamia is professor of Arabic language and literature at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She is the editor of Al- Arabiyya, the journal of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic, and the author of The Graying of the Raven: Cultural and Sociopolitical Significance of Algerian Folk Poetry (AUC Press 2001).

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Let's transform Baghdad into another Paris. Let's make it a second Paris, the capital of existentialism." Nov. 17 2009
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When an unnamed speaker is contacted by a gravedigger and his "depraved friend" to write a biography of the recently deceased philosopher Abd al-Rahman, "the existentialist of Baghdad," he is told that the biography will be financed by a wealthy merchant and that they have documents to give him for his research. Though the writer knows that these people are scoundrels, he is so destitute that he agrees to accept the job. Constantly looking for valuable information which will eliminate the possibility of distortion, the speaker begins his research. Ultimately, one of his financial backers, a trader in art and antiques, tells him just to "present him with some endings, and he will choose one."

Part II, "The Writing Journey," consists of biographical snippets by the writer/biographer, though the presentation of information is not chronological. Flashing back to the life of Abd al-Rahman in the 1960s, the story unfolds, a challenging story in which the philosophy of Sartre becomes irrevocably intertwined with the pleasure-seeking desires of the well-off Abd-al-Rahman, who is always seeking the goal of "nausea" through wine, women, and self-indulgence. Whenever he is invited to write an article for publication, he turns it down with the excuse that "Whoever writes finds something worthwhile, a meaningful life. How can I then go on believing in a meaningless world?" They believe in constant talk, not writing--conveniently rationalizing their behavior in terms of their search for "nausea."

As the intellectual pretentions of Abd al-Rahman and his friends become more and more obvious to the reader, the satire becomes more pointed, and as Abd al-Rahman's family wealth begins to decline, he does not care or change his way of life. The nature of his death is a mystery--did he shoot himself as an existential act, or was he shot by someone with more mundane reasons for his death? "He liked depravity, which he felt was close to his soul." As the writer reveals more and more information about Abd al-Rahman's life (and then re-enters the story in the final few pages), the action and the surprises increase.

Iraqi author Ali Bader, now living in Jordan, has written a novel which is fascinating for the glimpses it offers of the cultural life of Baghdad in the 1960s, even though some aspects of this life are satirized for their pretentions. The contrast between Sartre's true despair and hopelessness (leading to his feeling of "nausea") and the hedonism with which Abd al-Rahman tries to achieve "nausea," which he usually looks for in alcohol and sex, is dramatic. And when Sartre finds the reality of existence in objects and begins to relate that to his "nausea," we see the ultimate absurdity--Abd al-Rahman finds significance in a hot dog roll. Winner of many prizes and author of nine novels, Ali Bader has been described as one of the Arab world's most significant authors. Mary Whipple

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