Mohammed al-Habasha On:
Baganda (A chapter from a novel) by Shukri al-Mabkhout
In his work “Baganda,” the Tunisian writer Shukri al-Mabkhut is still preoccupied with the same questions and issues he has already revealed to readers in his well-known novel “The Italian” which won the prestigious Arab Booker Award in 2015. These questions and issues relate to a generation that was involved in politics, and aspired toward real change and to a homeland of human values, based on justice and far from tyranny and religious extremism.
However, this generation witnessed the collapse of ideologies that motivated them in the first place, and soon they found themselves in front of a mirror that reflected their disappointments both on the private and collective levels.
In the novel “Baganda,” al-Mabkhut uses the investigative journalism form, which requires readers to pay close attention to everything related to the details of the plot. From the beginning, he manages to get us into the worlds of the mysterious plot, and together with the narrator we experience his confusion and urge to explore the reasons behind the sudden disappearance of “Baganda” – the icon of the popular football world, or the Tunisian “Pelle”.
The reader can see in Baganda many aspects of the Tunisian football world that are engraved in the collective memory or even a representation of talented “neighborhood children” in this field. The reader may be also convinced that “Baganda” is a real character and can turn to the writer himself and ask him if he knows him personally. Hence the uniqueness of al-Mabkhut, lies in the fact that he instills his characters into reality and succeeds in convincing the reader of their reliability. The novelist adopts investigative journalism form as a general framework to penetrate the hidden world of football, which is integrated with the hidden world of politics, but also constitutes a journey to the history of Tunisia during the transition from one regime to another while Baghenda is a victim of this transitional period, disappearing in silence and, like many others, swallowed up by oblivion.