THE NOTION OF PROBABILITY AS A UNIFYING PRINCIPLE IN FEBRUARY PROMISE THE STRUCTURE OF INTENTION
THE NOTION OF PROBABILITY AS A
UNIFYING PRINCIPLE IN
THE SRUCTURE OF INTENTION
The notion of probability as a unifying principle is a salient technical featureskillfully manipulated in the underlying structure of February's Promise. This strategy orchestrates the general movement of the novel and, in a peculiar way, the deep level of action which Hariri has succintly defined, in the words of one of his characters, as "the procession of intentions" (1). These intentions, with their lavish contradictions and their ironical turns, lend the novel a variety of scope, a multiplicity of points of view and a complexity of vision that is decisively original and unique.
In the Semitic culture, the notion of probability implies the ability of the human consciousness to transform the human situation eternally into a futurity. The essence of probability, in order words, is that mental faculty – imagination – which functions in such a way as to help transcend the immediate situation by perpetually transforming it into a state suspended in the general course of time. Things are always about to take place, always about to fulfill themselves as actuality, but not yet… like Doomsday itself, which is eternally there by the corner, but never turns that corner to become real.
Dwelling in probability implies that man always lives more in the future than in the present and that most of the things that take place in the characters' mind do not really happen in the observable world of reality. Everything characters plan is left in a floating state of suspension, an intention about to be translated into action, about to be born as certainty.
Probability is also associated with time. Although an event or an incident envisioned by a character never takes place in reality, its very suspension, or the negation of its fulfillment, must take place in time. The continuity of things is at the root of what is being planned by characters for the future; characters, therefore, go on planning their own future throughout the novel. And since futurity is the essence of the human experience in February's Promise, and since it is also the underlying principle of the novel's structure, it is obvious that life, as conceinved by the author, cannot be captured logically and systematically in a continual or conventional manner; hence, the fragmentary conception of the novel and its execution. This seems to be the conception that enables characters to live in the notion of probability, to envision a future and inhabit it while still living in the present.
In February's Promise, probability, a notion that incessantly plays into the characters' imaginings, is a triumphant force in directing and controlling human consciousness. No character can be singled out as being fully unaware of what is going on around him or of the motives and preoccupations of other characters. Within this scope of perception, motion and preoccupation, all characters have both insight into their condition and a great capacity for transcending it… their consciousness being deeply rooted in the now and then of the semitic culture. It is noteworthy to state here that Hariri's exploration of this culture is intricately dramatized in the characters' obsessive preoccupations with the following aspects of our heritage: the notion of time, death and resurrection, of justice, punishment and equality, of even the concepts of grace and honour.
The word probability suggests an infinite variety of scenes and events and an infinite range of possible changes. This is also characteristic of the semitic culture which preaches that one's action always entails a price, either a punishment or a reward… a promised fulfillment of an unfulfilled promise. This price, or reward, lies at the root of the main action in February's Promise, which can best be described as an unfatigued preparation for the future. In the mind of each character, something is incessantly being planned only to be executed after the funeral… each secretly trying to create his own future destiny at the abstract level of the imagination. The main action of the novel, therefore, is concerned more with futurity than the presentness or immediacy of observable human actions.
In addition, characters seem to indulge in this conception of probability by way of escaping the emotional burden of their experience. "The essence of the characters' personality is evoded in the very moment of its creation, but the character is immediately freed from the entrapment of the moment by transcending, through the agency of his imagination, his immediate situation. What he is is the essence already evoked; what he would be is open to manifold alternatives, a right variety of actions and their consequences… which all underlines the ntion of probability"(2).
The exploration of this phenomenon invites the introspection of the two different levels of action which consolidate the structural pattern of the novel as a whole: the surface and the subterranean levels. The surface level of action surrogates a journey from Soumaya's place, at the event of Samiha's death, to the cemetery oustside the bounderies of the city. The closest relatives gather and the corpse is carried down the stairs from the seventh floor, held, head and shoulders, by Sameh, bulk and limbs, by Kassab, Ishmael and Abou saleem, the hearse's driver. The corpse's position, its up-side-downess, lends the scene a touch of sad humour. Samiha's head is lying in the palms of Sameh's hand as he hastily descends the stairs while the corpse's feet are alternately held by other characters. All this takes place on a Friday in a severely cold weather: it is precisely the seventh of February.
From the start we know that the coffin will be driven to the "Green Mosque" where the prayer of death will take place before the procession moves forward with the coffin to "Saineeke’s Cemetery". The procession starts, led by the hearse which is followed by a dark "Mercedes" occupied by Kassab and Ishmael and two other men; this is followed by a red "Honda" driven by the distracted Sameh; then comes the grey "Peageot" driven by Tarek; and lastly, at some calculated distance, Wassem's car, which has halted in a secret position until all the cars have passed it, slowly trails the procession.
The procession leaves the hills of "Abra", East of Sidon, and slides its way through the turns and stretches of the road that snakes itself down into the centre of the city. As it reaches the "Green Mosque", it stops for the Friday noon prayer and the prayer for the dead. As the sheik delivers his sermon, others, outside the mosque, wait for the sermon and the prayer to be over: Louai, hidden in his car by the pavement; Soumaya, in another car, accompanied by Sameh's daughter, Nina. Evidently, Soumaya has chosen to do something contrary to what Moslem women are traditionally expected to do on such occasions. The Friday prayer over, the procession leaves, heading southward beyond the bounderies of the city of Sidon, to finally cross the bridge of "Saineek" and reach the cemetery above which the statue of Mary rests in its ethereal silence.
This surface level of action should not mislead the reader, for beneath the smooth rhythm of the journey to the cemetery lies the hidden drama of the human soul. This is the drama of intention where the procession itself becomes a "procession of intentions", as Soumaya puts it in Chapter One. So the fundamentally linear design of the novel necessarily becomes much more than the ordinary course of an every day event. This subterranean level enlightens the prospect of probability as a notion – itself a unifying pricinple – that is extremely necessary for the survival of those characters who are comically and fatally preoccupied with their intentions, prejudices, avarice and greed at the expense of brotherhood, family bondage and maternal love… perennially clinging to the promise of postponed fulfillment, the paradoxical suspension of the probable. "Only promise can be the stuff on which to feed since dwellers of probability we are"(3).
Now in connection with the drama of intention, it is imperative to point out that the manifold episodes of the interlocking ideas and passionsof the characters present these characters in real situations – situations that gradually unfold the action of the novel. Equally important is the fact that the structural pattern of the novel is paralleled both by the entire conception of the characters of their own situation and by the notion of probability – itself being the essence of their plans and intentions. This notion itself reveals the characters' typical gestures and their reactions to each other and to the mysterious presence of death. It also charts the kind of each response to the same experience. In this way, these fully-developed episodes forcefully partake of the multi-sided nature of the novel; primarily this is an objective dramatic fulfillment of one of many notions that characterize the semitic culture; however, this is still a study in perspective. Between the fact of Samiha's death and the characters' minds as represented in their monologues stands not only one's own rhetoric that exemplifies one's ideas and thoughts but also the diverse complexity of a culture that is wholly being explored. The result is not a needless complexity of vision but rather an elaborate explanation of the known condition as perceived by Hariri himself.
Within the novel, it is the death of Samiha that serves both as the source of dramatic tension and as the focal point of various other perspectives. The fact of death is significant in the way that others attribute to it. As a result, the minds of the characters simultaneously respond to their own imaginings, plots and intentions, are illuminated and are being illuminated by each other's thoughts in accordance to that central event.
The brothers' state of consciousness in the novel provides, within the framework of futurity and the acute sense of probability, different modes of interpretations. Tarek's internal monologues, for example, are filled with the gaunt impact of revengeful passion that is directed to its very end, yet still suspended within the ungraspable realm of probability through the one – tracked mind of illusive judgement and acute delirium of decisive rebellion.
Tarek senses the absurdity of any literal fulfillment of the promise of inheriting the restaurant after his mother's death. He is aware of the opposing forces that are working secretly against the family and is also aware of the forged documents as a sharp weapon in the grasp of his nephew, Louai. Under these conditions, his mind automatically switches to conjure a self-defense mechanism by resorting to the idea of hiring a lawyer who would study the case legally and in whose confidential secrecy he would confine the secrets of the family matter. His eyes do not wait long before they capture that man standing at the door of his house, in the same building where Soumaya lives, with his hands resting on his belly and his eyes fixed to the ground. Tarek's mind elates in the probability of future gains when after some time, "His hands [the lawyer's] would open up and his eyes would search aroumd, when the next morning the door of his office would close upon them and the papers of the case would scatter on his glittering desk"(4).
All throughout the way to the cemetery Tarek's mind remains intent on swirling and twirling around the case of the inheritace of the mother's piece of land upon which the father, her husband, has built a restaurant. Tarek's mind focuses on that moment when the lawyer's door would shut both of them in within the secrecy of his office, where he would open up and speak about his obsessions – all the time his thoughts turbulent with the idea of the future that would change the present situation.
Tarek's secret thoughts about the inheritance case and his plans are corrosive, and when seen in the light of his own logic, they appear to be inhuman. And also inhuman are the ideas that tumble forth in the depth of his turbulent mind. With sharp and obtrusive decision, he dreams of dispossessing Soumaya of her house. His strategy this time would build upon fake feelings and sentiments that would eventually serve to assist his comtemplative motives. "It is only one hour and I will come back to her empty house. It is only one hour and my tongue would slip with the warmth of brotherhood which will evacuate February's coldness from her rooms. My presence would be the embrace to her after a long separation… And if she accepts my protection, then peace will flourish between us, and if she hesitates and proves susceptible to be endorsed within the authority of their wills, I will burn the coals of their hearts, the hearts whose fire will burn her to the marrow of her bones"(5).
In the course of the journey to the cemetery, and whenever Tarek's mind regains its wakeful alertness and the concreteness of his vision, his eyes would spot familiar buildings on the sides of the street. Immediately, that mind probes into the tricks that would establish a prospect of salvation within the framework of the promising scope of probability. One time it is through increasing his wealth with the sum he would get from the inheritance; another time by dreaming of buying a piece of land, of starting a patisserie and finally of marrying a 16-year-old girl to live with him in the "glory that will be"(6). This probable glory haunts Tarek's imagination even at the moment when his eyes farewell the descending corpse of his mother to her eternal grave: "Now, I step over the ground in which you will descend as my eyes turn up towards the dome of the sky, where there would be born to glory, from the womb of death, today, stairs with steps like the seven skies, with my feet whispering over them, climbing higher and higher, because they (my feet) are the destination and the whisper and the echo of that whisper"(7).
The episode in the other cemetery where Tarek's father had been buried five years ago is also significant since it accentuates Tarek's obsession with the notion of a probable salvation of the soul through revenge. In this particular episode the reader is informed about the hostility that had marked the father-son relationship thoughout. Tarek's actual act of urinating on his father's grave, or just the idea of executing that act, is a kind of liberation from his latent hostility towards hid dead father and a fulfillment of a promise that he had once make – probably after a quarrel with his father – to "let the torrent of my body's tears run through the ground, or does not run, hot, yellow like mourning, cutting for itself a path, sliding into the very inside of the grave to surprise the bones my father had left there"(8). Then, Tarek's voice rises in defiance as though addressing his present father, "It was a promise to wet your bones with the tears of my body. You were worthy of the promise and here am I worthy of fulfilling it"(9).
Within the framework of the same occasion – the mother's death – Kassab's hopes and aspirations about the inheritance find a fertile ground for their growth. Like the rest of the members of the family, Kassab has his own dreams and wants to fulfill his latent promises to himself no matter what the price is. Kassab, no doubt, is a man of action and his poetry is of action rather than contemplation. Yet, inspite of his internal poetry, he is a rationalizing and deflating force. Within the context of his rationalizing and calculating mind, common sense is juxtaposed with a sense of probability. He more or less represents the community's sense of what is fitting and proper and what is not. Although he is the financially preserver and propertied careful man, he well appears as dull and despairing, helplessly prosaic. The selfsame moment he hears Soumaya's voice over the phone announcing his mother's death; he considers the eventualities of the event in a calculating manner. The arrangements he makes and the sense of calculation he executes spring directly from his acute sense of preservation and his careful determination to keep his money in the piggy band – a habit he cultivated as a little boy. In the light of his preoccupation with money and the piggy bank, he more than once thinks of his mother's opened mouth as a container resembling the opening in the piggy bank; he does the same when he remembers Sameh and compares his bed to a piggy bank for pleasure and sexual enjoyment.
Kassab is a means of communication in the family. He is the one who informs members of his family of the death of their mother and he is the one who thinks about death in terms of a scandal, for it "closes the deceased's eyes as it opens people's eyes"(10). This observation perhaps sheds light on the absurdity of the family relationships and upon the prejudices held by members of the family towards one another. Yet despite all this substanial and down-to-earth poetry, Kassab's mind still aspires towards the fulfillment of a certain dream that hovers above the actuality of the moment and shimmers in the prospect of owning Soumaya's house. To own this house, or even to dwell on this probability, Kassab is ready to forebear all of Soumaya's tricks and to tolerate all her allusions to her perpetual fatigue, tiredness, sickness and bad health – allusions he has heard for the past five years during which time she was taking care of her mother. So he decides to visit her at night:"rap at her door some soft raps and enter with my mouth closed, and my mouth would remain closed until the suitable moment comes and I invite her to leave her house and join my wife and me for the rest of her life… and after that, I would consider the prospect of her house"(11). Then his mind jumps to another probability, "And then comes Louai's turn"(12).
Since Kassab is concerned with the consequences of the perpetual assent of the present instant towards the future and since his mind's prompt response to the meeting with Louai is insidious, he envisions that meeting as a set-up eventuality that would be of utmost importance. Kassab knows that Louai is the beneficiary of the restaurant and its profits – left to him after the death of his father. And in the light of this knowledge, it is only a probability that Kassab would conspire with Louai against his brothers and sister by keeping the conflict over the inheritance in a perpetual state of suspension: never to be resolved until all are too old to benefit from it. Yet, ironically enough, and in the middle of that, Kassab's mind resorts to calculation when the idea of buying a refrigerator the next day dawns upon him. He plans to go on, as has been his habit for the past seven months, with his attempts to buy the refrigerator for the price he has named to the salesman.
When the procession of death reaches the mosque, Kassab's mind conjures another probability – the probable loss of his black pair of shoes in the midst of other pairs of shoes at the mosque's door – and soon improvises a plan to "take off my black pair of shoes and gather around them the praying men's pairs of brown shoes so that the brown circle around them would be the distinctive mark that would help me find them again"(13).
Kassab both conceives and aspires for the fulfillment of his intentions with obstrusive decision. But still rigid and solid among his other whims is his intention to disinherit his brothers and to conspire with Louai against them. This consummates his otherwise skilfull and artful plots. In their intensity and vigour, these insidious attempts are only comparable to the plans he secretly plots for owning Soumaya's house. His calculating mind hatches a plan to thwart his brother's efforts when they meet at Soumaya's house at night and when his "lips would talk to them about the importance of patience"(14), counting on their acceptance to leave the case to him to take care of so that later “time” itself, as it flows by season after season, would make them forget all about it. Only then would "Louai alone… be instrumental in diverting their eyes towards the unknown, that unknown which is but a new epoch that spells out the meaning of departure"(15).
Kassab's intention to involve Louai in the course of events is counterparted by Louai's own views and intentions about dealing with the matter of inheritance. Louai doubtlessly senses that his uncles would not remain silent about his manipulation of the restaurant after their mother's death – his alert mind probes for the anticipated danger with all its probable brutality. First, he provides himself with a revolver which he keeps hidden under the driver's seat and second he contemplates the risk he might run by having to present his documents tothe authorities if he were asked to do so. His thoughts flashback to the instant when he had ascended to the top of the wardrobe, upon hearing of his grandmother's death, to fetch the hidden envelope and to make certain that the seals, the signature of his grandfather and those of the witnesses are still there. Louai’s sense of danger burns his mind with the idea of "the paper which has become the promise of the unknown, hidden still in the narrow darkness between the wardrobe and the wall"(16). This idea frightens him out of his wits and so he keeps himself in check by chain – smoking while awaiting for the prayer ceremony to be over. He sits there in his car considering how he will have to join them in the cemetery – all for the sake of appearances – and offer them his condolences and then stealthily run away before any of them stops him for a chat.
If the probability of Louai's acceptance of Kassab's plots enslaves the latter's mind, Wasseem's mind is enslaved by the idea of avenging himself on Soumaya for what he sees in her as greed and apathy. He still holds against her a bitter memory of that occasion when she refused to let him and his wife stay with her until they had a house of their own.
With the prospect of dispossessing her of her house and the prospect of gaining some money from the inheritance, the probability of leading a new and different life looms out to Wasseem in the near future. And as the prospect is still sustained in probability, not fulfilled yet, he decides to deal with the present differently in the hope of being rewarded abundantly. Wasseem decides to exploit Soumaya's loneliness since she, in his opinion, has exploited the whole family during the lifetime of both their parents. Now things have changed and after a little while he hopes that "Your (Soumaya's) eyes will turn back to us after her burial (the mother's) and then your bet will be lost for good"(17).
Within this world of supple dreams and turbulent intentions, Soumaya is at once the focus of Wasseem's attention and the object of his meditated exploitation: "After the turtle's procession ends up its trip, I would come back and surprise you with my presence, Soumaya, would sit in your saloon in the same distracted manner of that novelist…, would recall behind my smiles to you that time which I think you have forgotten, and so would remember it alone and feel certain that I have remembered from it that thing which once did happen"(18).
Soumaya, whose image haunts her brothers' minds, entertaining their intentions during the burial ceremony with the prospect of dispossessing her of her house on the pretext of taking care of her for the rest of her life, is not a mere simple creature stretching her hands and voice out to the unknown. What she represents is a force that is probably necessary for the survival of a woman like herself living within the intricacies of a culture manipulated by the male members of society. Her rebellion and her wrath at their practices are justified. It is after the departure of her mother's corpse that Soumaya decides to challenge the very will of the community by following the procession to the cemetery where she can cast her last look at her mother as the corpse is lowered into the grave. Her desire, therefore, is to sort out the differences between her position and that of Christian women in her society who are allowed to attend such ceremonies. Knowing that she has been the only one who has taken care of her mother, she rages against the injustice of her brothers and against their unethical abandonment of her.
Because Soumaya thinks that her argument is fair and because she knows that she is helpless, she decides to avenge herself on all members of her family. Her mind instantly transcends the limits of actual reality and furnishes her with a vision of herself stretched on her deathbed with the family gathered around her waiting for her "will" to be read. "They will have the shock of their lives as they read that I bestow my house, along with all its furniture, upon the Maronitte Entailment in Saida. And nearby will be standing the bishop of the city, next to my deathbed, surprised with the strange but true news… standing there for a while and then through the window, he would turn his eyes toward the sky, as though seeing it for the first time, and as though for the first time his long grey beard would dance and his voice would break as he says: praised be the Lord, for this is indeed the labor of the city"(19).
In Soumaya's probable execution of that future deed/vision, one reads not only a mere act of vengeance against a family but rather a probable vengeance against the whole community. Neither does Soumaya find any refuge in her Semitic culture nor does she feel content and safe in her society; hence her reference to the Christian community. We are left with the image of a woman intent on antagonizing her own culture and her own community in a way that she perceives as abortional to all the people's self-reverence or power within their own standards: "We will go; mourners, we will certainly go, for today, I, in spite of the city's men, am both the norm and the city"(20).
Quite opposite to Soumaya's rebellious and tormented soul, Samiha's is totally unaggressive, plaintive, resilient. The dramatization of her situation epitomizes the dramatization of the human existence as being terminated by death. The drama of her situation lies beyond what the drama of any other individual can portray. It is the drama being suspended between two hazy states of consciousness: those of life and death, certainty and uncertainty, wakefulness and drowsiness. The symptoms of these conditions are deliberately punctuated by statements Samiha utters or thoughs she thinks of that form the jumbled chronology of her history. She leaps between the present and the past and makes it somehow difficult for the reader to grasp meaning of the complicated experience. Although being dead, her sense of time and her perception of the immediate situation are sharp and clear. It is obvious that Hariri is "deliberately exploiting the ambiguous state of her consciousness as an agency through which is dramatized the very ambiguous notion in the Semitic Culture of the deceased person's ability to be conscious, in a mysterious manner, of what goes on around him"(21).
It is artistically understandable, therefore, that Samiha, although said to be dead, still retains qualities of the livings: seeing, hearing and feeling. And since hers, as well as the other characters’, is a world of uncertain ties, she is imprisoned, throughout the journey, in the dubious situation of being wakeful and not wakeful, living and not living, dead and not dead. Locked artistically without the bounderies of time, she is gifted with the insight to feel and understand the direct effect of time, frozen to her at the instant of dawn, itself imprisoned in itself and in the Muazin's voive by whose call to prayer she usually measures time every morning of her life. In short, her situation and her conception of this situation are both paradoxical.
As the journey progresses, we learn to accept Samiha's paradoxical situation, on its own terms, as an artistic necessity in the fictional world of this human drama. This notion indeed gives Samiha an assurance over her doubts that she is dead and helps her conquer her fears by having her cling to the idea of crying out to Soumaya or by having her snatch the quilt from upon her body in order to render her own senses sharply awake. This state of sharp or clear wakefulness is what Samiha aspires to. Locked within the suspended abeyance of probability, she searches for a kind of external intrusion into her condition to be executed by Soumaya. This ambiguous state of death and undeath is triggered from the very beginning of the novel by the words of Abu Saleem – the hearse's driver – who shivers as his hands touch the coffin of the mellow and supple body of the dead woman. "Here I am involved with them in carrying their dead mother's corpse whose limbs are still soft and supple"(22).
In the mosque where the coffin is placed in the middle of the praying men, Samiha attempts to dissociate herself from the state of entrapped isolation and join the crowd. When she hears the voice of the Muazin calling for the midday Friday prayer, she misinterprets it for the voice calling for the dawn prayer at the mosque near Soumaya's house in Abra. "(His voice) come to me as if I am dreaming, so it might be a dream or might be that the Muazin is announcing the call for the dawn's prayer. So I can throw away this drowsiness and open my eyes to wash and hurry up to pray before it is too late for me to be rewarded"(23).
Entrapped by this sense of bewilderment and loss, Samiha is incessantly urged by a strange need to effect a decisive change in her condition. This change is represented, in her mind, by Soumaya's probable response to her attempts to wake her up so that Soumaya would bring her – Samiha – to a state of full wakefulness. This entrapment and this strife are maintained throughout until her last monologue in the burial scene.
As the procession approaches the bridge of "Saineek", Samiha seems to hear the sound of the water and to smell the fragrance of oranges as the road stretches towards the cemetery. Engulfed in this mood of polarized sensitivity, her hesitancy and uncertainty invade her being once more and she prays deep in her heart that Soumaya's voice would snatch her back into actuality.
Samiha's sense of undulation between her lingering death and a probable state of drowsiness comes to an end when she begins to realize the tragedy of her condition. In the burial scene in Chapter Seven, she addresses Sameh – probably the son she loves most – from the bottom of the grave, telling him that he would probably "Come to visit me, O Sameh, and would stand in front of her grave [his aunt's] and read the Opening Surah of the Koran, thinking that you are reading it over my grave. And then you would be directed towards my grave and read the Opening Surah of the Koran, thinking that you are reading it over her own grave"(24). This is a prophetic voice – prophetic indeed since it foretells of an event that will probably turn into a bewildering revelation seven months far into the future from the seventh day of February.
At the end, as Samiha lies enclosed in the darkness of her grave, her wavering between the probable states of death and undeath does not come to an end. Strangely enough, she still clings to that ancient human hope, that saddening probability of a sudden salvation from death to take place if only she could open her already opened mouth and cry out:"Don't heap over me the earth, the earth, the earth, the earth, the earth, the earth, the earth"(25). To the very end, Hariri vehemently persists in his dramatization of Samiha's condition as a symbolic representation of a Semitic notion of death.
The probability of the existence of a conscious state of the soul after death is dramatized in the form of Jahhar's own soul. But one is tempted to say that Jahhar's firm and resistant voice overshadows the notion of probability which in reality is the essence of his hazardous being. Imprisoned within the profound inertia of death's timelessness, the soul has been given leave by the guardians of the grave to rise above the fence of the cemetery and watch Samiha's procession pass by.
Jahhar's tireless persistence in ensuing his rhetoric tends to provide a unique example of masculine power and strength rendered futile by death. First his anger rises atseeing the procession curving away from the Sidon cemetery, hurrying Southward toward the Saineek cemetery. His yearning for probable reunion with his wife in the grave is unmistakable. "Years and years have passed since the time of my death, with me hoping to break my loneliness which had been broken by no one before"(26). According to tradition, members of the deceased person's family are expected to pay him a visit early in the morning, to break the loneliness he has experienced in his first night in the grave. Jahhar expresses his hope that a hint from Samiha would probably change the direction of the procession and let it head for the Sidon cemetery where he readily awaits her. But when things do not go the way he desires, he retaliates by promising Samiha of a destiny similar to his: unbroken loneliness and utter desertion by all members of her family.
And as Samiha chooses Sameh to address from the bottom of her grave, so does Jahhar, who addresses him from above the cemetery's fence, reminding him of an incident that had once happened and which the father could not have probably forgotten. In a fit of fury, Sameh seemsto have struck his father on the face causing the blood to gush forth from his nose, trickling down his cheeks and filling his mouth with a salty taste. "Blood, O Sameh, blood, O Sameh, blood, O Sameh, of which both my nose and my soul were redolent, after the palm of your hand retracted from my face and blood spilled like a river of disgrace at the sides of my nose and washed a lip with its saltiness and sliminess wetted my tongue"(27). But Jahhar, still present in the probability of the moment, asserts his own identity by promising Sameh to leave him a token of his father's existence, of his fiercely passionate identity. This he does by casting upon him an everlasting curse: "I have passed on to you the curse of my blood and embodied it in your eyes; your eyes will always remain full of something belonging to others"(28).
Turbulent within this probability of vague existence, Jahhar casts his curses on every one. His target now is to reduce Soumaya to a lifeless vehicle of bitterness. He accuses her of having followed the procession only to certify the truthfulness/actuality of her mother's death. Soumaya's intention, Jahhar argues, is to make sure that the grave has been carefully shut and that the one that has gone away would never come back. His exultant articulation of his thoughts is crowned by a promise he makes to Louai: "Here I am, in front of your eyes and theirs, holding the ends of night and day, with neither of you knowing when either of them settles down or rises up"(29). Jahhar's interference in the course of the journey, without being a hindrance to the advancement of the procession, and his interpretation of his own views in the medium he invents, locate his being as a mere intention of a soul/ghost.
In contrast to all this, Abu Taher's concrete articulation of his intentions elevates the notion of probability to bounderies and scopes of a new vision unexperienced by any other character in February's Promise. Language and intention unite to create this character who is rendered at once culturally and politically oriented, with a vision punctuated by evergreen remembrances of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, with the sense of the brutal death of many fighting citizens – a public death, allocated with a tantalizing sense of this private event of death – death which in both cases takes place on the same day, Friday, and in the same place, the Nigmi Square in the city of Sidon.
This tantalizing experience which Abu Taher's mind reconstructs in terms of death "before" and death "now" elaborates the pattern of perpetual anticipation of a fitting reaction to such a recollection of both his body and his mind. His eyes surrogate the event and attentively trace the stretches and turns of the street that he expects to take him towards "the South, the South, until we reach the lost Palestine"(30).
The tentative rhythm the course of the journey evokes is orchestrated in Abu Taher's mind by an intention that would lead into an execution of a heroic deed. "Behind us we write with the remains of our bodies and with blood the victory which will come, even after sometime, and draw on the earth, in the name of those who sold what was gone with that which is coming, a moment with eternity, a martyrdom square, everlastingly green with the promise, everlastingly under surveillance at the side of the road on which is written the movement Southward, Southward till we reach the lost Palestine"(31).
Abu Taher's political vision, springing from political reality and dwelling in the realm of probability, is further accentuated in his claim that "Every Moslem mother is my mother"(32). This woman, however, is transformed within the conception of an emancipated future into a martyr bomb, a timless bomb that would cross all the military check-points right into the heart of Palestine, blowing up Moses' Ark (the Ark of Covenent) to pieces, terminating that emblem of the first Semitic culture and announcing the new beginning of a new one to emerge soon. And since dream is aprobability, the coming true of Abu Taher's dream remains a prospect of a Moslem resistant whose aspiration is less of a rebellion than of martyrdom itself.
Yet Abu Taher is not only the potential martyr who revels in his political/religious visions of future truimphs; he is also a sympathetic comrade of the deceased's corpse, whose duty is now to teach her how to respond to her mysterious experience of being in the grave. "Two angels will come now and ask her about her name. She should neither feel afraid nor grieve, but should answer, saying her full name, without a quiver of her lips. Then I will tell her that these two angels will inquire about the god she worships, and that she should tell them she worships Allah, the only God. And then I will tell her that the two angels will ask her about her religion and that she should openly declare her Islam. Then I will say to her that the two angels will ask her about the name of her prophet, and that she must not hesitate to name "Mouhamed" and pray for him, for only then will the angels pray for her and only then will peace descend on her and the edges of the grave embrace her – the embrace of light and mercy"(33).
The obsession with the notion of unity as set against diversity – a remarkable feature of the Semitic culture – essentially characterizes February's Promise through Hariri's dramatization of Ishmael's visionary mind. Ishmael usurps the principle of unification by preaching it thoughout his sections in the novel. As an individual, Ishmael tries to find unity in diversity, to find a sense of harmony, a sense of oneness, between what is seen and what is not seen – his aim being to establish a relationship between the now, the then and eternity. This, of course, is one representative example, but not all.
Ishmael conceives of the paradox of time as the greatest in the chain of being that both consumes existence and reproduces it in new, different forms. The whole long diminishing parade of moments whose beginning and ending we can not conceive is the persistent preoccupation of Ishmael who tries incessantly to unify time and join its ends in the same way we join the beginning and end of a single thread. His very concern with the unity of time is traced even in his attempt at unifying "the pulse of the hand of his watch, the pulse of his temple and the pulse of the winking of the eye which are all movements governed by one principle"(34).
This same principle is also applied to the two aspects or dimensions of time: present and past. Ishmael envisions the probable unification of these two dimensions as being performed, most certainly for him, at the very moment of death. His vision of the inevitability of the departure of Samiha's corpse is bent towards circumventing the two dimensions and towards achieving the permenance of remembrance, the permenance of flashbacks and of echoes, when somehow his vision is suddenly arrested by the steady succession of events that reduces everything, even remembrance itself, to flowing fractions of time. "The time will come back to me, turned on me by your stretched corpse… And it is the echo of what is was and what you were and the twin that is implanted in the probability of the echo of the river's sound which was in the beginning of time and of the echo of the wind's whispers as it passes through the palm leaves. The bodies of these three echoes embrace now in the air, and your body, no more accessible to the river or the palm orchard, will soon be taken by the soil of the ground, taken in its own journey of extinction, which is the river of time, where the two dimensions will unite"(35).
In Islam, according to Ishmael, shall be the union of all Semitic religions: "What is a church but a mosque in disguise in the procession of light? (36). And "What is a church but a mosque potentially willed in the womb of the unknown?"(37). Only in the purity of this vision of religious unification does Ishmael's soul elate, especially as he imagines himself preaching, on "Good Friday", at "Kaya'a" church, his congregation a happy herd of women, men and children. In this long dream he soon hurries to the mosque in answer to the Muazin's call to prayer and there delivers the Friday sermon, calling attention to the loving attention given to Jesus Christ both in the Koran and the Sunnite tradition. Ishmael follows his day-dream to witness the mosque's door flooded with the congregation he has already preached at "Kaya'a" church; Moslems and Christians are finally united in their prayer to one and the same God, and what seems to be a political impossibility in reality is easily achieved at the fantastic level of the human experience. In other words, probability, in its mysterious ways, can bring the future into the present and can translate dreams into an autonomous reality of its own.
Yet the potential unifier of time and place, the visionary orator of the principle of unification, is also a visionary attempter at the understanding of the relationship between life and death, death and resurrection. From the wavering of the eye-lid to the deep faith in the significance of the dream, Ishamel's cosmic perception repudiates the probability of man witnessing the act of creation but allows him to luxuriate in a vision about God's power to spill the pulsing soul into the created organism: "The vision took me one night to a place similar to the world of the unknown, and is not the unknown, and presented to me in the form of a dream the phases of the creation of man, after the development of soil, from the state of a semen to a state of a leech then to a state of an embryo"(38).
In addition to all that, the most puzzling and the least familiar concept of death and resurrection as conceived in February's Promise is relevantly presented by Ishmael himself. Ishmael analyzes death in all its complex formulations and metamorphoses: from the expiring of the last breath to the rising of the ethereal body that stretches out above the corpse to remain there until the corpse is resurrected for the final judgment. Ishamel's conceptions of the ideas of death and resurrection are never soeffective and revealing as when they are both potential possibilities of the unknown operating simultaneously, as when each mirrors a concrete state of existence or a probability or as when each initiates a new vision of the spiritual side of existence. Thus it is vital for him to view life and death so united, so entwined – an idea that makes him so engrossed in contemplation and conclusions that he views the death of his uncle's wife as a visionary act of unification that would validate his own prespective. Within this prospect, there forms a probable salvation of the human body and the human soul through the reconciliation of these two entities – the physical and the ideal, the body and the soul – within the framework of a deep understanding of the cosmos and its secrets, its superstitions and myths, as exemplified in the "Cosmic Books"(39) that he evaluates.
Obviously, these cosmic books become of inordinate importance to him with their offering of quite a substantiality of vision – a new marveling through the human mind, its superstitions and its beliefs – and even an adventuring of a self-discord knowledge in the realms of physical sciences which more or less validate his thus achieved conceptions.
Ishmael acquires a sense of reality which springs, in part, from his personal experience which most men not only have not had, but one with which they are reluctant to identify themselves even when presented in forms of the imagination. Thus when his eyes wink, he reads it as a sign or an omen which cannot be fully understood although he presents varied interpretations that range from the probable assumption of being caused by the decaying gums to the actual conclusion of being a sign or a hint for something that would happen.
Yet Ishmael's firmness of personality and solidarity of conception render the dichotomy of the spirit and the body in him hopelessly paralyzed and neutralized. He surprisingly functions equally on both levels. Something of the worldly and the actual man lurks in him when he hears the news of the death of his uncle's wife on the phone. "Don't hesitate to include me in the arrangement of the funeral"(40). But in the funeral, the spiritualist takes over. The moment the lid of the coffin rests in its place, Ishmael envisions the ethereal body of his uncle's wife "slipping out through the wooden planks and stretching out in the air in the same way the corpse beneath it is stretched out"(41). This ethereal body, he explains, is not made of the elements of earth but is somehow similar to an "Obsession made of fog"(42).
In the context of the adjustment or balance between the probability of the everlastingness of this ethereal body and the actuality of the decay of the elemental one, Ishmael affirms that this ethereal body remains intact, "watching it as it decays, disintegrates and becomes extinct. And so it goes on in its eternal waiting until the trumpet of Doomsday blows and the atoms of the soil move in preparation for the resurrection… these atoms would be reshaped again in the image of the ethereal body which has always been there, waiting"(43). His attempts at unifying things proceed with a similar attempt at reconciling the world of the physical with the world of the ideal. And this is eventually bound to the probable everlastingness of the ethereal body's journey that looms to his mind as “a remembrance of a state that has finished and a promise of a state that will be"(44). Henceforth, it is a probability that lurks at the recesses of his mind, a probability that the meaning of the ethereal body's existence is an omnipotent mark, fitting for its own ending – happy ending in an eternal life, presumably in the promised paradise. This ethereal body that is bound to remain intact till Doomsday will maintain its position floating over the buried corpse, with its "head, like the corpse's head, directed to the west, and its feet, like the corpse's feet, stretched towards the east. This ethereal body will remain in that position until the trumpet fills the earth; only then will it be permitted to rise and straighten in the air, standing on its feet with its face facing the place whence the Truth will shine"(45).
Whereas Ishmael is obviously preoccupied with Samiha's ethereal body, Abu Saleem – the hearse driver – is incessantly haunted by Samiha's paradoxical condition: the dreary probability of burying a living person mistaken for a dead one. This paradox seems to add one more complexity to the ever-growing complexities of February's Promise. It is Abu-Saleem himself who introduces this notion of probability upon helping carry Samiha's supple body down the stairs. His fears are not based on vague presumptions or suppositions. His recollection of a thrilling experience of rage and horror when he was about thirteen years old justifies his anxiety. The scene, as far as his recollection goes, is an open grave where the citizens of Sidon were driven one early morning to witness a coffin torn to pieces by the very hands and fingers of a woman buried the previous day. "In front of the opened grave, under one of the leafy trees, all gathered around and inserted their eyes into the hole in which the morning news said that the woman who had been buried the day before, had awakened from death at night and had torn her coffin to pieces in the midst of horror and fear"(46).
Samiha's paradoxical condition is suddenly neutralized as we enter the mind of Samiha's brother-in-law, Abu Mahmoud, as he meditates on life and death in the burial scene. To him, the two sisters who have been bereaved of intimate contact and conversation for the past thirty years or so, due to the problems created by Jahhar, may well now be reconciled within the borders of the enclosed graves. As a professor of American literature, Hariri might have had Emily Dickinson in mind when he was writing his novel. The poem I am referring to runs as follows:
"I died for beauty, but was scarce/Adjusted in the tomb,/When one died for truth was lain/In an adjoining room.
And so as kinsmen met at night,/We talked between the rooms,/Until the moss reached our lips,/And covered up our names"(47).
It is true, however, that in February's Promise, neither Samiha nor her sister dies for beauty or for truth in the Dickensian sense. Also the sisters may or may not discourse along the walls of the two graves. The probability, however, of imagining buried sisters conversing as neighbours do is presented in the novel as a fact… at least to Abu-Mahmoud's mind.
In the middle of this huddled confusion of different remembrances, ambitions, aspirations, plotting and musings stands Nina, Sameh's daughter, as a potential force of the future that embodies the prospect of a new outlook on life, eventually based on her present observations and on her exposure to the conflicting values evoked by the on-going family-in-fights during this adventure of death totally alien to her. A mixture of motives and responses are indeed involved in Nina's experience as a child, and she only partially comprehends what is occurring, and she responds to what she sees with acceptance, though with a slight tinge of fear and sadness. The important thing about this girl is that she gracefully fits in Hariri's scheme of uncertainties. She, an entity in the making, symbolizes nothing less than an infinityor probabilities.
It is an essential element in Hariri's conception of February's Promise that Sameh should be seen independently and apart from his three brothers, each with his own self-centered demands, his own limitations and obsessions. He stands, as the book itself stands, shifting progressively from one episode to another and ranging within the ultimate bounderies of the past, the present and the future. He even dwells in the differing focuses of culture, inherited throughout the ages as a kaleidoscopic adventure in its unavoidable shadowiness and precision.
Sameh's vision of life and death, of love and loving, of human existence with all its potentialities can best be interpreted as the collective consciousness of an artist, a man, a lover and a spiritualist. And since Sameh's character explors different layers of the human consciousness, it would be tempting to call his journey – which is ventured both within his sensitive soul and without it, in the actual world of reality – a cultural autobiographical journey of the soul – the soul being not an individual consciousness suspended in a state of utter isolation, absolute detachment, but rather a consciousness everlastingly growing in the very heat of the cultured world, of human motivation, ambition, greed, frustration, revenge, longing and all the unutterable and dignified attractions and repulsions experienced by man, who, at once, faces the world he has always been trying to understand and the world which will always be nothing more than a probability.
Women and love are the two stand-points upon which Sameh's probable liberation of the soul and the probable fulfillment of existence depend. In his internal trip, he is to find a solution to his dilemma. His tormented mind finds moments of elation, spiritual ecstasy and longing in the remembrances of the variety of women he recalls. Each woman constitutes a link in a chain that would probably not end until his soul is fully liberated from the limitations of time, place or even physical entity. His yearning begins with his mother, the begetter of life and the symbol of sacrifice, conceived in the image of the bird whose annual arrival he remembers now "as if it were a season of time springing from a soil different from the soil of the four seasons of the year"(48). His tender feelings towards his mother are shown in terms of her being the principal sustainer of life, unity and survival: "Carried me and I carry her. The warmth of her body had engulfed the softness of mine and she was to my limbs the embrace which kept away hot and cold weather and spared me, whenever she could, the coarseness of this earth"(49).
This exquisite tenderness is characteristic of Sameh. Free from the furies that torment his brothers, or, more precisely, endowed with a gift to rise above them, he seems to be too absorbed in his own thoughts to notice the family crisis darkening around him. But this is not true, for his metaphorical conception of the human experience can be misleading to a hasty reader untrained in the ways of artistic, and therefore, detached representation.
It is also characteristic of February's Promise that Sameh should be the only member of the family who aspires for the salvation of the soul through love. When hatred and revenge torment his brothers' and sister's minds with insidious venom-like thoughts, Sameh's mind is immersed, in its own way, in an ecstatic journey into the realms of myths, archetypes, sexual orgies and cultural contradictions, overlapping and intermingling throughout his sections, bringing about an effect of totality of the vision or the universality of the perception of the human motives and human desires.
Seeking an outlet from family repressions and from the imapact of the actual journey of death, Sameh indulges in taking the other journey anticipated in the processes of his mind. This internal, or imaginary, journey serves as an exemplification of the vision of the artistic mind that transcends the present situation and sublimates the course of events to the total liberation of the soul through the agency of this artistic sensibility. Sameh is the American literature professor at a university in Beirut and a "writer of tales". His reference to the story of the Bundrens is not whimsical. It is the mind of the artist functioning under pressure – the solid pressure of death and loss.
However, this equivalent journey which haunts Sameh's imagination operates on two levels. On the one hand, it is an extension of his imaginative power that overlaps with the real, actual event and alternates with it until the very end of the actual journey. Sameh views the Bundrens' carriage, driven by two mules, as tearing up the pages of Faulkner's novel, with its wheels vibrating between his closed eyelids. He even views the coffin, with the corpse of the dead mother within, as sliding along the infinitely sliding angles as the road leads the two mules around its curves and stretches. And as the view within vanishes, upon his sudden reopening of his eyes to reality, the affinity between the fictional and the actual journeys is constantly deepening its effect on his consciousness. This ordeal Sameh goes through all the way to Saineek cemetery.
On the other hand, all these shifting scenes and images, and all this alternation between what really is and what is going to happen condensate Sameh's vision which culminates, through his poetic sensibility, in the contextual blending of cultural, religious and personal motifs, represented by the song of the hoopoe in Chapter Seven. And it is on this same intricate level of poetic sensibility that Sameh conceives his dream to write a new novel in imitation of Faulkner's: "I open my eyes to close the pages of the novel and to see the procession once again, with myself in the middle, captivated by the pages of the novel which I haven't written yet"(50).
Sameh’s obsession with the notion of probability is, of course, equivalent in his consciousness with the prospect of futurity, especially the fulfillment of future promises. Although he seems to be outside the general course of events, he can easily switch from one state to another, indulging in varying sensations and feelings. Being manifold in prospect and diversity, his vision is a synthesis of the eventuality of diverse situations and the introspection of different illusions and dreams. And by virtue of this vision, Sameh manages to hold himself in active participation in the main event while at the same time enjoying his freedom from it. Yet the fluctuation of Sameh’s mind rests on the notion of promises: the promise Mrs Bundren makes to herself to avenge herself on the whole family by making them suffer the hardships of carting her corpse in a long journey to Jefferson’s cemetery. “She feels relaxed to see him intent on accomplishing her coffin and ho hear the noise of the adze as it works, singing to her ears its promise of her salvation from the monotonous waiting for death; a promise she has made to herself to make their ignorance of the real reason behind the journey a way of avenging herself on them all” (51). But there is still a major difference between the two journeys. The mother in Faulkner’s novel chooses her burial place, while Sameh’s mother has no choice whatsoever to make. But despite this difference between their fates, the fictional mother triggers Sameh’s imagination to consider writing a new novel should they safely pass from the land of the living to the land of the dead. “What is this in the language of promise…? What are the two journeys but one and the same, already written there, and not written here yet, with its line held in the probability of our crossing safely to the land of death…” (52).
Within this medium of intuitive reaction to experience, with its results still in abeyance, Sameh envisions Mrs. Bundren’s death procession merging with his mother’s procession at a certain unindentified moment in time. The intuited movement thus created fluctuates between the internal and the external action, until it finally settles down in the embodiment of an aspired-for union, made real under the influence of the shadowy fragrance of orange trees. “It (the carriage) proceeds and proceeds, deeply attracted by the east… It and we are welcomed by the trees on both sides of the road, as though we were ascending a tunnel of colour and of the fragrance of orange” (53).
If Sameh’s internal journey entices his shrewdness in the act of fulfilling his ambition to write a novel, it also entices his ability to discriminate among the gradations of the levels of pursuits of his goals in the world of the imagination. Therefore, it unravels and registers both his secret life and affairs and the inner vibrations of his soul. Internal conflicts are resolved hidden suppressions liberated and general distortions relieved. Woman after another is prized and her value in Sameh’s life is tested. Many kinds of frictions are thus engendered, and cultural connotations come to be seen not as abstract categories imposed upon the structure of the novel, but as initiators or elements in Sameh’s efforts to cope with his conflicting desires and aspirations. At every point in his recollections, there lingers a different image of a different woman. In this respect, Sameh’s life can be defined as his journey from one woman to another, a journey both he and his women regard, perhaps as a settling of passion and lust, which comes after a great confusion and pain, with positive consequences. And because Sameh is in complete command of his passionate maneuvers and in full control of his perspective, the meaning of his promiscuity emerges through a series of contrasts between a fixed scale of personal measure and an evolving notion of complete salvation. His vision of woman demands more than the slight devotion of flesh and blood; it demands a full understanding for the woman’s personality and what she seems to stand for.
As the image of the woman/mother fades away, there is almost a representation of the ideas of a pagan worship of sexual femininity. Sameh seems to have always wanted that other woman to be beautiful and truly distinguished, potentially an answer to his physical yearnings and his emotional estrangement. Throughout his sections, one sees him struggling heroically with his desire to fill some dark emptiness in him with his desire to live. Beginning with his female student at the university, he envisions a new promise that would probably lead to some kind of salvation from the haunting image of the domineering mother in As I lay Daying and from his unspoken attachment to his mother made acute now by her death.
This female student dismisses as trivial Addie Bundren’s absurd revenge by declaring that “My life is my own affair, and here I am stripping it naked before your eyes, so take it, and with it clothe your nakedness, O, you lover of tales” (54). This is a latent promise epitomized in the probability of the fulfillment of another promise. “One evening perhaps, or perhaps on a calm night, I will let you dwell in my body’s wound and will wrap you up with the four snakes of my longing, hissing at you with passion, bending you to the pulse of my wound, hissing and hissing… until the dawn breaks up in your eyes and you whoop with blood the way my wound will whoop” (55).
In his poetic articulation, the woman to Sameh transcends the limits of flesh and blood and becomes a transparent vision equivalent only to “the filteration of drops of water that slip into the crackling skin of the earth… Woman is the fulfillment of a promise” (56).
And when the woman does not belong to his immediate personal experience, Sameh turns at times with open insistence and other times with a feeling so close to wistfulness to the world of archetypes, hoping to find there some token of fulfillment by which to reconcile the warring elements of his nature. Now it is the image of the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ, a celebrated symbol of the spiritual side of Sameh’s nature. She is both a promise of mercy and a token of maternal love. Time, for her, exists only at the moment of dawn, itself a time of promise eventually related to the notion of probability. “Here she is, Virgin Mary, rising, like dawn, on the top of the mountain” (57). Another time Sameh’s visions capture the image of Astarte, to whom all women always prove unequal. In her temple, engulfed with the fragrance of oranges, the lovers’ bodies celebrate the joy of sexual intercourse, find vantage points with the liberation they find through ecstatic trances – states of total physical surrender and fulfillment. This sexual motif not only recurs in Sameh’s actual world but also in his world of fantasy. Fantasy takes over in the presence of death and Sameh travels back to the realm of sexuality and women.
Immediately after these references to Mary and Astarte, a process of metamorphosis takes place in an underground cemetery in Paris. The bones of the dead are suddenly covered with flesh, and desire is immediately created. Through the presence of a resurrected woman, the cemetery is transformed into life and a comparison is immediately made between the transparency of the resurrected woman’s complexion and that of Balkis’s legs in the water of Solomon’s palace.
Lastly, and with all that emotional strain that the novel holds, the introduction of Balkis in the poem of the hoopoe stands as another manifestation of the cultural complexity and mythical involvement that the book introspects. When Balkis is introduced, all the cultural complexities and tensions are ardently examined. All the contradictions of Sameh’s character as an artist, as a professor and as a lover are likely to invoke a similar independent experience and to rise to the level of myth.
Throughout the novel, whether in his recollection of past memories or through encountering the heart of the Semitic culture, Sameh has been trying to find a solution to his enigmatic delimma – the conflict between the physical and the ideal. And this dilemma is purposefully submitted to the cultural introspection of Balkis and Solomon’s myth. Here the significance of Sameh’s conflicting psychological, mental and physical faculties is evidently checked and stimulated, and henceforth reaches to a certain resolution. This personal resolution will be implied in the mythical resolution of the conflict between Balkis and Solomon as king and queen and as man and woman; it will also be implied in the symbolic liberation of the hoopoe.
In the poem of the hoopoe, Sameh dramatizes his personal experience in terms of a long-established myth. The poem celebrates simultaneously the anticipated union of Balkis, as queen and woman, and Solomon, as prophet, king and man, and the internal trip of Sameh’s soul with its promised liberation.
What remains to be said is that only at the moment of union between the personal and the cultural, the spiritual and the physical is the final liberation of the bird made possible. This same moment is a moment of confinement and a moment of liberation. “In terms of time, now and ternity unite in the duality of the retreat of Samiha’s corpse to the grave and the flight of the hoopoe to fulfill the mission, appointed to him by Balkis, that of teaching, for all the futurity of time, liberation through love” (58). The surrender and the flight remain, however, paradoxical accents of the vey language of probability.
* * * * * *
(1) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.52.
(2) From an interview with Salahuddine Hariri on 03.03.1997
(3) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.10.
وَهَلْ غِذاؤنا إلاَّ الوعْدُ، نحن ساكِني الاحتمال؟
(4) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.18.
ستُفْرج يداه وتتحرّك عيناه حينما يُغْلَقُ غداً خلفنا البابُ وتنطرحُ على لَمَعانِ مكتبه أوراقُ القضيّة.
(5) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.18.
فما هي إلاّ ساعةٌ حتى تردَّني إلى منزلها الخاوي قدماي. وما هي إلا ساعة حتى يَذْلُقَ لساني بدفء الأخوّةِ مبدّداً من غرفاتها صقيعَ شباط. حضوري سيكون لها الغمرةَ بعد طول غياب. ولسوف أطيلُ حضوري إن حضرتُ، ولسوف ألحّ فيه حتى يكون تكرارُه تأكيداً لمعناه. فإنْ جَنحَتْ للاستظلال بظلّي أورقَ السّلمُ بيننا، وإن جنحتْ إلى التميّعِ في إرادتهم فإني لَمُوقدٌ من أفئدتهم جمراتٍ تتقلّب عليها حتى يَنضُبَ من عودِها الزيتُ كلّه.
(6) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.90.
السؤددِ الذي سوف يكون.
(7) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.156.
فَهَا أنا ذا أطأ بقدميَّ الأرض التي فيها ستنزلين، بينما تتوجه عيناي إلى قبّة السماء، حيث سيولّدُ للسؤدد اليوم من رحمِ الموتِ مُرْتَقىً دَرَجَاتُهُ كالسمواتِ سبعٌ، تهمس فوقَها قدماي، وقد شفَّتا شفَّتا، فَهُما المرتقى وهما همسةُ الوطءِ، ورَجْعُ الصدى.
(8) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.28.
إنه السيل من دموع جسدي يجري في الأرض، ولا يجري، حارّاً أصفر كالنواح ويشقّ له في التربة ممرّاً يفضي به إلى جوف القبر فَيَبْغَتَ العظام التي خَلَّفْتَّها فيه يا أبي.
(9) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.28.
كان وعداً عليّ حقاً أن أبلّل عظامكك بدمع جسدي. ولقد كنتَ جديراً بالوعد وها أنذا خليقٌ بالإيفاء
(10) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.33.
يُغْمِضُ عَيْنَيْ الميّتِ ويفتح على أهل بيته عيونَ الناس.
(11) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.71.
وأطرق البابَ طرقاً ناعماً، ثم أدخل بالفم المطبقِ الذي سيظل مطبقاً حتى تحينَ اللحظةُ لِبَذْلِ الكلمةِ التي هي دعوةٌ لها لتترك منزلها وتنضمّ إلينا بقيّة عمرها في منزلي ومنزل زوجتي، على أن نتدارس بعد ذلك أمرَ منزلها.
(12) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.71.
ثم يأتي بعد ذلك دوْرُ لُؤَيّ.
(13) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.97.
فأخلع حذائي الأسودَ وأجمّعَ حوله أحذية المصلّين البنيّةَ اللونِ، فتكون تلك الدائرةُ حوله العلامةَ الفارقةَ له، حتى لا أضيّع عنه أو ينتعله غيري.
(14) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.140.
ثم تحدثهم شفتايَ بضرورة الصبرِ والتروّي.
(15) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.140.
ولًؤيّ وحده سيكون الأداة في مَدّ عيونهم تلقاء الغيبِ، ذلك الغيب الذي ما هو إلاّ الزمانُ الجديدُ لمعنى الرحيل.
(16) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.112.
والورقةُ التي صارتِ الوعدَ بالغيب مطمورةٌ لا تزال في الظلامِ المحشور بين الخزانة والحائط.
(17) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.49.
ولسوف ترتدُّ عيناكِ إلينا بعد دفنها ويسقط من بين يديك الرهان.
(18) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.82.
بعدما ينتهي موكبُ السلاحف من رحلته، سأعود لأبْغَتْكِ بحضوري، يا سمية، فأجلس في صالونِكِ الجلسةَ السارحةَ التي يجلسها كاتبُ الرواياتِ والشعرِ، ونتفاً نتفاً، أسترجع خلف ابتساماتي لكِ الزمنَ الذي أظنّكِ نسيتِه فأتذكره وحدي وأطمئن إلى تذكّري منه الشيءَ الذي كان.
(19) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.150.
ويقرأون وصيتي التي أهبُ فيها منزلي كاملاً بكلّ ما فيه إلى الوَقْفِ المارونيّ في صيدا، وإلى جانبهم مطرانُ المدينة الذي، هو الآخر، يقف قرب سريري، مأخوذاً بالخبر الأكيد على غرابته، يقف هناك هنيهة ثم يحوّل عينيه إلى النافذة التي إلى اليمين وينظر عبرها إلى السماء، فكأنه يراها لأول مرة، ولأول مرة يرقص الشيبُ في لحيته المرسلةِ إرسالاً، فيتهدّج صوتهُ ويقول: قُدِّسَ الربُّ، هذا مَخَاضُ المدينة!.
(20) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.52.
سنذهب حتماً. سنذهب حتماً، فأنا العُرْفُ حين أشاء، يا لابساتِ السواد، وأنا اليومَ رغم الرجال، المدينة.
(21) Salahuddine Hariri, an interview on 03.03.1997.
(22) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.15.
فَها أنا متورطّ بِحَمْلِ فقيدتهم معهم، وهي طريّة الأطرافِ لا تزالُ.
(23) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.98.
يأتي إليَّ كأنما في المنام، فلعله الفجرُ ولعلَ المؤذنَ يلهج بالدعوة لصلاة الفجر، فكيف أضُبُّ عني النعاس وأفتح عينيّ وأتوضأ وأعجّل بالصلاة قبل أن يفوتني موعدُ الصلاة، فأنا على ذلك الأجر كله؟
(24) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.167.
ولسوف تأتي تزورني، يا سامحُ، فتقف أمام قبرِها وتقرأ على روحي الفتحةَ ظناً منك أنك تقرأها فوق قبري. ثم تتوجّه إلى قبري فتقرأ الفاتحة على روحي ظناً منك أنك تقرأها فوق قبرها هي.
(25) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.168.
لا تُهيلوا عليّ الترابَ الترابَ الترابَ الترابَ الترابَ الترابَ الترابَ؟
(26) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.123.
سنينَ سنينَ من زمن الموت، لتفكّي وحدتي التي لم يفكّها لي، صبيحةَ وَجَبَ الفّكُّ، لا زيارة منكِ لي...
(27) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.130.
الدمَ. يا سامحُ، الدمَ، يا سامحُ، الدمَ، يا سامحُ، الذي عبق به أنفي وروحي، بعدما ارتدّتْ عن وجهي راحةُ يَدِكَ. وسال كنهر الذّلِّ على جانبيْ أنفي فَغَسَلَ شفةً وانْزَلَقَ منها فبلّلتْ ملوحتُهُ ولزوجتُهُ لساني.
(28) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.168.
فها أنذا وَرَّثْتُكَ اللعنةَ التي في دمي وأودعتُ في عينيْكَ أسْرَ الحنينِ الذي في عينيَّ، فكأنما كتبتُ عليكَ مثلَ الذي كُتِبَ على أبيكَ من قبل، أن تَظَلَّ عيناك مملوءتيْن من شيء غيرك.
(29) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.136.
ممسكاً، لا أزال، أمام عينيكِ وأمام عيونهم، بطرفي الليل والنهار، لا يدري واحدكم متى يهبط أحدهم ومتى يطلع الآخر.
(30) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.133.
جنوباً جنوباً حتى السليبةِ الأرضِ.
(31) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.133.
وخَلَفنا نكتبُ بأشلائنا ودمائنا النصرَ الذي سوف يأتي، ولو بعد حين، ونرسمُ في الأرض، بإسم الذين باعوا الراحل بالآتي واللحظة بالأبد، "ساحة الشهداء" المخضرّة أبداً بالوعد المرصود على حافة الدرب التي كُتبَ عليه السيرُ جنوباً جنوباً حتى السليبةِ الأرضِ.
(32) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.145.
كلُّ أمّ مسلمةٍ تموت هي أمّي.
(33) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.145.
وأقول لها إنَّ مَلَكَيْنِ من الملائكةِ سيحضران الآن ويسألانها عن اسمها وأنّ عليها أن لا تخاف ولا تحزن وأن تجيب مصرّحةً بإسمها كاملاً دون أن ترتجف شفتاها، ثم أقولُ لها إن الملكين سيسألانها عَمَّن تعبد فَلْتَقُل لهما إنها تعبد الله وحده لا إله إلاّ هو، ثم أقول لها إن الملكين سيسألانها عن دينها فَلْتَقُل لهما الإسلام جهرةً، ثم أقول لها أن الملكين سيسألانها عن اسم نبيّها فلا يُرتَّج عليها وَلْتَقُل محمّداً وتصلي عليه، فيصلّي عليه المَلَكَانِ، ثم تهبط عليها السكينةُ وتنضم عليها جَنَبَاتُ القبر ضمّة النور والرحمة.
(34) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.19.
نَيْضُ العقرب ونَبْضُ الصدغ ونَبْضُ الرفَةِ حركاتٌ ينتظمها مبدأ واحد.
(35) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.101.
فيرتدّ عليَّ الزمانُ، يردّه عليَّ جثمانُكِ المسجّى اليوم، يا إمرأة خالي، في النعش المسجّى أمامنا الآن، تحفّ به عيونُ المصلّين عن يمينٍ وعن شمالٍ ومن خلفٍ، وهو الصدى لِما كان وكنتِه والتؤأمُ المكنونُ في الإحتمال لصدى صوتِ النهرِ الذي كان في أولِ الزمانِ ولصدى صوتِ الريحِ تمرّ في سعفِ النخيل. تتعانق في الأثير الآن أجسادُ الأصداء الثلاثةُ، وجسدكُ العصيُ الآن على النهر وعلى بستان البلح، ستأخذه عمّا قريبٍ تربةُ الأرض في رحلةِ الفناء التي هي نهرُ الزمانِ فيتّحد بذلك الحيّزانِ.
(36) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.84.
ما الكنيسةُ إلا الجامعُ مُضْمَراً في موكبِ النور.
(37) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.131.
ما الكنيسةُ إلا الجامعُ مُضْمَراً في رحم الغيبِ.
(38) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.57.
عَبَرَتْ بي الرؤيا ذات ليلةٍ إلى ما يشبه عالمَ الغيبِ، ومَثّلَتْ لي في حلمٍ رائقٍ تدرّجَ الإنسانِ، بعد طورِ الترابِ، من حالةِ النطفةِ إلى حالةِ العلقةِ إلى حالةِ المضغة.
(39) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.19.
(40) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.20.
سألتُه ألا يعتذر عن إقحامي في ترتيب مراسم الدفن.
(41) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.37.
انسَلَّ جسمُها الأثيريُّ عبر الألواح الخشبية وانبسطَ في الهواء على هيئة انبساط الجثة.
(42) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.37.
بل هاجِسٌ من ضباب؟
(43) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.37.
هو يرقبها في حالة اهترائها وحالةِ تفسّخها وحالةِ فنائها. ثم أنه يظلِ هو هو في انتظاره الأبدي حتى إذا ما نُفِخَ في الصورِ وتحرّكت ذراتُ التراب استعداداً للبعث عادت تلك الذرّات فتشكلت على صورة الجسمِ الأثيري الذي بِانتظارها.
(44) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.45.
كذكرى لحالٍ انتهى وكوعدٍ لحالٍ سيكون.
(45) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.165.
رأسهُ، مثلَ رأسِ الجثةِ، يستشرفُ الغربَ، وقدماه، مِثلَ قدميها، تمتدان ناحية الشرق. ولسوف يظل الجسدُ الأثيري على وضعه هذا حتى تأخذ الصيحةُ الأرضَ ويُؤذَنَ له بالنهوض فيستوي في الجوّ منتصباً على قدميه ووجهه مشرَّعٌ إلى حيث يشرق الحق.
(46) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.115.
أمام القبرِ المفتوح، تحت واحدةٍ من الشجرات الظليلةِ، تحلّق الجميعُ وغرزوا عيونهم في الحفرةِ التي قال نبأ الصباحِ إن المرأة التي دُفنت فيها عصرَ اليومِ الفائت، كانت قد أفاقت من موتها في الليل ومزقت كفنها في غمرة الرعب والهلع.
(47) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickenson, Edited by Thomas
H. Johnson (Little, Brown and Company), Boston, p. 216.
(48) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.13.
وكأنه فصلٌ من الزمان انبثق من ترابٍ غير ترابِ الفصول الأربعة.
(49) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.13.
حملتنْي وأحملها. غلَّفتْ لدونةَ جسدي حميميةُ جسدها فكانت لأطرافي الضمّة التي كتمتْ عنها تقلباتِ الحر والبرد ونَفَتْ عنها، ما استطاعت، خشونة ملمسِ هذه الأرض.
(50) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.42.
أفتحُ عينيّ لأغلق صفحاتِ الرواية فيطالعني الموكبُ من جديدٍ وأنا في وسطه، أسيراً لصفحات رواية لم تكتبها يدٌ بعد.
(51) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.72.
فتطمئن لمرآه منصبّاً على إنجاز نعشها ولصوتِ المسحاج في غدوّه ورواحه، يرتل في أذنيها وعدَهُ لها بالخلاص من ملل انتظارها للموتِ ووعداً وعدتْه نفسَها أن يكون في جهلهم سِرَّ الرحلةِ التي ابتدعتْها لهم بدعةُ انتقامها منهم جميعاً.
(52) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.147.
وما الرحلتان سوى الرحلةِ عينها، كُتِبت هناك، ولم تكتب هنا بعد، سطورُها مرهونةٌ باحتمال عبورنا سالمين إلى أرض الموت.
(53) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.146.
وتمضي فتمضي بها الدربُ موغلةً في انجذابها إلى الشرق... تحُفّ بها وبنا حفاوةٌ من الشجر على جانبينا، فكأننا نُصعِّدُ في نفقٍ من اللون ومن عبق البرتقال.
(54) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.43.
فعمري لي أنا، وها أنذا أعرّيه لعينيكَ فخذْهُ ولفّعْ به عُرْيَكَ يا عاشق الروايات.
(55) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.62.
ذات مساءٍ ربما، أو ربما ذات هدأةٍ من ذات ليل، سأُسكِنُكَ الجرحَ من جسدي وألتفُّ عليك بأربع من أفاعي الشوق، تفحّ عليكَ بالشوق، تشدّكَ إلى نبض الجرح مني، تفحّ وتلفح، وتلحّ في فحيحها وتلحّ حتى تُشقّق الفجرَ في عينيكَ فتشهق بالدمِ شهقة الجرحِ مني.
(56) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.73.
المرأةُ رشحُ القطرْ
ينسلُّ في بشرةِ التربةِ المشقّقةِ من حرائق الانتظارْ
المرأةُ رشحُ الوعدُ.
(57) Salahuddine Hariri, February’s Promise, p.144.
ها هي السيدة العذراءُ تطلّ كالفجر من على قمّةِ الجبلِ.
(58) Salahuddine Hariri, an interview on 27.01.1997.