L’effet kaléidoscope. La réécriture dans la production dramaturgique d’Alfred Faraǧ

Rewriting is an inclusive concept. Considered its general meaning, it is obvious that a rewriting must be a text written from another text (Gignoux 2005, 108). However, every work is inscribed in a specific relation with the world and also within a genealogy of other texts until its origins. Such relationships can be of different orders (homage, allusion, parody, quotation, reference, plagiarism); they can be easy to list, but hard to theorize (Samoyault 2001, 5-6). The concept of rewriting, then, belongs to the studies of intertextuality, a term that has been used so often that it has become an ambiguous concept within the literary discourse.

On Alfred Faraǧ. 

Alfred Faraǧ was born in 1929 at his grandmother’s home in al-Zaqāzīq, a town east of the Nile Delta, were he lived until the age of two, after which he went to live in Alexandria with his parents. Faraǧ’s father was an employee at the Revenues and Treasury Department in the Municipal Council of Alexandria. He was well known in Alexandria for his significant memoirs as he mastered both English and Arabic literary styles. He had written two books on philosophy (one on Nietzsche and one on Schopenhauer). Alfred Faraǧ loved his father very much and was deeply influenced by him. His father kept a rich library at home containing Arabic and Western classics (Faraǧ [1998] 2002, 36). Moreover, accompanied by his father, at an early age, Alfred Faraǧ enjoyed the performances of great masters of the time (of comedy and melodrama, respectively) such as Naǧīb al-Riḥānī, who was particularly admired by the author (Faraǧ 1966, 55-9), and Yūsuf Wahbī (Faraǧ [1998] 2002, 29), who both wrote plays in Egyptian dialect.

Alfred Faraǧ’s passion for theatre had started when he was a child. He acted for the first time in kindergarten and then continued acting school plays, while other hobbies were painting, poetry and trips. He completed his kindergarten, elementary, and secondary schooling in Alexandria, except for one year, at the beginning of World War II, that he spent in the safer area of Damanhūr. The author remembered sadly, and with disappointment, that year for its lack of cultural activities. He was accustomed to Alexandria, a cosmopolitan city with a rich a productive cultural life. There were, among others, institutions like the British Council, the French Friendship Society, and the American Library which had their libraries and organized lectures, exhibitions, concerts, amateur theatrical performances, experimental arts, exhibits, magic lantern shows, and cinema and such as cultural activities. The Greek community mixed culturally with the Egyptians more than any other foreign community. A Greek cinema owner constantly informed the young men on the French New Wave films and the Italian neo-realism. Famous troupes also came to Alexandria: Faraǧ remembers attending performances by the Comédie Française and shaking hands with Jean Cocteau (Debs 1993, 396).

Despite his father’s wishes for Alfred Faraǧ to be a student of law, which was considered a prestigious field, Faraǧ enrolled in the English Literature Department at Alexandria University. There, he was influenced by the English teacher, Enwright, who was a minor poet in England and provided his students with the latest post-war poetry books, even before they appeared in book shops, and which constituted the beginning of contemporary poetry (Debs 1993, 395). Poetry played a significant role in Faraǧ’s drama. He wrote it, read it, and listened to it and, even if he left it for theatre, poetry never left him (Faraǧ [1994] 2002, 15 and Faraǧ [1998] 2002, 27-8). During the 1940s, Faraǧ was among the young students revolting against officially accepted values in Arabic literature and the outdated method of teaching it. Faraǧ was attached, instead, to the ši‘r al-Mahǧar (poetry of Arab expatriates) and the romantic poets. His literary and political revolt was rather socio-political. He was interested in Arabic poetry, in general, Greek mythology, English poetry and theatre (Shakespeare, Eliot, Coleridge), and, of course, in the great Arab writers like Ṭāhā Ḥusayn. Muḥammad Taymūr and Tawfīq al-Ḥakīm, which he considered as his teachers (Faraǧ [1998] 2002, 31). Commenting on the readings that inspired him, Faraǧ declared that he was influenced by Arab poets, fascinated with Pirandello and read Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism (Amin 2008, 4). While Brecht’s influence is often remarked by critics, Faraǧ admitted that Jean Anouilh influenced him in a more significant and broader way (El-Enany 2000, 176 and Faraǧ [1998] 2002, 30).

During his university years, Faraǧ’s political, intellectual, and artistic affiliation was gradually determined. Born into a Wafdist family, he had taken political action against the British occupation, monarchy, and the rule of the landed aristocracy throughout his undergraduate years. At university, he was elected to represent the Faculty of Arts in the Committee of Students and Workers, which was in the forefront of nationalist action at the time. His adherence to the socialist left made him a committed intellectual.

After graduation in 1949, Faraǧ worked for six years as an English language teacher in secondary education in Alexandria. He translated articles and plays and wrote literary essays and theatre reviews in newspapers and magazines. In 1955, he left teaching and became a fulltime writer for the newspaper al-Ǧumhūriyya (The Republic), the mouthpiece of the young revolution of the Free Officers. In his articles, he manifested an interest in popular culture. In 1955, he wrote Suqūṭ fir‘awn (The Fall of a pharaoh), which was to be performed two years later, while in 1956 wrote Ṣawt Miṣr (The Voice of Egypt), a patriotic one-act designed for the masses celebrating the struggle of the people of Port Said during the 1956 Anglo-French invasion. Its performance in 1956 at the old Opera House in al-Azbakiyya broke with its tradition of catering to elites.

Why studying the kaleidoscope effect? 

A conspicuous number of the Egyptian playwright Alfred Faraǧ’s plays (1929-5005) rewrite pre-existent texts. Plays resulting in such a process of transformation can be considered as reflected images of the hypotexts (namely the rewritten texts) supplemented by new contents and features. Like a kaleidoscope, the rewriting creates multiple patterns by reflecting the pieces composing a text, such as its typology, its plot, its characters, its style and its contents. Rewriting, then, produces a kaleidoscope effect.

The complex images produced by the kaleidoscope/rewriting supply various functions. For instance, Faraǧ’s rewritings contribute to a recreation of an Arabic identity (through the reinvestment of a common Arabic heritage) and more specifically, to the creation of an Arabic theatre. Faraǧ’s rewritings allow as well for a wider audience as it takes known works and subjects and makes them more accessible. Enabling an abstraction from the content of the hypotext this rewriting can become a tool to encode political ideas. In rewriting, Faraǧ activates dramatic potentiality within the literary genre of the hypotext. Then, rewriting can trigger a questioning about the dramatic potentiality of the hypotext as well as about other aspects such as its style or contents. For these reasons, and many more which will be explored further in this work, Faraǧ’s rewriting can be studied as a poetics of the text and considered as a multifunctional strategy.

Rewriting also generates a multilayered creation. A play that rewrites a pre-existent text certainly is reminiscent of the former text in its original form (see Monah 2012, 311-17). At the same time, the play is a new work with its own specificity that creates an autonomous pattern. Differences between the two works constitute another layer which imposes a focus on the creative aspects of the play and on the modified aspects of the hypotext. Moreover, layers multiply since the hypotexts are not fixed images. Rather, they change according to the different receptions they have in various times and spaces as well as according to the singular reception of each observer. The rewriting process crafts a new image of the hypotext since it affects its reception.

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Table des matières

Approach and methodology.
On the Egyptian theatre.
On Alfred Faraǧ.
Why studying the kaleidoscope effect?
1. Converting – Drama and History. Renewing the old.
1.2 Dramatizing History. Different trends.
1.2 Face to the sources. Contesting History.
1.3 Between reality and fiction. Writing History
2. Replotting – A wide overview. Featuring more than an incredible fact
2.1 Prior events. From the effect to the causes.
2.2 The exposition. Choosing a new introduction.
2.3. Events regarding Sulaymān. A new past for the protagonist.
2.4 Around the fact. Determining actions.
2.5 A surprising end. Narrating beyond History.
3. Re-masking – An historical hero. Creating an absolute protagonist.
3.1 Sulaymān, the unique hero. Completing the character.
3.2 Secondary characters exalting the hero. Providing doubles to Sulaymān.
3.3 Historical protagonists. Background, stock characters making the group.
4. Restyling. From authorial to multiple narrative. Introducing polyphony.
4.1 Languages and registers. Modulating voices.
4.2. The chorus, or the alienating voice.
4.3 Distributing spaces. Differentiating stories through the stage
4.4 Role-playing. Exchanging voices
4.5. Hamlet and Saladin. Intertextual voices of heroes.
5. Refilling – Symbolism and performativity. Fighting for a change.
5.1 An absolute value: justice.
5.2 Mirrors of reality. Breaking the illusion.
5.3 A performative utterance: the writer fighting the ruler
Final Remarks on Chapter I
1. Converting – A sīra as a drama. Mirroring the heritage
1.1 Under the name of the sīra. Defining the heritage.
1.2 A popular late version as hypotext. Following the tradition.
1.3 An epic conflict for the stage. Refracting the heritage.
2. Replotting – An inquiry over the past. Focusing a new sīra.
2.1 The logical order of the story. Displaced identities.
2.2 Few adventures in the sīra. Digesting the subject matter.
2.3. A theatrical sīra. Distorting equivalences.
2.4 Comments and reflections. Innovating the sīra
3. Re-masking – Old roles for modern minds. Revitalising the sīra.
3.1 One first name. Breaking the tradition.
3.2 Characters born on the stage. Roles from old to new theatrical tradition.
3.3 The unreason of the sixties. A medical glaze over characters.
3.4 Imposing images of rulers. Each governor is different
4. Restyling – The shape of truth. Opposing a style.
4.1 Conflicts of words. Contrasting the language.
4.2 Plays within the play. Framing the sīra.
4.3 A show of truth. Diverging traces of authenticity.
5. Refilling – A political matter. From legend to reality.
5.1 A fight for justice. From custom to tragedy
5.2 Knowledge and reason. The new need to understand
5.3 Democracy is the miracle. From prophecy to self-determination.
Final Remarks on Chapter II
1. Converting – Arabian Nights enacted for the Arabic drama. Reinvesting the heritage for multiple purposes.
1.1 An old source for the new theatre. Meeting the audience’s tastes
1.2 The intellectual turn. Justifying the contents.
1.3 Faraǧ’s plays and the Arabian Nights: a never-ending trip.
2. Replotting – A new story from the Nights. Cutting, pasting, deleting and adding pieces.
2.1 Three tales as a basis. Weaving threads of illusion.
2.2 Same facts. Keeping details.
2.3 Towards a moral. Erasing details.
2.4 ‘Alī finds his man. Innovating the hypotext
2.5 More Nights. Enlarging the hypotext to the whole collection
3. Re-masking – Behind the mask. Creating identities
3.1 Isotopes of the duo. Redefining relations of power.
3.2 ‘Alī the utopist and Quffa the cobbler. Individualizing the characters.
3.3 Stereotypes from the Nights. Varying degrees of characterization.
4. Restyling – A confluence of styles. Telling on the stage.
4.1 In a world of fiction. Playing and overplaying.
4.2 A language from the Arabian Nights. Quoting the hypotext, playing the fiction.
4.3 From the realm of the Nights. Emulating the marvelous
5. Refilling – Contemporary ideas. Proving through the past
5.1 False magic and real illusion. Playing words
5.2 A precise utopia. Laughing at the crisis
5.3 Human dreams. Always laughing
Final remarks on Chapter III

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