An Apartment Called Freedom, by Ghazi al Qusaibi, is set between 1956 and 1961, and tells of the experiences in love and politics of four Bahraini young men studying at university in Cairo.
The novel begins on the plane, where 16 year old Fuad is on his way from Bahrain to Egypt to study law. He ponders the weight of his baggage, and the embarrassment of the contents being searched. He thinks of the irony that his brother has pointed out that he will begin his life as a law student with an illegal bribe to the officials at the airport. He thinks about “ghurba,” being estranged from the homeland:
But he doesn’t feel that he is going into ghurbah. He is going to Cairo. How could Cairo be ghurbah? Cairo is the capital of the Arabs, the civilization of Islam, God’s Canaan on earth, and the mother of the world, as the Egyptians call it, (who also call it Egypt), the Cairo of Abdul Nasser, and the voice of Arabs, and the struggle against colonization, the Cairo of nationalizing the canal…
He thinks about the historic speech of the decision to nationalize the canal…”the canal connected to a brighter future, made by the Egyptian revolution for the Arabs as a whole.”
This mood is captured in a BBC panaroma in 1956, which you can see a clip of here, where Bahrainis have to disavow their demands for more rights as being influenced by Egypt (now of course it’s Iran).
He remembers Mr Headley, teacher of English in Bahrain, enraged by Jamal Abdul Nasser, who would find his name on the blackboard every day “long live Jamal Abdul Nasser” and has to resort to critiquing handwriting and spelling. The next day he finds a picture there: “with a calmness that goes along with the reputation of the English blood being icy, he removed the picture.” Through these tricks, they “get three birds with one stone, defend Arab nationalism, they irritate the colonialist teacher, and they make the lesson pass without work.”
He thinks about how much he knows about Egypt before he visits it since he has watched it in the films and in the newspapers and those who visited it told him about him.
In a taxi from the airport, the driver asks if he knows about the nationalization of the canal, and Fuad replies enthusiastically, of coruse, it was a historical heroic act, while the driver says simply “there will be war.”
The driver goes on “the French and English will fight us, but we are not afraid. You know why?”
Fuad expects it to be related to Nasser and Arab nationalism but the driver says “because the Russians are with us.”
Staying at a hostel with Swiss and Americans, the Swiss looking to build a hotel are frustrated by lack of progress and the Americans joke it will take longer than building the pyramids. Fuad feels frustrated at this, silently thinking that if they don’t like the situation they could leave and build their hotels in Switzerland or America.
His friends, Abdelkarrem of the strict religious upbringing which he overturns by insisting on studying law, Yacob, who committeed himself with revolutionary zeal to every cause he read about, from Sufism to Arab nationalism, and Qasim of the new bourgeous family of the oil boom, drinking capitalism princilpes with his mothers milk, the only pupil in the school who hated Nasser and his friends call him the little reactionary in Cairo of the revolution. Fuad considers himself a blend, from Yacob zeal from Qasim conservatism and from Abdul Kareem hesitation.
The first part ends with him moving into an apartment, along with a Jordanian pupil and a Iraqi pupil.
Abdulkareem and Yacob go to the Khedewi school which was known as madrasat almushaghebeen (school of the mischievous) – there’s a play of the same name with Adel Imam – while Qasim and Fuad go to the Saeedia school.
Fuad’s father “sells jewels” and he can see in the reactions of other students that they think he is wealthy and don’t know that the store is small and sells gold bangles and cheap pearl rings, remnants of the elapsed age of diving. Abulkareem feels his shianess for the first time, in Bahrain the neighborhood was half sunni and half shia, with some problems at ashura. But in Egypt his shianess made him a minority. But Yacob stands up for him: “shia and sunni! It’s all a trick to divide and rule.” Meanwhile Qasim makes a friend in Nashat, a son of an aristocratic family who once had the title basha before the revolution abolished such titles, a friendship between the rising aristocracy in Bahrain and the fading one in Egypt.
When Qasim tells Fuad about the prisons in Nasser’s Egypt, trying to disillusion him, Fuad replies with two words in English “So What?” Yacob takes it futher, arguing tis is a revolution, how are things going to change without violence. Meanwhile Abdulkareem says shortly, “there are prisons and mukbarat everywhere.”
Yacob feels that he personally is
living all the torments of the Arab nation which has suffered colonialism as no other nation has, since the crusades and the colonial attacks had not ceased, attacks with armies and conspiracies and spies and agents. And the result? The colonisers have been able to infilterate every inch of the Arab world. Dividing the one nation into statelets and fragments in the Sykes Picot agreement and they gave it to their allies and they brought Israel and planted it in the heart of the Arab world to ensure its division for ever. And it seemed as though they had succeeded and the Arab world would remain a plantation for the colonialists and their traitorous allies. And suddenly…a dark giant appeared on the horizon named Jamal Abdulnasser who destroyed all the plans….victores of independence, destroying the disarmament plants, and the Aswan dam, nationalizing the canal.
And now and at this point in time, Israel attacks Egypt.
Yacob wants to join the army and is told that it is better for him to go home. He goes to the Islamic congress and demands to meet Anwar Sadat the general secretary immediately and eventually reaches an aide of his to whom he has to confess his age (plus a year) and the fact that he had never carried a gun. Eventually he joins a local resistance group whose tasks involves going round telling people to turn off the lights because of air raids.
This is a time of nationalist songs
- Allah akbar fawq kayd al mu3tady (God is greater than the deceit of the agressor)
- Da3 samaiy fasamaiyi muhriqa (Leave my sky for my sky burns)
- Wa allah zaman ya slah (It’s been a long time, weapon)
Fuad sees Jamal Abdul Nasser with his own eyes. Yet Qasim destroys his excitement by pointing out that popular leader, though mixing with his people, is in a Cadillac. Moreover he tells him that British and French planes had decimated the Egyptian airforce and occupied Port Said within hours and the talk of heroic resistance was trickery and lies from Voice of the Arabs. Qasim says Nasser was only saved by Eisenhower’s position.
On the other hand, Adnan and Majid the Jordanian and Iraqi students agree with Fuad that it is a great victory. Qasim offers another interpretation, saying the Soviet warning to Britain and France about nuclear rockets was really directed to America and America backed down.
There is a mention of class here as Fuad meets his friend Abdul Rauf who has only four pounds a month instead of the 25 he has, and Fuad asks how he manages to go to the cinema and restaurants on that paltry sum before realizing that he echoes Antoinette telling her people to eat cake if there is no bread. The chapter ends with Fuad offering Rauf his spare watch which he takes without hesitation though laughing, asking if he would offer all the watchless people in the world watches.
In the third chapter they enter university. Fuad realizes that all men over 40 are attached to Saad Basha, to the kingship and to titles rather than the revolutionary Nasser. Fuad gets used to titles, apart from the single one he knows in Bahrain which is “may your life be long” here his own name is transformed by being added to si, and bey and effendum and ostaz. Fuad begins to feel that Nasser is not the ideal figure he has made him out to be.
Among the law students, Fuad meets a Baathist woman from Syria with whom he talks about politics revolution and the future of the Arab world. Suad insists on the need for a party to educate and dispense knowledge before at the appropriate time announcing the unification of the Arab world, saying Nasser is a great leader but has no ideology.
Fuad recalls a Baathist Bahraini teacher who had learnt his Baathism from theAmerican university in Beirut and given him Michel Aflak’s book, fi sabeel al-baath (On the path/for the sake of the Baath) but he had understood nothing from it.
Suad attempts to convert him: “Do you not believe in unity? In freedom? In socialism? These are the principles of the Baath and if you believe in them you are a Baathist whether you want to be or not.”
Fuad goes to Rauf for more on socialism, who tells him there are countless socialism. When Fuad asks which he believes in Rauf replies none because he is Muslim. Fuad finds this reactionary, telling him Islam is a religion and socialism an ideology. Rauf replies islam is a complete way of life, and Fuad has to ask if he sympathises with the Muslim Brotherhood. Rauf doesn’t answer.
Qasim meanwhile warns him away from the “communist” Suad, telling him there is no socialism only communism from Russia and capitalism from the US.
Februay to March 1958
The fourth chapter opens with the unification between Syria and Egypt. Fuad and Suad are ecstatic, his patron Ustaz Sharif less so: how could you erase the historic name of Egypt and turn it into a a southern region? He complains that Egypt would have to spend on Syria and the Syrian traders would descend on Egypt and take the jobs. Nevertheless Fuad begins attending secret Baath meetings along with others from Jordan, Saudi, and Iraq and continuing his discussions with Suad, who insists the Baath are the real rulers not Nasser who is like a king not a ruler.
Meanwhile Yacob starts attending sociology class, and encounters the athiest Ustaz Subhi. Yacob feels the need to needle him, and asks what about Adam? Ustaz Subhi tells him they are studying sociology not theology and he can go to Azhar if he wants religion. Their discussions reveal that Subhi is of no religion, but is a believer in Marx and Freud. Yacob asks what is new in the idea that the controlling layer of society should be removed, since every revolution begins with this principle. Subhi notes, yes but they replace it with another class of control. Marxist thought wants to remove the capitalist controlling class and not replaxce it but let the people control all the wealth. Of course Yacob says this is all theory. And it is the party that rules and not the people. And what about Stalin and his massacres. Eventually however Yacob becomes a Marxist/Freudian. Although he couldn’t bring himself to call religion the opium of the masses or just a reflection of the father’s law in the mind of the unconscious.
Finally they move into an apartment together, which Qasim arranges, and they decide to name their apartment “freedom” and give it a constitution with articles, with any topic up for discussion “except the political movement in Bahrain.” Because Qasim thinks it’s a communist conspiracy, Yacob thinks it’s the greatest movement in history, Abdul Kareem thinks its an English conspiracy and Fuad doesn’t know.
Fuad and Suad’s relationship worses, especially after Fuad meets Michel Aflak and Slah Edin al-Bitar and is unimpressed. These are humorous scenes with gasping sighing admirers. Suad says that Fuad writes short stories. Michel looks at him and says he left such things as they were a romantic waste of time.
Bitar asks what his subject is, and Fuad replies every story has its subject. But what about the cause? Fuad replies he writes without thinking about causes, Bitar retorts literature without a cause is not literature but entertainment.
Fuad and Suand exchange letters breaking off their relationship. Rauf writes a short story about imprisoning and torture of Zagloul, a man accused of being one of the “terrorist” Muslim Brothers. When Fuad tells him its exaggeration and melodrama, Rauf inssits it’s a real story of a man whose house was searched for weapons and a book by Hassan al-Banna discovered since he used to read many religious books and he got three years with hard labor, and Fuad asks where did you find this out, and Rauf tell him from my older brother Zaghlul.
Meanwhile, Fuad’s disillusionment with the Baath continues, he finds many Baathists are in it for their own purposes, such as a southerner from Lebanon who feels angered by the Maronite/Sunni domination over Lebanon while the Iraqi Victoria Nasser, a Christian, feels the same as a minority, and defines the Baath as a party of minorities, created by a Christian.
Majed, a Baathist friend, points out that this makes sense in Iraq or Lebanon, but what about the countries that are wholly Muslim? He asks: can you imagine a secular state in Saudi? Or Oman or Yemen? Majed and Fuad leave the Baath at the same time, but decide there must be another way to act for Arab nationalism. Qasim dismisses their dreams, telling them it is all about interests.
Majed answers: but the Arabs are one nation, do you deny that?
Qasim retorts: “Nonsense. Are the Saudis like the Egyptians? Are the Bahrainis even like the Saudis?”
Qasim goes on to say that Bahrainis call the “mamlaka” (kingdom) of Saudi the mahlaka (the destroyer). This is especially important given the author is Saudi.
Majid asks: “don’t you have any sense of uruba, Arabhood?”
Qasim, “Of course, we are all Arabs. But arabs of different kinds don’t make a nation. Do you understand the Algerian language?”
They then exchange words from their respective dialects that neither understands, which Majed uses to say Qasim is a Musta’rib Ajami (arabized non-Arab) while Qasim uses it to prove that unity is not possible.
Qasim tells the story of a Sudanese whose wallet was lifted when he was chanting for the unity of the Nile valley, so he changed his chant to “let Egypt and Sudan go to twenty pieces,” with Qasim saying, this is our way, we are in twenty pieces.
Majed tosses back “I knew you were a reactionary and now I find out that you are an isolatonist regionalist.” And that conversation ends this part.
The next part is set in April 1959. This chapter starts with the revolution in Iraq in July. Fuad was in Bahrain for the summer and Bahrain was “dancing for joy.” Nuri Said the great agent fell! Iraq is expected to join the Arab union. But there were murmurs – why kill the king, his father asked. And his mother feels sorry him.
And something strange happens – Iraq doesn’t join the union. There is the conflict between Abdul Kareem Qasim and Abdul Salam Arif. Then there is the chant: maku za3eem ila kareem, jumhuria la iqleem (no leader but Kareem, a republic not a region) and the chant itihad la wahda (unity not unification). Then there is the revolt of Abd Wahab al Shawaf in Mosul, and communists are said to be butchering people.
Bewildred, Fuad asks where are the nationalist officers, where did Aref go? The Nasserists made the revolution and it was stolen. They squabble over whether he is Sunni or Shia, and Qasim says he is a criminal and that is all. Fuad says, he is more, he killed Arab unity, stabbed it in the back.
Again they fight over the possibility of unity. Fuad says the similarities are more than the differences though they are there. Qasim retorts:
“What similarities, the Egyptians are pacifists to death and the Iraqis will kill you before asking your name.”
Qasim says if Abdul Kareem though Jamal would help he would unify with him, but he knows Nasser would betray him as he betrayed Muhammad Najib. Fuad interjects with praise of Nasser and his bloodless revolution. Qasim parries, what about the workers he hanged, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Qasim goes on:
“Hold onto your madman or a worse will come to you. God have mercy on Nuri al-Said, in all his years he didn’t kill one thousandth of the people killed in a few days now.”
Meanwhile Fuad meets a law student Shahinaz, with aspirations to being a singer. (Qasim asks: from a Baathist to a singer!). And Subhi meets Sartre. And Yacob becomes a Marxist, Freudian, existentialist. He tries to explain existentalism to Rauf.
He offers the saying tawdih alwadihat min al maudhlat – things become clear in crisis. And he says Abu Nawas was an existentialist he revolted against customs and lived by his own rules. Rauf objects that Abu Nawas was just a trifling poet.
Yacob offers the example of Maari who said
Afiqu, afiqu ya ghuwa faina…dunyakum mukrun min alqudamai!
Awake, awake, you fools, for your world is built of the deceit of your ancestors.
Maari who stood against all relgion, a blind old man insisting against all the believers that he was right. Rauf shakes his head, Maari was no more than mulhid, an atheist. Rauf asks if existentialism is atheism, and Yacob says no, if he was in an atheist society and professed atheism, no existentialism would be involved. In an atheist society to be a believer is existentialism.
And so Yacob becomes a Nawasi existentialist. He goes to bars and discovers hashish and starts mingling with celebrities, which his freinds don’t believe, calling his stories Yacobiat until he comes in with Bayram al-Tunsi.
Fuad and Qasim visit the Shaykh Salman of Bahrain who ask them about their studies. Fuad said he is studying law and they talk about precedence. The shaykh answers:
“Tradition is the base, what our forefathers and fathers did we should do and tell our son to do. If we change we lose.”
Fuad wonders if he is giving a secret lesson in politics. But they are impressed by the humbleness of the Shaykh and Qasim asks when Nasser will invite Fuad to dinner.
Yacob has a crisis of identity, wondering what the point of Arab nationalism is if it becomes a mask beneath which the old corruptions reign. Syria after the unity was handed over to the bourgeoise Abd al Hamid al-Saraj. Egypt under Nasser became a fort of capitalism. He wonders how he could have applauded a unity that entrenched the authority of the capitalists, even volunteered to fight for them. The rose-colored glasses fall.
Freedom! They talk about the freedom of speech. The hungry doesn’t need that he needs the freedom of getting food. They talk about the freedom of religion. The sick doesn’t need it, he needs the freedom of getting medicine. Capitalism gives you freedom of speech and thought and religion and communism gives you food and clothes and medicine.
He discovers the message he will live in the shadow of – and with a bit of foreshadowing that never comes to pass, the narrator adds, the message he will die for.
Qasim feels Bahrain is too small for him, like a cell in the ocean. There was the restaurant of Bebco, the Bebco cinema, the Bebco beach…
Meanwhile, Rauf and Fuad meet Naguib Mahfouz having won a short story competition. Asked for ideas, Mahfouz tells them if they want advice to go to Amina al-Said.
Unsurprisingly, but secretly, Yacob decides to become a communist through his professor Subhi.
Farida, Kareem’s love, marries an officer, one of the “new kings of Egypt” and he goes into a deep depression, promising to throw himself in the Nile as his friends ply hm with drink until they can drag him home
Rauf writes a short story about a boy who gathers half-smoked cigarettes to sell, and his misery at the hands both of the conductor who stomps on his feet and his father who hits him.
Whats the solution? Fuad asks.
Islam is the solution, Rauf says.
But this is a Muslim child in a Muslim land and this is what happens to him at the hands….or foot of a Muslim man…
Who told you Egypt is a Muslim country? Rauf interrupts.
Fuad says I know your sympathies with the brotherhood and your brothers tragedy but if Egypt is not a Muslim country what is, Israel?
Fuad goes on debating with Rauf, surprised at the extent to which he has taken things. Fuad tries to convince him citing Nasserist victories which Rauf debunks including nationalizing Suez since it ended in the opening of the Aqaba Khalij.
Maged joins the Arab nationalist party established by George Habash and Wadi Hadad. Meanwhile Abdul Kareem, bereft of Farida, is drawn into sceances and spirits.
Yacob joins Marxist party, Majed joins freedom apartment, and they talk about the future of Saudi if al-Saud leave. Qasim says it will split into Hijaz and Hajd and the shah will take aramco when he takes Bahrain.
Fuad asks the sheik that taught him sharia whether islam and Arab nationalism can go together. When the shaykh Zubeir says they are incompatable, he asks wasn’t Muhammad an Arab, isn’t the Quran in Arabic?
The shaykh agrees but says Arabness is different from Arab nationalism which seeks to replace loyalty to Islam and replace it with loyalty ot nationalism. The shaykh confirms everything that Rauf said and says Hassan al-Bana was his teacher.
Rauf and Fuad started having discussions about Muslim Brotherhood while Majed tries to tempt him to the Arab Nationalist party and he talks to a member of them, saying one of the things he didn’t like about the Baath was that they were are from Syria and Lebanon and Iraq and knew nothing about the rest of the Arab world.
Qasim goes to visit Nashat’s father the basha and they talk about king Farouk who was the Basha says just a big child noting that weakness is the father of revolution.
Fuad writes a religious story. Yacob becomes more imbedded in the communist cause, and he asks about the what they think of brotherhood, Mr S, one of his communist professors, tells him that the brotherhood care little for the workers and if they came into the power they would set up a regime of reactionary capitalism. And that all religions always work ally themselves with governments. Rauf counters this and gives the example of the four imams, Abu Hanifa, MalikI, Shafiee, and Ibn Hanbal, and their persecution by the government.
This chapter begins with Fuad meeting a woman he got to know by telephone, going up to her flat, and as they meet, phrases from Arab nationalism are inserted 3araf alsha3b tariqah – the people know their way and wahad alsha3b biladah, the people have united their country. Their relationship sours soon however and they separate without a word of goodbye.
September – October 1960
In their final year, Fuad decides to complete his sudies in America with Qasim. Abdulkareem decides to open a law office in Bahrain, Rauf decides to be an associate teachers assistant preparing to be sent abroad and study for a phd. Yacob wants to return to Bahrain to continue the communist struggle.
Fuad and Rauf’s stories are published and they meet Taha Hussein who speaks to them about the greatest literature being poetry but that he could never write poetry. They also meet Abbas Mahmud al Aqad and Fuad poses the question that he has been pondering
“The Arab world is full of ideological currents these days and we the youth are lost among them. I want to ask you about the relationship between Islam and Arab nationalism.”
“We are Arabs and Muslims too.”
“Is there no contradiction?”
Aqqad replies: “The only contradiction is that between slavery and freedom, injustice and justice, as for slogans they don’t amount to anything. There is no alternative to freedom, not islam and not socialism, if they are offered as alternatives they are fake and deceitful. If you ask about nationalism, look what Hitler did and what Mussulini did.”
Fuad gets himself smuggled in with a Bahrani v.i.p to see Nasser. Abdulkareem’s beloved Riri dies, and there’s a stream of conciousness narrative as he sleeps off his misery with sleeping pills, thinking about the graves of the rich in Egypt in their vaults and the grave of the poor in the dirt, like in Bahrain where there is a Sunni and Shia cemetery. One Arab nation. Except in death.The chapter ends with Yacob getting arrested.
Fuad meets Leila a Kuwait poet who at 23 has been married and divorced twice. Yacob is released after four days in isolation cell and told he will be forgiven if he leaves Egypt in the next three days. But once he reaches Bahrain he is turned away as a communist. And they have to scramble to find a safe country for him to go to, discarding Syria and Saudi and Kuwait and Iraq before settling on Lebanon. Qasim gives him money, whispereing: capitalism funding socialism!
Fuad is pressed by Majed into allying himself though not joining the Arab Nationalist party and Majed asks him to go find out about Saddam Tikriti who tried to assassinate Abd al Kareem Qasim and is a refugee in Cairo and is a Baathist, now an enemy of unity and therefore en enemy of the Arab nationalist party and Nasser.
Indeed Saddam criticizes Nasser as Fuad reports back to Majed, and says that within three years bath will rule Iraq. Majed asks if its likely, Fuad answers it’s a one in a million chance.
Yacob returns from his exile in Beirut, with Majed calling Ghassan Kanafini who found a friend of Jamal Nasser to intercede and give him amnesty. Yacob recalls Ghassan convincing him that Arab nationalism cannot be ignored in favor of Marxism, that the universalism of Marxism is misleading because as an Arab Yacob is closer to the question of Palestine, to the people of his language.
Out of nowhere the Shia Abdul Kareem tells rauf he wants to join the Brotherhood. Rauf explains that the Brotherhood has officially dissolved, with everyone suspected of belonging to it being thrown in prison. The only way to join them is in prison.
Exams again through which all the ideological ideas are reiterated. Yacob wonders what would happen if he wrote in the answers to his exam about Arab society fragments of what he had experiences and lived.
Let’s start with the fortress of Arabness, mother of the world, Egypt. You Mr Examiner, as you are an Arab citizen from the southern region, know of course the situation in Egypt better than me….in this Arab society Mr Examiner the officers of the revolution own everything. And I mean literally everything: goverment, and council and nationalists union and newspapers…have you tried the isolation cell? The isolation cell Mr Examiner lies in an ordinary house
Abdulkareem thinks about history and bravery. Who writes history, the brave or the cowardly? Hussein or Yazid? It seems at first that history is made by the brave. But then the brave die and don’t stay to write history. The cowardly stay and steal history. Brave soldiers are the fuel of battles and the cowardly leaders its heroes.
Fuad goes to a confernce of the Arab nationalist movement and finds out that it is either a movement of Palestinians with some Arabs or a movement of Arabs with many Palestinians. He’s also surprised by the precendence of the movement over Nasser, their attempt to get to power, and all the references to Marx and Lenin.
He is about to head off to the US to continue his studies, and meets George Habash who gives him a list of all the other members of the party in the US.
His father, getting old, doesn’t want him to leave, complaining about his older brother who left the extended family and the house they live in to live in the apartment.
“Oh father, father, the world is changing quickly…how can I tell you without hurting your feelings that the Bahrain you know and love is no longer here.”
Qasim and Fuad return to the freedom apartment to find Kareem has married Farida who divorced the officer who abused her, and Nashat married his cousin. Fuad thinks about all his friends and their decisions in their life, Majed being a leader of the Arab nationalist movement, Yacob overcoming his imprisonment and remaining commited to Marxism, Nashat and Kareem starting married lives, Qasim working in buisness. And what about him?
He goes to visit his old professors, and the shaykh of sharia tells him about an orientalist who pored over the sunnah only because he wanted to prove it to be false, and the shaykh tells him that now his responsibility is to explain islam “to them, in a language they understand.” And he adds “without apologies, our religion is clear and doesn’t need apologies.”
The friends spend an evening where theygo to see Shahinaz Shaker, Fuad’s old flame, sing their old song.
Fuad and Majed have a falling out over Nasser, Fuad shouting: “why doesn’t he do anything? What is he waiting for? Is he a statue?” saying that Nasser has killed unity. Majed answers there is a conspiracy against Arab unity planned by imperialism. Fuad wants Nasser to attack the seperatists, Majed notes that this would be civil war and unity cant be maintained by violence. It is symbolic that Majed uses the words “naksa muaqata,” a temporary setback as 1967 is known as the naksa.
They see Nasser’s sorrowful face on the television screen saying that he will not allow Arab weapons to cause bloodletting among arabs. And Fuad asks himself why he returned to Cairo. He had become a tourist, visiting the ruins of his life.
He thinks about the changes that have happened in his friends, and in himself, who has now called Nasser a coward when once he used to see him as a hero. After his monologue with himself, he thinks about setting down his experiences, dismissing several ideas as old, before settling on writing about the days of Cairo.
Then he thinks:
“A novel? One day it will be time to write. But now it is time to say goodbye. My cairo! The city that embraced me and adopted me (adoption is not legal in Islam, Fuad, I mean it as a metaphor, Sheikh)….Cairo that is overflowing with millions of people. Will it remember a young man who gave it five years of his life, five rare years that will not be repeated. Who left something of himself in apartment 6, and something in tahrir square, the old gathering place and in Saiedia and a lot of himself in an apartment called freedom.”
A beautiful soliloquy celebrating cairo, which ends with him insisting that he is not a tourist as it had begun with him saying that he does not feel “ghurbah” to be going to cairo. The final scene as he thinks all this takes place in the plane as the novel started, with Cairo receding in the window. He takes out the list of Arab nationalist movement members in the us and tears it up.
One thought on “An Apartment Called Freedom”
wow .. what a great review , i’ll read the novel again 😀
thanks a lot .