Mansoura Ezeldin “brilliantly mixes the codes of ancient Arabic writing with those of the contemporary novel” – Richard Jacquemond reviews “The orchards of Basra” for Le Monde des Livres

7 March 2023 39 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

MansouraEzEldin-2022By Richard Jacquemond, for Le Monde des Livres, February 9th, 2023

Hisham, who lives off the antique book trade, is haunted by a dream. He sees himself alive, under the name of Yazid Ibn Abihi, in Basra (or Basra, name of the second city of Iraq, located in the south of the country), at the end of the first century of the Hegira, when this city was a major intellectual and religious center of the nascent Islamic empire.

Like his double, who attends the meetings of Basra’s rationalist theologians and adopts their doctrines, Hisham has placed himself under the patronage of the (so-called) “Heretic”, a Muslim thinker who fights against the sclerotic orthodoxy of the Egyptian ulemas of today. But the parallel between ancient and current theologico-political struggles is above all a pretext seized by the Egyptian writer Mansoura Ezeldin (born in 1976) to embark on a polyphonic narrative where, as in her previous novel, The Emerald Mount ( Actes Sud, 2017), she . We can help ourselves, in this reading, with the scholarly notes and lexicons of the translator Philippe Vigreux. But might as well let oneself be carried away in this entangled narration, and get lost, as in the alleys of an Arab medina, with a delight all the more serene as one already knows the outcome.

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