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Fragmentation and Narration in Muhsin Al-Ramli’s Short Fiction.
Fragmented subjectivities and alienation are frequent and persistent themes in contemporary Arabic literature of migration. These tropes stem from their authors personal experience with exile and border crossing. Iraqi writer Muhsin Al-Ramli’s personal experiences as an exile living in Spain informs his writings. His 1998 collection “Awraq Ba’idah ‘an Dijla” (Papers Far From the Tigris) repeatedly employs a first-person narrator residing in Spain and writing about his homeland of Iraq. The geographical distance from which these narratives are written, infuses each text with nostalgia and also fragments it, highlighting the divided self. Physically residing in Spain but dwelling psychologically in Iraq, Al-Ramli’s characters exist in a constant state of in-betweenness and liminality. They are neither fully here, nor there living instead a shadow existence defined by feelings of alienation and displacement. This divide produces a psychological crisis that alienates Al-Ramli’s characters from both their surroundings and the texts themselves. Inhabiting a constant state of liminality, imprints itself on the body and psyche of the refugee character creating fractured subjectivities. Alienation is manifested through highly experimental narratives, stream of consciousness, dreams, nightmares and shifts between realist, hyperrealist and surrealist styles. In this paper I will argue that it is only in the constant traveling between Iraq and Spain, between past and present and between the here and there that Al-Ramli and his narrators can imagine home creating a coherent narrative for themselves. Hence, the imaginative space of narrative, a liminal space where past and present, fact and fiction find a meeting point, can transform real life fragmentation into a meaningful literary dialogue.
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