Latent Memories in Traumatic Amnesia:

Re-inventing the Past and Mourning the Other in the Fiction of Lebanese Novelist Rabee Jaber

PROJECTOUTLINE

2017

© Dissonantnarratives

The state-sponsored amnesia that followed the Lebanese civil war has had its impact on the articulation of collective and individual memory in the Lebanese society. To counter this debilitating reality, many artists, filmmakers, architects, and writers tried to establish an experimental zone where they could re-configure the public’s perception of the past spatially and discursively. Lama Joreige observes that attempts to recollect past memories revealed facts and experiences that “will never reach us and will remain unspoken, buried. We will never be able to witness their existence, but only presume that they are there, yet missing” (Lamia Joreige 18). Accordingly, addressing stories from the Lebanese war is also addressing the ghost of such a repressed and invisible past which contemporary artists and novelists have tried to depict through “latent images”, “the invisible,” “the erased and covered,” the “lived without being experienced,” “the repressed, the hidden,” and the “missing characters”.

While such a “present absence” may well manifest itself in art through the visible gap that separates the art installation from its narrative, things seem more problematic in novels where the narrative is itself the installation. My project seeks to introduce literary models of impossible mourning through the works of Lebanese novelist Rabee Jaber. Mourning here does not assume the death but the loss of the other with the necessity of remembering him/her. The project argues that such a model is possible in a literary text when the models of remembrance that the text generates fail in providing a satisfactory Applicate. Here I refer and contribute to Matthias Erdbeer’s developing “model theory for literary texts”.

... addressing stories from the Lebanese war is also addressing the ghost of such a repressed and invisible past which contemporary artists and novelists have tried to depict...

الاعترافات [Confessions] book detail, 2017

© Dissonantnarratives

In the light of post-structuralist notions of mourning (particularly but not exclusively), this projects draws on the ethical obligation and the therapeutic need to remember the past without claiming it. The act of remembrance must rather recognize its own impossibility in order to avoid a false claim of fidelity and leave the conversation with the past open. According to Derrida, “[w]e must hold fast to this evidence, to this excessive clarity, and continually return to it as if to the simplest thing, to that alone which, while withdrawing into the impossible, still leaves us to think and gives us occasion for thought” (35). The project shows that such a representation of latent memories in literary narrative may rely on metafictional and metaleptic interventions to revise its failed models of remembrance. In this self-reflexive strange loop, mourning is never lifted and the mourner is constantly haunted by a past that is always yet to come but is destined to fail as an ontological entity. Such a failure paradoxically represents a more ethical model of mourning.

The project explores the textual and aesthetic techniques in four of Jaber’s novels. It mainly focuses on the role of metafiction and metalepsis in producing a mnemohistory of dissonant narratives and failed models of remembrance. Two of the novels, 2008( ا عترافات) Confessions and The Mehlis Report, mourn the missing from the Lebanese war. The former recalls 2005 ( تقرير ميليس) the past through the first-person memories of a traumatized war survivor, while the other draws on the relation between the war and 2005 through the voice of a war kidnap victim narrating from the afterlife. Two other novels, 1996( البيت ا خير) The Last House and 1997( رالف رزق في المرآة) Ralph Rizkallah through the Looking Glass, mourn the Lebanese movie producer Maroun Baghdadi and the Psychology professor Ralph Rizkallah respectively.

The act of remembrance must rather recognize its own impossibility in order to avoid a false claim of fidelity and leave the conversation with the past open.

REFERENCES

  1. Derrida, Jacques. The Work of Mourning. Chicago, 2001.

  2. Erdbeer, Robert Matthias. „Poetik der Modelle“, in: Textpraxis. Digitales Journal für Philologie. 2015, 11 (2).

  3. Jaber, Rabee. al-Bait al-’akhīr. Beirut: Dar al-‘Adab, 1996.

  4. Jaber, Rabee. Ralph Rizkalla fi al-mir’āt. Beirut, 1997.

  5. Jaber, Rabee. Taqrīr Mehlis. Beirut, 2005.

  6. Jaber, Rabee. Al-’I‘tirāfāt. Beirut, 2008.

  7. Joreige, Lamia. „Here and Perhaps Elsewhere, in: Cotter, Suzanne (ed.), Out of Beirut. Oxford, 2006: 18-19.

BIO

DANI NASSIF M.A.

After I finished my BA in English Literature, I did a Teaching Diploma and a CELTA and started teaching at a school in Dubai. After 3 years, I moved to Lebanon where I also taught for at the International School while continuing my Masters in comparative literature at the University of Balamand. My thesis title is “Narrative as a Means of Deliverance: The Bitter Experiences of Zahra and Invisible Man”.

It draws on Foucault’s notion of power relations and Bakhtin’s dialogism to explore the role of narrative as an emancipatory tool in Hanan Al-Shaykh’s novel The Story of Zahra and Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man. From 2010 till 2016, I taught various courses at Notre Dame University and the University of Balamand (Lebanon) where I also acted as coordinator. I am currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Muenster, Germany. I have presented papers in a couple of conferences and helped organise a conference for young researchers. My publications are limited to articles and translations in Lebanese magazines and newspapers.

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