The phenomenon of Saudi novelist “Osama Al-Muslim” moves Baraka…

Moroccan media reports said that events exhibition The International Book Association witnessed the day before yesterday, Saturday, a cultural “state of emergency,” due to crowding and visitors’ attendance at the signing ceremony of Saudi writer Osama Muslim, which surprised many visitors who heard for the first time about this young Saudi writer.

These sources stated that, due to the overcrowding that led to fainting among teenage girls in particular, the exhibition management was forced to shorten the moment of signing and announce over loudspeakers that the Saudi writer had left the exhibition in order to alleviate the overcrowding.

Writer and researcher Moroccan Dr. Tijani Boulaouali wrote a text regarding the Rabat International Book Fair, which began on May 10 and extends until May 19, and specifically mentioned the Saudi novelist Osama Al-Muslim and how he was able to break through the reading crisis that has clouded the Moroccan and Arab intellectual scene. As it appeared to him at the Rabat International Book Fair, we publish it here in “Arabi 21” In depth discussion…

He who saw is not the same as he who heard!

My absence this year from the International Book Fair in Rabat (2024), made me follow some of its events from a distance. Certainly, he who saw is not the same as he who heard! But what is being reported by some “reliable” media outlets and social networks is enough to create an approximate picture of the nature of the exhibition. It is an image that, if it is not 100% correct, perhaps it contains some indicators that help us as intellectuals and readers to understand the trends of reading, to investigate the undeclared intentions of decision-makers, and even to dismantle the hidden plans that are constantly being hatched to dislodge the doctrinal and identity constant in the Moroccan personality.

I followed the various notes that were recorded about the exhibition the bookMost of them relate, as usual, to the outrageous price of books, the exclusion of some publishing houses, dissatisfaction with the “Francophone” program of the relevant ministry, and others.

Oh, I forgot that this year the exhibition witnessed a very exciting phenomenon related to the Saudi novelist “Osama Al-Muslim” who stole the spotlight, while we were at “Dar Ghafloun”! He stole the spotlight and put most other writers in complete darkness! I personally am not against what happened, as I noted in dozens of surprising, and sometimes condemning, blog posts and comments! If I had been present, I would have bought some of his books, not to have their owner sign them, as the large crowd of young and old who made a pilgrimage to the place dreamed of.

The Saudi novelist “Osama Al-Muslim” stole the spotlight, and we are in “Dar Ghafloun”!

I personally believe that this phenomenon should be understood, not suppressed, because there are hidden indicators of a radical shift in reading trends and the aspirations of readers, especially young people, but no one, whether writers or critics, has paid attention to that. We are still writing with the mentality of the seventies and eighties for a generation that is separated by many decades from that stage that has become news, and when the book is not sold, we curse the darkness instead of writing what people want and loved by young people and children, who were created for a time other than ours, as it was said!

My little son once asked me: Dad, are you a YouTuber? Because he watched some of my tapes of Dutch and Arabic lectures, I answered him in the negative, but he insisted, saying with some astonishment: Why do you have channels and publish on them? I told him: Just to preserve these recordings and make them available to students and those interested. Perhaps he was not convinced by my words, and thought that I might be a successful YouTuber, so he went on to say with his childish innocence: Dad, if you want your videos to be seen by a lot of people and bring thousands of viewers and subscribers, you have to take the microphone and go to the beach and talk and ask people and so on… I actually laughed out loud. My gratitude, it is not a disdain for what my son said, but rather a realization on my part that I no longer address the appropriate context with my thought, or rather my thought no longer fits the context in which I live.

This is what actually applies to most writers of my generation, because we adhered to the love of writing that obscured from us the broad reality of the people, so we were satisfied with the elite of the elite. The poets clung to the poetry column in a time when poetry was no longer read, and novelists delved into mythology and history instead of dealing with the living reality that is full of events. And strange things, and thinkers and philosophers drowned in complex concepts and strange terminology, with which we now need dozens of hours to decipher their hieroglyphs and mysteries, and jurists are confined to rules, universals, and logics without paying attention to the jurisprudence of reality, as people are tossed around by fatwas that cross continents and destructive ideas, and so on.

Perhaps the Saudi writer Al-Dhahirah was able to realize the hidden desire in the soul of my young son, and I, the father, writer and thinker, failed to realize it, even though he was raised by me, and I spend long hours with him inside and outside the house. My little son here is a symbol of these rising Muslim generations everywhere, but unfortunately they are absent from the ministries’ programs and strategies, and their interest in youth and childhood hardly goes beyond the formal “protocol” dimension, and they are also absent from the vision of most writers, critics, thinkers, and publishing houses (I mean the Arab context). No Western!).

Some comments explain the Saudi writer’s success by adopting a unique style characterized by fluidity, wild imagination, and the creation of legendary characters and strange worlds. But aren’t there many Arab novelists who write this way, and even much better?! However, their novels remain dormant and only a few copies are sold, which may not exceed the fingers of one hand.

There is another explanation, which is that the Saudi writer is very close to his young audience. He invests smartly, wisely, and astutely in new media and social networking sites, where he devotes intense interactive sessions with his readers, organizes competitions for them, distributes gifts to them, and so on. Perhaps this is a new method in a globalized world controlled by social networks, but aren’t we also subscribers to various social networking sites, and yet we only receive a few likes?

Finally, I would like to end my speech with some open questions: How did the writer – the phenomenon, sneak into the hearts of our sons and daughters under the cover of night while the eyes of the writers were sleepy and the pens of the critics were heedless? Is this overwhelming “formal” success achieved by the writer-phenomenon truly due to the uniqueness of his style and the distinctiveness of his narrative discourse, or are there other factors (political, ideological, cultural, media…) that contributed to this “formal” success? Doesn’t this intense demand for what this writer writes – the phenomenon – mean that the reading situation is “good”, and that the problem essentially lies in the inability of writers and critics to decipher the reading readiness of the Arab reader?

*Moroccan writer and researcher

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