Hyperrhiz 16

Transcontinental Texts: Reality or Fantasy? Muhammad Sanajilah's Novel Chat as a Sample

Eman Younis
Academic College for Education–Beit Berl

Citation: Younis, Eman. “Transcontinental Texts: Reality or Fantasy? Muhammad Sanajilah's Novel Chat as a Sample.” Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, no. 16, 2017. doi:10.20415/hyp/016.e05


This study attempts to investigate the possibility of writing a transcontinental global text that aims to negate the element of Place in some digital texts in modern Arabic literature.

However, since the end of the last century, and after the technological revolution that the world has witnessed in the field of communications and the Internet, and after the emergence of electronic publishing and digital literature, we started noticing a new phenomenon in the third Millennium, in which some texts started to show tendency to negate the Actual Place and replace it with a Virtual Place as the scene of events.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to printed literature as it exists also in certain digital works like those by the Jordanian writer, Muhammad Sanajilah, and others. This phenomenon of Place-Negation in literary texts in general and digital texts in particular lead us to wonder: has the era of the novels that adopted Place as their basis such as Khan al-Khalili, Zaqaq al-Midaq, A'id ila Haifa ended? Has the era of similar poems that are based on Place such as Ashiq min Filistine/A Lover from Palestine and Fi al-Quds disappeared? Will we be talking about transcontinental novels and poems, whose target is a broader audience who live in a Virtual Reality? Will literature, as a result of Place-Negation, fall in the trap of globalization, which will deprive it of its identity and belonging to its cultural authorities? Can the absence of the real Place actually empty the literary works of their ethnic, social and political authorities? Is it possible to separate a text from its historical contexts just because it is an international text that is cast through international channels, employs international technicalities, and is targeted at the readers of the whole world?

The study tries to give answers to these questions through dealing with some literary Arabic works, in which the feature of Place-Negation appears, with a special focus on the novel Chat, which reflects Sanajlila's theory regarding Virtual Place and its domination of the human life in the future.

Transcontinental Texts: Reality or Fantasy?

This study attempts to investigate the possibility of writing a transcontinental global text that aims to negate the element of Place in some digital texts in modern Arabic literature.

“Place” is considered one of the main elements that offers the text its identity and defines its national and cultural authority, in addition to its different semiotic dimensions and indications.

This feature has drawn the interest of theoreticians in the last few decades, and a lot of critical studies have been written about this subject. Modern Arabic literature, mainly the Palestinian discourse, has gained the largest interest since it deals with a usurped place and the struggle of a people to regain it. Besides, it deals with the problematic nature of this struggle, whether in the usurped place or the places of refuge. In view of this unique Palestinian situation, the whole literary Palestinian discourse is felt to be based on the painful feeling about Place, and consequently, the concept of Place has been established on the basis of contrast between what used to be and what is now, between the dream of homeland and the reality of diaspora.

The reader can notice the revelations of Place and its particularity in Arabic literature in general even at the level of the titles of the literary text, its poesy and narration, many of which include specific geographical places.

However, since the end of the last century, and after the technological revolution that the world has witnessed in the field of communications and the Internet, and after the emergence of electronic publishing and digital literature, we started noticing a new phenomenon in the third Millennium, in which some texts started to show tendency to negate the Actual Place and replace it with a Virtual Place as the scene of events. For example, the two lovers in these texts do not meet at a public garden or a café or a restaurant, as the case is in traditional texts. Besides, there is no mention of the name of the village, the town or the city, to which they belong; their meetings take place through the electronic screen only, as if they meet outside the boundary of time and space in their realistic concepts.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to printed literature as it exists also in certain digital works like those by the Jordanian writer, Muhammad Sanajilah, who is considered one of the most enthusiastic writers regarding the issue of Place-Negation. In his theoretical book, Riwayat al-Waqi'iyya al-Raqmiyya/ The Novel of Virtual Reality (2005), Sanajilah argues that Virtual Reality will overcome Actual Reality because the human being in the coming years will be living a fully virtual life, where he will study at virtual schools and universities, will buy his clothes from virtual stores, will love virtually, will get married virtually, and will even make love virtually. In this way, the virtual place will become the future place, which will join all the people of the world in one international crucible outside the boundaries of geography (Place) and earthly calendar (Time).

This phenomenon of Place-Negation in literary texts in general and digital texts in particular lead us to wonder: has the era of the novels that adopted Place as their basis such as Khan al-Khalili, Zaqaq al-Midaq, A'id ila Haifa ended? Has the era of similar poems that are based on Place such as Ashiq min Filistine/ A Lover from Palestine and Fi al-Quds disappeared? Will we be talking about transcontinental novels and poems, whose target is a broader audience who live in a Virtual Reality? Will literature, as a result of Place-Negation, fall in the trap of globalization, which will deprive it of its identity and belonging to its cultural authorities? Can the absence of the real Place actually empty the literary works of their ethnic, social and political authorities? Is it possible to separate a text from its historical contexts just because it is an international text that is cast through international channels, employs international technicalities, and is targeted at the readers of the whole world?

The study tries to give answers to these questions through dealing with some literary Arabic works, in which the feature of Place-Negation appears, with a special focus on the novel Chat, which reflects Sanajlila's theory regarding Virtual Place and its domination of the human life in the future.

1. Introduction

At first sight, it seems that the enthusiasm of some critics and writers to talk about “globalized literature” is a fore granted issue in the shadow of what we witness regarding globalization in every aspect of life, such as the restaurant chains of pitza and hamburger, pop music, and clothes trademarks. The question that poses itself is: does that apply to literature? If yes, what does Globalization mean within the limits of literary criteria? 

To answer this question, it is necessary that we define the concept of Globalization of literature in this context, as it is possible to separate between two different dimensions. This view correlates with the views of Muhammad Fayek, the General Secretary of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, who maintains that Globalization has two main dimensions: one is material and the other is related to content. What concerns us here is the concentration on the dimension of content of Globalization. However, it is necessary to give a simplified clarification to the materialistic dimension also as the two dimensions are connected to each other.

2. The materialistic dimension of globalization of literature

2.1 Technique is the instrument of creativity in the 21st century

The term “materialistic dimension of globalized literature” means that all writers in the world employ the same techniques and instruments and the same styles of writing and creating new literary texts, which leads to international similarity of texts at the level of form and style. The techniques, instruments and styles can vary and develop in the course of time according to the changes that take place in society in various fields.

This subject is not new to literature. If we go back to history, we will find that literature along the ages has benefitted a lot from the developments that have taken place in various fields and has borrowed some of their techniques and employed them according to its special style. For instance, literature borrowed from music the phenomena of multiple sounds and as a result, the polyphonic novel appeared. It also benefitted from psychology, which led to the creation of the novel of stream of consciousness. From cinema, it borrowed some of its techniques such as flashback. In addition to that, literature borrowed the style of exoticism and the style of the oxymoron in poetry. It also borrowed other artistic styles, which soon spread to other types of literature in the world. Thus, these forms are no more exclusive to a certain literature rather than the other.

Since the current age is the age of technological literature, the writers have also had to benefit from what technology offers them in this field so that they would produce a different literature from the perspective of technique, style and structure, and at the same time, express the spirit of new age we are living in. Consequently, they changed the older tools of pen and paper with new tools of multimedia, which led to the birth of digital literature, which integrates technology and the word with splendid techniques and different creative styles.

It is no wonder then that digital literature is globalized as a new style of literature through which it is introduced in the cloth of technology. As soon as this literature appeared in the United States, many writers from different parts of the world rushed to adopt. It was inevitable that Arabic literature be affected by the changes that surrounded it. Thus, it also adopted them in order that it would not continue singing out of tune!

Digital Literature appeared in the Arab world in 2001, when Sanajilah wrote his first interactive novel Zilal al-Wahed (One's Own Shadows), which was followed by another novel called Chat (2003) and a third one called Saqi' (Frost). His fourth novel, Zilal al-Ashiq (Shadows of the Lover), appeared in 2016. Very few writers in the Arab world followed suit and took up digital literature: the two poets Abd al-Noor Idris and Mun'em al-Azraq; novelist Muhammad al-Ashweka from Morocco; poet Mushtaq Abbas Ma'en from Iraq. Despite these attempts, digital Arabic literature is still taking slow steps from the point of view of quantity in comparison with what is happening in the Western world.  

The question that arises here is this: Can the amount of digital literature that has appeared internationally be considered sufficient to make us claim that digital literature is the literature of the 21st century?

In fact, despite the efforts that are made in the Arab world in this direction, printed literature is still taking the lead. As for digital literature, it seems that this period is no more than a problematic experience that is still dangling between tide and ebb, between acceptance and unacceptance in the literary circles.

Of course, there are many factors that hinder the establishment and rooting of digital literature in the Arab world. Some of these are the economic factor and the abysmal digital gap between the developed and developing countries. Digital literature requires large economic resources and high cost, which are not available to most writers in the developing countries. Such resources are completely absent from Third World countries. It should be pointed out that a large number of Arab writers of the previous generation suffer from “computer illiteracy.” In addition, the Arab mentality largely refuses change and going out of the familiar easily. As we see, digital literature requires breaking the many invariables upon which we have grown, regarding the concept of literature, and the roles of the reader and the writer.

In view of this, even if we suppose that digital literature is an inevitable result of the development of tools of writing and creativity in the shadow of the current technological changes and developments, talking about globalization of these tools and considering them to be the style of writing that will be adopted internationally in the modern period is too early, as it will require a longer period than we expected till it becomes an established fact.

3.The content dimension of globalization of literature

3.1 Presence of place and definition of text authority

From the content point of view, the term 'globalization of literature' is intended to refer to any literature in general that imitates the human being wherever he is, and deals with the general issues that are related to the people who are living on Planet Earth, irrespective of their race, religion, gender, nationality, or geographical place.

From the content perspective, the concept of globalization motivates us to pose the following queries: Is it possible in reality to globalize literature from the point of view of content? Will globalization impose on the book writers to be interested in general international issues instead of shrinking into national and individual private cares? Is it possible to write transcontinental literature that is free of its identity and imitates the people of this planet everywhere? Will digital literature be the only authorized version for writing a globalized literature?

Our review of some poetic and narrative literary Arabic works reveals that interest in the local place to which these works belong has shrunk under the pressure of the requirements of globalization. It seems that the texts has been separated from reality in order to fly high into wider spaces. This impression led us to connect between the phenomenon of Place-Negation and globalization of literature, which is desired by certain critics.

There is no doubt that the presence of Place is an important element in literature. The Western and Arabic critical studies unanimously agree on the importance of Place in literary texts due to the amount of the different semiotic indications that it suggests. The modern Arabic novel has shown interest in the aesthetics of Place in the same way as the international novel has shown since the 19th century. Large dwelling places, especially big cities, have occupied a prominent position in the contemporary Arabic novel due to the fact that the Arabic novel appeared in the Arab world in a similar way to its appearance in Europe. Both appeared with the appearance of the middle class in big cities and the intertwinement of the relations between the groups of this class. This similarity made critics consider the novel as an urban being, and we rarely find a novel that does not deal with a city and the events that take place in it. Thus, we know about Cairo and its different neighborhoods through Najib Mahfouz' novels as we know about Dublin through James Joyce's novels. In this context, critic Sa'd Rahim says:

We can bring a lot of names of novelists in whose works the city is the focus, such as, Henry Miller, Alberto Moravia, Iris Murdoch, Alan Rope, Najib Mahfouz, Taher Bin Jalloun, and many others. The city fed the novel not only with the climate of its spaces but with the ground that it provided for its evolution, too.

Interest in Place increased more and more with the appearance of the realistic school of literature in the fifties of the last century, which maintained that literature is a mirror of reality, and the writer should be extremely connected to the society in which he lives and express its cares, concerns and issues. Consequently, Place has constituted a motivation for writing among certain writers who wanted to reflect their reality and conditions as a result of the changes and setbacks that occurred to their Place as a result of constant wars, social and economic circumstances, and scientific discoveries. This means that there is a deliberate intersection that is made by the writers between the fictional space and the realistic place. Moreover, certain names that were given to specific literary genres express their close relationship to the place and its history, such as The War Novel, The Historical Novel, Poetry of Resistance, and so on. All these genres cannot be dealt with separately from their geographical place, and their historical and ideological context.

Interest in Place has pushed critics to divide it into several types such as: closed place, open place, fixed place and changing place. They also spoke about types of place from the point of view of the characters' relationship with the place, e.g. the familiar place (home), about which Bachelard spoke, or the third place, about which Bhabha spoke.

At the end of the last century, we started noticing in the literary works the appearance of a new type of place which is known now by the name of Virtual Place. The Internet has become a concrete reality in our daily life due to its social services given by different sites of social media such as: Facebook, Twitter and other chat websites. These sites have become a world of their own, where we meet people from countries and cultures, whom we mostly do not know, but we chat with and exchange personal information, and nearly each person has a series of “virtual friends”. These sites have given the opportunity to people to make relationships in different frames, including family relations, work relations, or hobby pursuits. Above all, some people depend on them to build up romantic relations and make acquaintances with the purpose to find a partner for marriage. Electronic relationships between people have substituted home visits or actual meetings. In short, these sites have led people to move from living in their actual reality into living in a virtual reality.

So, virtual reality is No-place in the physical sense. In other words, it is a place that is not connected to a real place, and since there is no specific place, there is no specific time! In view of this, people's meeting at Virtual Reality means their disconnection from the Earth Calendar (Time) and the geographical space. From this perspective, Virtual Reality can constitute the most convenient space to achieve the desired globalization, where all the people of the world can gather in one place without geographical borders that separate them.

Consequently, the appearance of Virtual Reality in literary texts as a substitute to actual place motivates us logically to suppose that the literary text gives up its cultural authority and identity to become an open transcontinental text to the whole world. This openness allows it to introduce general comprehensive issues that concern the whole humanity rather than specific people. It sounds that the writer separates himself from his real society in its concerns, problems, customs and traditions, and deals with general human issues. But, is this what actually happens? Affirmation or negation of these hypotheses requires that we check the texts and examples.

3.2 Place-Negation in the digital literary text and the question of globalization: the novel Chat as a sample

As mentioned above, a number of digital and non-digital narrative works have been published in the last few years that focus on Virtual Reality as their main scene of events. The writers do not deal with the specific details that are related to the real place where the characters live such as the name of the country or city or even the street. Even if these details are mentioned, their mention is done in a casual way for a certain necessity that the context requires. Therefore, the focus in these texts is on the characters through their virtual relationship and the general philosophical arguments that take place between them, which are also in a state of complete virtual separation from their Actual Reality. These texts include the novel Laila wa Layali al-Facebook/ Laila and the Nights of Facebook (2016) by Nizar Dandash; the play Masaha Iftiradhiyya wa Makan (2016) by Jawdat Eid; and the Interactive digital novel Chat (2003) by Muhammad Sanajlah, which is dealt with here as sample for study.

Sanajilah described his novel Chat as Riwayat al-Waqi'iyyah al-Raqmiyya/ The Novel of Digital Reality in an attempt to point out the distinction of this type of novels from other types from the points of view of form and content. Besides, he wrote a theoretical book about this distinctive literary genre, in which he put the essence of his theory.

The Novel of Digital Reality in its simplest definition from the point of view of the writer is a novel that employs the new forms that have been produced by the digital age, specifically the technique of the Hypertext, the effects of Multimedia, and their interference in the narrative structure in order to reflect the digital age and the society that this age produced, the human being of this age, and the digital virtual human being who is living within the digital virtual society. The Novel of Digital Reality is also that novel which expresses the changes that accompany the human being in his movement from his primary entity as a realistic human being into his new entity as a digital virtual human being.

The novel Chat begins by describing the condition of the hero, Muhammad, who feels frustrated, desperate and sad, as he remembered his sweetheart, who emigrated and left him alone. He escaped to the desert, his only exile, to forget her and look for a job. There, he feels a deadly routine and gloomy estrangement. He soon discovers that he is not the only one who is undergoing this condition as all the population of this region suffer from psychological and spiritual emptiness.

The hero of the novel meets a young girl called Manal accidentally, when he reads an SMS that she left on his own mobile by mistake. The girl asks him to chat with her on Messenger. Slowly, he started to be attracted by the screen and started joining the chatrooms. He regularly joined them arrogating another character, which is not his character, and adopting a pseudonym, which is not his real name.    

Manal introduces him to new friends, whom he meets through his chats with them in different chatrooms, especially the “politics” room, which exists on the Maktoub site. His main friends are called Saddam, Givara, Ben Laden, Lamees, Fatima, the Engineer.

The journey of transformations in the hero's life starts in this way. After he was living in an endless desert in the sand non-existence, he started living in a small room in front of a blue computer screen, where he meets multinational characters. They discuss different issues, and express their opinions in full freedom. The subjects include communism, socialism, the Middle East, the Palestinian Case, Islamic religion and jihad, besides issues of love, sex, and alcoholic drinks.    

The discussions take place sometimes in an immoral way; they attack each other and compete by using bad nicknames and bawdy words. As a result, the hero, who adopted the pseudonym of “Nizar” decides to leave the chatroom, saying:

Then, the name of this room is very foolish… politics… there is no more stupid name than this… politics! When I hear this word, I get Schizophrenia… my heart shudders out of disgust… long lines of young men and young women, the age of roses, pass through my mind…; they died under the flags of empty bright hollow slogans; thousands of deluded, deceived people and dreamers … politics… what disgust! Yaa'q! I will build a room for me, not like this one, another room that did not exist before; it will be for love, poetry and freedom,.. a room that will be a homeland for lovers, and I will write on the door: Not for dogs and politicians! Yes! Exactly like that: a room for lovers, beauty and freedom, which is not bordered by any border; the home of Nizar the lover, his homeland is his heart, his Paradise and his shelter!

Actually, Nizar builds up a new room, which he calls “Kingdom of Love and Lovers” and appoints himself the “King of the Kingdom,” and appoints one of his virtual girlfriends as a queen and gives her the name “Balqis”. However, after a while, some arguments, disagreements, and quarrels take place among the friends. Some of them ask to change the Kingdom into a democratic republic!   General elections are organized between the supporters and the opponents. The results of the elections were in favor of Nizar and his royal regime proposal. Some of the members accuse Nizar of cheating and manipulations in the elections and wage a severe moral war against him. Nizar is compelled to abolish the digital kingdom and leaves it. He fades digitally after he turns off the computer and returns to his natural entity. He decides to abolish his digital homeland and withdraws from it totally after he is sure that it is a mere delusion on optic fibers. However, he soon discovers after his return to his actual real world the emptiness of this world and its ugliness. Thus, he decides to return to the digital world with a new name, which is “Lorca”! He builds up a new room, a new homeland, which he calls “Homeland of Poets”, believing that this virtual world, and despite its disadvantages, is more beautiful, and more capable of achieving self-fulfillment than the real boring world.

This novel raises several important issues regarding literature and globalization. It sheds light on Virtual Reality in its different associations and on the characters that move within its sphere, completely abolishing the real places to which each one belongs, and thus, we know nothing about the characters except their pseudonyms.

There is no doubt that a virtual place represents a fertile ground for spreading the principles of globalization. Besides, it is considered the proposed substitute for the establishment of the great state that will be established on the debris of the other states.

The writer Muhammad Sanajilah tried to justify the potential causes that lie behind people's enthusiasm, especially the young ones, for this virtual world to the point of addiction to it, making it the best Place and the inevitable unescapable future, as the hero's behavior reveals at the end of the novel. The most important cause is the “freedom” of speech that it gives to the chatters. The Arab young men and young women suffer from social, political and religious pressures in the shadow of a conservative society, which is handcuffed by strict traditions and customs. They found in this virtual place an outlet to express their opinions, pressures and feelings, and be open to other cultures and exchange information, points of view among them in complete freedom, without censorship and far from the eyes of society. All these causes together are confirmed practically by  different studies in sociology.

Consequently, if we accept the fact that Virtual Reality can be the ideal place that gathers  all the people of the Earth, because it equalizes between them, without any kind of racial or ethnic or religious discrimination, will this place which unifies our existence unify our ways of thinking and approaches, too?

If we recheck the novel, we find that the characters chose pseudonyms to be known by in order to conceal themselves behind a mask that abolishes their real identities so that they will be able to speak freely. In spite of that, these characters chose pseudonyms to express their beliefs, and their intellectual and philosophical approaches that are affected by reality and derived from their cultural authorities, such as Ben Laden, Givara, Muslima, Abu Ammar, and Balqis.

Besides, the hero of the novel has three names: his real name is Muhammad, and it is sufficient to express the writer's identity, and consequently, the identity of the text. His second name is his first pseudonym, which is Nizar, and it expresses the influence of the Arab culture of the writer himself. The name Nizar alludes to the well-known Syrian poet, Nizar Qabbani, who is so popular of his love poetry. The third name that the poet chose for himself is Lorca, and this name certainly bears symbolic dimensions since Lorca is not an ordinary poet, but one with political past, too.

In addition to that, if we check the chats that took place in the chatrooms between the characters of the novel, we find that these chats express the extent of disagreement between the citizens of the Virtual Reality in their convictions, especially on the political and religious issues. While some people consider something as openness, others consider it corruption and decadence, and what is considered jihad by some is considered terror by others.

What draws our attention here is that the hero of the novel was trying to convince others to give up the disgusting reality with its troubles and pains and engage in the Virtual Reality with an open mind, and take part in human and spiritual debates such as love and ardent passions of love (which mostly represents the writer's opinion). In spite of all that, the hero was citing and quoting examples from books written by Moslem scientists and philosophers such as al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir. In addition, he quoted samples of classical poetry, which express a mere Arab vision regarding the philosophy of love.

Moreover, the writer included the monologue that took place in Nizar's brain while he was imagining Lilian, one of the girls whom he came to know virtually, but never met in reality. In this monologue, the hero describes Lilian's body as he imagines it, saying:

“Her eyes are Aleppo pistachio; her breasts are Syrian apples.”

Here, we find that the writer had to employ words that express his Arab authority, by recalling names of Syrian towns unconsciously, as if he did not find anything better than Aleppo pistachio, or al-Sham's (Damascus') apples to describe his sweetheart.

Scientifically, this issue does not contradict the results of research and studies, as different studies in sociology confirm that difference and contradiction characterize the virtual society practically. The Internet, by its unique structure and distinctive way of functioning, has created a culture of a specific type which is different from the traditional concept of culture. It is a culture that consists of a disharmonious group of values, opinions, conceptions and information that are created by an international gigantic communication network, which consists of thousands of networks from different computer networks in the world. This culture is introduced to millions of individuals in the world, who are disharmonious in their attitudes, ideas, ages and intellectual, social and economic levels. This means that Virtual Reality is based on multi-culturalism and difference rather than on harmony and similarity that globalization is seeking to achieve.

The debates that take place between the characters in the novel show that each character comes to the Virtual Reality, carrying thoughts and beliefs that he/she derived from his mother culture, and was affected by his racial, national and geographical belonging. This means that virtual place is able to join us together (as if we were the population of one country), but it fails to unify our thoughts or change our convictions, and lead us to one culture that can be generalized to everyone. Each of us will stay affected by the culture of the environment in which he grew up. Besides, the cares and concerns of his environment, society and country will always be in his mind; he cannot ignore it or detach himself from it, even during his presence in the virtual world. 

Sanajilah tried to make his novel a transcontinental one through Place-Negation and the meeting of the characters in their Virtual Reality, and the establishment of a new kingdom with a new name. This kingdom has nothing to do with what is happening outside it in the Actual Reality, but he failed to achieve his goal, as all the characters failed to persuade one another in their approaches on the one side, and failed to separate themselves from their Actual Reality on the other, even if he is kept away from the novelistic work superficially. Even the hero himself, who represents the writer, as we mentioned before, was not able to purify himself from the external effects when he approaches the Virtual Reality. Thus, Muhammad's realistic character overwhelmed Nizar's virtual character. Even the language that Nizar uses in the chatrooms discloses his identity, and reveals his nationality, as Manal immediately knows that he is “Jordanian” through his dialect.

This idea is repeated in other literary works in which the phenomenon of negation of actual place appears and the actual place is replaced by Virtual Reality. In the novel of Laila wa Layali al-Facebook/ Laila and the Facebook Nights, Ghasan and Laila know each other through the networks of social communication and live a virtual love-story, but it ends in failure, because they do not succeed in getting rid of their Actual Reality at all. Each of them remains attached to the traditions and customs of his society, especially to those that are connected to the issues of marriage and concept of “honor.” Ghasan explains the cause of the failure of this relationship as follows:

“The Facebook or what will come after it, will probably solve the problems of social communications, but the world is still living in the residues of the past relationships and their effect will continue to live for a long time. As we all know, many religions appeared after the period of myths, but Man's culture still depends largely on the illusion of myths! It seems that Laila has become one of the victims of the provincial period: the culture of the Facebook age, and the culture of the age that preceded it, and it seems that it will pay a lot in the future, too.”

The quotation above confirms the fact that despite the enthusiasm of some young people and their desire or even willingness to be open to globalization and adoption of the culture of the era, they fail to do that, because they cannot get rid of the Arab culture upon which they have grown up.

This idea is repeated in the play Masaha Iftiradhiyya wa Makan/ A Virtual Space and a Place by Jawdat Eid with some minor difference. The two lovers in this dialogue live a love story in the beginning through Virtual Reality. Both have deep belief that they will achieve everything that they were deprived of in Actual Reality, and they will establish their dreamland in it, but they soon discover that this Actual Reality does not suit them, because of what it imposes on them of a culture that contradicts their principles. They admit that Virtual Reality is a false and violated reality in comparison to their actual and beloved one. Ashtar, the heroine, says to her friend Odom:

“Yes my friend, my city has lost its face, its bread, its color, and was lost in crowdedness and coldness. The countenance of my city is deteriorated, and it has nothing of our gardens, oranges, olives or pomegranates.”

It is noticed that the writer tried to offer his characters symbolical names that are derived from ancient myths so that to deal with them as characters that are deprived of everything, except their humanity. However, it is enough for us that the heroine mentions oranges, olives and pomegranates in the quotation above to make us recognize her identity, and consequently, the writer's identity and the text identity. Thus, the city that they miss and dearn for its pomegranates, olives, and oranges is certainly any city of Palestine.

In the story of Abu Tahrir al-Facebooki/ Abu Tahrir from Facebook, by the Palestinian writer Suhail Kiwan, the writer describes the of a man, who is fascinated by Virtual Reality, and decides to get involved in it, and thus, he is gradually disconnected from his Actual Reality. He gets acquainted with virtual friends; he talks to them on human issues such as: punishment of war criminals;  the victims of wars and other  similar issues. This man says:

I took the nickname of “Abu Tahrir al-Facebooki” and put the photo of a sky that is lighted with phosphor… and through a few weeks, the number of my friends doubled manifolds the number of friends with who I ate salt and bread, watermelon with labani (yoghurt) and grapes with Kubbeh! Everything was imaginary except the victims of children and the lighted sky with phosphor!

We notice that the Arab authority of the text is quite clear. It is enough for the man to borrow the nickname of Abu Tahrir al-Facebooki to make us infer the Arabic authority of the text. This linguistic feature of “Abu…” formula is common in proper nouns in classical and modern Arabic culture such as “Abu -Faraj al-Asbahani,” 'Abu al-'Ala' al-Ma'arri, and others. In addition, mentioning “watermelon with Labani/ youghurt” and “kubbeh”, the famous Lebanese Palestinian dishes, are derived from modern Arab food culture.

Despite the writer's caution not to mention the name of any place in real life,  his choice of a lighted sky with phosphor, and ending the story with the sentence: “Everything is imaginary, except the children victims and the lighted sky with phosphor,” constitute a hint at his unconscious solidarity with Gaza, where Israel used phosphor in its war against Gaza.

4. Discussion and conclusions

The abovementioned samples show that there is a certain problematic aspect in talking about globalization of literature. Besides, we have shown that the issue of Place-Negation and its exclusion from the literary text do not empty that text from its identity of authority. Every writer embarks upon writing loaded with a specific culture and authority, which will betray him and float on the surface, even if he tries hard to hide them and separate himself from them, because each writer will inevitably add something of himself to the text. Thus, every text will keep its specific authority that decides his belonging to a specific place.

In addition, we maintain that it is possible to recall the real place in the literary discourse, even if it seems to be excluded on the surface. As we have seen, there has been some symbols that refers to those places, and the reader/writer recalls them through specific clues, hints and signals that refer to them.

The abovementioned texts in this study confirm that globalization of literature is not achieved merely by excluding the actual place or marginalizing it or ignoring its problems and concerns. We have seen also that even if the writer chooses not to write about the problems and issues of a certain region, and instead, prefers to devote his text to dive into general philosophical issues such as “the question of love,” as Muhammad Sanajilah did, he will deal with them out of his authority, and his mother culture, which he originally acquired from the culture of the place that he belongs to.

Depending on all that, it is possible to argue that literature and globalization move in parallel lines, and even though globalization has reached our food and drink and other fields, it will never reach our literature as long as there are different peoples who have different traditions, cultures, issues, needs, goals, achievements and awareness.

Consequently, the main role of literature will continue to be the expression of these differences also, which will make the fulfillment of the idea of unification of literature with its issues and visions, and ultimately its globalization is nearly an impossible mission and a merely false delusion.

Besides, the idea of writing a transcontinental globalized text, which introduces general issues that concern the future of the whole humanity, and which is detached at the same time from any specific cultural authorities, seems to be an ideal one, but is achievable only if the concerns and worries of humanity are unified and move towards one specific goal.

The Egyptian thinker, Mostafa Mahmoud, pointed out the issue of unifying the concerns of humanity in his novel Rajul Tahta al-Sifr/ A Man below Zero (1972) a long time ago. It is a science-fiction novel in which the writer predicts that the only thing that is able to unify humanity is “Pain”. The writer imagines that a certain virus will attack the whole world and will cause an epidemic that will destroy people's life quickly, which will threaten the Earth with extinction. At that point, the international efforts will be gathered to study, search, and plan how to fight that deadly virus. Wars will stop; racism will perish and parties will disappear; all the countries will open their borders wide to welcome people from all nationalities; and the scientists' efforts will be united at one scientific laboratory to find out an antivirus plasma.

Mostafa Mahmoud's novel confirms that we need a miracle or probably a catastrophe that will compel us to unify our concerns and expectations, and only then can we aspire to a real globalized literature. However, as long as each people has a specific problem that occupies their minds, the writer who belongs to that people will not be able to deal wilt general topics before his private problems and issues are solved. It is impossible for us to imagine that a Palestinian writer, for example, will engage himself in writing a novel about the 'ozone layer' or 'flying saucers' as long as the Palestinian case is not solved yet.

Therefore, and in spite of the fact that the Palestinian literature has not embarked upon writing digital literature yet, we tend to believe that even if Palestinian writers produce digital literature, the Palestinian case will remain the main focus in it, irrespective of the tool or the style in which this literature is introduced. This is true also with regard to Arabic literature in general, because in the shadow of the aggravated political conditions in many Arab countries, and after the wave of civil revolutions that are known by the name of the Arab Spring, we think it is unlikely or improbable that the Arab writers will be engaged in any issues except in the issues of their nation.

It seems that certain writers think in the same way, such as Shamim Black, who maintains that talking about globalization of literature means that literature should give up its message. Ultimately, literature is a national issue, and this is what we have witnessed for a long period in the traditional novel, which is connected in an established feeling with its belonging to a national identity that has defined features. Black says:

We have not heard yet about a novel that can be described as the Novel of the European Community. This is exactly what characterizes literature from other cultural forms, as it is the 'incubator' of national ambitions.

Black adds that it is impossible to talk about globalization of literature a long as there are opposed to this principle. At the beginning of the seventies of the last century, the great majority of people became strict critics of the idea of “colonial tendency” and “the dominating empire”. These ideas settled down more and more with the growth of anti-imperialism movements, and the increase of the role of the policies that support individual and national identity. Here we recall a famous saying by Mahatma Gandhi:

“I don't want my home to be surrounded by walls from every side, and my windows be shut; I want the cultures of all homelands to blow at my home from all directions, and in full freedom, … but I refuse that someone uproot me from my roots.”

Gandhi's words mean that openness to other cultures should not obliterate in any way the private cultural conditions, and it appears here that the idea of globalization of literature is not farfetched or impossible, but refused also as long as it is not based on real interaction between Western and Eastern cultures and civilizations and their melting in one crucible that is acceptable by everyone, instead of generalizing one culture by compulsion and coercion.

Even if we suppose that certain types of literature are already ready to move to the stage of globalization, that does not apply to Arabic literature, especially in the shadow of current political circumstances, which the Arab world is undergoing. This makes Arabic literature, at least from this aspect, unprepared for this idea yet. 

To sum up, the literary globalization is achievable only in its materialistic dimension as the case is in food, drinks and clothes. However, it cannot be achieved in its dimension of 'content' and 'value' because that contradicts with the main mission of literature on the one hand, and the world literatures are unprepared to move from this stage to the next one, on the other.


Books and Magazines In Arabic

Al-Nabulsi, Sh. (1994). Jamaliyyat al-Makan fi al-Riwaya al-'Arabiyya. Amman: al-Mu'asasa al-'Arabiyya li al-Dirasat wa al-Nashr.

Bachelard, G. (1996). Jamaliyyat al-Makan. Translated by Ghalib Halasa. Beirut: al-Mu'asasa al-Jami'iyya li al-Dirasat wa al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi'.

Eid, J. (2014). Masaha Iftiradhiyya wa Makan. Nazareth: Bustan li al-Thaqafa wa al-Mujtama', p. 50.

Fayek, M. (2000). Huquq al-Insan fi 'Assr al-'Awlama. Berlin Conference: http://www.ibn-rushd.org/arabic/M_Fayek-arab.htm.

Hittini, Y. (1999). Mukawwinat al-Sard fi al-Riwaya al-Filistiniyya. Damascus: Union of Arab Writers.

Hilmi, S. (2005). Thaqafat al-Internet: Dirasa fi al-Tawassul al-Ijtima'i. Beirut: Dar Majdalawi Pub. & Dis.

Huriyyeh, Z. (2011). Al-Fadha'a fi al-Riwaya al-'Arabiyya al-Haditha. Damascus: Dar Ninawa li al-Dirasat wa al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi'.

Ibrahim, H. (1983). Al-Waqi'iyya fi al-Riwaya al-Haditha. Amman: Dar al-Fikr li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi'.

Izz al-Din, I. (1967). al-Shi'r al-'Arabi al-Mu'asser: Its Issues and Artistic and Semantic Phenomena. Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi.

Kiwan, S. (2014). Madih li Khazouq Akhar. Haifa: Dar al-Raya li al-Nashr.

Mahmoud, Mostafa (1972). Rajul That al-Sifr. Beirut: Dar al-'Awda.

Majallat Mada al-Electroniyya (2016). Adhwa' a'la al-'Awlama fi al-'Adab. An interview with Prof.  Samim Black. Translated and introduced by: Latifa al-Daylami. goo.gl/dpuhZa.

Nassralla, A. and Younis, E. (2015). Al-Tafa'ul al-Fanni al-'Adabi fi al-Shi'r al-'Arabi al-Raqmi: Shajar al-Bughaz as a sample. The Academic Institute for Education: Bet Berl: Centre for Studies in Language and Society in Israel.

Nizar, D. (2016). Layla wa  Layali al-Internet. Beirut: Dar al-Farabi. P. 126.

Sa'd, R. (2014). Sihr al-Sard: Dirasat fi al-Funun al-Srdiyya. Damascus. Dar Ninawa li al-Dirasat wa al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi'. P. 30

Sanajilah, M. (2003). Chat: Union of Arab Writers on the Internet: http://www.arab-ewriters.com/chat.

Sanajilah, M. (2005). Riwayat al-Waqi'iyya al-Raqmiyya. Amman: al-Mu'asasa al-'Arabiyya li al-Dirasat wa al-Nashr.

Books and Articles in English

Bhabha, Homi K. (2004). The Location of Culture. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 55.

Brenner. Ev. (2000). “IT Report from the Field: Virtual Community in the Business World.” Information Today, vol. 17, issue 11, pp. 67-68. http://www.infotoday.com/IT/dec00/brenner.htm

Crystal. D. (2001). Language and the Internet. New York: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139164771.

Layzer. J. (2000). “Collecting User Requirements in a Virtual Population: A Case Study.” WebNet Journal: Internet Technologies, Applications & Issues, vol. 2, issue 4, pp. 20-27. http://www.editlib.org/p/8006.

Negroponte, N. (1995). Being Digital. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Rheingold, H. (1993). The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/.


  1. Hittini, Y. (1999).
  2. Sanajilah, M. (2005).
  3. Khan al-Khalili is a name of a neighborhood in Cairo, and it is a title of a novel by Najib Mahfouz.
  4. Zaqaq al-Midaq is a name of one of the popular neighborhoods in Cairo, and it is a title of a novel by Najib Mahfouz.
  5. A title of a novel by Ghassan Kanafani.
  6. A title of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish.
  7. A title of a poem by Tamim al-Bargouthi.
  8. Fayek, M. (2000).
  9. Nassralla, A. and Younis. E. (2015).
  10. Al-Nabulsi, Shaker (1994). p. 29.
  11. Sa'd, R. (2014).
  12. Ibid., p. 30.
  13. Ibrahim, H. (1983).
  14. Izz al-Din, A. (1967).
  15. Huriyyeh, Z. (2011).
  16. Bachelard, G. (1996).
  17. Bhabha, Homi K. (2004).
  18. The term Virtual Reality (VR) is considered one of the terms that the revolution of communication and technology information has brought, which is represented by the development of techniques in the computer field and the Internet. David Crystal defines Virtual Reality in his book, Language and the Internet, saying that “it is  imagined environments that enable people to enter them and get involved in an imagined social interaction that is based on a text.” Jonatan Layzer defines it as “groups that are formed through the Internet; its citizens do not live in one geographical crucible, but are spread in different parts around the world; these groups are joined by common interests and the types of these groups range from commercial groups to medical groups, and they have room for other groups.”  Ev. Brenner maintains that the concept of Virtual Reality is a complicated concept that refers to relationships that appear between individuals who share through the Internet by making use of its electronic techniques and tools of to achieve and perform social sharing.
    Howard Rheingold is considered one of the pioneers who contributed to drawing the world's attention to the study of virtual communities in his book called Virtual Community, 1993. He says that these communities are social communities that come from different places in the world. The come closer to each other and communicate through the computer screens by exchanging electronic e-mails, knowledge and make friendships. A common interest joins these individuals, and the interactions that take place between them are similar to those that happen in the real world but at a remote distance. The interactions take place through a tool of communication – the Internet, which, in turn, contributes to the movements of virtual formation.
  19. Sanajilah, M. (2005).
  20. Sanajilah, M. (2003).
  21. Hilmi, S. (2005).
  22. Sanajilah, M. (2003).
  23. Negroponte, N. (1995).
  24. Nizar, D. (2016), p. 126.
  25. Eid, J. (2014). p. 50.
  26. Kiwan, S. (2014). p. 221.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Mahmoud, M. (1972).
  29. Majallat Mada al-Electroniyya (2016).
  30. Ibid.