Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Significance of the Arabic Names in "The Book of Eternity"

The calculator says that I have read 32% of the novel. Eighty-six pages from 265 pages means a third, almost. But since when reading novels was gauged with a calculator and a percent?
I meant not to gauge but, just to see, if I am at the position, of having the right, of writing something about "The Book of Eternity" of the well-known Iraqi writer Abdul-Khaliq Al-Rikabi.

The cover of the novel is elegant, something that is new to Iraqi book market. The cover shows a painting that I have seen somewhere but ignore any information about. 

In the minibus, from 8 a.m. till 9:30 to reach central Baghdad where I had to ask for some personal papers from a governmental institute, I succeeded, strangely, to read 86 papers in Arabic. I forgot I can read fast. Lately I tried to read English novels and I am so slow in reading them.
"The Book of Eternity" tells the story of Waheed Hilmy, a young novelist living in a small unnamed city other than Baghdad. Arab names have literal meanings and Waheed, a common Arabic name, means "Lonely", and Hilmy, another common Arab name, means "Dreamy". It is common in Arabic countries that you ask the person whom you just met about the meaning of his/her name, if it happens that you don't know its literal meaning. So Wahhed Hilmy, or the lonely dreamy young writer, is telling us his story in the novel. His story with one of the experienced writers, who is trying to travel to Baghdad (hence we knew that the place of the novel is another city, not Baghdad); Hanan, the literature student who is helping Waheed Hilmy in his research about the experienced writer and whose name, Hanan, literally means "Sympathy" or "Compassion"; Thabit Dhari, the envious jealous evil literature critic, whose name literally means "Stable Predator" (Thabit=stable or fixed; and Dhari = Predator or ferocious) and who thinks that we must put boundaries for reality and other boundaries for fiction; Talal Shakir, the painter and the sculptor, the man who loves Beethoven and whose works are appreciated by the young writer, a thing that led Talal to present one of his sculptures, a tree partially wounded by an axe, to Waheed as a present. Talal literally means "Fine Rain" and Shakir literally means "Thankful". Talal Shakir had an episode of paralysis in the past years which left him with severe muscle weakness a thing that affected his movements and especially his sculptures. Talal's girlfriend, who is like Hanan, decorative but helpful to the man, is named Thuha, a name literally means "Forenoon", or "Morning".
Talal Shakir has a dream of building some sculptors in the centre of his city, sculptors that contain clocks, clocks as a beholder of time, a "metaphysical eye" as was called by Waheed,  a dream that was discussed with the young novilist, Waheed Hilmy, a dream that made Waheed Hilmy, remembers Talal Shakir the sculpture every time he sees a watch or a clock or a watch.
Waheed dialogue with Talal was about time and place and their relation to art. The difference of the relation of music from a side, novels from another side, to time and place. Waheed dialogues are always attracting the readers eyes, like when he argued Thabit Dhari's idea about the insignificance of putting boundaries to reality, and boundaries to fiction. Modernity, and our place as Easterners, Iraqis especially, in the face of it.
So, four male personalities, and 2 females. The males have a full name (name of the person and his father), while females have only their names. The two females' names meant: sympathy, and forenoon. While the males names varied from unknown (the experienced writer), alone dreamy, fixed predator, to fine-rain thankful. The two females served as facilitators for males to play their role.
Are the females' names' meanings wider than the males?
What is the significance of the painting in the cover of the novel?
What is the significance of that particular piece of music composed by Beethoven that aided in Talal's partial healing from paralysis?
Would tomorrow's trip to central Baghdad in the aim of finishing my personal papers help me in finding some answers? Or at least, posing other questions?       

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