As much as the novelist usually rejoices in the delicacy of the creative idea in his mind, he knows how much effort he waits to do well on paper, so that the writing does not come afterwards as an opponent of the glossy of the idea or to dilute it, or even to take it to another less beautiful destination.
All these cautious possibilities were in front of me as I began reading the Saudi novel, “A Blue Dog Barking by the Bed,” published by Dar Athar in 2020, as it creates a meeting between the American writer Ernest Hemingway and Santiago, the hero of his famous novel “The Sheikh and the Sea.”
And because the fictional idea always needs an artistic template that fits perfectly, it does not narrow it, stifling the extent it may reach, nor making it, on the other hand, appear flabby and lacking cohesion, the beginning of the text was promising – despite the weight it experienced due to the abundance of similes – as soon as it became clear to resort The writer turned to the trick of dreams to make them the ground for his story. This awareness of a suitable template gave the novel a vast range of freedom without being required to submit to the logic of history, and to commit to what actually happened. However, the dreams did not escape from every officer, as Al-Mutrifi mastered the alternation between the proven biography of the American writer and the fiction that has become a parallel biography, with all that this implies in terms of approval or contradiction to what happened in reality.
But that stuttering could have brought down the idea from its perch had it not been for the novelist’s sharp attention to what he should ignore in the first place from Hemingway’s well-known biography, and not what he should have brought, so he was satisfied with passing quick indications of what happened, so that the greater part of that parallel biography was given way. For the new creation, for whose sake the book came, and without it the whole experience would have become a repetition of what is there, and an unforgivable waste of paper. Here, I recall the saying of the French novelist and philosopher André Malraux in this regard when he once wrote, “Art is not nature viewed by a personal mood, unless it is possible to count music as the sound of the bulbul, viewed with a personal mood.” So Al-Mutrifi was aware of the necessity of his intervention in order to exceed his role in transferring a story from one book to another, and to establish a new one taking advantage of the novel’s ability to grant this great joy.
Hemingway’s personality was encapsulated by an emotional tendency, and it was often nothing but the way his writer and his disciples perceived him at the same time. So, when the American writer was crying from his beloved Agnes, it seemed so sincere that the question arises as to whether the girl had already left Hemingway or al-Mutrifai!
Perhaps this is revealed more when the reader goes through the novel to begin to get acquainted with Santiago, the hero of the novel “The Old Man and the Sea” from a new perspective. Havana. Smart dialogues take place between the character and its writer, so the author seems to marvel at one time, and submissive at another, and angry at the third, as if we are facing an opportunity for the writer to recognize the personality that he created after being outside him, and it was even formed so that its features must be touched again. This is a nice indication that businesses do not belong to their owners once they are released to people. Hemingway no longer had the upper hand over Santiago to direct him as he pleases, so the dialogues at times became like a boxing match between two opponents of the same degree of parity. Al-Mutrafi’s summoning boxing here was only another whispering gesture to the side of the biography of the American writer who is fond of that sport.
Meanwhile, the reader notices how the novel began to take a relay race path, not only between Hemingway and his protagonist, but with a third character who infiltrated the text and started playing with them. Here it is Muhammad al-Matrifi himself, even from behind a curtain, as he hands the stick to the protagonist of his novel, Hemingway, who in turn passes it to the hero of his novel, Santiago, so that it returns to al-Mutarafi again, and so on. Just as the American writer was allowed to meet a character in his book, Al-Mutrifi referred Hemingway to a character in his book to meet him.
But the encounter here seemed a lot more intimate. Hemingway’s personality was encapsulated by an emotional tendency, and it was often nothing but the way his writer and his disciples perceived him at the same time. So, when the American writer was crying from his beloved Agnes, it seemed so sincere that the question arises as to whether the girl had already left Hemingway or Al-Mutrifai!
“There was only one Agnes in this world, and this is the tragedy! .. I did not have time to recognize her faults, and this is another tragedy, because all that I carry of it is my complete angelic. She did not leave me any shortcomings that comfort me when longing stabs me.”
The writer relieved the commitment of the thread of the story and was not loyal to follow it in some places, and this is a matter that may be considered a defect in the text, although the idea of fragmentation that was provided by the trick of dreams may allow some of that. On the other hand, the completed short stories within the novel came as if they were small closed circles that beautifully rotate in the larger orbit of the story.