Maha Youssuf: Another Poisonous Book Hits Cairo Book Stores
Date posted: April 9, 2008
Another release by MALAMIH goes out the door!
The Poison Tree is not fiction as the book title may imply, but a compilation of blog posts and articles by Marwa Rakha, an active blogger and a unique talent with a sincere ability to give the most vivid description of human emotions, confusions and conflicts tormenting each one of us, even those who masterfully attempt to hide the dark sides of their personas.
The book comprises a group of letters, articles, and blog posts, elegantly woven into one extended chapter tackling one very general theme dominating throughout the book, i.e. gender differences and inequality as well as the lack of women's freedom in Egypt.
It's more of a scream of resentment staunchly criticising and rejecting, in the writer's own words, "a poisoned culture, suffocating traditions, taboos, and beliefs"; her sole perceptions of the Egyptian society, which she explicitly called "shame society".
On the other hand, I what greatly admired and found worth commenting on is the use of contemporary, or rather computer language. Words like "decoding", "archived", and "hibernating", which, in my opinion, very much resemble our present world, added a sensible touch of practicality to the work.
Coming to what I greatly hold against the book, it is the unjustified generalization of the somehow outdated social habits and present misconducts the writer listed, using some few bad apples as representative of the entire Egyptian population. She offers a grossly exaggerated bleak image of the Egyptian society, Egyptian men and women alike, as well as ethical norms inherited (good ones and religious traditions included), going so far as to hold traditions responsible for the failure of many of those who couldn't get on the right path, or were faced with some obstacles that stood in their way to success. Such unfair generalization, in my opinion, has watered down the good aspects of the book. What about all those successful dignitaries and independent talents sprouting everyday? Shouldn't they be put into consideration?!
Let's assume that the writer aims at breaking taboos and stereotypes – this could never be achieved by imposing new ones that are probably imported from other societies and doubtlessly don't fit well in ours- Of course I don't mean genuine freedom, which we all need, and I'm surely not referring to liberalism in the real sense of the word, which we all pursue.
My answer to the question the author strikes in the book about whether she's being too pessimistic or too realistic is; yes dear you're being so bitterly and unjustifiably pessimistic. I myself felt hugely overwhelmed and burdened with the negative energy and fury accumulated from reading The Poison Tree, not the first attempt at turning an internet blog into an actual book, and which I predict shall be rejected by Egyptians and Westerners alike.
I wouldn't really classify it as a great read, nonetheless it's a new writing attempt that worth a stopover.
Maha Youssuf totally hated my book.
My response on her blog was:
I am glad that you – at least – like my writing style
Beauty, as well as art and its interpretation, lies in the eyes of the beholder .. five people could see a painting of a field – the first might admire the reflection of the sun on the greenery, the second might ask why there are no birds, the third might ask why there are no people, the fourth might enjoy the color of the sky, and the fifth might ask which part of the world that is.
I hope that answered part of your question
As for alternatives and solutions, we spent our lives being spoon-fed .. it is about time we came up with our own conclusions and solutions.
None of the things I mentioned are fiction or made up – I get exposed to even worse issues via my OTV relationships segment; as I writer, I owe it to the readers to highlight the issues without pointing fingers at anyone (this is why instead of writing "they", I always wrote "I"), I also owe them an analysis, and it is up to each individual to question and to re-evaluate his/her behavior.
Thanks again Maha.