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The 2017 Cairo Literature Festival

 

Kim Echlin *

 

Cairo is home to 20.5 million people, a city of hospitality, warmth and humour, of struggle, political unrest and intense poverty. The Giza Pyramid is in the city, and a short drive away are the pyramids of Saqqara, empty of tourists, haunting, burnished white against ghostly sands and golden sky. The graffiti in Tahrir Square– المجد للمجهولين(“Glory to the unknown”) tis written over darkly painted images of contemporary faces of protest.

Read more...

 

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Alkoni speech in the 2nd round oppening

 

 

 

The Caretaker of this Life

 

(Author IbraheemAlkooni's entry as a guest of honor in the second round of Cairo Literature Festival)

 

1

 

Literature is an act of resistance to death, terror, and oppression; literature is life itself.

 

I thought of rejecting taking part in this event when I knew the aforementioned statement was the main theme of the festival, I cannot help but ask: what can a human who has abandoned the world for decades like myself bring to a topic that has lost its power due to its abuse? It seems I have forgotten how life's essence, shrouded in mystique, is always weaving mysteries, even though the death of a soul maybe another's gain, life itself cannot create death.

 

Habit has turned literature into a dogma in my life, I wouldn't have participated in this festival if it weren’t for my shadow who rushed to my help and whispered in certainty, "whenever there is dogma there is doubt, and doubt is a fortune."

 

Following in the footsteps of Heidegger who said if we didn't question what is we would never be able to belong to what would become, it was this certainty that led me to reexamine the dogma. "Literature is life" means the value of life should be the message of all literature, while the logic of revolution -every dogma's gift- fights, courageously, to blind the seeker of the fortune. The fortune lying at the edge of routine, the routine which makes us write our symbols of existence wherein the bewitchment of existence becomes estranged, exactly like our relations with the places surrounding us. The place we arrive in as guests is paradise when we get to know it in the beginning, the pleasure of novelty, but paradise becomes estranged as we get familiar with the place and routine turns everything in it into a given constant, bewitchment evaporates, beauty dies, and value is completely lost, the place becomes a lost paradise. I don't think our relationship with life is essentially different from ours with placee, because we forget life is an ephemeral gift to be lost one day not an eternal property. Life is a temporary deal where the untouchable eternal death has the last word. Our feeling of life as property makes us think we are secure from time so we do not use the fortune, a free gift, as intended in the deal, we become content thinking that the fortune is in our possession, a fortune wherein value is estranged due to lack of use. Upon waking up from our mindlessness we realize we have taken lightlythe value of the found we call happiness in our dictionaries, but it's late, the time is gone.

 

Where is the place of literature in a reality fevered with deceit and blurry with a desire for gains that does not recognize the identity once constituted its essence?

Will not literature be hope's sole knight who will deactivate the enigmatic spell - cast by the monster to imprison the good men-using the sanctuary caretaker's skills? The caretaker who will take it upon himself to call back the estranged God.

I think this question should be the opening in discussing resistance, the second topic in the festival's theme.

 

2

 

 When the need arises, the sanctuary's caretaker may give up the sanctuary to join the resistance: resistance as an experiment and a ritual. Acts can be poetry if duty becomes a religion, resisting evil is the purpose of all duties, certainly

 without encroaching on the authority of a metaphysical concept defined by the ancients such as the text.

The text's authority is the weapon of the eternal, divine ruler with absolute power against the argument of the incapable mortal being who has created the text.

The author of the text may enter the battlefield in person like Hemingway in the Second World War and Spanish Civil War, Andre Malraux in the Chinese civil war, or Sholokhov in the national war against fascism. Yet, when we compare the effect of the text with the act of the author we find "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is more influential than the act of Hemingway as a person and "Value of Man's Existence" is greater thanAndre Malraux's participation in the Chinese civil war, because what remains of man's activity for next generations is not the letter but its essence, the stances of the mortal beings, which live on. Reducing the essence of the letter to dead letters that oppose reality, such as ideologies, is the crime of politics against the will to freedom.

 

3

 

If literature is the descendant of mythology it is surelythe real antithesis of ideology. Out of mythology literature and theology were born, and it was ideology than turned theology into the tyrant in our lives.

Ideology is not concerned with the truth existing in the realm of freedom, but the truth this orangutan thinks it owns, forgetting, in its mission fever, that the truth is what cannot be owned, truth cannot be controlled with monopoly, which is ideology's religion. Ideology is a very special kind of rabid psychosis, it curses and desecrates everything it touches in our world, literally not metaphorically. Whenever it adopts a cause or a case it paralyzes it, divinity is now estranged in theology, which has abandoned its essence and lost God, because of ideology's interference. What else can turn love, the capital of every religion, into a call for killing and demean the Ten Commandments? How can we tolerate ideologies that appoint themselves gods who violate all of God's rights? Could have ideology succeeded in its plan against life by recruiting people to the religion of terror without the help of politics once the latter depended on the letter not only to misinterpret religions but existence itself? Was it not politics that rushed to rescue religion-based ideologies by providing them with information technology? Does it make any sense to allow rabid false pieces of information to spread through technology under the pretense of free speech? How can freedom live next to lies under one roof? How can we allow technology to be abused in order to spread lies? Freedom and truth are two sides for one coin.

This is the wicked contract between politics and ideology to uphold anything and anyone that demeans values and disrupts consciences as a prelude for the tyrant to impose control on our desperate world. We have successfully separated religion and state, not its time to disjoin religion and ideology.

Literature was not spared ideology's corruption, just like religion, the spirit of truth has become estranged to it, the truth that opposes monopoly by nature. 

So blessed is the spirit eternally singing the poetry of faith's light. Faith in the faculties of beauty that can deliver the world from misery, faith in the genius of a freedom seeker creating, with love pearls, the mosaic of a dream that will bring back from the realms of beyond our lost truth to enchant out existent in the world's desert.

 

Catalonia, eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula

February 2016 

 
 

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Writers from 15 countries in the 2nd Round of Cairo Literature Festival

 
The 2nd Round of Cairo Literature Festival will be launched on February 13th, 2016. Writers from 15 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America will participate. The agenda of the festival and the final list of participating writers will be announced next week.
 
The activities are expected to be held in Islamic Cairo, Down Town, El-Ma’adi and the Faculty of Languages. A big number of Egyptian writers will also participate;on top of them are Ibrahim Abdel-Maguid and Son’allah Ibrahim.    
 
 

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