Cairo, Asharq al-Awsat- The Saudi writer Suad Jaber dedicates her first novel, ‘Silence Written by Absence,’ (Samt Yaktabuhu al Ghiyab) to every woman who has endured deprivation. Despite the enticement of the ambiguous title and regardless of good intention, which is irrelevant in literature, it is absurd and unfair to deal with this text as a novel that belongs to the category of fiction or as an open adventure that the reader categorizes according to his/her own emotions. The book is no more than a collection of literary thoughts on the other, i.e. “man,” expressed by the author. The book, mixed with emotional bias, is sometimes overwhelmed by feelings of love and longing and at other times by feelings of anger and hatred towards the other, who is cold and engrossed in himself to the degree of vanity. Meanwhile, perplexity and anxiety dominate the female vacuum and are expressed in the form of disclosure and pain, and secretive revelations tinged with feminine anxieties that are weighed down with the scent of loss and deprivation. This disclosure and pain is often obsessed by a frightened desire to break free of the shackles of society and man. When the ego fails in that, it maintains silence as an unspoken language of absence that resembles presence and vice versa.
Within the framework of this abnormal relation between man and woman, the game of collusion does not reveal conflict between two wills that struggle for one freedom; rather there is always the logic of the one who is capable of possessing and the one who is not. Man is conscious of his freedom, and he even builds it upon the wreckage of a woman’s freedom. Also, in his relations with her, he does not look for natural ground that maintains the privacy of each party. He is an egoistic creature who does not regard love as an act of freedom but, from his point of view, as a mere framework for social luxury and satisfaction of the sexual urge. Therefore, when a woman fails to find love, man becomes a bitter opponent.
Away from the boundaries of this relation, national patriotic concerns that are sometimes scattered across the narration are not expressed but rather appear as mumbles on the surface that does not live up to the level of striking conscious insofar as it is an attempt to demonstrate a sort of superficial excellence of female presence vis-à-vis male absence or weak presence until the female presence appears a certainty, whilst the latter retires to the shadow of this certainty.
In this fashion, we encounter this cry of protest against man in a message… “Draw the boundaries of the relationship you want…color them, shape them, write them, reject them, remove them … It does matter, because I will remain the woman who gave up her heartbeat to beat for you… I am the woman who gave the sweetest and finest of feelings. I am the woman who reached out to you, to hold you when you were overwhelmed by anxiety and boredom.” However, the powerful cry of the ego soon fades and becomes an elegy for the self and the other together when the spirit’s resistance collapses versus physical concerns and pressures of reality. The rebellious discourse then follows another pattern, “Today, I am not asking you to speak, but I call for your reading capability to read the pain and admonition in my eyes. Forgive me for today my words are unsure, unable to convey my meaning and my sentences are weak in expression and my lines bleed before your very eyes… I am not myself and my pen is not mine… A depressing feeling overwhelms me, and my desire for you stifles me.” The messages of the book proceed after this pattern. Man has no actual presence except through the narrator, i.e., the writer. He is no more than a recipient of her letter. “All my feelings began to abandon me… My anger, my love… I do not threaten or make revolutionary statements… I do not condemn or denounce. How far I am from these emotional onslaughts and cries that evoke your loyalty… My national defeats hurt me more than my individual ones… Today I stand on the borderline between existence and non-existence… It is your own life; enjoy it your own way. Do as you like. Fill your heart with sincere love or false emotions… Heed only the voice of ego within you… For me it suffices to have lived the dream so affectionately.”
Accordingly, indifference and lack of emotion and even lack of understanding and awareness of the nature of women is not condemnation towards man but is rather an actual and natural human phenomena that afflicts all elements, things and beings that constitute the system of the universe, and this is what the author failed to take into account and thus repeated and reproduced the same messages without an artistic justification, whether on the level of vision and meaning or on the level of how they are embodied and molded in the book.
Outcry, silence and absence remain artistic values with hollow meanings unless the secret relations and units that are hidden within their direct material existence are revealed. Consequently, I do not sympathize with the author’s anger that I regard as merely a transient outcry and casual accusation of an illusion to which she refers to as man or the other.