Saddiki's Textual Recoveries: Arab Theater as Biofacticity.
This article examines Tayeb Saddiki's distinct contribution to refashioning "indigenous" and experimental techniques of dramatic representation on stage by excavating performative modes from classical texts. The aim of this argument is twofold: to reveal the limits of Eurocentric definitions of "modernism" or "newness" and to stress that Saddiki's so-called "hybridized" approach in theatre is rather a new vision of reclamation based on biofacticity. The discussion centers on SaddTkT's dramatic adaptation of three texts: Diwan Sidl Abderrahman al-Majdub (1967), Maqamat Badi' al-Zaman al-Hamadhani (1971), and Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi (1984).
Contre l'indifference Et l'oubli ... Mon destin est lie Au Verbe.
[Against indifference And oblivion ... My destiny is linked To the Word.] (1)
(Saddiki, L'auteur 42)
Mustapha Badawi has characterized contemporary Arabic drama as an "importation from the West" (Modern 7). Such an approach dovetails with a reductive perspective of Arab cultural contributions. Edward Said's Orientalism has amply demonstrated the colonial downgrading of the Other, using discursive violence. What complicates such "epistemic violence"--as Said, Gayatri Spivak, Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire and many others have conceded--is when such methodology is deployed lock, stock, and barrel by the "native informant" (Spivak, A Critique 6). (2) Several Arab scholars themselves have recycled the same prejudice, opting out of an evenhanded consideration of the complicated interfaces between writing and power, imperialism and representation, or the independent epistemic authority of the East.
For Spivak, "epistemic violence" is a discursive and ideological scheme of repressing and emasculating non-western approaches of expression, knowledge, and modes of being. Epistemic violence seeks to construct colonial and postcolonial subjectivity in ways to transfigure its historical memory and social ontological fabric. It overrides all those imprints of its sovereign worldly and non-worldly culture with the epistemic force of a monolithically conceived "modernity." This is evident particularly in Spivak's critique of the case of Sati (suttee), the widow self-immolation practice in India administered by British colonial law (see Spivak, "Can the Subaltern"). Epistemic violence simultaneously presents itself as authoritative, final and original.
Badawi's Modern Arabic Drama in Egypt seems to reproduce an epistemic effacement. His argument suspends the possibility of reconstructing the historiography of Arabic drama differently. From the outset, Badawi's preoccupation is to periodize "an established fact" in the rise of "modern" Arabic drama in the nineteenth century. (3) Badawi feels compelled to begin with works by Marun al-Naqqash (1817-1855) in Lebanon in 1847 and Ya'qub Sannu' (1839-1912) in Egypt in 1870 that exemplified the European influence as the absolute point of departure of "modernism" in Arabic drama (Modern 1). The question, then, is how does Badawi's reading operate only within the European discourse of modernity and eliminate the voice and epistemic authority of the Arab? Doubtless, Badawi's literary historiography does not preclude the presence of an archive of narrative and performative arts that corroborates that Arabs and Muslims had their own "indigenous" dramatic representations and techniques before the nineteenth century. Badawi's scrupulous study cites the series of religious passion plays known as ta'ziya, the ancient dramatic tradition of puppet shows called qaraquz, or shadow play known as tayf khayal al-zill. Mohammed Ibn Daniyal (1248-1311), an ophthalmologist and playwright, for example, demonstrates in his most illustrious play, Tayf al-khayal (The Spectrum of Apparition) the artistic plurality of genre and theme, blending both rhymed and unrhymed prose, verse, pictorial motifs reminiscent of book illumination and conventional polyphonic narrative traditions developed in the humanist age of Islam (Badawi, Early 7-31). (4)
The issue, therefore, with Badawi's approach lies somewhere else. It is more the fact that his operating term of reference, "modern," presupposes that the avant-garde movement is coherent. It seems to disregard revisions undertaken in the field of "Modernist Studies." Badawi's thesis does not seem to interrogate modernity's omissions, repressions, and devaluations. Michael Levenson defines modernism as "the succession of new forms--the self-succeeding, self-canceling pursuit of novelty"; one which has always embodied its own sense of exhaustion. In other words, modernism may not be taken as infinite or original. As in many cases, it reveals, "an epoch of experiment was approaching its end" (269). On these grounds, Badawi sees the dramatic repertoire from the golden age of Islamic civilization as no less than a "necessary historical background" whose purpose is to comprehend the secrets behind the subjugated status of Arabic drama in relationship to now neatly periodized European artistic archetypes. As he states, "the knowledge of such history is essential in order to see the manner in which the imported form was in several ways determined by the local histrionic or theatrical tradition" (Early 7).
Furthermore, the very unproblematized distinction between "indigenous" and "modern" underscores Badawi's conscious move to establish a hierarchy of artistic value demarcating the two unequal traditions. Badawi's fundamental blind spot is to have maintained with both barrels two uneven statements: On the one hand, he assumes that the European dramatic and theatrical prototype remains culturally privileged, while, on the other hand, he insists that "indigenous" dramatic forms are important yet they must be delineated outside some intrinsic merit within them. Badawi's teleological dictum, then, assumes that Europe's forms of "modernistic" cultural production were what Arab and Islamic civilization lacked and needed to be included in the essential movement of "our" singular linear and progressive "modernity."
In light of Badawi's formulaic analysis, which considers "indigenous" practices of Arabic drama as "relics of the past," I shall argue that the usually repressed evidence of dramatic strategies shows authentic aesthetic and experimental traditions that are modern from within. The recent largely biographical assessments of Khalid Amine and Marvin Carlson have changed the conversation to some extent toward conceiving Arabic drama and theatrical practice as potentially "independent" (see Carlson "Negotiating"). The examples ofTawfiq al-Haklm (1898-1987), Yusuf Idris (1927-1991), Sa'dallah Wannus (1941-1997), Abdelkader Alloula (1939-1994), and Tayeb Saddiki (1938-2016) elucidate that it is possible to demystify the illusion of a singularized anxiety of influence by calling for popular, local experimental theater, nationalizing (and at times pan-Arabizing) it.
My process of argumentation will focus on how Saddiki in particular has embarked on a new task of refashioning "indigenous" techniques of representation on stage based on a deliberate reworking of classical hadatha. Aesthetic hadatha, which may be traced back to the early 'Abbasid culture, denoted the works of those muhdithun (the innovators) in reformulating the poetic and artistic conventions of their own time by devising new and revolutionary devices that might have surprised or outraged their contemporaries but were fundamentally always internal to the tradition itself. Therefore, it is possible to speak of a clear distinction between a Eurocentric, dogmatic modernity and another atemporal, more fluid movement of newness. The aim of my argument is to reveal the limits of definitions of what Badawi and others consider "modern" or "new" as we look at Tayeb Saddiki's experimental dramatization of classical texts.
Badawi's issuing of a foreign birth certificate to Arabic drama is coherent with the history of denying the worth of art of all stripes to the Islamic world. Instead, this art was instrumentalized for the sake of facilitating the modernization of Europe (Said 38, 212). Badawi seems to downplay Orientalist misrepresentations. In nineteenth-century Britain, for example, Moroccan acrobats were inserted as "native" "nomadic" Arab performers in the capitalist economy and discursive representations of Victorian Britain's institution of the "Globe" and circus industry with their "pyramid form." By looking at a number of newspaper reports of this period, El Habbouch demonstrates that "the illumination of the dangerous aspect of such an Oriental performance acts out an invitation for audiences to enjoy the marvelous exhibitions of Bedouin Arabs and to sympathize with their tragic ends once they lose control over their professional experience" (396).
The exhibition of live "Orientals" in the European metropolis--a theatrical institution for objectification and "enframing" the peripheral world--left its mark on much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries' imagination of the Middle East. Timothy Mitchell contends, "Spectacles like the world exhibition and the Orientalist congress set up the world as a picture. ... These symbolic representations of the world's cultural and colonial order, continually encountered and described by visitors to Europe, were the mark of a great historical confidence" (6-7). The portrayals of the Middle East in the theaters of the world fairs in Europe and in North America (after World War II) were crucial in forming western cultural, economic, and identity boundaries. Eric Davis explains that the purpose of theatricalizing the culture of Arabs and Muslims in this manner was to
instill patriotism and a sense of political and social deference among middle class and working class visitors ... who could share in the Republic's new status as a global power ... divinely ordained. ... Foreign exhibits demonstrated by way of comparison the United States' superiority. ... Where foreign countries such as Egypt had more auspicious civilizational heritages, their glories were portrayed as relics of the past. (348-50)
In response to Badawi's conceptual essentialism, Amine and Carlson underscore Tawfiq al-Haklm's skeptical attitude towards Europe's exclusive claim for a "modernistic" drama. AlHakTm studied in Paris and had encountered the works of artists like Eugene Ionesco and Arthur Adamov. Yet, he returns more to his Egyptian contexts and literary performative texts. Al-HakTm goes even further to ground his boundary of al-hadatha within his "medieval" Arab culture and in Egyptian antiquity. On this basis, he reverses the anxiety of influence redirecting it from East to West. This potential "nativist" gesture is not without an extensive search through ancient Egyptian art to find "cubism millennia before Picasso, and the narrative strategies of the Tales of the Arabian Nights, which employed surrealism centuries before Europe" (Carlson, "Avant-Garde" 130). Al-HakTm's point is to suggest that European modernity's sense of cultural rectitude lies in its discursive structuration of its own self-denial, its erasure of inconvenient traces by its now absolute and therefore utilizable others.
Yusuf Idris further highlights the urgency of "excavating" local modes of dramatic oral expression such as maqamat (assemblies, literally "standings"), poetry, popular dance, and medieval forms of improvisation mostly in his series of articles titled "Our Egyptian Theater" published in 1965 (Amine and Carlson, "Al-Halqa" 72). Wannus in his turn reinvents Arabic puppet theater and mixes it with new dramatic techniques. In the midst of the turbulent and transitional years of the 1960s (with the fever of decolonization, Pan-Arabism, and the later Arab defeat of 1967 in the Six-Day War), Wannus's gesture of dramatic "bricolage" produced a theater deeply invested in social and political transformation (Carlson "Avant-Garde" 137). Arab playwrights began to recast what is always already present in their own narrative and performative archives.
Above all, the anxiety of influence experienced by early Arab dramatists borrowing from, and adapting, the works of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere, Henrik Ibsen, or William Shakespeare was happening as an echo rather than a gap of ontology between the two traditions. Those texts were quickly available through translations and adaptations in the Middle East in the 1870s and 1880s. This meant that examples of movements such as realism, symbolism, and the theater of the absurd enabled "oriental" ideas to contour and counter "modern" European genres despite Europe's existential disavowal. Therefore, European "modernity" relied upon the delusion of a watertight separation between Europe and the Middle East, the negation of cultural inter-penetration, and a colonialist assertion of cultural superiority. To maintain this definition of "Modernity" as quintessentially European requires ignoring well established cultural pathways connecting and crisscrossing European and Middle Eastern metropolises of culture like Paris, London, Venice, Vienna, Tangier, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, and Beirut (Carlson "Avant-Garde" 127). Thus, Badawi's method operates this effacement by not imagining the possibility of a sui generis hadatha capable of standing in its own right and in conversation with other modernities.
Saddiki's New Theater: De-Centering and Biofacticity
In addition to the work of Amine and Carlson, Rachld Bananl and Jean-Fransois Clement have written the only extensive biographies available on Saddiki's work (see Amine and Carlson, The Theatres', BananT; and Clement). Ahmed Massaia, in his capacity as the director of l'lnstitut Superieur d'Art Dramatique et d'Animation Culturelle (ISADAC), published a posthumous personal portrait of Saddiki. For Massaia, Saddiki's artistic personality embodies sacred monstrosity; "ce monstre sacre du theatre marocain" (10). Rachld Bananl's analysis, on the other hand, pays attention to the most productive phase (1956-1980) of Saddiki's theatrical experimentation. He argues that ta 'sil (authenticity)--a hermeneutic intervention of returning to "origins," "foundations," and "beginnings" through the posture of recovering classical texts--remains Saddiki's most significant act of sculpting a new Arab theater (1-2). Jean-Fransois Clement's biography provides an exhaustive chronological synthesis and analysis, characterizing Saddiki's theater as open to new thematic, linguistic, and dramaturgical methods (284-322).
Of greater significance in all these accounts is the fact that Saddiki's affinity with theater goes back to his childhood. As a young boy Saddiki was initially struck by the magical histrionics of Jami' Alfna' square, the market place of the old imperial city of Marrakesh to which he would return later as his focal arena. Saddiki had an early childhood of movement from his native multifaith city of Essawlra (Essaouira) (5) to Casablanca as he received a colonial secondary education at the Ecole des fils de notables (School for the Sons of Notables). Drawn to local drama from an early age with a deep-seated predilection for the comic, he began to perform in the French theatrical and dramatic tradition of Moliere. He was involved in the colonial Ma'mura training project of 1954 led by French directors Andre Voisin and Charles Nugues. Saddiki continued to engage with the French stage as an actor in la Comedie de L'Ouest with Hubert Ginioux and in the Parisian Theatre National Populaire (TNP) with Jean Vilar. (6)
Whilst the French colonial experience invested more in translations and adaptations of European plays and dramatic technique, such exposure inspired Saddiki to become the trickster of adaptation. He explored the promises and limits of what was available to him. He rubbed elbows with prominent theater directors, read Greek theater especially Aristophanes, and translated or "Moroccanized" the European plays of Carlo Goldoni, Pierre Beaumarchais, Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, and others. In the process, Saddiki (re)discovered "local" forms of dialogue structure, characterization, and markedly transcultural prototypes of what he calls al-furja--those farcical techniques whose ultimate goal is to please the eyes and uplift the collective spirit of spectators.
It is important to note that Saddiki's anxiety of influence and his creation of a sensory living-based theater is well measured even at his formative stage of translation and adaptation (iqtibas) of European works. He translates and adapts Aristophanes because he sees him as "a social writer," and Nikolai Gogol because Saddiki feels he speaks to Moroccan and Arab sensibilities more directly. Most significantly, Saddiki maintains a lure for what he perceives as Moliere's Mediterranean comic disposition, so much so that he considers him among the living, "un vieil ami que je cotoie depuis plus de trente ans [an old friend with whom I have rubbed shoulders for over thirty years]" (Moliere 7). On this basis Saddiki pays homage to a kindred spirit by mounting a play entitled, Moliere ou pour 1'amour de l'humanite (1995). This play reflects on Moliere's comedy, having a kinship with Moroccan Ibsat (entertainment) form (Kotzamani 38-39). Saddiki understood this very early on when he first played the role of the protagonist in The Works of Juha adapted from Moliere's Les fourberies de scapin (1671). Juha or Nasreddin, Nasreddin Hodja, Goha, is a thirteenth-century populist wise schemer and a fool. Very much like Scapin, he was also the archetype trickster, weaver of humorous stories, vivacious anecdotes, jokes, and witticisms grounded in the tensions and paradoxes of daily living. Goha mocks the mendacity and deceitfulness of society, and ironizes the cyclical nature of the adverse human condition usually condensed in one word, al-zaman, which is closer in meaning to some aspects of the absurd. (7) This term refers to "bounded or finite time" as opposed to "an eternally returning time" (Bowering 76). (8)
To invent the very possibility of new sites of epistemic identity, Saddiki decenters the appropriation of European model and returns to the halqa genre (open-air circle performance), classical maqamat, Ibsat, and the use of Andalusi Malhun music (as well as numerous other genres). By adopting halqa, Saddiki brings the structure of the Islamic city to the stage with its emphasis on central spaces that foster "artless" yet intense social activities such as storytelling, dancing, acrobats, snake charming, communal eating, singing, acting, sharing hearsays and extemporary news. The crowd always breeds excess. Jami' Alfna' is the space made by the crowd naturalizing shared emotional experiences and raw rhetorical and physical intimacies.
In addition to this vision of a homegrown circle of performance, Saddiki pays heed to the very architecture of theater: scenography, costume designing, lighting, and dramaturgy. Such pedagogical flair for mise en scene, for spatial and technical arrangement, allowed Saddiki to master--not only the operational components of the circular stage, the process of adaptation and interpretation of the text, and the interface between structure, theme, and techne (craftsmanship)--but also disclosed his ability to manage the production according to a certain vision of hadatha transposable enough to build an "authentic" enactment, which meets the corporal and visionary latent needs of humor for Arab spectators.
Therefore, this inventory of al-furja--staged on a fluid geography--is complete from within: It includes original forms of festival, performance, acting, storytelling, popular music, acrobatic exhibits, and dance. Furthermore, it is always choreographed by the poetics of the performing body of everyday life, inaugurating a revitalized version of the "festive theater" known as al-masrah al-ihtifalT or simply as the theater of the people, masrah annas. Saddiki polished this genre in his capacity as the director of the Municipal Theater of Casablanca for fourteen years. This became the primary post-colonial institution that produced the first generation of national performers, musicians and playwrights giving rise and unmatched popularity to a new kind of pop-mystical musical bands such as Taqada, Jil Jilala, and Nas Alghiwan, whose vernacular melodic verse would inspire the music background of Martin Scorsese's epic drama film, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Nas Alghlwan in particular would always inflame certain repressed visceral angst among ordinary Moroccan spectators with such hypnotic lines as the following from their song "Lbtana": "This is the twentieth century. We live like a blowfly underneath the carcass's skin. The difference between an apple and a pomegranate is boundless. Then, [I ask all of you] what difference is there between you, you and me?"
Arabic drama, thus, is peculiar because of its entrenched bind to daily comic-tragic-life-experience (made by the un-restrainable unobstructed flows of the crowd), technique, and artifacts from which it derives its sense of newness. It unremittingly reworks its own hadatha (incorrectly translated as "modernity"). Al-hadatha in drama, then, is a style of representation that would rather express itself not as spatially circumscribed theatricality locked in one hierarchized institution, but as biofacts of multiple and insistently open spaces that blur boundaries between secular and sacred living, past and present, high and low culture. In the Arabic etymological sense of the term, saraha (root radicals s. r. h) (used to mean to make stagecraft or a show) denotes the idea of roaming freely at will, to release, to let go, to be unrestrained--the way cattle, for example, drift in pasture. Masrah (theater) is a location noun referring to the place where potentially uninhibited movement is possible.
The concept "biofact" is made of two words: bios, which means, in Greek, life or a living organism, and fact, which refers to the indisputable thing-in-itself (Latin factum, the thing done or performed), like the making and shaping of artifacts ingrained in reality presenting themselves as evidence that the thing corresponds to experience. Taken in this order, biofact is life, then the thing-in-itself--which always belongs a posteriori to worldliness (being carved out by hands-on skill, and by technical engineering): Performed life. In archaeology, biofacts are breathing entities that have retained in them living data about their past and the context of the anterior lives they came from. Artifacts on the other hand are items given shape by human resourcefulness. In my use of the concept biofacticity I refer to Saddiki's excavation of forgotten scripts, seemingly "dead" or "abandoned," (lifeless texts and crafts), and then his intervention in recovering zoetic internally hadatha-based elements. (9) Biofacts generate norms, habits of mind, patterns--in a word, tradition. Living performance. Through a counter discursive movement of reading, interpreting, adapting, and performing them on stage, Saddiki declares the resurrection of the old made new. "Hybridity" begins here in the archaic space of biofactual unevenness.
On these accounts, the second concern of my argument is to stress that Saddiki's so-called "hybridized" approach in theater developed by Amine and Carlson--in light of Homi Bhabha's translation theory (10)--remains inadequate in imagining the possibility of retaining some "original" trace of Arabic drama in its movements of transformation. Even though the authors have attempted to move beyond the reductive perspective of the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theater (see Rubin) devoted to the Arab world, their analysis has not cross-examined the very genealogy of the conceptual framework of postcolonial liminality. Instead, my contention sees that Saddiki's excavatory theater--in its hermeneutic, adaptive, or performative manifestations--is a new vision of masrah making based on biofacticity. I shall show through an analysis of Saddiki's unprecedented reclamations how he fuses new dramatic technique from within Arabic texts with trans-historical dramatic ideas that may shuttle between present and past moments of erasure, ellipsis, and censure harnessing the atemporal power of biofacts. I shall explore more how Saddiki's hadatha illuminates the artistic craft of representing the inbuilt comedy of peoples' lives always at war (real and rhetorical) with tragedy, which is ambiguously "like a shriek pushed around a smiling cadaver" (Saddiki, L'auteur 103).
I shall center such discussion on Saddiki's three transitional texts characteristic of his recasting of Moroccan and Arabic hadatha in masrah. To begin with, I shall look at Saddiki's re-inscription of a sixteenth-century Sufi poet in Diwan Sidi Abderrahman al-Majdub (1967), then his adaptation on stage of Maqamat Badi' al-Zaman al-Hamadhanl (1971) and his most "politically" engaging dramatic reinvention of the tenth-century philosopher, Sufi, and public intellectual Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi (1984). My tripartite reading aims not to privilege these texts and their dramatization on stage in any way but to take them as aesthetic paradigm (11) shifts that consolidate Saddiki's vision for a renewed Arab masrah--laid bare (de-staged) by three prototypical exiles (al-Majdub, al-Hamadhanl, and al-Tawhidi) living in Arab collective memory. Each of these recoveries of textual performativity represents a fundamental change of framework. These frameworks depend on three modes of change: retrieval, hermeneutics, and direction/production. Each text recuperated for a new life exemplifies one of these manners even though their overlap is always evident across the thirty-two plays Saddiki wrote in Arabic, Moroccan Darija, or French, and in his direction of more than eighty performances in the Arab world and Europe.
Performative Narratives: Multiple Arts on Stage
Saddiki inaugurates his experimental festive theater with his reworking of the oral poetry of sixteenth-century Moroccan mystical Sufi poet Sidi Abderrahman al-Majdub into a play. This play is Saddiki's first dramatic interpretation to give literary orality credence on stage. The performance evokes people's quotidian stories, fables, myths, poetry, dance, and music made and unmade by a natural inclination towards improvisation. This, seen as a hermeneutic act of ta 'sil, is actually more complex in its operations of revision as will become clear. By now Saddiki had already worked on important historic plays such as an adaptation of the 1578 Battle of Alcacer Quibir, also known as Battle of Three Kings or Battle of Wad al-Makhazin (1964) and One Morocco (1966). In 1967, Saddiki concurrently mounted his own adaptation of Aristophanes's two plays Lysistrata and The Assembly of Women, combining them into one play called Al-jins al-latif (The Charming Sex). Even his adaptations, especially of Aristophanes, are rooted in the atemporality of certain issues whose philosophical and aesthetic basis of emergence is the idea of contradiction, doubt, hesitation, and conflict (Kotzamani 39).
Despite his mythical status in Moroccan collective imaginary, al-Majdub's verse of anecdotes and witticisms was never written down but was kept--as the conventional phrase in Islamic culture goes--"in the bosoms of men" over the centuries. Perhaps Henry Marie de La Croix de Castries (1850-1927) was one of those few Orientalists who developed a scholarly interest in this legendary figure. De Castries, a French explorer and cartographer wrote "a psychological study" of al-Majdub's verse. He explains that "this psychology of Arab thought, documented on the spot, in the open air or in the tent. ... From this multitude of thoughts expressed in a crude and primitive form, and kept by memory outside writing ... [reveals] the state of the Semite's soul" (III-IV). For this reason, he collected 156 oral quatrains of al-Majdub in addition to songs of mothers, laborers, shepherds, poems of lamentations, acrostics, anecdotes, and enigmas that helped him contextualize al-Majdub's cultural sentiment. All these are transcribed in their original vernacular with French translations. Al-Majdub, for de Castries, is a biblical figure, who typically wanders from one place to the other and acts like a dervish. He is the prototype of an oriental oddity who seems to embody a multitude of attributes of half-madness, half-sensibility, a tendency for exaggeration, at times lucidity, impudence, cynicism, and indifference to the outside world (XI). De Castries's fascination with al-Majdub as a character coming from the prophetic imaginary of the Old Testament links him to a specific type of moral homilist poetry he classifies as gnomes. He explains that the difficulty in pigeonholing al-Majdub's verse lies in the fact that it is "didactic, sententious, satirical, narrative, erotic and many more things" (XVI). It is a verse driven by extemporization, bringing together a plurality of fragments to make a whole, which, in his assessment, reflects a certain posture of "primitive" composition whose brevity helps articulate ideas more clearly (XVI-XVII). De Castries notes that al-Majdub's quatrains are consistent in their use of assonance, parallelism, rhyme, alliteration, and homophony. They embody such affective impact on the memory of listeners as they draw attention to thoughts expressed in a high-minded form, and transmitted without the help of writing from generation to generation.
In al-Majdub's quatrains, one will hear the mix of precepts of religion, morals and ideas about hygiene, varied councils, violent diatribes against the deceit and ruses of women, epigrams, predictions, elegiac complaints, and so on (XIX). De Castries sums up the ontological preoccupations of al-Majdub as "the fragility of human destiny, the unfaithfulness of friendship in misfortune, the scorn attached to poverty. Like all sardonic moralists, al-MajdOb curses the vices of his time, deplores the disappearance of noble souls and generous hearts, and attacks deceitful women" (XX). He epigrammatically declares in his 128th quatrain:
[phrase omitted] [Oh! Duplicitous time! You broke my arms. You dethroned the one whose father was Sultan. You exalted the other one whose father was a shepherd.] (93)
There is no evidence to indicate that Saddiki was aware of de Castries's collection of quatrains. However, Saddiki may have relied more on some of the collections of his time (see Scelles and Boukhari). Still, Saddiki undertook to build his own collection of al-Majdub's verse over three years from the old woman called Dada and the Hakawati or Ihlayqi of the famous square in Marrakesh, and then reformulated them in a dramatic, original production. The amalgamation of the halqa--with the framing device and the cyclical technique of narration and play reminiscent of the One Thousand and One Nights collected over several centuries and Kalila wa Dimna translated by the Persian prose writer Ibn Al-Muqaffa' into Arabic from Middle Persian, and the fresh reinterpretation of an oral performative verse--all activates the process of biofacticity, which underscores three dimensions: language, theme, and technique.
The dramatization of al-Majdub's oral epic breathes a new life into vernacular literature. Through the figure of Ihlayqi or the circle animator, Saddiki's adaptation retrieves a configuration of writing already in orality, since the poet al-Majdub adheres to zajal poetry by his own intuitive poetic literacy. Al-Majdub composed a number of zajals (strophic poems using the local Darija vernacular) on various topics. He belongs to a long tradition of zajal composers since the Andalusi period, starting with Ibn Quzman of Cordoba (d. 1160) all the way to fourteenth-century vernacular poets who benefited from the patronage of a Sultan for their craft. Al-Kafif al-Zarhuni, for example, composed a five hundred-verse zajal in Moroccan Darija for his Merinid sultan and patron, Abu al-Hassan. Zajal at this time competed with the standard Arabic fusha poetry and was validated as a legitimate form of artistic expression (Elinson 194). It was even written down and included in the literary archives of this period. However, as Alexander Elinson notes, vernacular verse was not always viewed as adequate by comparison to the literary register of standard literary Arabic, and instead was "confined to folkloric use" (119). On this basis,
the medieval zajal and its contemporary iteration represents an interesting intersection of written and oral (often conflated as high and low) literatures, straddling as it does the boundary between linguistic and literary registers, and challenging accepted notions of "modernity" and definitions of cultural literacy. (Elinson 119)
Saddiki resuscitates vernacular verse outside its colonial construction as "folkloric" and outside its psychoanalytical utility for Orientalists. He breaths a new life into Darija's oral and written culture which mediates the vernacular and the elevated register of standard Arabic. The zajal in Saddiki's now fork-like use of language predominates and, more significantly, consciously interlaces with the innate musicality of classical qaslda, with its well-established tropes. Elinson explains:
[I]t was the strophic form, non-classical meters, and hybrid language (fusha, 'ammiyya, Romance, and Berber) that set the zajal apart from the classical qasida. Despite this non-classical linguistic heterogeneity, the form has long been linked with the written tradition, and thus cannot be considered a "folk" or "un-learned" form. (196-97)
Saddiki's fundamental recovery of al-Majdub's verse leads him into adapting and directing a number of dramatic productions based on the popular epic, or the Malhun melodic poetry meant for singing. Perhaps the best example is his staged play Al-Haraz (1971), based on masquerading festivals of verse where lovers metamorphosize from one state of character into another, working hard to sustain the sublimity of their love. In another case, the narrator Younes Errawi in Les sept grains de beaute leaves the Marrakesh square to embark on seven voyages in search of the beautiful woman, Dounia. These journeys synchronously interweave an ancient world of forgotten legends, fables, fantastical stories, dream works whose ultimate goal is to exalt the divine supremacy of love. The poetic, so entrenched in Arab literary identity and ontology, evokes the vitality of pitch, melody, harmony, tempo, meter, rhythm, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture in the case of Saddiki's adaptations. Musical poetry creates a new genre of musical comedy whose main objective is to project popular or collective verse as literary conceit, deceit, and feat. This worldly vernacular musical poetry celebrates women, desire, and love, and derives all of its themes from the social daily fabric of immediate environments and traditions past and present. The alchemy created on stage through vernacular poetry and its popular arts of representation, especially music, constructs a new form of theater whose "hybridity" is internal to these texts and even their disremembered inter-texts. As 'Abdurrahman Badawi ascertains, the theme and structure of the French medieval play, La farce de maitre Pathelin (1470, also translated and mounted on stage by Saddiki as Maqlab Im'alem Patlan)--whose author has remained unknown--can be traced back six centuries earlier to the work of Abu 'Uthman alJahiz. Badawi cites several examples of influence, and at times he identifies direct borrowings from al-Jahiz's Book of Animals (.Kitab al-hayawan) pointing out "la fliation directe entre les deux" (13). The exigency for periodization here is always superfluous since collective memory constitutes its own breathing organism allowing the craft of storytelling to remain visceral and intertexual.
Saddiki's principal preoccupation is to appeal to the lived, inter-textual (therefore inter-performative) amassed tastes of the audience. He is careful to translate and interpret a vernacular poetry accessible to a collective heterogeneous sensory. He formulates many textual recuperations through the universalist cadences of Sufism. This is Saddiki's new dramatic technique. On this account, Saddiki's production includes a prologue and four scenes framed by thirty-one graphic illuminations (see Saddiki, Diwan). We literally see figurative framing portraits as props on stage supplementing the setting, the topic, and historic context. The prologue allows the narrator to historicize the square by providing information about its past.
The narrator then receives a young man from the twentieth century who comes to meet the Sufi poet al-Majdub and to experience the magical square he had heard about from his ancestors. The narrator takes this young man to educate him in the art of al-halqa, and to introduce him to the variety of animated circles, until he leads him to the poet's circle. The first scene covers al-Majdub's biography, his abduction by European pirates, his imprisonment, escape from prison, his trip to Mecca for pilgrimage, and then his return home during the period of the French protectorate. The narrator then shifts to the period of Morocco's independence. This scene closes with the typical practice of soliciting monetary contributions from the spectators. The second scene moves to a show on the taming of the Barbary macaque where there is much hilarity. The narrator comes back to the poet's biography and presents the quatrains on a variety of themes. The third scene continues with the presentation of the quatrains' reflections on friendship, love, secrecy, patience, unfaithfulness, and so on. The third scene cites those quatrains on reason and madness through characters suffering from lunacy as they visit the mausoleum of Saint Hadi Ben'isa in Meknes. The young man of the twentieth century speaks of how he had learned from this journey of discovery and reclamation of the square. This voyage of imagination had equipped him with knowledge about his past, giving him much wisdom and mirth.
Saddiki's hermeneutic intervention here consists of the way the prologue unyieldingly informs, enthusiastically describes, and subliminally theorizes the form and cultural context in which the spectators must understand the mounted play. The narrator is self-consciously teaching his spectators about the frame and new technique of this masrah rooted in their own lived collective memory. The narrator's pedagogical interest is for the audience to grasp the new modus operandi of presentation, to appreciate the processes of scenography, dramaturgy, and the use of familiar artifacts on stage that create the biofacts. (12) He wants his audience to comprehend that his work stems directly from Moroccan dramatic tradition. The narrator consistently warns his spectators not to forget the sedimented history of the square, the structure of popular furja, the role of the hlayqia and their daily conflicts with other circle animators, and ultimately their moral responsibility to sustain the durability of this homegrown tradition. The narrator makes this proposal in the context of linking memory to collective epistemic ownership. What gives this square in particular its double "archaic-modern" biofacticity is its longevity as a locus for the enactment of stories over the centuries despite the violent erasures of colonialism and globalization. Saddiki's work elucidates that those stories are always recoverable by virtue of having transitioned one generation into the other, keeping the sense of an organic tradition happening as a continuing organism surviving in collective cognizance.
Saddiki's major gesture of creativity perhaps is to bring thematic plurality into the theatrical interpretation and direction of these literary texts. European plays are mostly driven by a single theme and unambiguous prototypical figures. Moliere's The Misanthrope, or Cantankerous Lover, a comedy of manners in verse is a satire of French aristocratic society focusing on the protagonist Alceste's development as a fool always at odds with the moral choices of his own society. The Miser (L'avare)--a five-act comedy in prose, adapted into Arabic by Marun al-Naqqash as alBakhil and performed in Beirut in 1847--focused on the clear-cut theme of bourgeois miserly behavior. In Shakespeare's Othello, the theme is jealousy, betrayal, and revenge. Saddiki's dissatisfaction with thematic unity in European works takes him back to the structural multiplicity of themes, so typical of classical Arabic and Moroccan narratives bringing new semiotics and dramatic complexity to the play on stage. The halqa of al-Majdub--circular or semi-circular on stage--itself is structured around multiple other halqat (plural of halqa). Therefore, Ibsat as furja manages multiple themes through the epic or musical style of representation whose scenes portray almost every art (visual or verbal) including calligraphy, painting, illumination, poetry, eloquence, and so on. Calligraphy, for example, heightens the mystical nature of the Arabic language. Letters are displayed as sacred with both esoteric and exoteric facets. Saddiki uses Arabic calligraphy (and other motifs of book illumination) in all of his reworking of epic adaptations and in maqamat. On stage, for example, we see calligraphy boldly embroidered on the costume of actors indicating the typology of their character, and ultimately historicizing the humanist and universalist legacy of the Arabic language.
What concerns Saddiki's mode, then, is to allow his audience to experience the usually ironic perspective in Ibsat as an encounter of daily joviality, removed from direct political commentary. Saddiki's theater escaped the censorship of the Makhzen establishment synonymous in this period with popular strikes, political disappearances, and two coup d'etat attempts against the monarch Hassan II. Dramatic irony at times covers allusions and arcane ideas about those present realities of oppression provoking spectators to deduce serious political messages. The narrator on stage does not promise realism; instead, he convinces his spectators that the works of the past are treasures of knowledge, wisdom, thought, and self-edification. He deploys the authority of his parody with the satirical, derisory intent to collapse the past and the present in a mono-temporality of an unchanging human condition of treachery, vice, and malice always sprinkled with mockery, absurdity, masquerade, and farce. As Saddiki admits, al-masrah must reclaim its "Socratic function":
[T]he real must be loosened up ... must teach spectators to watch with a new eye. It is time we broke down the hypnosis of culinary theater. To clear the state of ornaments and make it intelligent to speak of the past, of history, of the present, of judgement. Man as the object must replace hero as subject. (L'auteur 52)
Bringing the mono-temporality to bear on the condition of man's eternal suffering is Saddiki's move of de-temporalization (de-periodization) based on regaining a dignified aesthetically learned subjectivity. The new power of bonhomie gifted to spectators is their capacity to laugh at familiar farces that would not alienate them from their cultural situatedness, and would strengthen their identities as social beings and as inheritors of a fully-fledged enduring and polyphonic theater. Saddiki's very artistic craving in these adaptations shifts to producing a new theatrical style that offers the audience the exuberance of both joy and gravity performed through embodied language and narrative. For this reason, Saddiki's comic puissance rendered by melancholic, exilic, and peripheral characters speaks to another exterior world of wretchedness, of "hell, misery, violence, injustice. Outside theater there are only arms, tears. ... When we play in your heart, tragedy and blood may not flow, and gravity breaks into an enormous burst of laughter" (L'auteur 21). Geer Jan van Gelder demonstrates that the Arabic pair jidd and hazi (jest and earnest) serves more than "a common expression" but as "a topos" in classical Arabic literature (83). The relationship between those antonyms in adab accentuates the paradoxical relationship between comedy and tragedy, ambivalence, reciprocity, and a constant exploration of equilibrium between seriousness and playfulness in literary expression.
For Saddiki, halqa-as-masrah also means Medina-as-masrah because the city of Marrakesh is embedded in collective perception as the city of cheerfulness, madlnat al-bahja. What strikes any visitor to Marrakesh is the ingenuousness of its inhabitants' humor, and the injection of all daily conversations with jokes. At this geo-historical level, al-masrah is a certain
natural facility; the difficulty is only acquired. The life of the comedian is continuously allegorical and profound. His are frivolous words that aspire to singing and musicality, that attempt desperately to speak a theater ... without detours, spirals, gyration. ... His aim is to agitate chronology. (L'auteur 44)
For this reason, Saddiki returned in 1975 to mobile theater (al-masrah aljawwal) performed in large tents or in the open air spaces. Such move emphasizes the notion that pre-colonial masrah actually persists as the most appropriate formulation of theatricality because it is consistent with Moroccan society's susceptibility to performance as a daily act of living-merriment paradoxically interwoven with inexhaustible crises and tragedies.
Interestingly enough, Saddiki's play, Le diner de gala (1990) is a retrospective emotive dramatization of the dangers of loss and the indispensability of remembrance and constant retrieval. In this play, he mourns even the demolition of the colonial Theatre Municipal de Casablanca (inaugurated in 1922 by the Resident-General Hubert Lyautey) since it still carries the inscriptions of a coterie of world artists: Jacques Brel, Um Kalthum, Josephine Baker, Abdisamad al-Kanfawi, Serge Reggiani, Maurice Bejart, and many others. In the play, Saddiki creates an imaginary character who spends one last night at the colonial theater before its ruin offering the last dinner not to real spectators but to other characters like Shakespeare, Moliere, alTawhidi and al-Majdub, who stand as ghosts from the past.
Therefore, Diwan Sidi Abderrahman al-Majdub revitalizes the socio-aesthetic imaginary of Moroccans by validating pre-colonial figures untainted by external imports of figuration, technique, and cultural authority and by challenging a Eurocentric "modernism" locked in the rigid parameters of its periodization. No wonder, the sixteenth-century al-Majdub emerges sovereign in his cultural utterances, cohesive in his rhymed vernacular expression, and filial to his local poetic popular lexicon. Ibsat reinvents those pre-colonial, de-Francophiled archetypal characters of lemsiyah, harrma, baqchich, bamfarrej, hdidane because of their interiority to the integrated theatricality of the texts and daily staging of life in public spaces. These recovered "native" characters begin to carve out a new aesthetic experience made not by the anxiety of writing but by the sweat, the scent, the voice, the tempos, and inflections of intimacies lived, unlived, outlived, and relived ceaselessly. Saddiki's art is life itself revisited at the infinitude of evaporating moments of textual and stage playfulness made and unmade.
In 1971, Saddiki forges another breakthrough in building an Arab new masrah in its own right. He returns to the Arabic classical literary canon by an adaptation of the Maqamat Badi'al-Zaman al-Hamadhani. Saddiki works with the same hadatha premise he applied to the staging of al-Majdub. His aesthetic and adaptive interpretation of the text assumes the integration of all the arts in the theater stage and the intrinsic performative quality of the texts. The dramatization of the maqamat has given voice to this newness in Arabic masrah, especially with its performance in Damascus in 1973. Saddiki carefully selects nine maqamat with all of the furja structure, technique, and social themes enveloped in a typically Majdubian cynicism about the condition of living-in-time eternally "out of joint" as expressed by al-Fatih, the narrator, and the musical chorus:
[These are ill-omened times. What you see is their treachery. Foolishness in them is agreeable. But reason is infirmity and a ground for rebuke. Wealth is a shadow reigning over those who are decadent.]
Saddiki links the preoccupations of these maqamat on the imperial depravity of the 'Abbasid dynasty with the crisis of intellectual decay, political corruption, and moral degeneration in Arab societies. Therefore, the play opens in the same way as al-Majdub's, in the halqa square of an unnamed Arab city where the crowd begins to form circles to watch the show starting with al-hakawatVs fictional story of Ra's al-ghoul (The Ghoul's Head) told by the narrator who makes reference to transcultural stock characters like the Arab Juha, the Harlequin of Commedia dell'arte, Moliere's Scapin, Plautus's Milphion or Beaumarchais's Le Figaro. Again, it is within the vessel of the open and biofactual square that Saddiki stumbles upon collective fictions, images, rhymes, artifacts, and techniques to mount his masrah.
Of greater significance in this staged presentation of the maqamat verse is the assimilation of multiple arts. The famous classic Maqamat of al-Hariri or the ones of Badi' al-Zaman alHamadhanT, for example, have come to us with pictorial illustrations demonstrating that the classical and humanist conceptualization of the arts was inspired by their cross-fertilization and their inbuilt compulsion for playacting, or what al-Baghdadi terms "oikumenical globalization" (450-51). The maqamat were usually written in rhymed prose and verse, supplemented by visual elucidations intended for educated listeners. Alain George concedes:
By virtue of their narrative structure and content, the maqamat also had a latent performative dimension that could be more or less fully brought out by different reciters. This linked the text to a broad range of genres that existed in the public place, such as storytelling (the qissa), live theater (the hikaya) and the shadow play (khayal al-zill). (3)
Shadow plays animate stories by deploying shadow puppets illuminated against a semi transparent screen. The puppeteer frames the stories by creating characters who may walk, dance, fight, laugh, cry, and grin. In other words, this is a masrah in its own right based on a written script and in a closed space composed of a stage and auditorium.
George also explains that there was an interface between manuscript illustration depending on pictorial art, the composition of maqamat, and the art of the shadow play, generating new techniques of figuration, iconography, color design, framing, textile patterning--all coherent with the concrete proliferation of a culture of sciences and secular arts under the 'Abbasids (44-45). George concludes that the genre of the maqamat, even as early as the twelfth century
required the invention of illustrations involving characters in dialogue, disguise, and shifting poses ... scribes and crafts men. ... The illustrations of the Maqamat, in sum, reflect a figural style and a mode of scene visualization rooted in the shadow theater and largely shaped by its requirements of performative expressivity and clarity. (13)
Saddiki uses this dramatic and illustrative backdrop to heighten his scenography. He may not need to reinvent the wheel of architecture and techniques of representation; he takes all of them--lock, stock, and barrel--from the medieval culture of shadow play and its interfacings with other arts, especially calligraphy and book illumination. Whilst his new re-vision is biofactual, his stage execution of the project required more attention to a coherent direction and production of these performative narratives, confirming the fact that neither al-hadatha nor "their" "modernity" can operate outside the historic and epistemic constraints of tradition, any tradition.
Performing Intellectuals: Ideas on Stage-Trial
Saddiki dedicates his adaptation of Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi (1984) to his friend Mohamed Arkoun, a scholar of Islamic thought who has written a groundbreaking study on humanist intellectuals in Islam. (13) The choice of al-Tawhidi is deliberate. Al-Tawhidi stands out in his writing as a polyglot interested in many arts and sciences, and most significantly as a poet, a philosopher who cultivated free expression to the full. His transparent approach covers critical reflections on the paradoxes and tensions of ontological exile (Bellamy 768). His elegant diction is unique because of its hadatha sensibility of uncompromising independence and an obsession with experimentation in Arabic rhetorics and esoteric knowledge (see Rosenthal). For example, al-Tawhidi chronicles the major debates or seances that emerged in the intellectual milieu in Iraq under the Buyid dynasty in his most celebrated oeuvre al-'Imta' wa-l-mu'anasa (Enjoyment and Conviviality) written between 983 and 985. This book was a collection of thirty-seven seances at the court of Ibn Sa'dan, the vizier of the Buyid ruler Samsam al-Dawla (983-987).
In addition to al-Tawhidi's main book, al--'Imta' wa -l-mu 'anasa, Saddiki synthesizes other classical oeuvres in literature, philosophy, sciences, and rhetorics. At the opening of the mounted play, al-Tawhidi is subjected to a brutal inquisition led by the judge Iradat Allah and facilitated by two jurists, Ghadanfar, known for his violence and sadistic tendencies, and al-Far. Their aim is to protect religious orthodoxy and push for al-Tawhidi's crime of apostasy and heresy. The judge calls al-Tawhidi's protagonists like Abu Suleiman al-Mantiql who becomes the main witness against his author. He accuses al-Tawhidi of getting him unfairly involved with subversive characters. Al-Mantiql was actually a real figure. For Saddiki, these characters on stage can step out of their various texts and become autonomous using the space of halqa to articulate their point of view about authority and contemporary controversies in the arts and politics. They are fictitious in this sense, making the trial more real because their other function is to interlock two political temporalities that collapse into one. "Bounded and finite," al-zaman (time) is always cyclical, and thus futilely predictable. The distance between al-Tawhidi's epoch and the postcolonial condition is an illusory construct based in a strategic misreading of the past perceived as dead.
Saddiki begins his reinterpretation in the first scene with a mesmeric interchange about the crisis of the intellectual. Most of the dialogue takes place between Iradat Allah, Ghadanfar, Al-Far, and al-Tawhidi on the ontological aspects of being a stranger, algharib. Al-Tawhidi's philosophical and mystical perspective sees that all men are exiles on this earth. Al-Tawhidi has dramatized in his own prose some of the most agonizing poetic musings on the multi-facetted semantics of exile or estrangement he calls al-ghurba. These deliberations are carefully reworked from al-Tawhidi's original text by establishing a cumulative effect in the process of defining the condition of intellectual self-alienation. In his own defense against sacrilege, al-Tawhidi presents his answers to the members of the court in terms of word play, witticism, and subtle allusions. To be struck by this totalizing ailment for an autonomous intellectual means that he finds himself destitute and ostracized by the state. Most seriously, the majority of his society ceaselessly misunderstands him. Whilst the two jurists Ghadanfar and al-Far begin asking al-Tawhidi to explain his long absence from his home and nation and his permanent dislocation, al-Tawhidi intervenes to define his identity of the stranger as the one:
If he uttered a word, he would speak in shame and hesitation. If he kept silent, he would stay perplexed. If approached, he would come subserviently. If he escaped, he would flee reverently. If he surfaced, he would appear servile, and if he hid, he would cover himself in symptoms of disease. (Abu Hayyan 5-6)
The chorus on stage heightens more semiotics of intellectual and psychological exilic state:
The stranger is the one who remains deferential wherever he lands. The stranger is the one whose hand is bound, and whose tongue is tied. Whilst others relish in the accomplishments of one another, he has but a few to praise him. (6)
In the course of this fascinating exchange, al-Tawhidi intercedes now and then with his ultimate definitions of the exiled intellectual to give a closure to the topic:
The stranger is the one in whose self-alienation resides a stranger. He is the one not allowed to speak truth. Torn by the cruelty of time [al-zaman] and space he earns no trust or status. The greatest exile is the one who is fully alien whilst fully at home. (8)
Al-Tawhidi ultimately receives a sentence of ten centuries of exile and oblivion until his second birth in a foreign land, which happens to be Morocco. Since al-Tawhidi's actual trial never took place during the Buyid's dynasty, fictional characters such as the executioners, those malicious scribes, or the magistrates emerge to enframe the bi-temporal dimension of this trial. The idea itself seems radical because these characters are not fictitious. They embody the political logic of the trial both in its immediate context of the 'Abbasid's period of decadence and its present allusion to Morocco's cases of executions or disappearances of political dissidents still crisp in the collective consciousness. This dark drama evokes the postcolonial crises of the present, the repression of freedom of thought, the interpenetration of multiple forms of subjugation--which includes self-colonizing Arab fraudulent regimes, global imperialism, and religious intolerance. The play does not make explicit references to the present conditions of oppression, but establishes those obvious connections through puns, irony, satire, and parody on the homegrown stage of comic-tragic circularity.
Ultimately, my argument reveals that Saddiki has reconceived an Arab masrah that theatricalizes the idea of radical difference in what I call biofacticity. The latter is a hadatha-based panache whose purpose is to repossess epistemic authority. Saddiki's fundamental attitude in these adaptations is a certain refusal of dogmatic ideas or definitive procedures about the process of recasting newness itself. Since the mid 1950s, Saddiki had gradually, intuitively, and thoughtfully redeemed the totality of a large, limitless textual space of daily and contingent performativity, subliminally linked to internally "hybrid" classic pasts. Saddiki's vision was always to unearth modularity schemata inside Arabic dramatic convention. His masrah brings back a humanist streak of metissage happening inside one's cultural legacy. Of greater significance, he turns his new experimental masrah into a criticism of modernity's unfair effacement of Arab and Muslim figures.
For these reasons alone, recuperating a universal hadatha of the classical tradition has disordered the European theatrical "orthodoxy." The hadatha in Saddiki's experimental theater moves away from the Eurocentrism inherent in Orientalism or the one masqueraded by the native informant as epistemic violence. Above all, it discredits a postcolonial notion that conceives hybridity as de facto and a priori having birth at the European "center." A biofactual masrah has, therefore, confirmed that it is possible to resist the so-called liminality--stuck in an intransigent logic of postcolonial temporality. Such borderline has neglected to explain the atemporal freshness of dramatic ideas from within themselves.
It is only by moving away from certain annalistic and biographical determinism, theoretical or discursive "theatrics," that we may see Saddiki's masrah as an alternative to Badawi's suspension of epistemic independence (and the presence of an original trace of newness) in Arabic drama. For Saddiki, the new model of a biofactual masrah emerges without a localizable center or a historicizable periphery, but rather belongs to timelessness and worldliness. Biofacticity is irreversibly Saddiki's ingenious art of constant mediation between performed life and living performance. As Saddiki explains, "I am fond of enlightened texts. I have never been scared by the big oeuvres, but I know that our classics ensure and reassure spectators. ... The issue is never about the scarcity of texts but the skill to read them [properly]" (Par coeur 8).
[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article]
Youssef Yacoubi, I would like to dedicate this article to Drama professor Mrs. Rosalia Stamatakos in recognition of her tireless work and selfless dedication to theater in Agadir. She founded and directed the English Drama Club at Ibn Zohr University in 1988. I was a founding member and actor until 1993.
(1) All translations from Arabic, Moroccan Darija, and French are mine. They are intended for readability rather than fidelity to the original.
(2) Spivak explores the possibilities for narrative and counter-native in order to "clear out" the native informant from what she calls repressive "postcolonial masquerading" (A Critique 6).
(3) See also his Early Arabic Drama.
(4) See also Shmuel Moreh whose study departs from the modern work of Ya'qub Sannu' in order to trace its partial roots in the popular theater of medieval Islam and in turn to pre-Islamic "Near East." Moreh's conclusions reach the same level of epistemic effacement. Whilst Arabic drama always existed before the "modern" period, "it was absent without developing into a high art" (163).
(5) See Tayeb Saddiki's novel on his native town, Mogador Fabor. Sad diki also prefaced the French edition of another semi-autobiographical novel on Essaouira by another native of the city, Marcel Crespil. The latter retells the story of his Moroccan-Jewish mother, his own early childhood, and the interactions between Muslims, Jews, and Christians in Mogador, mon amour. Xlibris published an English and revised version of the novel in 2016.
(6) For detailed description of Saddiki's formative career as an actor, see Clement, chapter II, 80-106.
(7) Saddiki was also interested in structural and thematic connections between the theater of the absurd and classical Arabic drama. On this account, he translated and adapted Beckett's Waiting for Godot (as FT intizar Mabruk) around the time of the controversial disappearance of the revolutionary activist and intellectual Mehdi Ben Barka in Paris in 1965.
(8) The term is originally translated from the Pahlavi word, Zurwan, the name of a deity.
(9) Existential philosophy from Jean-Paul Sartre all the way to Heidegger and Nietzsche uses this term as a quality "of an internal distinction in existence." This distinction is defined in terms of "the categories of 'facticity' and 'transcendence,'" and the way human beings "coordinate" them. For a detailed biography and discussion within philosophy see "Existentialism."
(10) For a critique of Homi Bhabha's theory of hybridity, see Yacoubi.
(11) I am using the word "paradigm" in its original Greek meaning of "example" closer to the Arabic sense of namudhaj.
(12) This tendency for self-referential drama, that is, a play that speaks about its own process of making the way language speaks about itself, is typical of Saddiki's "modernistic" understanding of dramatic production. His comical dramatization of who the comedian is, for example, is expressed through the comedian's own self-dramatized mockery on stage as we see in his play Un incident technique independant de notre volonte.
(13) The Arabic translation from French of Arkoun's study is Nazariyat al- 'ansana fi-l-fikr al-'arabi.
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|Publication:||Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2019|
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