Amr Moneib: Requiem: Cloud of Thoughts That Rained Ink unto Paper
Amr Magdi Moneib
Ahmed El Dahan
Dr Amr Moneib is an Egyptian obstetrician who has developed a writing hobby to express his keen concerns over Egyptian society and its everlasting challenges. Recently, he has become the sole author of 25 pieces compiled into a book titled Requiem: Cloud of Thoughts That Rained Ink unto Paper, self published through Amazon’s Create Space. Written primarily in English, the book encompasses various genres such as non-fiction, short stories, fantasy and poetry. From his musings, it’s evident Dr Moneib, a graduate of Ain-Shams University, has had enough experience in Egypt to address the difficulties faced by the Egyptian population.
The first that thing that strikes the reader is the vivid clarity that English is not Dr Moneib’s first language. Without the privilege of an editor, Requiem is filled with countless grammatical and spelling errors and sentences that at times make as much sense as Cairo’s traffic. The end result is an unsophisticated batch of tepid clichés.
Early in the book, he presents a story titled Requiem for Roqaya, sharing the fictional account of a young girl raised in an Egyptian village. While to an Egyptian the plot is average at best, the tale might sting a Western heart thanks to the depictions of female circumcision, forced marriages and abuse. What stands out most here is Moneib’s inclusion and translation of Franco Arabic into English. For instance, in the scene where protagonist Roqaya is born, the doctor tells her mother “E7’rasy ya weleya we etnayely 3ala 3einek ewledy (Shut your f******g mouth and start pushing)”, the mother in pain yells “7aram 3aleikom (F**k)” – both of which are translated as such for the benefit of the reader.
Putting aside Moneib’s translation antics, it’s critical to observe that he has translated what is regular Arabic rudeness into extreme English vulgarity. This probably stems from the mainstream sensitivity of Egyptians when it comes to placing Arabic profanity in their media, albeit accepting English swearing. Moneib is a prominent example of this cultural manifestation since throughout his writings he has taken the artistic liberty of being exceedingly profane in English and yet, keeps his Arabic insults to a bare minimum.
At other times Moneib’s writing reads like a series of complaints from the voice of a misanthropic teenager. From The Pursuit of Sadness (no, it’s not the sequel to the Will Smith blockbuster), Moneib writes, “I am not a happiness seeker. I fear happiness because I got to know how temporary it is. I learned nowadays that it is tied in the legs with sadness. So when you meet happiness, make a space to sister sadness around. She might be a little bit late. But she’s coming.” This is but one blip from the myriad of Dr Moneib’s painstaking philosophies about the darkness of human nature and his own emotional sufferings.
Venting his contempt, Moneib takes liberty to address the issue of religion in Egypt. Similar to many of the educated Egyptian populous, he is frustrated by the ever common use of religion by so called ‘scholars’ in exploiting the masses. Although this is a serious social issue that must be addressed for its lack of regulation and severe consequences, at times, Moneib can be held accountable for taking stereotypical notions too far. In Where the Sky is Paige (most likely, the intended word is beige) he claims, “I live in a country where hair is more important than life itself, people die to force women cover their hair, and to force men have scary beards.”
Indeed, there are countless examples of women being forced to wear the veil, but it is a wild assumption to claim that a man has died whilst forcing another man to grow his beard.
Requiem is an example of the dark side of the self-publishing industry. While it may give a voice to well-versed writers striving to avoid corporate bureaucracy, the lack of standards also grants wannabe wordsmiths a chance to become published posers. Where in some instances, lesser skilled writing can be overlooked when a brilliant mind can be traced between the lines, in the case of Requiem, the whole thing is tasteless and indigestible; this ‘book’ is nothing more than cloudy thoughts wasting ink and paper.