Arabic dystopias in the 21st century : A study on 21st century Arabic dystopian fiction through the analysis of four works of Arabic dystopian narrative

University essay from Högskolan Dalarna/Arabiska

Abstract: Dystopian fiction as intended in the Western literary tradition is a 20 th century phenomenon on the Arabic literary scene. This relatively new genre has been experiencing an uplift since the beginning of the 21st century and many works that have been defined dystopias have been published and translated into English in the last 10 – 15 years. In order to find out their main features, Claeys’s categorization of literary dystopias is applied and a thematic analysis is carried out on four Arabic dystopian works of narrative, written by authors from different parts of the Arabic world. The analysis shows that 21st century Arabic dystopias are political dystopias, with totalitarianism as their main variation. Rather than on society, their focus is on the individual, and more specifically on personal freedom. The totalitarian constraints are mainly caused by religious fundamentalism and bureaucratic procedures. Surveillance and control over population are implemented by means of religious precepts and bureaucratic constructions, together with, in some instances, control over language and technological devices. Political totalitarianism regardless of a specific political ideology is identified as main theme. The thesis suggests that a Western-based classification framework is only partially suitable for Arabic dystopian fiction of the 21st century and that further research, including but not limited to a specific classification theory for Arabic dystopian fiction, is necessary to properly investigate this new literary trend in Arabic literature.

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