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Desert ethics, myths of nature and novel form in the narratives of Ibrahim al-Koni

FF Moolla


Desert ethics, myths of nature and novel form in the narratives of Ibrahim al-Koni

This broadly comparative essay contrasts environmentalism in the fiction in English translation of the Libyan writer, Ibrahim al- Koni, with dominant trends in contemporary environmentalism. An analysis of  three of the most ecocritically pertinent of the novels in English translation suggests that the natural world is viewed through the lens of the mythical, encompassing the religious worlds of both Tuareg  animism, as well as monotheism represented by Islam and early Christianity. The novels to be  considered are The Seven Veils of Seth, Anubis and The Bleeding of the Stone. Unlike environmental approaches which derive from the European Enlightenment of procedural rational disenchantment, human beings in Al-Koni’s work are accorded a place in the sacred order which allows non-parasitic modes of existence within the framework of a sacred law. This conviction is articulated most powerfully through the symbol of the desert which inspires all of Al-Koni’s work. The social and sacred desert ethic out of which Al-Koni’s fiction is forged, strains at the form of the novel, the genre which constitutes and is constituted by an immanent, individual vision of the world. As a consequence, Al-Koni’s narratives tend towards allegorical modes which highlight the radical complexity and simplicity of allegory.

Keywords: allegory, comparative literature, desert ethics, environmentalism, Ibrahim al- Koni, Libyan literature.