Mythical Realism in North African Fiction: Ibrahim Al-Koni's Gold Dust and The Bleeding of the Stone

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Author: Elena Imen Carruba
Date: Annual 2018
From: Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics(Vol. 41-2, Issue 1)
Publisher: Vishvanatha Kaviraja Institute of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 7,202 words

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Introduction: Magical Realism and the North African Tradition

In Ibrahim al-Koni's "spacious realm," the reader faces an interpretation of a highly complex reality that challenges his/her understanding of fiction and reality. The reality that novels usually disclose is the one of presence as the setting is usually a city or a well-defined place. Al-Koni puts forward the reality of absence or "life in the desert" as perceived by the outsider. What is absent, invisible or imperceptible in a realist novel, becomes central in al-Koni's magical/mythical realist stories.

In this paper, I aim to elucidate what I mean by mythic realism through showing how mythic realism is different from the concept of magic realism and how it prevails in the case of the fiction on the desert in Ibrahim al-Koni's novels mainly The Bleeding of the Stone and Gold Dust.

North African ancient Tuareg culture besets the mythic and mystic systems that explained nature and life through millennia and helped them cope with the harshness of the space. Desert gods and detailed myths accounting for creation, life, and the after-life gave the space its spiritual dimension. Furthermore, myth and reality as intertwined facets of life is central to Tuareg cultural demarcation of collective lines and shared imaginary In this case, it will be argued that the means by which al-Koni represents identity is essentially magical/mythical and that, by examining these magical/mythical narratives, the reader recognises the way al-Koni approaches his native space and how his texts recreate an authentic North African desert identity.

Myth is the main feature of magical realism in al-Koni's work. The writer debates, in his My Great Desert, an auto-critical piece of writing, in which he tells of his "desert novel" as opposed to "city novel." He announces that the nature of desert novel invokes myth, because its language is derived from an alternative approach to time and space. He pinpoints to the fusion of desert novel with myth elaborating

The secret of our being is comprehended in fusing the following trinity: the novel, the void and myth. The novel is the spirit of the secret, the desert its body, and myth its language. [...]. In this cycle lies a secret alacrity and thirst for myth. Narrativity and the novel are annihilated unless preserved in mythical language. The aim from the beginning is to create myth. The aim in writing a novel is to construct myth and to dismantle prefixes. The myth of space is possible only in mythical language. It is telling myth from myth sayings and creating myth from the creation myth itself. (Ibrahim Al-Koni, 1998: 122)

Every human society needs myths, a place and a time of origins. Since myths are a "sum of useful knowledge" (Al-Koni 1998: 122) and acts already performed that aspire to a fully human experience, oblivion or destruction of this "collective memory" (Al-Koni 1998: 122) lead to the loss of identity. Without origin to cling to, society inevitably loses its substance and identity. The North African region is at...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Carruba, Elena Imen. "Mythical Realism in North African Fiction: Ibrahim Al-Koni's Gold Dust and The Bleeding of the Stone." Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics, vol. 41-2, no. 1, 2018, p. 89+. Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.
  

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