Narrative suspicion and personal literature in the book “Women in the City” | Written by: Firas Hajj Muhammad

In a letter I sent to newspapers and websites, which included an article by a friend of the writers about the book “Women in the City,” the editor of one of the websites replies to me with a reply that includes describing the book as a “novel.” Journalists and website editors are often confused, describing many works as novels. What magic is hidden in this literary genre? I think that at some point we have fallen or will fall under the influence of this magic, whether we like it or not, not a requirement to write a novel, but merely to have your program in reading it and critical writing that deals with it, and defending the individual and national narrative projects of the novel writers, this is among that The enchanting influence of novelists and novelists.

The novelist described for the book is not new to the book itself. I also asked myself this question, is what I write in this book a “novel”? I asked my friend Hassan Abadi the same question, he denied that the book was a novel. It is such “stories and narration”. What does ‘Stories and Tell’ mean to me? Why is it not a novel?

I suspect that the book has relied on some narrative elements, but its tales are separate and disjointed, do not adopt the principle of logical plot, and its characters have no narrative and realistic relationships other than what they linked with me. But: does the novel have “one form”? Have you sought to break the old fictional mold to write a novel in a different way? Maybe, I’m not so sure. Critics do not see that the novel has one fixed form, but it has multiple forms, as many books and novels. Each has his own way of writing.

I finally came across the concept of “personal literature” and its confusion with the novel. There is always a personal side in every novel. Critics and writers alike spoke about this, and no one can be abstracted from himself when writing, and without this “personal character” in writing, writing would have been the same; One for all writers who treat one topic. The britannica website states this explanation of the relationship between the personal and the novelist: “The introspective novel in first-person has a lot in common with memoirs, or a volume of personal memories.”[1]. In the book “Women in the City” there is also something like that “introspection in the first person that has a lot in common with personal memories.” In an investigation for Al Jazeera Net, the writer Farouk Youssef says, describing his ten prose books as “personal literature” ambiguous with the novel and defines it by saying: “A gender close to the novel, but it does not compete with it in terms of the multiplicity of its characters, the diversity of its axes and its horizontal extension.”[2].

Personal literature affords its writer a greater capacity for freedom in writing, freedom from artistic stereotypes, freedom from artistic strict adherence to the elements of supposed naturalization. He does not have to scrutinize a lot if he is right or wrong, close or far, for self-expression comes first and last and nothing is ranked between the first and the last. It is with this artistic freedom that “personal literature” is written anyway. It may include poetry, thoughts, articles, philosophical and psychological analysis, faith and atheism may enter it, all from the focus of the self, and he does not ask others to believe him or agree with him, and does not look at them if they oppose him and make fools of him. It does not pay attention to the element of “persuasion” required in the novel. The writer just writes, puts everything he wants on paper. It is a space of disclosure, confession, purification, screaming, and psychological and emotional treatment.

Personal literature, then, is not an autobiographical novel, not a memoir, not a novel either, it is a free narrative flow, or it is “nonfictional-prose”, but it is ambiguous and tainted by the novel, the biography, the memoirs, personal impressions, and in the article, it tends towards subjectivity. Often, he may sometimes refer to “objectivity”, but he is not concerned with it, nor does he seek it. He does not write the world as the novelist does as he claims, but writes himself as a small body in this world; Trying to find a place for him through that free narration that he passionately practices.

‘Personal literature’ may be described as being of inferior quality than homogeneous literary works as poetry and novels; Considering his lack of general and private rules of writing, and therefore, perhaps, for this reason, the discreet and classical research and academic circles do not care about him, and he has rarely been dealt with by serious studies and research, and critical reception was limited to the impressionistic readings of ordinary readers or friends of the writer or press reports and book viewing sites Online. Perhaps the writer would be very fortunate if he happened to be widely read and prove a reading presence, although this presence will remain confined to a time and will not last long, and his fate will be neglect and reliance in the shadows even if he enjoys a well-formed language, and includes an important idea and message.

In the book “Women in the City” there is a great deal of truth and reality, and a measure of pure narrative imagination, so I imagined some of the stories completely. I also continued by imagining other stories that started and stopped at a non-narrative point, and then became mixed with narration, and I also wrote stories as they actually occurred without trimming or trimming. Therefore, I wanted him to be under the naturalization of “stories and narrations”, and I was not interested in him composing other than his narrations and tales from the first text to the end, these stories could form a tale connected to the same writer, but I wanted to tear them up into short narrative pieces to be free to write.

My Syrian friend Hind Zaytouni – a novelist and poet – read the book, and wrote about it. The book takes her to the novel. She sees in it a room for an upcoming novel, and suggests that we play it together by writing. She imagines in this game that these women – or at least one of them – who wrote They pursue me, to take revenge on me for what I did for publishing their stories. To complement the book’s tales with a novel, Hind proposes interesting scenarios for this, one of which ends with me being killed by one of these women. I laughed at this imagined scenario; A well-known scenario that does not bear any surprise, except that I do not like violence or murder in fictional works, especially murder. I often objected to directors and screenwriters of films and series because they killed or killed characters. I always say: killing is not an appropriate solution in life at all, and it is not an appropriate solution artistically in literary works except on a limited and well-studied scale, so that it is neither “too much”, nor “free” nor “to get out of trouble.” I like that the novel has cunning, intelligence and evasion, but you should stay away from killing. Isn’t the killing in the country enough to keep us chasing blood in the novels and on the satellite TV screen in series and movies? The writer must be compelled to kill the character inevitable, as Gabriel García Márquez did when he killed the colonel in the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, “and after Marquez finished His version came to his wife Mercedes, with a gloomy face and eyes heavy with sadness, and said: I killed Colonel Buendia, then he went up to his room and cried sobbing and then fell asleep.[3]. Perhaps Hind was convinced of my point of view and started thinking about another possible scenario for the next novel.

Another novelist begins writing a novel, which she begins with a conversation “via WhatsApp.” I hear the first paragraph of the novel. An encouraging clip. The author of the new novel tells me that she is writing this novel, influenced by the book “Women in the City”.

I hope that the book will be truly inspiring not only to write a fictional novel, but for everyone who can write to write their own “personal literature”; To get rid of his restrictions, perhaps he will become free, and he will not be completely free if he hides behind imaginary races such as the novel, which gives him a space of evasion in declaring the truth naked as a personal reality that belongs to reality with all its sorrows, pains and taboos. Rather, he must say frankly: I I write my own story. Just like I did in Women in the City.

I can escape logically and justifiably, and turn the equation completely in relation to the book, calling it a “novel” and deleting the introduction, and with a little editing, it will become a fictional “narrative” that no one has the right to say has anything to do with my personal life after that. ! But it does not make writing painful, shocking, and motivating to ask the question of the self, deal with it, and write it in this way that I sought with full awareness and will, and it will not achieve its goal and message in an eloquent manner. Truth excites readers more than imagination, especially in forbidden topics.

And lastly, let me read what was mentioned in the novel “The Longstays” by Henry Miller[4] Describing the process of writing: “Writing and meditating must be devoid of will, like a stream in a deep ocean, and the word must float to the surface at first thought, for a child does not need to write because he is innocent. His false life, he is trying to recover his innocence, yet all he succeeds in doing (in writing) is to inoculate the world with a virus of his disappointment. No man will put a word on paper if he has the courage, because he lives what he believes in.” This is also what I tried to do in this book. Writing in it represented a kind of virus from the disappointment that I experienced, and I expressed it explicitly in the introduction to the book. I did not live anything from what I wrote, even if I wanted to at some point.


[1] Topic “Personal literature”:

[2] Al Jazeera Net website: “Searching for prizes and abandoning poetic narcissism.. poets who wrote the novel tell Al Jazeera Net the reasons for displacement”, investigation: Ashraf Al-Hassani, 5/2/2021:

[3] UAE newspaper Al Bayan website:

[4] American novelist and painter, the novel’s translator, Khaled Al-Jubaili, published by Dar Ward for printing, publishing and distribution, Damascus, 1, 2009, p. 20.