Sam Clarke, Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick
This article offers a comparative analysis of two contemporary Arabic novels, Elias Khoury's City Gates and Ibrahim al-Koni's The Seven Veils of Seth, in their respective attempts to conceptualise the homeland or nation. I first identify the contextual specificity of each novel, before proceeding to argue that each depicts the homeland as a contested space, one that is problematic, liminal, and in many ways lost to the characters. Yet while City Gates enables resistance, and a final reconstruction of the nation, The Seven Veils of Seth creates an intractable set of tensions which induce stasis and perpetuate the Tuareg homeland as an inaccessible and contested entity. Neither novel, however, transcends the alluring confines of isolationist retreat, for both fail to recognise the need for dialectical exchange or conversation between different peoples and perspectives. Both are monological, and in this lies their greatest limitation. For further research into this field, I argue, such 'conversation' must be investigated and endorsed both theoretically and politically, a venture which unfortunately escapes the reach of this particular piece.
Keywords: Khoury, City Gates, al-Koni, The Seven Veils of Seth, nation, homeland
Introduction: Phrasing the Problem
All Arab states, it has been argued, 'are plagued by populations lacking the sense of common identity that is the essential foundation of a true nation' (Mackey, 2009: 128). That is the driving principle of this article, the point upon which it will pivot. To speak of the Arab world, though, is to subsume under one entity a vast array of complex political histories and disparate cultural forms. No Arab state can be precisely equated with another, and this alignment, when forced, will serve only to neglect the distinctive texture and predicament of each Arab homeland. Qur'anic language and history may unite Arabs, but this does not, to borrow Eugene Rogan's image, diminish the 'constantly changing kaleidoscope' through which one perceives their enormous diversity: they 'are one people and many peoples at the same time' (2010: 14). Only when equipped with this insight can we begin to unravel the turbulent fabric of Arab political space without suffocating its fluid heterogeneity. By striking such a balance, I hope, in this article, to forge an authentic space of critique which other, more tokenising forms of analysis inevitably close down. In this gesture, I believe, lies the novelty and value of my research.
I must moreover specify that this article is not political or historical but primarily literary in nature, and that, methodologically, fiction will therefore act as the wellspring of my approach. This is due perhaps to my own affinity for literature, and my belief in its capacity to suspend and distil complex ideas without smothering their vitality. I do not intend to sketch a broad survey of the Arab literary landscape, for such a project would require skill and knowledge greater than my own and a breadth of scope not afforded here. Rather I shall select only two novels, and try, with caution, to extrapolate their specificity. I have deliberately chosen works disparate in context but contiguous in thematic orientation, as I want to illustrate both the tensions and harmonies which bind and separate sectors of the Arab world. Elias Khoury and Ibrahim al-Koni, whose respective novels City Gates and The Seven Veils of Seth will form the foundation of my article, emerge from and subsequently explore contexts which are entirely distinct from one another; both writers, though, present the homeland as a contested space, one that is liminal, problematic, and often lost to the characters in some way. My work here will be structured around this specific thematic observation and my ideas will unfold on its basis. In what follows I first situate the novels historically, in their respective contexts, before proceeding with a politically sensitised reading of how each depicts the nation or homeland. I study the homeland as a lost and contested space, before concluding with an appraisal of how it can be retrieved or reconfigured, and whether, in fact, each text renders this a possibility at all. Finally, I use this tension between loss and retrieval, stasis and kinesis, isolation and contact, to plot contemporary trajectories of resistance in the venture to rewrite Arab political space. How far, I want to ask, can we remake the homeland?
Elias Khoury is an intensely political writer, and to view City Gates as a text in isolation, entirely separate from his activism, his journalism and indeed his other fiction, would be to blunt its tremendous impact. City Gates is indissolubly linked to the Lebanese Civil War, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and whose early years saw the writing of Khoury's novel and its subsequent publication in 1981. The text engages with the realities of systematic and normalised violence which predominated across this period. Lebanon in its current incarnation is a contrived political design, a territory carved out of the Syrian coast in the wake of the Second World War; Khoury therefore documents the trials and horrors of a nation state still in its infancy by 1975 and lacking an established identity. Moreover, Lebanon's specific demographic character meant that disparate religious groups, including Christians, Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims and the Druze community, were faced with the perpetual challenge of accommodating one another peacefully. This 'myriad of minorities', as Allan Findlay calls it, created a palpable lack of cohesion which exploded violently in the civil war that Khoury recounts (Findlay, 1994: 13). The author himself, in an interview with Geneviève Simon, credits this religious disparity and the confessionalist political structure it created with 'the total paralysis of the country' (Simon, 2011: 3). Like the stranger in City Gates, who is locked in a peripatetic quest to find both his own centre and that of his city, Lebanon is a nation crying out for form, a frozen spectator of its own destruction.
Similar concerns are examined by Ibrahim al-Koni but in a radically altered context. Born in the Libyan desert near to the borders with Algeria and Niger, al-Koni was raised as a Tamajaq-speaking Tuareg, only learning Arabic at the age of twelve. For this writer, the homeland is the wild and arid yet spiritually nourishing desert, a spatial entity which Stefan Sperl defines as the 'chief protagonist in all' al-Koni's works (2005: 237). However, this homeland, and the nomadic ideology with which it is associated, is under threat. In The Seven Veils of Seth, al-Koni uses fiction to address the fraught political dangers that his Tuareg people face. In contrast to Khoury's Lebanon, a nation forged and demarcated by the West, ancient Tuareg territory has been suffocated by the newly created nation states imposed upon it: in a sort of political palimpsest, its space has been claimed. It is perhaps due to this that the very concept of 'nation' becomes redundant when approaching the contemporary Tuareg situation; scattered as they are across five officially recognised states, the Tuareg locate their true homeland in the desert and all that it signifies. As shall later be explored, though, even this space is contested and encroached upon, once by colonial powers and now through a specific contextual reality: uranium mining. Both City Gates and The Seven Veils of Seth thus emerge from notably disparate contexts which serve, nonetheless, to generate the nation or homeland as a contested entity, a problematised space breeding a fracture or breakage in identity.
With these contextual foundations established, we are now able to engage fully with the primary texts. Both novels begin with the introduction of a stranger, an outsider figure who is foreign to the space he attempts to enter. In City Gates, the stranger is alienated from his city and remains caught in the struggle to penetrate its walls, to revisit a space which is lost to him and to make sense of it. Khoury is expressing the predicament of a man trying to return home, to restore between himself and his space the topophilic links that war has irreparably severed. The very roads of Beirut are 'an extension of his emaciated, collapsing body'; his city's pain is his own, its demolition the tangible source of his bodily and sensory distortion (Khoury, 2007: 3). The stranger in The Seven Veils of Seth both complements and forms a contrast to Khoury's protagonist. Isan is a nomadic traveller who enters and disrupts the focal space of the novel, a sedentary oasis. Unlike the stranger in City Gates, Isan is not estranged from his desert homeland but remains fully connected to it, furiously espousing its Lost Law and, as 'either Seth himself or a latter-day avatar', operating as its very representative (Hutchins, 2008: ix). However, despite their ostensible disparity, Isan does perform a similar role to Khoury's stranger, for his active exposition of nomadic values prompts us to consider competing and often irreconcilable notions of both the homeland and space itself. The novels' protagonists, though sharply distinct in their outward manifestation, therefore trigger a critical discourse or process of reflection on the nature of space and the homeland.
This discourse is inevitably shaped by memory. In City Gates, the trauma of national collapse persists in the consciousness of the protagonist, who is unable to extricate himself from the bonds of history's violence and perpetually relives the destruction of his city. As Henri Bergson has written, however brief and fleeting we may suppose it to be, every moment of perception 'always occupies a certain duration, and involves, consequently, an effort of memory which prolongs, one into another, a plurality of moments' (2002: 96). Perception cannot be measured precisely in concrete terms, for it endures continuously in the very structure of experience: this idea of perception is articulated by Khoury in City Gates and formally distilled in his narrative strategy. The plot is not linear, as Nouri Gana observes, but 'unfolds in a dizzyingly recessive circuit' which articulates past trauma as an enduring feature of the present (2010: 514). Particularly illuminating are the novel's opening lines:
He doesn't remember how his story began, because he doesn't know. He saw himself in the middle of the story and didn't ask how it began, because he was busy with its ending. And when the ending came he found that he didn't know the ending either, and that the others didn't know the ending, because the ending can't be known, because the ending is an ending.
(Khoury, 2007: 3)
The stranger is caged by his own story, a narrative of horror whose origins remain obscured and whose ending recedes perpetually into the distance. As Edward Said writes, for Khoury 'the past is discredited, the future completely uncertain, the present unknowable' (2007: xviii). Beirut continues to fragment in a reality replayed by Khoury through a series of images which flicker beneath the surface of his allegory. Robert Fisk, the British foreign correspondent who himself was witness to much of the conflict in Lebanon, recalls in the aftermath of the bombing of the Beirut barracks in October 1983 running 'up to a smoking crater, 20 feet deep and 40 wide' (2001: 512).This event occurred two years after the publication of City Gates but depicts a reality which persisted in Beirut for the entire duration of the civil war.
Such desolation is the highly tangible subtext of City Gates, as Khoury depicts both the advent of attack, 'a hissing sound getting louder' (2007: 48), and its ominous aftermath, 'a winding road full of broken pieces of wood' (2007: 36). Fisk moreover writes of the trees torn up by bombs, 'carpeting the rubble and concrete in a premature autumn of dark green leaves' (2001: 514). Khoury's stranger, similarly, is likened to the 'forests whose trees have been cut down' (2007: 37) and sees, scattered across the floor, 'the flowers [which look] like his memory. Lumps of torn papers and a scent. It [is] the scent of memory' (2007: 31). The protagonist, 'afraid of getting lost', marks his spot by drawing 'seven circles around the sand with his finger', an implicit reference to the circular bomb craters so typical of Beirut's landscape in this period (2007: 21). To replicate this circular pattern is an attempt to rationalise it, to see it, again and again, to forge an order through the chaos it inevitably denotes. Khoury's fundamental strategy, therefore, is to create two spaces, two nations, two homelands: there is the Lebanon of the past, and the current Lebanon. It is between these spaces that Khoury constructs an impregnable bond, a dialectic in which the memory of the former paralyses the latter.
It is precisely this duality of contested space which al-Koni explores in The Seven Veils of Seth, first through the desert and finally in Waw, the lost Tuareg paradise. Though Isan is unequivocally an advocate of nomadic travel, the position of the Tuareg settlers is intensely problematic and forms the centre of this text. The nomads, under the impact of foreign colonial pressure, drought, or simply filial ties, have settled in the oasis and lost contact with their true Tuareg identity. This explicit link between space and identity is underlined by Sabry Hafez when, in a different context, he posits 'the oasis as the spatial opponent of the desert and as a site for the negation of all its values', for any 'flight to the oasis implicitly declares the decay of the desert, a carnal sin in the Law of the desert' (2002: 69). Isan, to use Freudian terms, signals a return of the repressed: he is not required to enlighten the Tuareg about nomadic ideology, for they are, on the contrary, painfully aware of it. Isan serves rather to catalyse this latent inclination to travel, to lift the tribe out of complacency and bring them spiritual deliverance. This is neatly captured in the scene where Isan receives Elelli, the oasis sage, as a guest. Elelli, we are told, first arrives 'in the oasis as a transient, intending to leave' (al-Koni, 2008: 47), but later settles and sentences himself, in his words, to a life of 'lethargy followed by death' (2008: 48). Throughout his encounter with Isan, Elelli is distracted by the desert, which he views from the tomb and traverses both with his eyes and spirit: 'still pre-occupied by his voyage to the horizons', he communes with and speaks from 'an ever-distant homeland' (2008: 49). The Tuareg predicament is here evoked with potent clarity, for Elelli is shown to exist in two spaces at once: like Khoury's protagonist, he is torn between his true homeland, the desert, and the present site of alienation, in this case not the ravaged city of Beirut but an oasis.
This duality of space generates a Tuareg identity which is irreducibly liminal. Moreover, the oasis itself is a space of intrinsic ambivalence: like the village of al-Tiba in 'Abd al-Rahman Munif's Endings, the oasis in Seth is neither an urban centre, such as the city, nor is it truly a part of the desert. The tribe has therefore not only lost the desert but exchanged it for a space which inherently, and due to its nature, denies them the ability to construct a new identity. It is to this that Isan refers when he laments the placatory 'nomadism of appeasement' currently practised by the tribe, which is 'not the maxim-driven nomadism of which the Law speaks' (al-Koni, 2008: 77). For Isan, to pursue exactly these maxims is to restore the space of the desert and 'migrate to search for our selves' in a homeland which is less spatial than existential (2008: 112). The true desert will purify through hardship, for it is this very hardship which 'has a moral function; it imparts courage, abstemiousness and nobility, and may even guide man to his inner self' (Sperl, 2005: 244).
It is precisely this 'inner self' which leads us to the concept of Waw, the ancient Tuareg paradise. The original Arabic title of the novel translates directly into English as In Search of the Lost Place, a notably poignant phrase for us to here consider. As William Hutchins writes in his introduction to Seth, the 'quest for the lost paradise of the oasis Waw is a frequent theme of works by al-Koni, including this novel' (2008: xii). The full significance of this space begins to emerge in 'Longing', an aptly titled chapter which charts the evening rituals of the tribe. The women turn 'to poetry's sanctuary', releasing 'melancholy songs endowed with a longing […] as ancient as the eternal desert and […] dispatched to honor a Beloved as ancient as the eternal sky' (al-Koni, 2008: 21). The maidens of the tribe express the tangible grief of longing in their very bodies. Like the village women in Munif's Endings, whose hysterical weeping and 'rhythmic, orderly dance' create 'elements of sadness, joy, pleasure, insanity and anger' as they lament the loss of 'Assaf (Munif, 2007: 137), the Tuareg women here serve to activate catharsis, to capture in their ululating rhythms the very beat of grief. In this respect, the women of both this and Khoury's novel perform highly analogous roles. In contrast to the protagonist, whose 'words don't come out', the women of City Gates cry openly together; they facilitate longing and furnish it with a form of artistic release (Khoury, 2007: 22). The maidens in Seth, similarly, are the partly fantastical gateway to Waw, able through their poetry to restore contact with the original Tuareg homeland, albeit briefly. This induces among Isan and the other tribesmen a mystical experience, as they crawl 'on their hands and knees in ecstasy', fixed 'in a trance-like state of altered consciousness' (al-Koni, 2008: 22), in symptoms which recall the ineffable but 'all-encompassing feeling of joy' which seizes the stranger of City Gates as he hears the women's words (Khoury, 2007: 10).
It is Isan's subsequent behaviour which truly illuminates this passage: releasing a 'lethal groan', he flees 'from the place behind the hill, from the oasis, and from the entire desert', to 'the orchard' (al-Koni, 2008: 22). Crucially, it is not only the oasis but also the desert which Isan now leaves behind. Al-Koni is here conceptualising a homeland which not only transcends the spatial binary of oasis and desert but forms its very purpose, for it is precisely physical travel of the desert which enables one to recuperate the self and, as a result, to access Waw: as Isan later declares, 'wandering is itself a verse of poetry' (2008: 164). This entails an inevitable attempt to eclipse space and time completely, for the orchard, or Waw, is a 'place where physical space does not exist' (2008: 22). Later, when she visits Isan and enchants him with her poetry, Tamanokalt states definitively that 'the place Waw is not one we can locate in space and that the Waw era is not one we can bring back in time' (2008: 195). The true origin of the Tuareg is thus remote from space and time, an idyllic but intangible paradise which they are united in their effort to reclaim.
It is exactly this effort to reclaim the homeland which forms the dynamic base of City Gates, a text which engages with the postmodern paradigm of stasis versus kinesis. This is a novel which destroys the nation in order to rebuild it, a novel which simulates so closely the effects of trauma in order to survive them, to administer a shift or kinetic trigger through which we might imagine something new. Despite its ostensibly apocalyptic ending, this text follows a trajectory and shows a narrative in process. The stranger, who is introduced as 'carrying papers, pencils, and notebooks', is perhaps the metafictional embodiment of Khoury, who himself is attempting to write both his own story and that of his nation (Khoury, 2007: 9). As Amyuni writes, Khoury's novel is charting 'the artist's difficult search for meaning and self-expression in a fragmented city' (1987: 40-41). Moreover, after losing his papers, the stranger finds them again only to discover that 'the words [have] been erased'; all spatial references are now lost, irretrievably, and prior artistic forms no longer have resonance (Khoury, 2007: 26). Yet, for Khoury, such loss also creates a space, a vacancy we can occupy with a new self, a new nation, and an artistic mode sufficiently equipped to express it. For most of the novel, the protagonist's perspective is refracted through those of the stranger, the man, and the narrator, each a disparate fragment of his subjectivity. Further still, it is the narrator who, through free indirect discourse, reports the thoughts of the stranger; with his own words no longer 'useful for anything', the protagonist must imagine himself as a stranger, whose life is narrated externally and in the third person, in order to proceed (Khoury, 2007: 4). Yet, as Nouri Gana argues, 'only by becoming totally unrecognizable to oneself and one's surroundings [… ] does one aspire to be transformed and, more important, to transform the existing norms of intelligibility that grant and withhold recognition' (2010: 529). To externalise the ruptured self, therefore, is to generate the critical distance required for its reconstruction. It is only with this that the stranger, the man and the narrator can finally converge as a single entity. The last chapter, entitled 'The Stranger', begins with the voice of an 'I':
And I say, I am the one who says, I am the one who. But I no longer remember, and this square doesn't remember, and I am here […] and I see the whiteness. This whiteness that plunges into my eyes, this whiteness and this square. I see and I see the women. And the stranger was there.
(Khoury, 2007: 89)
Crucially, here, the 'I' no longer reports the thoughts of the stranger; indeed it cannot, for he is shown in the final sentence to stand separately. Rather, the 'I' is the voice of the narrator, who is now 'here' and able to retrace his experience without the stranger as a distancing interface. The man, too, is 'here' in the square, as the former fragments of the protagonist reconcile in this lucid rejuvenation of the self.
Only with this change can the new nation become possible. This epistemological shift has imbued life with 'a new taste', as everything changes, 'even the weeping' (Khoury, 2007: 90). As the fires incinerate Beirut, scores of men and women evacuate and flee; some 'go to the sea and don't come back, and some go to a faraway place and walk along barren soil filled with brackish waters' (Khoury, 2007: 91). Here, in what Amyuni calls 'an oblique allusion to the departure of many Beiruti residents during the war, Khoury affirms the need to stay and not betray one's city' (1987: 41). As the woman asks 'for whom' they should 'leave the city', the man responds: 'nobody' (Khoury, 2007: 93). The man resolves to sit down and claim this space, to invest its ruins with a capacity for renewal. It is this to which Khoury refers, in a political essay on Syria, when he writes of the 'hope that comes out of grief', and the 'anticipation that stems from the depth of despair' (2011: 2). The spatial references are lost, but the space of Beirut itself remains available and can thus be reconstituted. Further still, the city of the past, lost forever in the explosions, is also for Khoury an irreducibly colonial and therefore problematic space; to reproduce the immediate past prior to its collapse would be to perpetuate the fraught political reality which caused the war originally. Before the civil war, much Lebanese architecture was the product of French design and therefore carried its colonial signification; with these monuments now in ruin, one can begin, both physically and metaphorically, to build a new city untainted by imperial origin. As Amyuni writes, one can 'bear the torch, and show the way: it is difficult but not impossible' (2000: 112). By resolving to stay, the protagonist of City Gates transcends the static, contested and liminal space which exists between past and present, and finds a path forward, to a new future, to a homeland which emerges, finally, from the fountain of its pain.
For the Tuareg, however, stasis is incurable. The tribe is caught in the oasis, a liminal space which induces spiritual decay. Moreover, the effort to recapture Waw, the true homeland which exists beyond time and space, is also liminal and contested. Waw exists only in memory and is thus distorted by fantasy and nostalgia; it is accessed by the Tuareg only in a state of 'altered consciousness', an ephemeral trance which forces them to hover between the physical and supernatural realms at once (al-Koni, 2008: 22). This is not satisfactory, and invites one to consider how Tuareg identity can be sustained and performed in physical space. For Isan, as we earlier established, the desert is the answer, and only by physical travel of its land do we find our inner selves and restore cohesion to our identity. Yet, crucially, such travel is made untenable by the political predicament of the Tuareg: their land has been claimed, both by nation states and, more specifically, by foreign corporations who mine the desert for uranium. It is here that the full political weight of Seth is revealed, for the text records the devastating effects of uranium extraction in certain Tuareg territory like Niger. The nomads of this region, writes Cordula Meyer, 'are finding fewer and fewer pastures for their cattle, and people are affected by fatal illnesses' (2010: para. 14). The mining contaminates water and produces radioactive dust; it is precisely this dust to which al-Koni alludes through the 'malignant' powder that Isan deposits in the pool (al-Koni, 2008: 93). It is when 'exposed to the desert winds', Meyer further writes, that this dust travels far across the desert and causes most damage (2010: para. 18). The sandstorm at the end of the novel, which is 'heavily laden with dust' and destroys the oasis completely, is an acute testament to Meyer's observation (al-Koni, 2008: 283). The oasis, which for nomads is already the site of spiritual death, has now become a source of illness, a debilitating cancer which al-Koni articulates in the sterility of the tribe's women. Yet the Tuareg cannot move and disperse into the desert, for unlike the Beirut of Khoury's novel, that space has been claimed. The homeland in Seth is thus irreducibly contested, a fraught and elusive space which defies resolution.
Conclusion: Persistent Problems, New Directions
City Gates and The Seven Veils of Seth therefore unite and diverge at once in their endeavour to express the homeland. Though emerging from vastly disparate contexts, both writers exhibit a deep thematic preoccupation with the nation, the homeland, and space itself. Each text deploys as its protagonist a stranger, an outsider who functions to activate a discourse or protracted critical reflection on the status of the homeland. For Khoury, such discourse resorts inevitably to memory, while past trauma persists in the very structure of present experience. This creates an affective distortion which Khoury articulates both formally and in his holographic layering of imagery. The result is to create two spaces, a paralysing duality which Seth reflects in the binary opposites of desert and oasis. The tribesmen, who are caught between these spaces, practise a liminal 'nomadism of appeasement' which obscures the true self (al-Koni, 2008: 77). This self originates in Waw, the lost oasis of the Tuareg, a paradise fleetingly reclaimed through poetry. In City Gates, Khoury fragments the self in order to reconstitute it; this instigates a shift in the narrative, a kinetic impulse which leads the protagonist to stay and rebuild his city. In Seth, however, this shift is absent, for the political subtext of the novel renders untenable both the effort to stay and the urge to roam. In this lies the true distinction between these novels.
Yet, we may finally add, in neither text is the picture of the homeland exhaustive or complete: in City Gates, the fractured self is the only self; it is the sole voice of Lebanon, a voice which is tragic, and needed, but whose cry is all that we hear. The origins of the war are unexplored, its other side buried and left in silence. Seth, similarly, is framed by a third-person narrator, one which is anonymous, monological, and gives only one account of Tuareg reality. Each writer resists any perspective foreign to his own, as perhaps he should; the result, though, is a narrow and singular image of the homeland, the specificity of which is also the source of its limit. It is this final tension, a lingering note of discord, which the novels truly share.
How, then, can we dynamise resistance and restore the political reciprocity required to rejuvenate the homeland? Recent turbulences left in the wake of the Arab Spring of 2011 attest to the need, now more than ever, for a dialectical conversation between Arab peoples, an embracement of contact, and process, which reductive and monological perspectives too often cut off. The electric ignition of resistance requires as its predicate a capacity not only to shout but moreover to listen. In this article, I hope to have shown that the homeland is fractured and contested in two contextually disparate novels. But for these texts to retreat into the shelter of isolationism, as, I believe, they do, entails an even greater mistake and creates a problematic even harder to unpick. The resonating insight of this article, therefore, would be the encouragement of a new and politically pertinent epistemological direction, a dialectical investment in conversation between peoples, perspectives and spaces which may otherwise remain blind to one another. We cannot assume to master this task completely; rather we should sit on the cusp or precipice of its inception, and, from within that very tension, begin to reconstruct the homeland. That such a project lies beyond the confines of this article is by now, I should hope, clear, but the attempt to signal that future, to glimpse its origins, has been the limited and yet the most tenacious hope of my work here.
Acknowledgement must first go to the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning at the University of Warwick and the Warwick Opportunity Fund (consisting of generous donations made by Warwick's Alumni and Friends) which provided the sufficient funds for me to attend the BCUR. I also wish to thank Dr Cathia Jenainati, without whose expertise and support this article would not have been possible. For her devoted teaching on the 'Comparative Perspectives on Arabic Literature' module, and for her guidance throughout the BCUR process, I am in great debt to her. Thanks must go to Dr Jenainati, and to Dr Emma Mason also, for their early (and sustained) faith in my academic abilities, and their function as invaluable sources of support. My deepest gratitude, though, lies with my family, specifically my parents and brother, whose care and advice receive ultimate credit for the publication of this work and, indeed, for all successes in my life elsewhere.
 Sam Clarke is about to enter his third year at the University of Warwick, where he reads English Literature. He plans a future career in academia and is currently researching options for postgraduate study.
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To cite this paper please use the following details: Clarke, S. (2012), 'Lost in Space: Crisis of the Nation and Homeland in Contemporary Arabic Fiction', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, British Conference of Undergraduate Research 2012 Special Issue, www.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/issues/bcur2012specialissue/clarke. Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal@warwick.ac.uk.