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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Transcultural journeys in Mahjoub's historical novels
Author:Kearney, J.A.
Periodical:Research in African Literatures
Geographic terms:Sudan
Subjects:historical novels
culture contact
About person:Jamal Mahjoub (1960-)
Abstract:Jamal Mahjoub's two historical novels reveal intense engagement with various forms of transculturation, ranging from the power-driven imposition of a new culture, to a willing absorption of the knowledge offered by another culture, or a reciprocal sharing of understanding between two cultures. In the first novel, 'In the Hour of Signs' (1996), Mahjoub, whose life has been full of transcultural journeys, sets up a central tension between the antitranscultural mission of the Muslim prophetic figure, the Mahdi, and the philosopher, Hawi, who more sincerely values the downtrodden whom the Mahdi claims to represent, and who is open to transcultural influence. Avoiding generalizations about the two opposed sides in the Sudanese war of the late 19th century, Mahjoub distinguishes between the receptivity of military leaders on both sides in terms of transcultural awareness. A similarly penetrating portrayal of the more ordinary people's lives reveals startling differences, in relation to transcultural potential, between two young dispossessed people, the woman Noon, and the youth, Kadaro. In the second novel, 'The Carrier' (1998), Mahjoub highlights the forces of prejudice and fear as major obstacles to transcultural developments. To those who have managed to rise above such insidious influences - Rashid, the dispossessed young Arab whom fate has brought to Denmark in the 17th century, as well as Danish farmer-astronomer, Heinesen, and his sister Sigrid - transculturation, chiefly here through historical research, is a fervently desired goal. As in the first novel, however, the forces of resistance prove more powerful and one is left in suspense as to the possibility of any lasting transcultural achievement. Bibliogr., sum. [Journal abstract]