By Hafeez Elhaj & Mujahid Eldouma
Abdelghani Karamallah is widely known as a literary figure, but little as an intellectual with a project and deep insight. He works with a great quest and modesty in silence to achieve what he calls the universal spring so lives can flourish with the Superman model.
Geal Gaded interviewed him in a warm winter night at his house to shed a light on his project and dive between his realms. His family welcomed us with generosity. We came in from the tales and literary door to come out overwhelmed with the worlds of intellect and gratitude.
To break the norm of questioning, we shall start with the question that says: Where does Abdelghani Karamallah creative project stands, and where does he sees it; meaning what is your current work and when will your project meet its goals?
A conventional reply would be that I haven’t yet started on my project, I might not be looking at the amusement of story-telling, or the direct message of literature as a politic advisor, rather I’m looking for a meaning to the whole universe, even the aspects of politics, intellect and art convey a single unit for human knowledge and not at all separate islands. Thus the project searches for peace and beauty that engulfs the universe with delicate preaching, that sends its light even to the sinner, to all and not to advice in a hurried hostility, or temporary admiration, what I sense might be far away to grasp without any rushing; we should “grow”, and not develop; like a fetus in a womb of a mother, a cow or a hen, but the minds are always in a hurry, and tends to forget the “growing laws” within. Thus comes a premature baby, but in “growing”, favor as well as mastery are at their peak, so let us “grow, and not develop”, to minimize the fatalities which were enormous in the industrial revolution and to entrepreneurs. Growing of a civilization indicates its pursuit of thought and not cheap sympathy and individuality, but togetherness; all is satisfied with civilization, and this is an ongoing project.
Perhaps, due to my Sufism roots and the existential inquiries and later readings, I find my imagination wonders about the superman somehow. Also, I believe a physical spring for Earth and thought will manifest as poets, philosophers, prophets and physicist have promised. Knowledge is organic where all sciences tissues overlap; mathematics, poetry, philosophy, geography and prayer are siblings of heart and mind that engraved in human as an instinct, including Einstein and all physicist. The point is (this summer will end and a spring will come).
To comprehend what I mean with superman, as geology sees- and geology always states that the whole universe is an unceasing laboratory investigation- meaning that eternity is molding us slowly as in a cooking fire, through the fluctuation of seasons, calamities, passion, death and ambition. We are now in what is known as the long summer and when Earth has separated from the sun, was hot, then it cooled, then primitive life came in a form of algae through a long history till herbs formed, then developed into mobile and sexual being- the herb- then gave birth to human and later on he acquired a creative imagination that enjoys thought, fiction and music more than “the herb he was earlier”. Thus, we come to notice that this universe has been designed with creative experiment and intelligence to serve this human. And we find that human- in the harmony of physics and the Galaxy- is but war bombs; a delivery of an experience that precede the contemporary human, as he preceded the stage of clay, grass and animal. The creative imagination of the universe won’t get dry and it created a model; “the human imagination itself”, and so we see the artists and intellects are bored from life, that is the memory and there is a longing for “the human” within us all, “his road map within a human” waiting the appropriate condition “the universal spring”, where thought, breeze, climate and mores “lives an everlasting spring within”.
And with that a creative mode will emerge, that will enable human to achieve an unimaginable things to his current atrophying mind, and a great symphony will be played where everyone will participate in and feel each other as planets do. Then the superman will manifest.
And we find some examples in our history like prophet Muhammed (pbuh) in his well-known Hadith that I feel it more in this way: No harm befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that I would feel it in my feet.1
Thus, I don’t claim that I’m an intellectual person or that my project is intellectual, but I’m cheerful about that model through art, literature and music until the emergence of superman in which I’ll be sad if he didn’t come true.
Aren’t you afraid of the writing’s betrayal; to throw you one day out on a roadway, frozen to death like Behnas, or to be thrown on a wooden chair, amnesiac like Elfitory and Marquez.
Answered: Quite scary.
I have always found myself careworn by Ernest Hemingway, author of The Old Man and the Sea, how can the sea betrays a wise man that knows it. I saw him in the protagonist character “Santiago”, the creator- narrator until he spit on the sea he knows best just as in his suicide.
Also, when I wrote “Seconds”2– which remains unpublished- where I tried mimicking the experience of a man who jumped off the ninety third floor of the world trade center in September 11 asking for rescue, I swear I couldn’t write it, an enormous fear beheld me, I relived his experience utterly till I felt the floor shake beneath me, and when I gave it to my friend Shalaby, he couldn’t even have the guts to read it.
That’s why I believe writing is a realistic experience, a status and an entrance to another world. Once I tried to be as Alhalaj in love and failed because I can’t aspire to be like him. Writing is an isthmus, or a realm of meaning, and “when Hemingway’s pen ceased to write here, he went on writing there”, in deliberate departure, because he lived within his writings and you can notice they writers’ eyes “here” and “there”, as I noticed that in the intellects’ eyes as well, “my body remains here, though my heart is there”, and I am the admirer between this and that as Alnablusi said.
I could say that it scares me numerous times; (the writing), but lately it has been my sanctuary or a biological unit for things that seem dispersed, but embrace each other through the lines. And that was the cause of my suffering since I always struggled not to make my writings only as texts, but rather “a life” as in reading and it is true that abstract meanings can be experienced as a pond while you become a fish, a reality not a metaphor. Life has a lot of interest and danger in her mind. Don’t forget that you are in a transition state preceded by another that was different “the animal”, and is followed by an unlike one “human”. Does the deer know Goethe? Or did she read Season of Migration to the North3? Also, did man know the taste of light and music of color? The sense will leap over the former no matter how sharp it is. Thus, eternity dances and dives into its great adventure “the absolute existence, in sense and meaning”, because not time nor space has limit and that sets the stage for life.
And it’s true what you said about writing’s betrayals, as it did with MoawiaMuhammedNour, Eltigani Yusuf Basheer, IdrisJama’a and others. Their death might be deliberate; when the self is in imitation or scared, the body can tell its worry and sends adrenaline or “the angel of death”, maybe, since they were overwhelmed with life’s richness while others were ignorant of it, living in boredom. Hence, their death leads them to the heavenly peace. “It is said that death is an autonomous action” and the subconscious mind holds wider capabilities. It is the earthly wedding for an eternal one or else, why they all went mad? Aren’t science and philosophy based on observation and results? Even the soul believes in that.
Unlike creators, AbdelghaniKaramallah presence in all media and events is prominent. What message you would like to convey from such a presence, and don’t you find it a weary task?
I believe that everyone is driven by a motive, and what really motivates me is serving my country, and I dive into the human essence and wake the inert cells within. And my message is to believe in Man, taking many as examples such as Buddha, Kant, Jesus Christ and the philosopher Socrates whom used to be ridiculed by people, but eventually when they give him an ear, become his students. Hence, I respect the superman regardless of his background and I put my energy to serve him through literature and tales. I remember once in Port Sudan in a public transportation- a bus- I asked for the passengers’ permission to tell the story of The Wedding of Zein4. At first I was faced with disapproval that later changed when they got wrapped in the realm of storytelling and the secret of Zein; the depth of simplicity and how everyone is “a hero”. Some even said: You made us miss our stop!
The journalist HaithamAltayeb about your project for children: AbdelghaniKaramallah’s project in children literature establishes in bias for the philosophy of child’s freedom. Is it true, having in mind that people know that writing in such a topic is tiresome both in time and meaning?!
Firstly, we know that man is like an incense smoke, needs to show his skills to the freedom’s air and dance along, and we find Sir Mahmoud referring to it as (the agony and bliss of man).
That’s why I love freedom. I was rebellious and I didn’t pray during college years and used to befriend Christians as well as hookers truly with respect and not hypocrisy. Then I tried to be righteous, I go out alone at night to Mount Mukram to defeat fear and stay lonely, I was moved by a spirit that I can’t reckon its essence so far.
And when I wrote for children, I tried to comeback as a child. Can you imagine the difficulty of the challenge? To erase from mind all acquired conscience, sexual lust, numerousness and my village’s weakness and go back to the my roots: where my village is my paradise, and mother is Eve, to go back to the “protagonist I”, and not (the tamering We), to dive into the universe childhood until I reach Adam, to the first root, rather get close to whom did Adam mimic? And he is the first experience we have, we are copying him in appearance and desire, so who did Adam mimic? The old mind; Allah, and this is what I wish children to do, to return to childhood. Not that it’s easy, it’s a return to a road taken since eternity and it has changed due to the climate and floods, the road of self and so I was almost searching for myself while writing for children, and in that lies a “magical” reward and creative deception.
Hence, I like teaching children the absolute freedom, I wish for the earthly gravity not to affect them so they become liberated from its chain. May they be who they truly are and not merely their genes. I wish them freedom from the memory tamer that is inherited to their imaginations’ genes, to be the children of tomorrow not the past.
Who keeps track of your project, notices your interest with place and your obsession with what surrounds him; the shoe, the wardrobe. What is your saying in the matter?
I don’t call it place, but womb, the whole universe is a womb that is far way delicate and kind than my mother’s and so I walk in it with delicacy, careful not to cut the umbilical cord, rather cords that nourishes my seven senses. The universe has rigid, sentimental and mystic rules while senses remain blind even of you sought the help of telescope, microscope, intuition and physiognomy. Thus, the place remains a cheek, a cheek of a pretty lady that you touch with fingers far tender than light,more gentle than smoke from a censer and not moved by plough of cruelty so that volcanoes erupt.
I love the place, and generally it feels like I’m looking at the soul of things, leaves of trees, the plastic bags, until one day I wrote a story entitled (A Plastic Bag Taken by Air)5 when it passed beside me while having my breakfast, I felt then its lively soul, caressing the breeze till my breakfast got cold.
Even Quran says: (Allah gave us speech, as He gave speech to all others)6 and Buddha says: Don’t cut the leaves, for it will be as cutting its ear.
I truly believe that things are a delayed human project, for example, the sand beneath you one day after a thousand year will turn into a human, that’s why I’m obsessed with anything that surrounds me, no matter how small or little, so I treat it kindly not because it was “a lark bird”, as the philosopher of Al-Ma’arra7 told, but because it will turn into a human, so the sand would say: “Don’t step on my toes, brother” like it’s said in crowded places, weddings and in public transportation. You can hear this cry beneath you while you walk if you listen carefully “Don’t step on my toes, brother”.
And I witness myself radiant while writing, overlapped by meanings, memories and images in molding my senses and heart. So when I wrote (Excruciating Back Aches)8 my soul was radiant and thus saw everything I wrote with the view of the shoe, living in that sense, as a bird in the sky, or a censer smoke in the air that floats freely with surrender to fill the breeze and the intimate inner revelation that is odd and astonishing perhaps for the writer himself.
We also notice your withdrawal in participating in literary competitions both domestically and abroad. What is the reason behind that?
Not at all. I’m not asking for a reward to my literary project, and I refuse completely the idea of participating in a competition even though I respect theses competition and the participants, but on the personal level, my true reward is to write. I find amusement that far exceeds drunkenness and transfiguration. That is my “inner” reward and my treasure and no more.
Now, to be frank, how is your back now? With all the symbolism that the back holds and is there a hope for it to heal?
Laughing with hidden agony, it is in such pain, honestly.
I feel that I’m responsible for all the sorrow in the world, even when eating, basta9 for instance, I feel the pain; there are the ones who find nothing to eat. I don’t know wither this is an idealism or what, but the back is carrying the world on its shoulders and hopefully it will recover soon.
Recently, you confessed about Excruciating Back Aches not being a story, but delusion and inquiries.
This is true. I wrote it post university period and I was full of questions (Who am I? From where do I come? To where will I go? What is beauty? Sleep? Life?Memory?Identity?Sexual lust?Nudity?).
And each letter written in the book was intended, even the slaughtered cow in Al-Angasna and the street name, but like my big brother tells me: This book hasn’t been read yet, because they haven’t set with you and if they did, they would know your way of thinking and what you think of. Some critics are found to always looking for the standards of narration and telling, and it has been looked at as a story and a tale, and I’m pleased with the compliment it received. I wrote with roguery, about my delusions which make it more as an autobiography, in terms of notion.
And honestly, I like being sly, even once while seated with a group of people, I changed my name. I carry madness and deceit within that I don’t want others to notice me, a desire to disappear and stay away from the media to guarantee my solitude and thus, I always feel a creative deception that surrounds me that I can almost touch, even if I were in a barren desert with no food nor water “intelligence surrounds you wherever you are”, intelligence of nature “the universe emerged from the substance of thought “, as Sir Mahmoud, and without the intuition of thought you won’t comprehend your big house “the universe”, rather the big heart, and what affects it, affect you in return, even the death of an ant is a defeat for life as a whole. Let us let go of the arrogant palm tree feeling; that fits its shadow to its body, and instead fits ours to the universal body.
You said in your letter to Dr. Haider Badawy: (By writing, I wanted to rebel against a world that damages man before his birth, even the choice of parents is done in a twisted manner.)
It’s the revolution itself. My literature is rebelling against the existence or memory, and I look for an imagination that treats these things. The best critic that was from Abdullah Bolaw in France, when he told me: (your project on beauty had an ability to heal me from an illness), I cried then, and crying is where all body parts unite, in one case. The unity of the discordant body in three regions “mind, heart and body”, and so it’s always ignited by this unity, even if it was of sadness, not to mention if it were of joy. The greatest trinity that unites in harmony is “the body’s paradise”, as I mentioned earlier. The body is a world of its own, a revolution and still developing.
I cry more often when a poet’s writing touches me, I cry bitterly, and I can see and feel from the foggy view of the tears the beating of the universe, its worry and happiness. The parable of this is that of the body “When an organ of it falls ill” the rest of the universe responds. “Retaliation has its mystery” that we shall realize later on, each a bad though pollutes the universe even if it stayed merely in your mind, not to mention the possibility of poisoning you. And here comes the role of “the creative freedom”, from these poisons and wars “within us”, and here comes the role of literature. A beautiful song “frees you”, as well as a poetic verse, or a painting, or a passing child’s face “a daily revolution” immortal, since the universe is full of them full of mystery, appearance, and beauty. “The flower is a revolutionary being that preaches from its petals’ stand”, more rebelling than both the leftist and rightest.
From a philosophical notion- you said that you dream of discovering the secret of the body, this soulful intelligence that was stitched over the course of hundreds of years, to which extent have you succeeded through your project to convey it?
I mentioned that during a lecture that I presented on TEDex, and it was about the identity of the body and wither it ends? As I see it, it won’t end.
When the body reaches a balance, it has the ability to control even the inner power of the human, meaning it remembers what it needs, imagines, senses and smells what it needs. “Even ideas manage to smell, and the light has a taste and a sound”.
And in my personal belief, the body is a dual entity that searches for its singularity, the duality of the egg and sperm- for a man to be a man, and the female to be a female and that really needs a real intellectual birth so that the duality melts into one within you and surrenders afterwards for the mind. And until then, there’s no way.
We see those who already fulfilled this singularity, where the Sophist said: And maybe the one being seen conversed the viewer with words unspoken and shall remain unspoken.
Honestly, I say that the body is an intelligence that is being cooked on a pot slowly, while the journey continues until it reaches a stage that it doesn’t need to predate. Rather merely seeks its energy from within and thus a sentence like children play with snakes becomes true, as well as the money abounds until it’s no longer needed, the body now is “a paradise and hell that shall turn into paradise” and the skin will softens until it’s caressed by the fingers of light, and it becomes moved by its sentimental so it shines with glory, spark and pulse till its halo spreads, and contains every sense, thought and food, meaning that the body becomes a home, a Kaaba and a heart that goes through feelings never had before, not even in its wildest dreams.
If it’s true to say that the play of your tale Excruciating Back Aches has been performed, what is your evaluationon the experience?
As a man I believe in transfiguration, that everything has its lives. It was a story when I wrote it and now it has been delivered as a play, and maybe tomorrow it transfers into something else. I was amazed by the play, “as if I’m not the author, because the artist Saousal has put a witty scenario for it and I agree with the ever changing transformations. And each being has a unique perspective.
Friends always encourage the tale since it’s being as an idea until it becomes a whole tale. Tell us about your friend Mohammed Al-Rabeea as a model in the tale The Wooden Heart.10
I share every tiny, or big issue with my friends and I adore friendships very much.
Mohammed Al-Rabee is a sensitive and a loving man. When I wrote it, it wasn’t intended to be a novel. I sent him what was a scrapat the time for him to read. Then, he phoned me at midnight, crying saying: “This is a novel that you have to finish Abdelghani.”, and so I finished writing it within a week.
In The Wooden Heart, you managed to put all the lives skillfully inside the three doors of the wardrobe. How about your heart’s doornow, is it still messyas it used to be in the past?
When I wrote The Wooden Heart, I was referring to the heart. And my heart now is well organized. The story was about my mother and I used my deceitful nature and turned her into a wardrobe, as a form of politeness since it’s hard to write about the mother in a direct way. I also meant that the wardrobe is a tree that shades us all from the sun.
I wrote this story with great tenderness, with my heart, with the feeling that the whole universe is a wardrobe that houses us all. Most who read it were moved to tears- old and young-, a female reader called me named A Pearl from the Gulf saying she read it and prayed for my mother and I cried with her.
And to me the greatest wardrobe is the human body.
Everyone knows that you are molded with love, but when you wrote Fatima’s Dog11, we notice a kind of revenge, or self-victory. Is it possible to do so in literature?
That what the reader thinks, but I concluded the tale for the viewer’s best, so that he can get rid of his prejudice. Thus, I made him see his real worth and when I wrote it, it wasn’t my intention to revenge as much as my desire for his salvation. Even the body needs to undergo a surgery sometimes for it to heal, and only from the medicines bitter taste that we see the sweetness of good health.
In addition, the society wants all to be heroes that’s why we keep playing the role of heroism, but inside us we are traitors and cowardsand the mission of literature is to reveal the inner self, not the conductin order to build an intimate world instead of fear and daily acting. This is truly the suffering of the society, and not to keep back, maybe at the time of writing it, the Manager was the one on authority, since there’s always a dog that lives inside of us in front of all. And so I put the Dog in charge for the authority to get destroyed the Manager and reveal his scared soul.
The both Mahmouds, the father and the son12. What is the secret behind your admiration for Sir Mahmoud Mohammed Taha?!
With a loving laughter he said: I truly love Sir Mahmoud and I love his voice and his students chanting. I even have his picture on my salon and always find him present among us.
When I was at high school, I was lost and have an opinion about each topic even the religion and in this maze of inquiries, I heard a religious hymnodythat was full of euphony and meanings and I liked it. Then, I read his second letter where I found answers to most of the inner issues I used to face, even those matters of the individual and society. He is truly a human being project that fulfilled the truth inside me.
He is holistic in thinking in everything. An alchemist that delays the clock making it go anticlockwise. He discussed Islam and art, how to behave, the woman and her attire, the vintage of meanings and wrote many books. He had an idea for every aspect in existence. The place represented a warm embrace for him. Truly, he is a person you look for and aspire to be. His life experience rather is his masterpiece book; his life, love and his eyes that are as though a heart upon his face. A heart that adores the existence entirely, an absolute adoration for all.
And lately he stopped eating well, he only eats as a respect for people’s nature. A person who respects the experience of ants in life, how can we not love while he is the one who said if you killed an ant, then you no longer a republican.
And after thirst is gone and we have been given the reward of the cinema ticket. In short, we are taking you back to the realms of cinema in your younger stubborn years.
I went to the theatre before kindergarten, in Al-Duwaim city. It took me no books, or pens, nor a back bag to understand the cinema alphabets. I understood its language very well. There is no doubt that I studied its language in the womb. Like breast feeding, my lips knew the cinema road and its taste with no prior education, nor an acquired experience, as my curious eyes feed on the motion picture displayed on the screen and eats on its magic. How beautiful is the desires wisdom and its generosity, a tasteful milk and an astonishing screen.
I used to hate the head wraps and the afro hair. Instead, I love “the baldness”, for it enables me to watch from my seat. Even my brother used to seat me in his lap and yet I lift my head up to watch clearly. If the person in the front seat is wearing a head wrap, these wraps shall be doomed, and may Allah bless the baldness genes, for it works well for the theatre films; to who is seated behind you, dear bald man.
I always say that my kindergarten is the cinema. To my great luck, or good chance our neighbors used to work on selling tea at the cinema and as I mentioned, my elder brother was fascinated with cinema, so I used to always go with them and inside the theatre I search for the short man or bald to be seated behind him so as the view won’t be blocked from me.
Cinema at that time was the only gate that opens onto other realms and I used to peep around the corner of the screen for things away from the camera focus, or to things the director didn’t pay attention to such as (the street, the door, the book, or the painting there).
And when we grew, my nephew Jama’a and I, we used to go to the theatre at any cost. Even if it meant to give up our breakfast, as in fasting to get the holy reward by the cinema ticket.13 Hence, I named it The Cinema Paradise.
And when we return home, we would find my nieces waiting for me to tell them the film’s story down to its smallest details and so I gained the art of story-telling in which I pointed it my beginning as a write.
Cinema in general is a collection of arts; in sound, lighting, music and an event.
Now the moment is when Abdelghani Karamallah resides inside his mother’s womb, Haja. Bent AlmunaAlawad.
The life inside there is another one and holds great realms within and to leave it is but another form of death inside there for a new bigger life outside. I discussed this theme deeply in (Heba and The Kambala Dance), that not yet been published. I wrote it with the spirit of a child, all events were within Heba’s mother womb and in the story, Heba like the Kambala dance, because she bounces when her mother dances it. Then she got to know the prayers’ times and the worlds outside the womb and Heba wrote a book while she was inside entitled (Nature Outside The Womb) where each 15 years in her world equals toa prayer time in our world. Thus, she get prepared each time when its prayer times not to get thrown away by the earthquake, and so she got to know that there are enamored beats nearby and they were the heart beats which she named the time beats, as though destiny feels its seasons outside from this enormous meaty clock; “the heart”.
Heba tried hard to figure out the timing of her mother’s Kambala Dance, but failed to. She discovered it’s not easy to figure out nature’s mood. Also, Heba inside her world hangs her photographs on its wallsince she was looking like anearthworm. Moreover, when she was like a frog, I wanted to grab the attention of the reader to respect each living being experience even if it was of an earthworm or even a frog.
At the moment of Heba’s death in the womb and her birth outside by the hand of the midwife whom I named the angel of death. All atheists in her world said she has died and vanished while others were saying that she has moved to another world.
Heba and The Kambala Dance is a story that I wanted to let man foresee his transformations from one life to another and that there are no absolute death even Azrael is considered as death angel for us, but only to transfer us to another world.
What is your say on Haja. Bent AlmunaAlawad?
Oh dear! A gentle woman, very! I adore her and it drives me mad when someone mentions she is dead. She still lives within me and when I visit her grave, we talk and tell each other tales, oh man, I love her…
We know how tedious is to go on an interview and we are thankful for you. Hoping that we have shed a light on your great project.
Not at all, I’m very thankful, you opened a door for memory and telling and I love you and the friends. Truly I am a blend of friends which without I am nothing. I am a blend of my friend AlnoorHamad, my fiend Mohammed Alrabee, Alshabli, Ameen, Amir TsgAlsir, EmadAlbaleek, Mohammed Hadeeb, Sir Dali, Asma’a Mahmoud, Ahmed John, Nadous, Kamal Alzain, NafeesaAlkhair, the Egyptian Said Rajab and Entisar and so my life is rich with them. So you are in the presence of Ameen witty jokes, and the world of psychology with Abdullah Abdeen, or Organ playing “In Love of Azza”14 with Alshibly, or a warm smile of Mohammed Barkata, or “In celebration to your presence”15 by Ahmed Alshaeb. They say the lion is a blend of huntedsheeps. How I wish I was a lion, but I have so many sheeps now, as well as friends that I haven’t met such as KhaledOwais, my friend Haji Jaber and many others whom without I am incomplete.
When I returned to Sudan, I wanted to turn my house into a literary salon where we can gather in and discuss matters since Sudan is full of creative and highly conscious young people whom I feel the necessity to serve. It’s a betrayal to see a glimpse of hope or a flicker of flame and not encourage it to grow, for he is considered to be “a traitor of his country” and in need of rehabilitation for his lack of “desire, fear and envy”, but as always, you’ll be faced with the cruelty of reality that doesn’t accept such an idea. This has always been my message in life. Hence, my opening lines in Excruciating Back Aches: (O country, let there be light), hoping for a light across the country sky that I’ll be in its service.
I’m grateful for people, nature, gravity and the memory for I emerged from them and you are always welcome
A final word.