Article 212: Same old satire

Dar al-Shorouk has just published Al-Madda 212 Kettab (Article 212) by author Haitham H. Dabbour. The book is a hypothetical continuation of Egypt’s existing constitution. The book is a light read that makes many contradictory impressions on the reader.

It begins with an explanation of its content and warns the reader that no answers will be given in the book and also that he, the author, is not the famous movie character H. Dabbour, although I am pretty sure the author’s sales expectations depend heavily on that fact.

Such a preface reminded me of Ketab Maloush Esm (A Book with No Name) by Ahmed al-Esseili, where the author promises nothing to his readers but a path of thoughts that may or may not lead them to an end.    

Dabbour, in his own cynical world, starts adding new articles to the Egyptian constitution in respect of the economy, freedom of expression, the law, the current regime, the legislative authority, employment, journalism and sports. The hot topic under discussion offers the author a huge field to play around and actually drew a few smiles on his reader’s face.

The idea behind the book is interesting and has surely crossed the minds of many Egyptians before. Therefore, it was compelling to see it actually materialize, even in a cynical book by an unknown author with a well-known name. Parts of the book are creative, such as when the author compares Mohamed Mounir’s albums to the Egyptian regime and when he becomes a two dimensional comic book character trying to kill his successful colleague.

Some of the ideas and style are similar to Omar Taher, a young Egyptian writer, journalist, poet and screen writer. Taher is the author of Shaklaha Bazet, Captain Misr and many other satirical books. Dabbour has tried to create his own style, but has not always been successful in the attempt. In fact, he mentions in the book that, as a satirical author, he will inevitably be accused of copying Taher’s style. Imitating the style of the renowned writer has completely backfired. It made Dabbour lose credibility and turned reading the book into a chore.

The book also lacked coherence. At times it felt like a collection of decent ideas flying around waiting to be tied together. This is definitely not the reader’s job.

The style was clever and funny at times, but nothing striking. And this unsatisfying and unoriginal style has no pay-off; in the end, the reader feels that they have been taken nowhere.

The book is available in all Dar al-Shorouk bookstores for LE25.

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