[ilds] FW: ILDS Digest, Vol 89, Issue 1

Sumantra Nag sumantranag at gmail.com
Tue Sep 2 22:24:01 PDT 2014

A very interesting reference, Bruce.


But I couldn't access the link
(http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentP/18/109254/Books/Book-Review-A). I
got the following message:


"404 - File or directory not found. The resource you are looking for might
have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable."






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Today's Topics:


   1. Book Review:  All our Alexandrias - Books - Ahram Online

      (Bruce Redwine)


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Message: 1

Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2014 08:56:05 -0700

From: Bruce Redwine < <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>

To: Durrell list < <mailto:ilds at lists.uvic.ca> ilds at lists.uvic.ca>

Cc: Bruce Redwine < <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>

Subject: [ilds] Book Review:  All our Alexandrias - Books - Ahram


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Durrell gets mentioned as "canonical" in the following review of Hala
Halim's Alexandrian Cosmopoltianism:  An Archive (2014).





>  <http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentP/18/109254/Books/Book-Review-A>

> ll-our-Alexandrias.aspx


> Book Review: All our Alexandrias

> Nazek Fahmy, Tuesday 26 Aug 2014

> Hala Halim examines the long and cosmopolitan history of Alexandria



> Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive, by Hala Halim, Fordham 

> University Press: NewYork, 2013


> From antiquity to the present, Alexandria, founded by, and named after
Alexander the Great, has fascinated and mesmerised. Feminised and beckoning,
Alexandria has boasted a multi-faceted history, comprising the martial, the
political, the spiritual, the lyrical, as well as the erotic. There have
been myriad attempts to define and describe this city, with its multiplicity
of allegiances. Here is another search for the elusive ethos of Alexandria:
an attempt to define the ancient city, this time from the angle of its
cosmopolitan practices. 


> The foundation myth is in place, and according to the undated and
anonymous Alexander Romance, the future greatness of the quasi divine
city?itself part of the trajectory of Alexander?s own semi-divine
origins?was in the oracles. From its founding, Alexandria was to follow the
order of a cosmopolis: a dwelling place of people, of different tongues, and
from different countries, something which, according to legend, was
disapproved of, and contested by Alexander?s great teacher and mentor,
Aristotle. Nonetheless, diversity won; a fact that has not only been borne
out by ancient history: Hellenistic Alexandria, the library, the Septuagint,
but also testified to, in modernity, by eminent nineteenth century travelers
such as Flaubert and Sophia Poole. 


> Different from diversity or pluralism, cosmopolitanism is a concept, a
claim of universal citizenship. Cosmopolitan as epithet became firmly
associated with Alexandria only in the middle of the nineteenth
century?spanning a hundred years, 1860-1960?and according to the thesis of
the present study ? a Eurocentric cosmopolitanism, which can be read as a
subtext of colonialism. 


> To overturn the colonial discourse by way of exposing complicities or
scavenging for deviations and slippages, this inquiry navigates the
twentieth century literary map of the city, finding anchorage in the three
canonical writers: Cavafy, Forster and Durrell?as well as a fourth, perhaps,
less known Bernard de Zogheb. These four writers did not only?in their
different ways?become a voice for the cosmopolitanism of the city, but also
more interestingly, either literally or metaphorically, acquired legitimacy
from each other. 


> In any attempt to define Alexandria, Greece and the Greeks have to be
visited and revisited. With good reason and in a variety of ways, the Greeks
have claimed continuity since the days of Alexander. An incontestable link
with the Greeks is Cavafy. Coming into recognition in the 1930s, Cavafy is
the Alexandrian Greek poet who is most inscribed into cosmopolitan
Alexandria. Having spent his formative years in England and Istanbul,
Cavafy, a Greek of the Diaspora, made Alexandria his homeland. Cavafy, who
could hardly speak Arabic, and who styled himself a ?Hellenic? could not
totally isolate himself from the local scene. An extremely thorough scrutiny
of his poems?published, unpublished, repudiated, unfinished?and of his
prose, reveals not only references to both Ancient and Modern Egypt, but
covert and overt sympathies and empathies for things Egyptian, most
unexpected of which is his compassion for the Egyptian victims of the 1906
Dinshiwai incident. 


> Beyond controversy, Cavafy is the Alexandrian poet. For him as for others
of his or later generations?like Harry Tzalas or Stratis Tsirkas, Alexandria
is not a geographical location but a provider of identity and way of life;
an exclusive nationality. Even Cavafy?s death in 1933 was not a final exit
for he was destined to appear and reappear in other Alexandria-based
artistic works. 


> Unlike Cavafy, who lived and died in Alexandria, Forster and Durrell were
sojourners. Nonetheless, they both commemorated the city in their writings
and either, wittingly or unwittingly, succeeded in gaining a long-lasting
association with Alexandria. They too, like Cavafy, are scrutinised through
binaries: Greek/ Barbarian, East and West, Arab/European, Christian/Muslim,
coloniser/ colonised, bringing out the many ambivalences of identity. 


> If Cavafy was in the employment of the British in the Irrigation Service,
E.M. Forster, who came to Egypt during World War I, was in the employment of
the Red Cross. He was to reverse his initial disappointment and produce a
number of essays on Egypt, as well as his famous Alexandria: A History and A
Guide, published in 1922. Forster?s work is an attempt to link the city?s
ancient and contemporary history, disregarding the Arab/Islamic period, and
it is here argued that his work can sometimes be read as a lamentation for a
lost Greece. Nonetheless, his creative walking tours of the city bespeak an
inclusive mosaic: the Place Muhammad Ali (now Mansheya Square), Turkish Town
(Bahari)?itself a hub of many ethnicities?the Arab Town?the locale of
indigenous workers. 


> Less palpable and more aerial is Durrell?s The Alexandria Quartet. Writing
during the twilight of empire?and projecting onto Alexandria much of the
malaise of his time?Durrell made his timeless Justine, Mountolive and Nessim
inhabitants of a city more imagined than real. 

> To break the canonical triumvirate and the colonial inflection, other
writers and other genres are discussed. Representing the strong Levantine
presence, is the latter-day Alexandrian, Bernard de Zogheb, a librettist who
takes us to the realm of music and opera. Having lived a life of changing
fortunes, and of overlapping identities, he died in the city in 1999. 


> Every last writer who boasts an Alexandria connection is also included:
Naguib Mahfouz, Edwar Al-Kharrat and Ibrahim Abd El-Meguid, as well as the
less celebrated Robert Liddell and Ayoub Sinano. Countless references are
made to memoirs, books and articles, as well as visuals, all revisiting and
reconsidering, producing and reproducing Alexandria and its icons. 


> Backwards and forward we move, and before the study ends, we find
ourselves well into the new millennium?the topical is sounded with the storm
which raged, in 2000, around the statue of Alexander, the latest attempt
made by the Greeks to remain connected with Alexandria. Passing by the
January 25 revolution, we find ourselves in 2012 and another Cavafy swirl in
the form of the Tarek Imam novel, al-Haya al-Thaniya li Qostantin Kafafis,
(The Second Life of Constantine Cavafy) .Translated or transliterated,
language in this narrative is not only one of the signposts of
cosmopolitanism, but a powerhouse in its own right: Arabic, Latin, Greek,
Italian, besides English and French. 


> A dense and scholarly read. Very erudite. By any standard this study,
extending far and wide, covering different genres and writers in time and
space is monumental in its dimensions. The book is overwhelming in the scope
of its research, citing books, newspapers, dissertations, collections of
letters. It leaves no stone unturned. It is also daring in its claims, never
stopping short of contending with the opinions and statements of literary
and critical giants. 


> This is a labour of love, written by no other than a native Alexandrian,
Hala Halim, and bound up by a profound love for the coastal city. With a
name that establishes an identity?claimed and reclaimed as a Greek colony,
straddling continents?Alexandria is a precarious place, with epithets that
convey a palimpsest of identities and loyalties: ?Iskindiriyya mariyya,?
?Alexandrea ad Aegyptum,? ?Spiritual City,? ?Unreal City,? ?Capital of an
Asiatic Europe,? seat of theology and its sister discipline, philosophy, but
also of science and medicine. Through it all, Alexandria is a vortex of
energy, alluring, shaping and reshaping, immortal in its self-assurance and
in its transcendence of time and place. Just as bewitching is Cavafy, the
golden lad of the city. All attempts to unmask Alexandria are by default
attempts to reach the elusive and equally mysterious Greek Alexandrian poet.




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