عرض لرواية "حـربــاء في حـديقتي، الصــادرة بالإنجليزية
سـنة 2014، عن الحياة في بنـغــازي إبان السـبـعينيات
ليبيا المستقبل: رواية حربــاء في حـديقـتي، التي صدرت بالإنجليزية قبل عام، تـدور أحداثــها في بنـغــازي إبان السبـعيـنيات من القرن الماضي. وهي رواية مسـتمدة من تجربة المؤلـفـة الشـخصية. فالمؤلفة، السيدة نيتــا نكلســون، عاشت مع أسرة زوجـهـا المـعـتقـل آنذاك، وقامت بتدريس اللغـة الإنجليزية لعدة ســنوات في جـامـعـة بنـغـازي. الرواية بقـدر ما هي مـفـعـمـة بحب ليبيا، طبيـعـتـها وأهـلـهـا، بقدر ما هي مليئة بالمواقف المحزنـة والمأسـاوية التي كانت سمة تلك السنين من تأميمات للأرزاق والتجــارة والعـقــارات وتغيير العملة ما أدى إلى إفلاس الناس عامة وليس أغنياءهم فقط.. إضافة إلى العنف الجسدي من تدريب عسكري عام، وحرب تشاد التي أودت بحياة شـباب صـغـار دون دربة قتالية، إلى المشانق التي نصبت في الميادين العامة والجامـعـات. فوضى ومعاناة دون مبرر حقيقي. بالمقابل عاشت الكاتبة في بيت أسرة زوجـهـا الذي لم تربطه بها وبطفليهـما، إلا زيارات السـجون التي قد تتحقق وقد تخيب، وتنتهي بعودة الزوار بكل قفافهم المملوءة بالأطـعـمـة. لكن رواية "حربــاء في حـديقتي"، ليست نصا تاريخيا، بل عمل أدبي فسيح، يعج بالحياة والشـخصيات والعـواطف، خاصة داخل الأسرة، رصـدتـهـا كاتبة، هي نفسـها فـنانـة تشـكيلية وشـاعرة وباحـثـة في اللـغـات بحكم المؤهلات الجامـعـية. وهكذا نصادف الأب القلق الذي يلجأ لزيارة ضريح سيدي بوفاخرة، والمرأة المتباهية بمجوهراتـهـا، والشحاذة التي تلعب دورا مزدوجا كـتـقــازة ومخبرة (بصاصة) والمدرسة (الأبلــة) راكبة الموجة الثورية. وفي هذا الخضم تسمو الجـدة في كل المواقف، ببراءتها الإنسانية العـفـوية. وحين تلاحـظ حفيدتها إبنة السجين سربا من الطيور تحلق لتختفي وراء السحاب، تقول "إجـديده": "يا حبيبتي، الطيور تذهب وسـتـعـود، السجناء وحدهم فقط قـد لا يـعـودون"... فهل يا ترى، ســتـعـود ليبيا التي عرفنــاهـا وأحـبـبنــاها؟
الرواية من منشوات (Austin Macauley) ومتوفرة علي موقع Amazon.com
A Saga of Benghazi - Life, Family and Political Imprisonment in Benghazi during the 1970’s
Review of the Novel Chameleon in My Garden by Nita Nicholson
Libya Al-Mostakbal: Nita Nicholson, a painter and a writer, studied Fine Art at the University of Leeds in England and subsequently took an MA in Linguistics at Birkbeck College, London. She married a Libyan with whom she and their two children lived in Baida and Benghazi. During the 1970’s. Her husband was imprisoned by the Gaddafi regime. Nita and her two children, settled with her husband’s family in Benghazi. For several years she taught English at the University of Benghazi (now Garyounis). She left Libya in 1979 and in England began a campaign for her husband’s release.
The novel is semi-biographical, based on the author’s experience of life in Benghazi in the 1970s. Sally, an English woman with two children, is living with her in-laws in Benghazi, Haj Hassan and Hajja Fathia, her husband, Saad, being a political prisoner who ultimately is disappeared by the regime. In one sense the novel is a reflection on a traditional Libyan extended family under enormous stress. It explores the family’s responses, sometimes confused, often further troubled, by having an English member of the family, although Sally espoused Islam and respected Libyan culture.
The Novel opens in England with the daughter Neda, a child trying to cope with her father’s sudden absence on a visit to Tripoli, Libya. “It had been days....longer than usual since she had seen him … Neda dragged her mother round the apartment finding all the things that belonged to her father....‘Daddy’s towel, Daddy’s slippers, Daddy’s book’; but there came a time when “Neda would never ask again about her father”. Her father does not return and the family do not know if he is alive.
Chapter 4 dwells over the Green Mountain and the environs of Baida and Cyrene, the hills, the wadis and the antiquities. “They wandered between almond trees in blossom...... They collected artichoke and ate tanour bread dipped in ghee.” Memories of departure from this beautiful landscape are the most painful. “They had left so much behind. Her portfolio of drawings, her husband’s books, the more sentimental things ....”, all to be confiscated two years later by the secret police and left to rot in some dingy dark room. “Libya had come to mean for Sally a bewildering fusion of beauty and suffering.”
Months later, the stark facts of Saad’s arrest and his prison life arrive in a letter written on foil papers that line cigarette packets. The letters prove he is alive and Sally returns to Libya to be near him. A prison visit is cut short for no obvious reason, giving Sally her first taste of life in Libya as something fragile and subjected to capricious forces.
Snippets of domestic daily life are recorded - scenes of the grandmother or Jdaidah, Fathia, as she melted “resin of frankincense on her charcoal burner and wafted the bukhour over the grandchildren for blessing.” Sally helped Fathia in preparing salted dried meat or Ghiddeed and couscous. The little girl had fun with the Gattoose which had no name other than ‘cat.’
As for the grandfather, Haj Hassan, his shop like all shops in Libya, was closed down by government orders, partly in reprisal and partly due to a drive against private business trading. At home Hassan retreated to his bedroom, smoking and listening to the radio.
In chapter 3, of Part 4, the author reflects on the world of women in Libya, with its “own feisty dynamics.” However, Neda is aware of being excluded from the world outside the walls of the villa, though “she thrived in the care of two mothers in the freedom of the orchard.” Salha, a relative, then enters the scene, bringing excitement as the kind of socialite who “spills the stories of one lounge into the next” and then dismays her listeners. She attended a wedding visited unexpectedly by “our Brother-Leader … I must tell you all about it.....,” Salha rambled on in and out of rumors, gossip, details of the bridal dress. She failed to take the opportunity to plead with the Brother-Leader for consideration of Hajja fathia’s son, Saad. Another female character was the beggar & fortune-teller, one who was employed as an informer. She is portrayed in an ominous tone.
Following sections in the book describe the growing oppression in political and social life. There is mounting pressure on Hassan to seek the whereabouts and release of his son. He is reprimanded by relatives for “being too arrogant expecting the system to bow to him, when he has to bow to it because they have all the power.”
There is evidence of places of torture, and danger in the streets. Nizar makes friends with a boy at school and learns more truths than his family have disclosed. This new knowledge is part of his growing up and his struggle to make sense of his family’s predicament. He learns more mysterious and troubling details from a story told by his grandfather, Hassan, who has secrets of his own. Promises of a visit to Saad in prison are thwarted or fake, promises of his release come to nothing. The family is tormented by Saad’s absence and their fear for his safety. Following a failed visit, the grandmother answers his questions about his father with: ‘Birds will come back, my sweetheart. It’s stolen men that don’t!’
The novel is laced with fascinating images and mysterious stories, along with sketches of Libyan customs and rituals. In between these innocent anthropological details lie hints of threats, jealousies and dilemmas. Sally’s sense of isolation increases. The family faces the turmoil of surviving in the circumstance of reduced access to basic goods. With his shop and livelihood confiscated, Hassan struggles to provide for his family and takes risks. All that remained for him was the terror which he describes as making people “mill around in endless confusion, jostling with each other for basic needs… under a Leadership that amuses itself like a spiteful child … We are but toys to be broken.” Worse was the prevalent mistrust that spread in the community, deep and wide like a poison.
The norms of social and family life in Libya in the early years of the Gaddafi regime were distorted by the whims of one all powerful person. There was a terrifying public execution. The novel documents the many twists and turns of a leader seeking to control his people by all means possible.
The last chapters are devoted to contemplations of unfettered power, the personality of The Leader and the chaos which he generated and upon which his system thrived. The caprice and unpredictability of tyranny dominate the final pages.
Chameleon in my Garden, is an extensive narrative, with honest and fair contemplations of self, family and society, in the Libya of the 1970’s. The moods of the novel are multiple and varied, becoming rather bleak towards the end. Every reader will probably find a theme that answers his or her questions about life in Benghazi as experienced by the author in those not too distant days.
Chameleon in my Garden will remain a landmark in the literary and social history of Benghazi, as well as a document dedicated to a lasting memory of the trauma of disappearance for the waiting families. But, of course, it is first and foremost, an enjoyable read.
The novel, published by Austin Macauley,
is available online at Amazon.com