A Madman vs Farahat’s Republic [Archives:1998/30/Social]

July 27 1998

By: Khaled Ghaleb Alsharai,
Demonstrator of ESP,
Faculty of Languages,
Sanaa University.
Luxun’s “A Madman’s Diary” (1918), and Yusef Idris’ “Farahat’s Republic” (1954), are short tales which have in common the absolute universal theme of “hope” invested in a utopian dream. It is the dream and hope which calls for transformation of the present into a new and promising future.
Both literary works represent the vision of modern transition, a transition from a feudal system into a capitalist system in both economy and politics. It is also a transition that calls for a “constant change” which certainly makes it anti-traditional. Luxun and Idris are mainly concerned about the social and psychological effects of this modern transition.
Luxun’s “A Madman’s Diary” is a Chinese tale which presents the disconnected notes and perceptions of a madman in illusion of the real world around him. He, in utter intensity, believes that he is a “victim” to the madness of those who are around him. He believes that his own people, either disguised or bold-faced, are ready to eat him. The story has a “duality” in which the madman operates at a realistic level to expose feudalism as fundamentally “barbaric cannibalism”, and ultimately, his only hope is to save the children from the madness of this system.
The children must be saved from being disconnected to know their (shocking) past and at the same time, from being annihilated by the madness of the present. Moreover, the children must have a safe future in which they will not be involved in the act of cannibalism. In this respect, the temporal universal theme in this Chinese tale is historically determined as the act of cannibalism which is presented metaphorically in this story. But the real subject is about the exploitation of man by man under the feudal system. Thus, there is a moral aim to the story.
The process of transition, from a feudal into a capitalistic set-up, provokes madness which is one of the serious and obvious symptoms of modern society. Being faced with this critical momentum in history, the madman can only release this imposed tension through dreaming utopian dreams in which he alters his perception of his shocking past, and present, hoping to obtain a more promising and safe future.
Similar to Luxun’s “A Madman’s Diary,’ Yusuf Idris’ Egyptian tale, “Farahat’s Republic” embodies the same absolute universal theme of “hope” against the temporal universal theme of the madness of modernity. The title of Idris’ short tale apparently promises a hope, a utopian dream in which Farahat excitedly dreams of his idealistic Republic.
As an old duty officer, Farahat is physically in the police station, but mentally he is in his own utopian dream. Once he becomes fed-up with the mad atmosphere at the police station, his mind shoots off into his idealistic Republic. His whole dream, as a fictional film, is based on an “Indian rich man” who loses a diamond, and a poor villager finds it and returns it to him. In return, the rich man insists on compensating the poor villager generously. As a result, the poor man becomes a very rich civilized businessman who has maximized his profit by expanding one industry after another, creating an idealistic society all around him. And to show a gesture of gratitude towards the rich Indian, the Egyptian, in his own idealistic society, enforces the importance of going to cinemas since Indian movies are globally so influential in the entertainment field.
In brief, it’s all linked to the Indian’s (diamond) fortune in which Farahat creates and bases his utopian dream. Whereas the madness in “A Madman’s Diary” is historically determined as the act of cannibalism, the madness in “Farahat’s Republic” is historically determined as a different act from cannibalism.
The temporal universal theme of madness in “Farahat’s Republic” is criminality. Being a day and night investigator of many serious and absurd crimes, Farahat has been submitted to the conviction of people that have gone mad. He believes their (crime) madness is not made intentionally, but rather is imposed upon them by the modern day system. The madness in Farahat’s situation is certainly less severe than that of the “madman’s.”
Words such as “eat humans,” “man eaters” and “cannibalism” in “A Madman’s Diary” suggests the severe atmosphere of madness in which the madman is seriously mad, and at the same time, his hopeless hope to survive it. Comparably, Farahat’s last roaring cry was: “Say something, you animal!” emphasizes the same world of the “madman,” a world where the struggle for survival is only meant for the most powerful animal in the jungle, a world where human values and morals are unattainable.
In fact, the last roaring cry made by Farahat constitutes the anti-climax of “Farahat’s Republic;” whereas, the anti-climax of “A Madman’s Diary” occurs on the outset. Luxun tells the reader from the outset that the madman ended up becoming a cannibal himself.
By contrast, the climax of both works is embodied in the shared utopian dream of hope. At this point, it is essential to allude to the significance of the setting in both tales. The setting in both tales has a dialectical realization of certain universal traits. These universal traits are isolation, depression, darkness, imprisonment, etc.
The village community in “A Madman’s Diary” as well as the police station in “Farahat’s Republic” seem to be completely detached from the outside world. If this signifies anything, it certainly expresses, as one critic states, “the seemingly hopeless situation of the Third World intellectual in this critical historical period.” The setting, in both literary works, most importantly, embodies the thematic conflict of tension between the past and the present.
In conclusion, one can infer that there is a universal sense of betrayal that exists in the past. This is the main reason for a present life exhibiting fully universal madness, darkness and destruction. Consequently, for both Farahat and the Madman – and presumably for the reader – the only way out of this (mad house or iron house) is to share the same one-way through the same utopian dream where ecstasy is a common sentiment.