The sense of oppression in Randa Jarrar’s stories

Gracefulness is the name assigned to a girl from the community that kidnaps and raises her without returning her to her family. Gracefulness is the title of one of the stories in the collection Me, he and Muhammad Ali out Randa Jarrar (Short stories, translation by Giorgia Sallusti).

The story is full of excitement which almost touches a feeling of suffocationthe result of a very precise storytelling process in which the protagonist tells the story first her story as a child who was kidnapped at the supermarket and never traced back to her familythen he separates us from his growth, his development, until he finds himself in another person’s story.

At this point in the text the tension melts: Once the abduction episode ends, it begins, leaving us waiting for a larger context to reveal itself. The feeling of constantly waiting for another hint, from a fact that might change your mind about the whole story it’s a reading experience that goes with every story.

As in Gracefulness also in the other texts of the collection there a latent sense of oppression, which animates throughout the pages; which arises when the central fact is fulfilled, and applies to all sides until it almost dissolves, like a long effort of deep exhalation.

The collection is divided into three partsFor a total of 13 storieseach told in a direct and varied style that manages to give a specific accent to each protagonist and each story, both the realistic and the fantastic.

Jarrar’s stories play with borderline situations: they narratively pick up momentum from a specific moment, from something that happens very precisely, and then unravel in many directions; Some of these have yet to be explored, they take center stage, others exist instead through differences, in an unspoken that increases the progressive tension until reaching a revelation that is almost always emotional.

in the I, he and Muhammad Ali, Randa Jarrar always makes sure the story unfolds around a precise fact, destined to end quickly while leaving consequences far away. a kind of more or less dark shadow that accompanies and reveals the story: happening in Qamar what in The Lunatic Eclipse He literally wants the moon and no doubt demands it from Soraya, who walks in Ashmahan doesn’t step on the brakes of the car in time or in Zelwa, half woman and half Capricorn, get in The Life, Love and Adventures of Zelwa the Half it draws the reader into its fantastical normality, made of choices, of constant alternatives, of one way or the other, of two halves that matter. For Zelwa, as for other characters, the other side of a decision determines a face of the story we’ll never know, the reverse shot that the camera doesn’t show but occasionally leaks.

in the GracefulnessFor example, Jarrar writes: “Somewhere between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I wondered why it took so long to get there, but I didn’t ask any questions. I took the doll out of the box and started playing, running my stubby fingers through her red hair and bending her pale knees, much like Ida’s”; in The Life, Love and Adventures of Zelwa the Half the opening words: “All I ever wanted is to feel whole. Once, when I was little, like an illusionist, I surgically saw a Barbie in half.

Randa Jarrar’s voice, which fits into all the folds of the narrative, taking on one form and another with just the right tone and never cloying, leads the reader to a certain point in the story: the resolution is not always certain, the end goal of the story is not conspicuousand the author almost leaves the impression of an unsolvedout a nuanced narrative path: it seems that the passage from one point to another in this mosaic of tones and situations and characters serves in itself, without a fulfilled goal. Even if the end of the story comes, indeed, the overall picture must always be consideredjust like you do when you can’t find the piece of the puzzle and in the stories the moment is vividly realized in some movements upwards, or backwards, or back to the horizon.

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I, he and Muhammad Ali, the text that gives the collection its title, it is exemplary in many respects: condenses the main character traits of the collection and the versatility of Randa Jarrar’s pen and her subjects – the return, the irreversible destiny, the pressure to make a decision – are among the most important of the whole volume. The protagonist of the story remembers her parents’ relationship, how they met at the death of their father, an occasion thanks to which the protagonist draws a kind of résumé of the meaning of her entire existence, which begins with her birth, that is, with the relationship between her parents, and ends almost with the visit the place where her father dies of an aneurysm: the protagonist defines her story arbitrarily but tries to search for meaning, reconstructing the episodes, places, smells that accompany her, seeking an ending without finding it , symbolically: “She didn’t leave any traces, didn’t say goodbye. I walked from the train station to our old house. There was a tree in the back garden that he planted the weekend we moved in. […] I knew I had to put a rock or some kind of marker at the base of the tree before sunset. […] I sat in the grass and stared at what was left of my father and what was left of me until the distance between us seemed to widen and the tree above me shook its leaves.

Me, he and Muhammad Ali is a collection that can unsettle youwhere the variety appears scattered and lacks some depth, but in reality the overall result is very different: The story map is interesting and reflects the life of the authorcreated between different cultures and different places, and the stories share the places and the emotions of the characters.

The former are composed very vividly, almost tactilely, the latter are a guide to the chiaroscuro of the story. After all, it’s the mix of registers and moods that make Randa Jarrar what it is an author to be discovered and deepenedin every nuance that his writing can encompass.

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