Will The Face of Time Ever Smile At Us?

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Thu 1 September / Sep 2016. 10:04 PM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

“I had lit a fire that has brightened up faces and warmed up hearts.”

“All societies tumbles times often along the way… and before it realises its follies, before it wakes from its fall, the others would have already paid the price… they are often the victims of these follies and mistakes; the passionate who light up history.”

I had not before read Taher Odwan’s novel, “The Face of Time”; the former minister of media and prominent journalist, until we discussed an article of mine on Abdullah Tel’s biography by an Israeli historian, about the battle of “Kfar Etzion” in 1948, in which the Jordanian army were able to kill and capture hundreds of Israelis. Odwan, during the discussion, told me his father had died in that battle, that he was buried in Jerusalem, near the Aqsa Mosque, and that the novel he wrote spoke about the battle and about the role of Jordan’s army in it.

Interested, I asked him for a copy; which he provided, and I finished it in a week. That said, I must say, I was overwhelmed with shame, because even though it was written in 1987, made into a TV drama series, and televised on a multitude of Arab channels, I had up until then not read it! The massive value of the novel lies not only in its mentioning of the Kfar Etzion Battle, by beyond; it is one of those rare, priceless novels written in a simplified, captivating, fun way, in spite its addressing of countless social, economic, and cultural changes the rural and Bedouin Jordanian society underwent!

 The novel starts off with the story of a Jordanian tribe in the Baqaa plains, back in the 40s of the folded century, and the socio-economic lifestyle at the time. Gradually, the storyline lead us through the primary strives and burdens of daily life, with the rise of the Army as a military institution, with social and economic dimensions and relations, and major implications in the social life of Jordanian communities and the dynamics of the changes that took place all the way to the Arab-Israeli conflict, depicting the integration of tribal youth in the Army, evoking the Kfar Etzion battle subsequently, and the heroic role of Jordan’s military in it, before the great war of 1948, highlighting in this aspect of the novel the Army’s role in the battles of Latrun and Bab el Wad.

The value of this novel, as late novelist Mones Razzaz put it in his review, lies in it being of the particularly rare that feature, digest, and introduce to the readers the zest and spirits of the Jordanian countryside. He makes compares it to Abdul Rahman Sharqawi’s “The Earth” novel, and describes it as a sociological document on Jordanian countryside and rural life.

Razzaz was not off point in describing Odwan’s achievement; most Jordanian novels, as few as they unfortunately are in this particular genre, depicted the life in cities, most probably Amman in particular, from Abdul Rahman Munif’s work on Amman in the 1940s, to Ziyad Qasim’s “Abnaa al Qalaa”, all through the majority of novels on the political, party, and social dynamics of life in Jordan, including those of Layla Atrash, and aspects of novels by the great Ghaleb Halasa and Mones Razzaz.

 Recently, this genre of literature on Jordanian rural life, more or less, is gaining popularity, like those of my friend, writer and researcher Mohammad Rafi; “Aam Al Jarad in madaba 1930 (Awraq Sami Hijazi), and Mohammad Abullah Tahat’s novel “Al flouti”, which I have yet to get the chance to read. There are today several autobiographies that could help light up and document the oral dating and history.

Nonetheless, novels have a flavour to their own; while they are not considered anthropological or historic documentation, or artistic for that matter, they do however go beyond that; they are more transparent, honest, and unbiased in the psychological, social, and cultural detailing of pivoting points in time, bringing these moments in history to focus, while other literatures tend to usually manipulate history or shun these parts out!