I’ve always had a problem with living the moment. No matter how much I’m enjoying a book, I want to get to the end of it to know what happens and to start a new one. No matter how exciting a movie is, I have to check how much time is left. It takes some willpower to resist checking my mobile while working out or when out with friends, fueled by the urge to multitask. However, it wasn’t until I was going to be and I felt bothered to have to lie all night doing nothing but being asleep, that I felt I had a real problem. It was then that I realized: what’s wrong with spending hours on end warm under a blanket, resting and recharging? Aren’t those the precious moment I so much savor in the morning when I have to wake up and get to work? Doesn’t it feel good to hit that snooze button and pretend I can stay cuddled there for another hour? Don’t I sometimes feel like I just don’t want to get up and face the world? Well, I have the chance to not face the world for up to 10 hours, why does it seem like such a waste of time now? Suddenly I realized I was missing out on the joy of sleeping, like I was missing out on the joy of several other things as I was in hurry to do the next thing. The thing is, there’s always a next thing, until there isn’t anymore, which means it will never end, you’ll just keep missing out on fully enjoying the current thing until you can’t enjoy anything anymore, because your time is up.
I’ve been reading a book about myths in popular psychology, and one of the chapters dealt with the so-called five stages of grief. Those stages, also known as the grief cycle, were created by a Swiss psychiatrist called Elizabeth Kubler-Ross upon observing how terminal patients dealt with their eminent death, hence they were originally called “The five stages of death”. Now, aside from saying that it’s a gross generalization to say that people with all their vast differences in attitudes, beliefs and circumstances would deal with something as grand as death the same way, scientific research also begs to differ. It turns out that not everyone has to go through all these stages, much less in the same order. Based on my personal experience, I found that very reassuring. I found it confusing that I was jumping from acceptance to depression to anger and then falling in denial before going back to acceptance and then depression all over again. A dear friend of mine for example believes that there are no stages, just one long ugly stage. But that turned out to be quite normal, because, as Kubler-Ross herself testified: We are as individual in our grief as we are in our lives. So, when it comes to grief, there’s no one size fits all.
You are, I’m sure, familiar with the saying “when it rains, it pours”. You know, when something bad happens in your life you feel like you’ve hit one domino and the rest started to topple, or like you’ve cut the wrong wire in a time bomb. But you know, I think I have an explanation. You see, when something bad happens in your life, it usually affects you negatively, it brings you down, makes you neglect some of your duties, or maybe make you less patient with people around you and more prone to hurting them and feeling hurt by them. It could even make you feel that it’s easier to give up. During the last month, as I’ve been going through some tough times of my own, I was about to fall into that trap. Today for example when I received some frustrating news about something I was pursuing, my initial reaction was: “Okay, another thing that isn’t working. When it rains, it pours.”
But then I took a moment and thought how easy would it be to fall into that paradigm, to believe that the theme of my life now is “things aren’t working.” That’s when I decided that I’m not just going to sit and watch things not working. I want this thing, and if it’s not working one way I’ll try to find another way of making it work. Losing one thing doesn’t mean you have to lose everything, not if I can help it.
And I could see that everything is linked indeed, things don’t go awry for no reason. For example, in the midst of my emotional pain, I started to experience another kind of pain: toothache. Again, the “when it rains, it pours” reasoning came into play, but I could see that the two were more or less connected. For the past month I’ve been waking up at night to find that I’m unconsciously gritting my teeth as I lie down to sleep thinking about all the things that have been making me anxious, not to mention all the extra sugar I consumed allowing myself to indulge in the last couple of days, which wasn’t just because of the cold weather. Of course my teeth would collapse!
But I the end it’s all about what you choose to focus on. Whenever I was starting to fall into self-pity I would remember all the things I have, and how my problems pale in comparison to what other people are going through, in fact they’re not even real problems compared to them. And I do believe strongly that the more thankful you are, the more God gives you, and the more you let yourself indulge in sadness and self-pity, the more of that you attract.
When it came to books, for me, this year was the year of catching up. Namely, it was the time to read books I should have read years ago, like Agatha Christie’s novellas for example – Yes, I didn’t read those when I was a teenager! My teenage years were spent reading Arab comic magazines and other miscellaneous stuff. What can you do?
However, I was thankful that I haven’t read those books earlier because they provided some good entertainment when I needed it. But it wasn’t always about entertainment. This year also was the first time I read for Kafka and John Steinbeck – See? Lots of catching up to do.
Overall, I read 27 books this year: 12 in Arabic and 15 in English. Here’s a brief review of each in the language I read it in, and in 2 cases an excerpt of a longer review I’ve written of the book.
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie: First book I read by Agatha Christie, and I must say it was a very good choice as I myself was snowed in. Once I got past the first 2 chapters it became increasingly hard to put it down. I admit I was a bit skeptical thinking it would be a piece of cake, but I couldn’t be more wrong. I thought I had it figured out but I found out I had no clue until it all started coming together. Very smart and well-written, even the racist remarks made sense by the end. Very entertaining, a good book to pick at your mind
شرفة الهذيان – إبراهيم نصر الله: هذيان صريح بين النثر والشعر، الواقع والخيال. لأول مرة.أشعر بأن ابراهيم نصر الله جمع في كتاب واحد بين شخصيته كروائي وشاعر ورسام ومصور فوتوغرافي. ليس النوع المفضل لدي من الروايات، وهو ما جعلني أهاب الروايات العربية لفترة ما كوني أفضل الروايات واضحة المعالم حيث بداية ونهاية وأحداث، لكنني وجدت متعة غريبة في هذه الرواية بالذات، كما أن موضوعها المتمحور حول الحرية جعلني أستوعب سبب وجود هذا النوع من الأدب: فكلما قلت حرية التعبير زادت الحاجة إلى الرمز. العصافير والأقفاص والصقور والزوجة والأبناء الأحياء الأموات، كلها رموز تدعو للتفكير وتستحضر في الذهن مفاهيم الحرية والإمبريالية والاستعمار الثقافي وغيرها من الأمور التي يرمي إليها نصر الله من شرفته الأولى
The Secret Adversary – Agatha Christie: For the first few chapters the book seemed amateurish to me. I thought there were too many coincidences and I didn’t find the main characters compelling at all. But – of course there is a “but”- as I made progress with the book things started to come into focus and again, I thought it was predictable and that I’ve figured it out, but the joke was on me. But even when I thought I had it all figured out I still wanted to press on because there were things I still wanted to know, there were missing pieces all over the place. I must say Agatha Christie is a master of deception, she pulls your leg, making you think you’re so smart, even throwing you little clues on purpose, making you think you’re so smart again, but she’s actually just luring you farther away from the truth and making you more persistent in your chase of the red herring, only to meet you just before the finish line with a big banner that says:”Sorry, decoy!”, making you realize that you’ve been outsmarted yet again.
قنديل أم هاشم – يحيى حقي: مجموعة قصصية تعرض مشاهد مألوفة من المجتمع المصري من زوايا قد لا تكون مألوفة دائماً أو على الأقل لم تكن مألوفة في زمن كتابة القصص حسب تصوري. أحببت التفاصيل وطريقة الوصف واللغة المستخدمة، التشبيهات مبدعة وقريبة للنفس، ولو أنني شعرت بأن القصص في حاجة إلى مزيد من التفاصيل والأحداث لكن ذلك قد يخرجها عن نطاق القصة إلى الرواية، ففي القصة الأولى وهي أشهرها “قنديل أم هاشم” تشعر بأنها قصة جديرة بأن تكون رواية فعلاً وتتوق لمعرفة المزيد، والفكرة التي تطرحها مهمة جداً وهي نهج تغيير المجتمعات إذ لا يمكن تغيير المجتمع بالصدام معه واتهام أفراده بالجهل والتخلف. ربما القصة التي وجدت مزاجها مختلفاً عن بقية القصص هي “القديس لا يحار” وإن كان واضحاً أن الكاتب يريد إيصال فكرة تصب في صميم الأعراف الاجتماعية والدينية من خلال شخصيات يبدو أنها تنتمي لزمان ومكان آخرين. آخر جزء من الكتاب كان مختلفاً أيضاًحيث كان مجموعة خواطر من رجل إلى امرأة بعنوان “بيني وبينك”، أعجبتني كثير من العبارات والفقرات فيها وإن شعرت ببعض الملل أثناء قراءتها، ربما لانها تحتاج إلى مزاج من نوع خاص وتختلف أجواؤها عن أجواء القصص الأخرى
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka: I was aware before I started reading that this is a work of literature that has been interpreted, analyzed and dissected over and over again, but I was yet to see for myself what the fuss was all about. In the beginning it seemed like a bad dream, too absurd not only in the sense that the protagonist Gregor Samsa woke up one day to find that he was transformed into a vermin, but because of his reaction to it. One would imagine that if you were to wake up one morning to find yourself transformed into an insect you would be washed over with panic, wondering what on earth has happened, not worrying about being late to work. You would be busy thinking how you could possibly get back into your human form, not how to arrange your life as to fit the new situation. (Full review here)
أكثر 38 خطأ شائعاً في الكتابة القصصية – جاك بيكهام: يقدم جاك بيكهام في هذا الكتاب نصائح للكتّاب الجدد حول كيفية بناء وتسويق عملهم القصصي، وإن كنت ممارساً للكتابة فعلى الأرجح أنك خلال قراءتك ستتذكر كتاباتك الخاصة وتستطيع تحديد الأخطاء التي وقعت فيها وتفاديها في ما تعمل عليه حالياً. الجميل في هذا الكتاب أنه رغم إقراره بأن الكتابة عمل شاق ومتعب إلا أن هناك أساسيات تجعله يبدو أكثر سهولة وفي متناول اليد فيخرجك من الإحباط والتفكير السلبي الذي قد يقع فيه الكانب أحياناً تجاه نفسه أو تجاه نصه. إن كنت مهتماً بالكتابة أو إن كنت تعمل أو تخطط للعمل على مشروع قصصي أو روائي فأنصح بشدة بقراءة هذا الكتب قبل الشروع في العمل أو أثناءه.
الكتاب مكتوب باللغة الإنجليزية أصلاً لكنني قرأت النسخة المترجمة إلى العربية رغم عدم تفضيلي للأعمال المترجمة، وقد التقطت بعض الأخطاء (أو التي اعتبرتها شخصياً أخطاء) في الترجمة، وأعتقد أنها تسيء نقل النص الأصلي لكونها مرادفات حرفية أو غير دقيقة، لكن بشكل عام كانت الترجمة جيدة وتوصل المطلوب من الكتاب.
The Mysterious Affair At Styles – Agatha Christie: I mainly ready this book because it was Hercule Poirot’s first novel, and it takes place at the same place as the last one which I am more excited to read. A good one, perhaps not Aghatha’s best but certainly clever and interesting. Again I couldn’t guess who the killer was, I suspected everyone and at some point no one and it wasn’t until the truth was revealed that I realized who it was. I felt it dragged at some places and got me confused sometimes as it moved between different places with the many different characters and the abundant amount of details which all proved to be necessary for solving the mystery in the end. The ending was of course the best part as a series of revelations compensated for all the vagueness and confusion, everything just fell into place and one “Aha!” moment followed the other.
أبو الفول وقصص شعبية أخرى: قد لا أكون حيادية تماماً في رأيي حول هذا الكتاب كوني شاركت في المراحل الأولى من صناعته وتربطني علاقة خاصة به وبالشركة المنتجة له، لكنني سأحاول قدر الإمكان. الكتاب يضم مجموعة من القصص الشعبية المتوارثة عبر التراث المحكي في منطقة بلاد الشام (إضافة إلى قصتين من السودان وقصة من التراث الشركسي). أسلوب التوثيق ممتع وجميل حيث تمت إعادة القصة بلغة عربية فصيحة مع الإبقاء على الحوار باللهجة المحكية التي هي جزء لا يتجزأ من التراث. لعل أكثر نقطة لفتت انتباهي في القصص هي كمية الأفكار المشوهة في تراثنا، ولعل هذا السبب الذي يجعل قراءة هذه القصص مهمة لمواجهة إرثنا الفكري ومعرفة أصل بعض الأفكار التي لا تزال موجودة بيننا حتى الآن كالعنصرية على أساس اللون والتي تكررت في أكثر من قصة. كمية العنف والدموية في القصص أيضاً ستجعلك تتردد حتماً في السماح لأطفالك بقراءة الكتاب. لكن قراءة هذه القصص كشخص راشد واعٍ أمر مختلف وقد تكون عاملاً مساعداً في فهم تراثنا القديم ومحاولة ترك تراث أفضل منه للأجيال القادمة. كتاب ممتع وقد يعيد إليك بعض الذكريات الواضحة أو المبهمة في بعض الأحيان
تقارير السيدة راء – رضوى عاشور: مقاطع من سيرة ذاتية في شكل قصص قصيرة في شكل تقارير. رحلة مع ضوى وداخل عقل رضوى أو السيدة راء مع لمسة سيريالية في بعض الأجزاء. كتاب جميل وحزين في الوقت نفسه
Dark Places, Gillian Flynn: The book started heavey. Actually I don’t think I would have gone through with it if I hadn’t been reading it for a book club. The first 100 pages, I found, were slow and boring, but then it started to pick up after page 120 or so and then by the time I was halfway through it I couldn’t stop until the mystery unfolded. Dark and disturbing, I think these are the words that best describe this book. Not my type honestly, and I don’t feel like I came out with much from it, but I can’t say I did not enjoy it. The author jokes in the acknowledgments section about how her husband knows how she thinks and still sleeps next to her with the lights off. Well, I can’t help but wonder the same thing!
Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnson, Kenneth H. Blanchard: I’ve heard about this book for many years, and now that I’ve read it I could see what all the fuss is about. It’s a very simple book yet it’s very relevant to everyone. Honestly I thought I couldn’t get much from this book, like I’ll be reading something I already know but it turns out that it did highlight some things I didn’t really pay attention to in terms of our attitude to dealing with change. I’ve always been change-resistant although I’ve been making progress in that regard, yet there were too ideas that I really needed at this point in my life going through a radical change of my own: 1- things are not as scary as you think they are 2- Don’t just move on from the old cheese, visualize your new cheese and work towards it. And “cheese” could be anything to anyone. A short good read summing up the obvious yet resisted facts of life: Change happens, anticipate it and adapt to it.
فرج – رضوى عاشور: طاقة فرج في نافذة سجن. لا أعرف كيف أصف هذا الكتاب بغير ذلك. من سجن الجدران إلى السجن العام الأكبر، تعرض الكاتبة عذابات الإنسان اليومية في سجون الأنظمة العربية التي يجرد فيها المرء من إنسانيته، ومن خلال حياة ندى عبد القادر نرى أثر حالة السجن العامة هذه وتداعياتها في تفاصيل الحياة الشخصية للفرد والمجتمع. عمل يقدم الهم الإنساني بتفاصيله الدقيقة، يتلازم فيه الحزن والأمل كتوأمين من البداية حتى النهاية
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie: Smart and scary. Yet again I could not guess the killer despite having several theories. However, I still had a feeling that there was something missing in the ending, I felt that the author withheld too much information and details from the reader in order not to give away the killer. This is Agatha Christie’s all-time best selling novel, but I still enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express more, perhaps it’s because for me when I’m reading detective novels I like to focus more on the investigation than on the crime itself. In “And then there were none” there was more suspense and anticipation that investigation and clues being figured out, unlike Poirot’s series which is my personal preference.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell: What if I told you that you could make some serious life decisions based on a few initial impressions or a 3-minute conversation? What if I claimed that some endeavors of yours have a better chance of success if you listened to the voice within you, instead of following a consciously constructed thought process? Well, you’d probably think I’m one of those mindfulness gurus trying to promote a new book titled “How to Clear Your Mind and Stop Thinking Once and For All”, with a free 3-week detox diet program on the side, and then you’d very politely -or less than politely- ask me to get a grip and go find a real job. (See full review)
مديح الكراهية – خالد خليفة: يتتبع خالد خليفة في هذه الرواية الكراهية إلى متابعها الأساسية، كراهية الذات وإنكار حاجاتها أو الحرمان القسري منها والخوف من رغباتها التي تُدفن عميقاً فتترك لتغلي على مهل حتى تتفجر في بركان من العنف والكراهية للآخر، فتكون الكراهية بذلك آلية دفاع ذهنية تلقائية، وليس ما يتلوها من تزمت وطائفية وإقصاء للآخر سوى محاولات لتبرير وتعزيز هذه الكراهية وما تبعثه من شعور بالامان والفوقية. رواية من العيار الثقيل وضعتني في دوامة من المشاعر التي اختلطت في نهايتها حتى لم أعد أجد كلمة واحدة تصفها، كبطلتها التي بلا اسم. أزعجني أسلوب السرد والإسهاب الكبير في التفاصيل والتشعب في القصص مما أشعرني بالتشتت، لكن أعتقد أن كل ذلك كان من ضرورات هذه الرواية التي تندفع نحوك بلا مجال للاستراحة أو التقاط أنفاسك في حوار بين الشخصيات، بشكل يحاكي تداعي الأحداث التي تدور حولها الرواية والتي جعلت عالم تلك العائلة الحلبية يتداعى من حولها ، فكان لا بد لك كقارئ من معرفة أدق تفاصيل حياتهم حتى دواخل أنفسهم لتشعر بحتمية ذلك التغيير وشدته. رواية متعبة، صادمة، مربكة، لا تقرأها إن كنت تريد قراءة شيء للاسترخاء وتصفية الذهن
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Aghatha Christie: As I started reading I thought this was one of the best-written novels by Agatha Christie, which is why I was puzzled as to why I couldn’t be sucked into the book as I went along, and I began to wonder why is it considered one of her best. I thought perhaps it was that it took her a while to engage Poirot into the story, or because the narrator sounded too flat for me, not an interesting enough character. As it turned out in the last 2 chapters, this was where the genius of Christie comes in (Spoiler alert). The same character I thought was ruining the book for me, the one I had out of the circle of suspicion all the time, was the one plotting the whole scheme from the beginning. Only then I could see the point behind all the red herrings and the dull narrator. It was the murderer giving an account of the proceedings of the case all along. I’m yet to guess the murderer in an Agatha Christie novel. The challenge is till on.
سراج – رضوى عاشور: ** spoiler alert ** حكاية عربية في مدينة متخيلة تتخللها أحداث حقيقية أو محاكاة لأوضاع حقيقية، كأنها تقول لك إن الظلم واحد وإن اختلفت الأماكن والأسماء. شخصيات قريبة من القلب، تحبها وتتعلق بها مما يجعل نهاية القصة أصعب عليك، وأنت تعرف أن قصة كهذه لا يمكن أن تنتهي نهاية سعيدة لأنها مرآة لواقع مر، فتدرك أن النهايات السعيدة أشبه بخيانة ما دامت لم تتبلور على أرض الواقع
العصفورية – غازي القصيبي: حوار طويل بين طبيب نفسي ومريض ينفي عن نفسه تهمة الجنون. رحلة في التاريخ والسياسة والأدب، وتصور مضحك مبكي لأمة عربية مفككة ومتشرذمة. كتاب ممتع ومليء بما يدعو إلى التفكير والمعلومات المهمة وتلك التي لا تضر ولا تنفع. أدب ساخر حقيقي
Of Mice and Men – John Stienbeck: It’s amazing how so many ideas and motifs can be packed in a 60-page novella. The style it was written in makes it feel like watching a play, which gives it the air of both a farce and a tragedy at the same time. The friendship that doesn’t last, the strength that can’t be controlled, the dreams that are shattered, the power that comes out of weakness so the abused becomes the abuser. The unflattering portrayal of women. And so, the story that opens with a perfect idyllic scene ends up being a dark picture of the entire human existence: We are all lonely, yearning for companionship in our isolation yet unable to keep it up, because in the end we are willing to do what it takes to survive, even if it means crushing those closest to us and giving up on our bigger dreams. It’s a jungle just like that little hidden brush described at the beginning and the end of the book where animals live together yet feast on each other without remorse.
Perhaps this is not how one should look at the world, and perhaps this is not how it always is, but to think that this is how it looks from a certain angle is a chilling idea.
Of mice and men pays homage to those with big, or even simple, dreams. Those who have nothing but their work to show for themselves under the merciless hand of money, power and the tug of war between the desire to pursue their dreams and the urge for survival.
Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent – Eduardo Galeano: This book had me spell-bound from the first line. I felt like I wanted to quote and share every thought in it. Powerful and challenging, galeano pulls no punches in this epic historical account that spans 500 yrs of the pillaging of Latin America. And if you think you don’t need to read this book if you’re not Latin American, think again; many valuable lessons to be learned. Definitly not for the faint-hearted. High pain threshold required.
Peril At End House – Agatha Christie: This was a complicated little mystery, too many red herrings to take your eye off the real perpetrator. However, it was the closest I’ve gotten to recognizing the murderer in an Agatha Christie novel, that’s progress.
سعادة السفير – غازي القصيبي: رواية ممتعة، خفيفة، يصحبك فيها القصيبي برحلة في دهاليز السياسة برموز لا تستعصي على الفهم، ليربط الرواية بالواقع ويحتفظ بحرية الخيال الأدبي فلا يكون مضطرا للالتزام بالحقائق أو الدفاع عن نفسه في حال اتهامه بتشويهها. ولا شك في أن الخيال يلعب دوراً كبيراً إذ تختزل أسباب الحرب في صراع على امرأة بين سفير ورئيس دولة، لكن في الكتاب قدراً من الحقيقة أيضا. لا أعرف إن كانت الرواية قد كتبت قبل أم بعد غزو العراق لكن قراءتها الآن والعراق على حاله الذي انتهى إليه بعد الاجتياح الأمريكي تضع الرواية في ضوء آخر وتجعلها مزعجة بعض الشيء، ولو أنني أتمنى لو أن نهاية الرواية كانت هي ما حدث على أرض الواقع، إلا أن النهاية لم تعجبني، شعرت بأنها مبتورة وسريعة، وفيها شيء من النهايات السعيدة الساذجة التي لا أفضلها في الأدب، لكنني بالتأكيد أود رؤيتها على أرض الواقع
Mornings in Jenin – Suzan AbulHawa: Have you ever finished a book and instantly felt an urgent desire to weep wash over you, yet at the same time you’re too chocked up to shed a tear? A horrifyingly amazing chronicle of the life of Amal, with a long vowel, from before she was born, to her birth and childhood in a refugee camp, her journey that took her to Jerusalem to the United States, to Lebanon and finally back to Jenin, all the while documenting the history of the stolen land and people of Palestine. But it’s not a history book, as the story of Amal, the people she loved, the places where she had grown up and all her hopes and fears make it all too personal, like you’ve been there yourself in the kitchen hole as Israeli tanks and warplanes leveled the houses around her and brought her world crumbling down over her head. I can’t overstate how much I loved the language, totally blew me away and sent me wondering how on earth it occurred to her to put a particular idea in those particular words. This book has been on my shelf for over a year, and I was afraid to read it after what I heard about how heart-wrenching it was, but once I started I didn’t want it to end.This is as humanly real as it gets, I think.
حجر دافئ – رضوى عاشور: لا أعرف كيف أصف هذا الكتاب. ساعة أشعر بأنه يسحبني إلى داخله فأعيش بين شخصياته وساعة أخرى لا أفهم ما الذي تريد رضوى أن تقوله بالضبط. لكن ما فهمته بعد قراءة عدة أعمال بنفس النسق لرضوى عاشور هو أن رضوى ترى، فتتخيل، فتحكي. تقدم لك القصة وعليك أنت أن تصنع بها ما تريد. والبطلة في هذا الكتاب بلا منازع هي المرأة، بصبرها وخوفها وحنيتها وقسوتها المكتسبة الضرورية أحيانا، بدفئها وصلابتها هي حجر الأساس والصخرة والبطلة القابعة وراء الكواليس في كثير من المشاهد
The Secret of Chimneys: I read this book because I wanted something fun to read, lamentably though it wasn’t as fun as I hoped. I had a hard time keeping track of the characters and some events seemed too accidental. However there was something that made me go through with it, but it wasn’t easy I can tell you.
التائهون – أمين معلوف: قراءة هذا الكتاب كانت أشبه بتناول عشاء هادئ في مطعم فرنسي، على مهل، تستمتع بكل لقمة منه ولا تريد أن ينتهي. كأنه مونولوج طويل لأمين معلوف يبرر فيه لنفسه وفي نفس الوقت يعاتب نفسه على الرحيل، من خلال قصة مجموعة من الأصدقاء لم تفرقهم الطوائف وفرقتهم الحرب، يتفقون ويختلفون، وأنت بدورك تتفق معهم وتختلف، وقد تنزعج أو تتأثر، لكنك في جميع الأحوال تظل مشدوداً إلى عالمهم، ماضيهم وحاضرهم ومستقبلهم. التائهون ليس قصة أولئك الأصحاب فقط بل قصة بلد بكامله وأمة بكاملها، بتناقضاتها وصراعاتها وعلاقة الحب والكره بينها وبين العالم الأكبر
The Girl on The Train – Paula Hawkins: At first, the book really gripped me. Little by little I was feeling it was not the greatest thriller out there, but it was interesting enough to keep me interested till the end. The main characters are loveable in a twisted, psychotic way. I couldn’t help but sympathize with Rachel and megan, hated Anna’s guts, wasn’t too shocked with Tom. All in all the characters feel alive and relatable, which is what made this book so successful in my opinion.
At the onset of this year, which now feels like a lifetime ago, I had an idea. I was annoyed by the fact that we remember certain days of the year, or certain occasions, while the rest seems like while noise. So, I decided to celebrate each single day by marking it in memory, and what’s a better reminder of what that day was about than a photo?
A photo a day. It seemed perfect at the time. I actually went on with it and took photos every day of January, before digital disaster struck.
I don’t know what went wrong exactly, but while I was copying the pictures from my mobile to my laptop, I lost them all. Just like that. Vanished into thin air. I tried data recovery apps, but the photos were corrupted. Eventually after several failed attempts, I gave up on the idea altogether.
Now, almost 12 months later, I can see that everything happens for a reason indeed. Some pictures I was so keen on saving were now among those I had to delete permanently, because the things I so wanted to remember a year ago, are the very things I’m now struggling to forget.
But it’s not only the pictures. The real problem arises when everything around you reminds you of what you once had, and how it all blew up in your face.There’s no escaping it, and making peace with it is much easier said than done. How you wish that you can just join hands with a few friends and sing “Let it go”, and then everything would be history.
But then the only solution is to start over, a clean slate, even if only figuratively. If not out of desire then out of necessity. Acknowledge your losses, the irreparable damages, the disappointments. Collect the shattered pieces of your soul and place them back together, stop thinking of what has been, what could’ve been, and start contemplating what can be.
The new year came sooner than I expected, and ready or not, it’s time to set sail again.
It’s amazing the things the occasion of birth can make you think about. Hardly able to contain my excitement yesterday, waiting for the birth of my third niece, with everyone in the family in alert mode getting ready for the big arrival, it occurred to me that this is the best birthday one could possibly have, the birthday you weren’t in the least aware of. Everyone so thrilled to see you, to give you a name, to finally see how you look like, rushing around making preparations to welcome you into this world. Up to that point you’ve been a mystery, and on that day you’re the main act, the biggest thing no matter how tiny you are.
Indeed, I can’t imagine a happier occasion than the birth of a new baby. Think about it this way, we consider death the ultimate cause for grief, and funerals the gravest of events. Hence, naturally, welcoming a new life into this world must be the ultimate reason for celebration.
And the I look at the baby, for that’s been my favorite hobby for the past two days, and I think: We’re all born like that, and we’re treated like we’re something extraordinary, and then we grow up and some of us live up to that potential that was trusted to us, while others settle for being another face in the crowd.
And then of course there’s that old hard-to-fathom idea that even Hitler, Stalin, Ariel Sharon and Donald Trump were once this little and cute. Hard to fathom, I told you.
And it seems boring and redundant when you think of the big outlines only, like: We’re born, we’re small, we grow up, we may or may not be so special, we live, and we finally die. But that’s not it. It’s the little details that make a life. The cooing sounds a baby makes, their first steps, the first time they taste chocolate , first day of school, their first crush, sharing your old memories with them, giving them books to read, watching them grow up and have babies of their own, and all the emotions going up and down throughout that journey. Nothing boring about that if you ask me.
New births, isn’t it awesome that it’s something that happens every day?
Person 1: It’s tragic what’s happened in Paris
Person 2: Yeah, totally insane. All these innocent people.
Person 1: Yes. I have a couple of French friends so I was up all night trying to make sure they were fine.
Person 2: Oh, I hope they were safe.
Person 1: Yes, thank God. I couldn’t know what to say except to express my deep sympathy and my apologies.
Person 2: Wait, what were you apologizing for?
Person 1: The bombings, you know.
Person 2: I’m sorry, I’m not following. What did you have to do with the bombings?
Person 1: Not me, but you know, because those were our people who did it,
Person 2: “Our people”, person 1, when did you join ISIS?
Person 1: I didn’t, it’s just that they are from here and they are Muslims
Person 2: They call themselves Muslims, that doesn’t make them our people and doesn’t make us responsible for their heinous acts.
Person 1: Well, we share something.
Person 2: Really? Tell me now because I don’t get it, as a Muslim living in the Middle East, who has never been to France, never incited against non-Muslims, never committed any discriminatory acts or promoted self-supremacy and have always spoken against terrorism, how am I supposed to be held responsible for the acts of some lunatics miles away who were created by certain powers for the sake of their own political agendas and then they were made to believe that killing people gives an express trip to Heaven? How am I supposed to be put in the same circle as these criminals just because at face value we seem to share the same beliefs?
Person 1: But people in the West don’t know that.
Person 2: Well then they need to educate themselves about it. You know what else they need to know? They need to know that ISIS kills many more Muslims that it does None-Muslims. How many people in the West know that? How many people heard about the bombings at the Mosque in Beirut one night before the Paris bombings where scores of people were killed? How about all the others slaughtered by ISIS in Syria? How about the bombings in the mosques in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait perpetrated by none other than ISIS? How about the Jordanian pilot who was burned to death by ISIS, that was a devout Muslim by the way. How can we be held accountable when we are victims ourselves?
Person 1: Well, for them those ISIS members came from amongst us
Person 2: Every society has its deluded bunch, and extremism can thrive wherever it finds fertile soil. As there are Islamic extremists there are right wing extremists in Europe and America, Jewish extremists in Israel, extremism isn’t confined to one religion or nationality. Heck, there are even extremist Buddhist killing Muslims in Burma by the hundreds, did the world know about that? No, because they only see what the media shows them. So, instead of blaming a whole religion or people, go blame those who are funding terrorist groups and funding the war in Syria and the Middle East.
Person 1: That’s true, but perhaps they feel they have the right to demand an apology.
Person 2: Look, I understand what happened was horrendous, and they have the right to be angry, but we’re not the people they should be angry at, nor are we the ones who need to be making apologies. You don’t see Arabs going around demanding apology from every Jew in the world because of the Israeli on-slaughter of the Palestinians, and we surely didn’t demand an apology from every Christian in the world after Bush invaded Iraq killing hundreds of thousands while calling it a crusade. In fact, we Arabs, Muslims, the French people, the Latino people and everyone suffering from these wars all over the world have one common enemy. The powers that be who work in the shadows to serve their own political and fiscal agendas. Those may claim to belong to different religions, but in the end they all share the same values of greed and thirst for power. Those are the ones who pin us against each other, those are the ones whose interest lies in spreading hatred and discrimination, the ones who divide to rule. Those are the ones we should look out for, and the ones who should be making apologies.
Don’t be naïve, Person 1, this is much bigger than you and me, much bigger than all of us.
I’ve never been a particularly depressive person. Well, for the most part at least. However, sometimes drama somehow catches up with you, be it your own life drama, the drama you make up in your head and the evening news drama. So, there were times where you’d find myself balancing at the edge of that abyss, trying hard not to fall or, sometimes not even trying hard enough.
For me, it was a couple of months ago that I was swayed that way. You know how life feels uncertain at times, and fears starts creeping into your bed at night like the stealthiest of snakes. And you realize how fast it’s all happening, that you’re now old enough to remember things from 10 years that weren’t childhood memories, and that’s when it gets challenging, when you realize that you’re a grown-up and you must own up to it.
In the midst of all that, I woke up one day to find that I was added to a closed Facebook group that brought together girls from my middle school where I spent two years, the 7th and the 8th grades. For some reason, those are the school years I’m most nostalgic for, but all that nostalgia and the cascade of memories didn’t help, especially with the numbers of girls said to have passed away young during the intervening years.
However, one story in particular drew my attention. One of the girls posted something in answer to those who were asking her about her sister, telling them that she passed away 3 and a half years ago. A friend of hers posted a few pictures of her, and the first thing I felt was this deep compassion with that girl I never knew, not only because she was young and pretty, there was something about her, a beauty that shone out of her eyes, which didn’t seem to wane even when her illness started manifesting itself on her. You look at the picture and you can see that she is smiling from her heart, not because she has to, not because she was in any sort of denial, it was the smile of someone who’s at peace with herself, who knows it’s going to be fine one way or another.
Intrigued by that notion, I did some further looking up on Facebook, where I came upon a page dedicated for her memory, and that’s when I was totally blown away. I mean, surely death creates an aura of reverence around the dead, and hearing about someone passing away always has a humbling impact on you, even if you didn’t like that person, but you always manage to find something good to say about them in the heat of the moment. But to find all this love, all these heartfelt words by all these people years after the fact, this must tell you something about that dearly departed.
Seeing that, it was obvious to me that wasn’t an ordinary person, she must have done something right, something special, and I felt a compelling need to find out what it was, or how she was. The bittersweet surprise was when I googled her name and an abundance of links turned up. She was a fellow blogger, and after some further digging I found that she started blogging after she was diagnosed with cancer. Going through her posts, I saw no self-pity, no anger, only faith, love, joy, compassion, and all the good things that come with that. There was only light, and more light.
She was mourned by fellow bloggers who never met her but who were influenced by her beautiful soul just as I was years after her death. Looking at her eyes, so full of life, you can see that she was someone with so much to give that she didn’t just give to those she knew, but also those she didn’t. Not only during her life, but also after her death.
Her name was Ola Muath, she was born in 1983 and left this world in 2012. We never met, but she taught me that life is indeed uncertain, that’s a built-in feature of life, but it doesn’t mean you should live your life with uncertainty. She taught me that this is where you are now so try to make the best of it until your last breath, because it doesn’t matter when you leave this earth as long as you make sure to have made your mark in it, to have made it slightly a better place. She taught me not to be afraid, to embrace whatever comes your way, deal with it with grace and trust that God has a plan for you, a plan bigger than whatever you dream up. She taught me that death is not the end, and I’m sure she’s there somewhere now reaping the fruits of all the good seeds she sowed during her short but precious life.
I wish I’ve known Ola before she left, but I’m grateful to have known her at all, and I hope that one day I’ll meet her in a better place to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, face to face.
لا يمكنني إحصاء عدد المرات التي طلب مني فيها شخص ما إسداء نصيحة بخصوص نشر كتاب أول. وظراً لتجربتي المحدودة في هذا المجال، عادة ما كنت أحتار فيما يمكنني تقديمه من معلومات بشأن هذا الأمر، فأعرض تجربتي كما هي بدون تجميل أو مجاملات، محاولة تقليل مستوى الإحباط الناتج عن ذلك. كنت أشير إلى الاختيارات السيئة التي قمت بها وكيفية تفاديها، وبداخلي كنت أخشى أنها تجربة فردية ناتجة عن أخطاء شخصية، إلا أنني بعد قراءة مقالة تتحدث عن النشر في العالم العربي، وتحديداً في الأردن، رأيت أن الموضوع أعمق وأشمل من التجربة الفردية لأي كاتب.0
بناءً على ذلك، ونظراً لتكرار التساؤلات حول مسألة النشر ودور النشر في الأردن قررت كتابة بعض النصائح للكاتب الناشئ/ الكاتبة الناشئة، لعلها تكون مفيدة لانطلاقتهم في عالم الكتابة والنشر، مع التنويه إلى أن ما سيأتي قائم على تجربة شخصية قد لا تنطبق على جميع الحالات.0
اذهب إلى المطبعة مباشرة
تكون فكرة التعاون مع دار النشر عادة نابعة من رغبة الكاتب في الحصول على تشويق وتوزيع أفضل لكتابه، وبالتالي يوقع عقداً مع دار النشر تقوم الدار بموجبه بطابعة الكتاب، وكما هي العادة في دور النشر العربية – أو الأردنية تحديداً- تكون طباعة الكتاب الأول على نفقة الكاتب. ومن التجربة الشخصية واطلاعي على تجارب أصدقاء كتّاب آخرين يمكنني القول إن التسويق والتوزيع الذي تدعي دور النشر، أو معظمها، بأنها تقوم به ما هو إلا مزحة، هذا إن وُجد أصلاً. الأسوأ أن كلفة الطباعة من خلال دار النشر تكون أعلى منها عند التعامل مع المطبعة مباشرة. لذا، وفّر على نفسك المال ووجع القلب وابحث عن مطبعة جيدة ومجربة للتعامل معها، ولحفظ حقوق الكتاب توجه إلى دائرة المكتبة الوطنية لتسجيل عملك الأدبي والحصول على رقم إيداع قبل أي شيء.0
ملاحظة: بعض دور النشر قد تعرض عليك التكفل بكلفة الطباعة كاملة، لا تقع في ذلك الفخ. ذلك يعني أنهم لا ينوون الطباعة أصلاً.0
اعرف كيف تسوّق لكتابك
في حال اتخذت القرار الحكيم بعدم التعامل مع دار نشر، أو لو وقّعت عقداً مع دار نشر مسبقاً، سيكون عليك التسويق لكتابك بمجهودك الشخصي. والأمر ليس صعباً كما قد يبدو. التسويق يبدأ من قبل أن تكتب أو تنشر الكتاب. كوّن قاعدة من القراء عبر الإنترنت سواء من خلال مدونة أو صفحة على الفيسبوك أو غير ذلك، والنماذج على الكتّاب الذين انتقلوا من الفضاء الرقمي إلى النشر الورقي كثيرة. أعلن عن كتابك عبر شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي، اطلب من قرّاء موثوقين قراءته وكتابة مراجعات عنه، اذهب إلى المكتبات بنفسك واعرض كتابك عليهم وأعلن باستمرار عن المكتبات التي يتوفر فيها. لا تعتمد على دار النشر في ذلك، فدار النشر لن توزع كتابك ما لم يكن عليه طلب أصلاً، وكي يكون عليه طلب يجب ان يعرف الناس عنه أولاً مما يفضي إلى حلقة مفرغة تنتهي بتكدس الكتب في المخازن.0
لا تستهن بالغلاف
مرة أخرى، إن قررت الاستعانة بدار نشر فلا تترك خيار اختيار الغلاف لهم. الأرجح أنهم سيجدون أي صورة قريبة للموضوع على غوغل، فتاة تلقي بنفسها في البحر أو سكين مغروز في قلب ينزف دماً وأوراق متناثرة عل الأرض وشباك مفتوح… إلخ، ثم يلصقون عليها عنوان الكتاب بأكثر خط منفّر يمكن إيجاده ويرسلونه للمطبعة. صحيح أن الكتاب لا يُعرف من غلافه، لكن الغلاف المصمم بعناية يمكن أن يلعب دوراً كبيراً في جذب القارئ، خاصة إن كان لم يسمع بالكاتب من قبل، فإن كنت أمين معلوف أو يوسف زيدان يمكنك التغاضي عن هذا الموضوع، فعلياً يمكنك التغاضي عن المقال برمته. حاول أن تجد مصمماً غرافيكياً أو رساماً جيداً لديه حس أدبي وفني يمكنه تقديم غلاف يوصل فكرة الكتاب إلى القارئ ويلفت انتباهه.0
لا تكن عبئاً على رفوف المكتبات
احرص على كتابة ما يستحق القراءة، لا تجعل النشر هدفاً بحد ذاته، فحلمك بالشهرة قد يتحول إلى كابوس من التشهير. استعن بقرّاء أوليين محايدين لقراءة كتابة وتقييم صلاحيته للنشر وإعطاء الملاحظات. حاول الاستعانة بمحرر متخصص إن أمكن لتنقيح الكتاب فنياً ولغوياً، فقد يصنع ذلك فرقاً هائلاً. أعرف أن الكتاب قد يبدو لك كاملاً، وقد يكون من الصعب عليك تغيير أي سطر فيه، لكن التجرد في الكتابة ضروري، افصل نفسك عن النص، هناك مجال للتحسين دائماً. مجدداً، حتى لو تعاقدت مع دار نشر فلا تتوقع أن يقوموا بهذه المهمة عنك، في الواقع بعض دور النشر تنشر كتباً دون معرفة محتواها أصلاً.0
لا تجعل الربح المادي هدفك
إن كان هدفك من النشر تكوين ثروة صغيرة فعليك استثمار وقتك ومالك في شيء آخر، هذا إن لم تكن أحلام مستغانمي أو أحد الكتّاب الآخرين الذين يحققون مبيعات بالآلاف. قد تصل إلى تلك المرحلة، لكن احتمال أن تحقق ذلك من أول كتاب أمر لا يمكنك التعويل عليه، فإن كنت تبحث عن مغارة علي بابا بين الحبر والورق فقد يكون عليك فعل شيء أكثر واقعية، كالبحث عن مغارة علي بابا فعلياً.0
لا تفكّر فيما سيأتي لاحقاً
ركّز على الكتابة، لا تفكر كثيراً في مسألة النشر ونجاح الكتاب من عدمه او العوائق التي قد تعترض ذلك. اكتب ما تشعر بأنك تريد كتابته فحسب وانسَ ما سيأتي لاحقاً. اكتب بقلبك، وبعد إنهاء المسودة الأولى قم بتحريرها بعقلك ثم اتبع بقية الخطوات المذكورة سابقاً.0
The number hit her as she opened her eyes. The warm October sun filtering through the curtains gave her a sense of relief as she breathed out in anticipation of the unknown. It’s the end of an era.
From the bathroom came light noises of splashing and gurgling. She grabbed her cell phone to check the time, it was ten minutes to eight, her husband had apparently overslept.
Perhaps he’s not planning on going to work at all today. She thought.
Trying to keep her expectations in check, she shook that idea off. After all, it wasn’t the first time he ran late. No expectations, no disappointments, She reminded herself reluctantly.
The bathroom’s door flung open as her husband hurried out in a semi-panic state. “Second time this week.” He said as he went around the room with desperate attempts at multi-tasking. “Perhaps if traffic isn’t so bad I can still make it on time.”
She stared at him with half-closed eyelids as he sat on the edge of the bed fumbling with a sock. “Damn thing!” He uttered under his breath. Catching her sleepy smile with the corner of his eye.
“I’m sorry. Good morning, honey.”
“Good morning. Looks like a bad hair day already.”
Taking things too literally as he always did, he reached a hand and stroked his black mop of hair. She felt inwardly ashamed knowing she was fishing for a compliment, one that never came.
How could it be a bad day when you were born on it? She could think of a hundred other things he could say that would brighten up her day, none of them included “dandruff” and “stupid barber”, like what she got.
He mumbled on about his boss, meetings and parking spaces. A moment of silence lingered in the air as he leaned in to kiss her forehead, smelling of the cardamom scented toothpaste she hated, a fact he never fails to forget.
As he left the room, her eyes transfixed on the door, waiting for him to come back. To remember. To almost forget. The sound of his car’s ignition pulled her out of her wishful thinking.
Having your morning coffee alone on your 30th birthday must be one of the saddest things for a woman, she thought as she sat in the kitchen, half awake, sipping at a cup of Turkish coffee and scrolling down her Facebook timeline. A post about a refugee who had lost her son in the sea sent pangs of guilt through her chest. She closed the application immediately, not to be opened again for the rest of that day. Just for today, she thought, I am the center of my own universe.
She looked at the clock on her phone again. It’s still early, perhaps he will call once he has a chance to catch his breath. She reasoned. It’s just a matter of time – or timing- she was positive. He couldn’t forget her birthday, that would be preposterous; not just because it was only their second year of marriage, but also because he had forgotten it last year. As much as she resented it, and resented him for it and for not even trying to make it up for her, she cut him some slack on account of his career shift. It wasn’t an excuse, but it was at least a reason.
She pulled herself up from the chair sluggishly to wash some dishes from last night as she contemplated what to do for the rest of the day. It was her first day off in months and she felt like she earned it. No chores today, that was the number one rule, soon to be broken by the heap of laundry needing to be stuffed in the washing machine, and the aftermath of her husband’s daily shaving job on the bathroom sink.
Several calls came in from some friends, her expatriate sister and her parents. Nobody offered to take her out as they all assumed she’d have other plans. She had already hidden her birth date on Facebook to avoid the influx of birthday wishes by those who didn’t matter. She left the house at around noon, stopped by a small restaurant for a snack and a cup of tea before proceeding to her manicure appointment, and then did some window shopping. This was the height of indulgence for her.
A couple of things caught her eye, but she refrained from buying anything. A pair of running shoes were the hardest to resist, a bit too expensive but surely what she needed for her daily walk. The ones she had were too worn out, as signaled by the pain in her back. But she refrained again, thinking of the Rolex she’d been saving up to buy as his birthday was in 3 months and she wanted to get him something nice. She’s never seen a man with so much love for watches and such a lack of punctuality.
Then as if summoned by some telepathic power, his name flashed on her phone’s screen. Finally…
– Yes, hi. Sorry I left in so much hurry today I totally forgot to tell you I won’t be home by supper today. I’ll be late a couple of hours so I thought I’ll just grab a bite at work.
She paused for a moment.
– No problem, I wasn’t planning on cooking today anyway. I figured I’d make it a day off from everything.
– Oh, great then. See you tonight. Love you.
– Love you too.
She felt the blood boiling up to her face as she hung up. She didn’t know whether she was more angry he still didn’t remember it was her birthday, or because he didn’t bother to ask why she was taking the day off. How could he be so apathetic? Unless…
Her face lit up. Perhaps he’s being slick for a change. The idea appealed to her, she didn’t make any effort at suppressing it. She felt a new bolt of energy surging through her, and she found herself heading back home.
She put the laundry out to dry, watched a political talk show where guests hurled insults at each other, folded the laundry while watching a movie about a whale that needed to be rescued and sent back to the ocean and talked on the phone with her cousin who wanted to welcome her to the 30’s club.
She looked at the clock on the wall, it was around 6. He must be home soon. She opened her closet and picked out a dark blue satin dress. Admiring her figure in the mirror as she tried it on, she thought that cutting down on carbs for the past two weeks had done her good. The last thing she wanted as he started her fourth decade is a dress that didn’t fit.
She opened her jewelry box and put on a silver necklace with a butterfly pendant, which matched her silver high heels. She thought if he wanted to take her out, she’d be fresh and ready, if not, there’s no reason she shouldn’t look good on her birthday.
It was almost 8 and he hadn’t shown up yet. She leafed through a book to pass the time, and just when she was about to call him, the phone rang.
– Hey, sweetheart, I’m so sorry I got caught up at work.
– No problem. When will you be home?
– Actually I just remembered tonight is the Classico and the guys are all going to watch the game at a coffee shop near work.
She didn’t say anything.
– But of course I could just come home.
– No. She said quietly. It’s okay. I think I’ll just go to sleep early tonight anyway.
– You’re the best wife in the world! It would be two hours tops, I promise.
– Take your time.
– I love you.
– … Take care.
She changed into her pajamas, made herself a cup of tea and sat to watch an episode of some crime drama that gave her the chills. Suddenly her phone vibrated with a text message that had the same effect.
“I COULD NEVER FORGET. HAPPY BIRTHDAY.”
Thoughtful bag of crap. She thought as she deleted the message from her ex and tossed the phone as far away from her as possible.
She flipped through channels for what seemed like an eternity, switching between heart-wrenching global news, mind-numbing celebrity news and sitcoms that didn’t make her laugh. Sometime around 10 she heard his key turn in the lock.
– I thought you’d be asleep.
– Well, it turned out I wasn’t sleepy after all.
– Good for you. I’m exhausted. It was a long day.
She didn’t say anything.
– Real Madrid won. 2 to 1.
He nodded. She realized he wasn’t on their side anyway. Just as he was about to head to the bedroom, he turned around and faced her.
– Aren’t you coming to bed?
– I think I’ll stay up for a while. You go get some rest.
He nodded again and disappeared in the corridor. She could hear him splashing and gurgling in the bathroom as she sat in the silence of the living room, mute and motionless like a dusty sculpture in an abandoned ruin site.
The sound of his snoring pulled her back to reality. Dragging her now numb feet, she went into the bathroom to brush her teeth, but there was only the cardamom toothpaste, which she grabbed and threw in the waste basket. With a heavy head, she slipped under the blanket beside him. Normally, she wouldn’t have a problem with his snoring, but tonight she desperately wished for a pair of earplugs. She turned to the other side, facing away from him, trying to tune him out. He was getting farther and farther away, finally falling out of earshot as she drowned in her own thoughts. The last idea on her mind before she sailed away into deep sleep was that, come tomorrow, she’s going to take that money she’s been saving up, and she’ll go get herself those running shoes.