In his second work of fiction, Ahmed Abdel-Latif follows a woman dreaming that she had a male organ, exploring the world of magic, femininity and male fantasies. The writer faces new technical and artistic challenges, diving deep in this brief book, and offering impressive solutions to the questions he sets himself. The novella even opens with a challenge: “I dreamt that I had a male organ. I woke up in shock screaming and hallucinating with words I cannot remember, and maybe no one heard. It was the first time I had such a dream, although I constantly remember my dreams…” In the next 25 hours, the entire duration of the novel, the character speaks t about being ready to marry to a man who doesn’t love her; apparently she is very ugly, and this man asked her hand in marriage only to be safe that she will never cheat on him, because no other man would look at her anyway.
Yet the ending is equally unexpected: “I dreamt that I had a male organ. I woke up in shock speaking words no one else cares to hear but I. I heard the doorbell ring incessantly. It must be my fiancé. I got dressed and stood in the middle of the room. To my right, a door leading to the guest room, the carpets, the chandeliers, and a husband waiting at the door. To my left there’s a door leading to the street, and a world where maybe I’ll be lost.” The heroine doesn’t settle for one door or the other, but simply jumps out of the window: “When I hit the ground, I didn’t feel broken bones as much as I felt the pleasure of that one instant of happiness – to be flying.”
There is no storyline or dramatic knot, no world that grows and develops; the writer chooses to hide the reality surrounding the novel, without any events pointing to time or names of people. This intentional abstraction was among the challenges he had to face, and he manages, through the device of repetitive dreams, to show glimpses of the childhood and adolescence of the heroine, creating one solid construction throughout the novel. On another hand, the title of the book refers to a sort of popular magic in which a boy or girl is used to uncover criminals through the power of jinn. This experience told by the narrator enriches the character even more, revealing another dimension of her soul and her belief in magic, and leading back into her dreams – the dream being the main trick in the story. This mingling of fantasy and reality, people and ghosts, points to the central point of the book: the desire and fear of a 33-year-old woman who has never been approached or looked at by a man.
The weakest aspect of the novel remains its extreme abstraction, the absence of names or a setting. Yet the language flows; it is rich and artistic without too much complication. Abdel-Latif manages to stay impartial, which adds to the beauty and to the strength of his story.
From / Ahramonline