Mohammed al-Habasha On:
Scenario (A Chapter from a Novel) by Saleem Albeik
This is a short chapter from a long novel by the Syrian-Palestinian writer Saleem al-Beik. In it, we are confronted by a cunning text. The hero can be anyone whom we might meet at the bar by accident, and he tells us a story with great pride about his sexual relationships and his womanising. We trust him at first, perhaps out of courtesy and respect, but he soon blurs our expectations. In this context, Saleem al-Beik writes a scenario that takes place in the world of night, one which every reader might experience. He adopts a simple sarcastic style, a smooth language inspired by expressions adopted from the street, whether in vernacular Palestinian dialect or other languages.
On the narrative level, we are witnessing a theater-like style – al-Beik is portrayed as a playwright who relies on scenes to push his story forward. The reader is exposed to careful details, objects, and descriptions–just as if we were watching a play on stage. We can see the bar, the street, the library, and Charlotte’s shoes. From the first sentence, the reader experiences the urge to move away from the “closed” public space and enter into the direct experience of the young Don Juan who accompanies a beautiful girl to her apartment and waits to have sex with her. Thanks to the great talent of the writer, the reader finds himself inside a conversation between the two characters on cinema. This conversation ends with an intentional deviation made by the narrator so as not to stray away from his original goal. And then the writer brings us back to the closed space; but this time it’s more intimate–Charlotte’s apartment, where the narrator and the reader together feel that he is approaching his target and we find ourselves in a suspenseful narrative arc, a trap created by the writer with careful subtlety.
In Scenario, there are essential and eternal questions about love, daily life, desire, and the passions of the soul as it tries to find its place in the world.