New media and prison literature

 18 Apr 2013 - 3:36

The new media, particularly social networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have opened the way for the emergence of a new form of literature, namely prison literature. 

This has happened not only in the Arab Spring countries but also in some Gulf states, which have started to detain tweeters, commentators and political activists who bypassed state media to venture into cyberspace, which is relatively free of restrictions or legal hindrances.

Shaker Fared Hassan defines prison literature as a genre characterised by humanity and struggle, born in the darkness of cellars, dungeons and behind prison bars. According to him, this genre has come out of the womb of prisoners’ daily pains, psychological suffering and oppression. It expresses the bitterness of torture and the pain of abuse, and reveals prisoners’ concerns and their longing for freedom and daylight.

Egyptian novelist Gamal Al Ghetany said he had been thinking a lot about prison to the extent that one can say he has been imprisoned before his actual imprisonment. 

He pointed out that when he entered the cultural arena, the seminars he attended were monitored by detectives, whose presence was normal in such events.

Al Ghetany said he had heard about what happened in prisons, and thoughts of that preoccupied him all the time. 

“I do not forgive any regime that has committed such crimes (namely detention of prisoners of conscience and political activists), whatever the reason behind it”, he said.

Prison literature has flourished after the eruption of the Arab revolutions to tell the stories people had turned a blind eye to under forward-looking, progressive Arab regimes disguised in the robe of democracy and secularism. The Sighted, a collection of short stories, narrates the story of Tunisian university students in the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. Some people termed that generation the Holocaust generation.

The Sighted tackles prison literature in the broad and figurative sense of the word by depicting the characters’ feelings of sadness 

 

and alienation in their own homeland, given the restrictions imposed on freedom of expression and the fear and dread that used to haunt citizens. As a result, every citizen had started to live in a prison of his own making, a kind of voluntary prison that they entered without being escorted by torturers or jailers.

 

What will the future of prisons, prisoners and jailers look like in the Arab world? Perhaps the new media and the stories of heroes and their struggles will create a kind of prison literature we have not known before. Let’s just wait and see.

 

The new media, particularly social networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have opened the way for the emergence of a new form of literature, namely prison literature. 

This has happened not only in the Arab Spring countries but also in some Gulf states, which have started to detain tweeters, commentators and political activists who bypassed state media to venture into cyberspace, which is relatively free of restrictions or legal hindrances.

Shaker Fared Hassan defines prison literature as a genre characterised by humanity and struggle, born in the darkness of cellars, dungeons and behind prison bars. According to him, this genre has come out of the womb of prisoners’ daily pains, psychological suffering and oppression. It expresses the bitterness of torture and the pain of abuse, and reveals prisoners’ concerns and their longing for freedom and daylight.

Egyptian novelist Gamal Al Ghetany said he had been thinking a lot about prison to the extent that one can say he has been imprisoned before his actual imprisonment. 

He pointed out that when he entered the cultural arena, the seminars he attended were monitored by detectives, whose presence was normal in such events.

Al Ghetany said he had heard about what happened in prisons, and thoughts of that preoccupied him all the time. 

“I do not forgive any regime that has committed such crimes (namely detention of prisoners of conscience and political activists), whatever the reason behind it”, he said.

Prison literature has flourished after the eruption of the Arab revolutions to tell the stories people had turned a blind eye to under forward-looking, progressive Arab regimes disguised in the robe of democracy and secularism. The Sighted, a collection of short stories, narrates the story of Tunisian university students in the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. Some people termed that generation the Holocaust generation.

The Sighted tackles prison literature in the broad and figurative sense of the word by depicting the characters’ feelings of sadness 

 

and alienation in their own homeland, given the restrictions imposed on freedom of expression and the fear and dread that used to haunt citizens. As a result, every citizen had started to live in a prison of his own making, a kind of voluntary prison that they entered without being escorted by torturers or jailers.

 

What will the future of prisons, prisoners and jailers look like in the Arab world? Perhaps the new media and the stories of heroes and their struggles will create a kind of prison literature we have not known before. Let’s just wait and see.