4 July 2017

Sudan Mourns Demise of Distinctive Literary Critic Al-Khatim

Khartoum — Sudan has lost one of its outstanding literary critics, Abdelquddoos al-Khatim, who died on the first day of the Moslem Eid holiday, aged 71.

The late al-Khatim had established himself as one of the most outstanding literary critics in the Arab World, writing on novel, narrative and verse. He also made contributions in comparative literature and in translating a lot of texts from Russian and English, two languages he mastered with excellence, to Arabic. Al-Khatim also wrote a lot of modern verse.

The late al-Khatim had joined the University of Khartoum in the early 1960s as a medical student, a discipline he soon deserted and left for Russia and then to the U.K where he obtained a bachelor degree with honors in economics from the University of London. He then served for four years in the office of the Cultural Attaché at Sudan's Embassy in London. In the meantime he oversaw a number of literary supplements in the Sudanese newspapers, introducing a lot of new literary writers.

Khatim was an uncompromising critic and the older generations still remember his heated debates on the old and modern literature with the most outstanding symbols of the traditional schools in poetry, story and novel in Sudan.

His writings were widely applauded by the intellectuals of that era, due to their novelty and in-depth.

Al-Khatim, like many of his contemporary intellectuals, chose to leave the country and work in the Arabian Gulf, working for twenty years as a translator and literary critic in that region.

In 1976 he published his books "Kitabat Naqdiyya" (Essays on literary Criticism) and "Muraja'at Fi al-Thaqafa al-Sudaniyya" (Reviews about Sudanese Culture) which were republished 2012. Al-Khatim had won several honorary awards, including the award of the First Culture Festival in 1973 and the Swiss intellectual property award in 2008. The Tayeb Salih Prize for Literary Creativity also honored him in 2009.

The Identity Of Writing:

Literary Critic Dr. Ahmad al-Sadiq said literary criticism in Sudan that started with Hamza al-Malik Tambal, al-Amin Ali Madani and Mua'awya Noor "was widened by the coming of our master Abdelquddoos al-Khatim, the unparalleled modernist, who in the 1960s rebelled against the study of medicine and chose to study literature in Russia. "

"With all the anxiety of the artist, al-Katim had rebelled against the stern methods of the Russian literature, then satiated with 'socialist realism' and 'social realism', that vulgarly summed up the literary lesson in the writings of Maxim Gorky and the verses of Mayakovski," said Sadiq in a comment to Sudanow.

"Khatim experienced writing in Arabic and English, and later on, in addition to the late Salah Hashim and others, he translated from Russian"added Sadiq.

"In the 1970s Khatim appeared on the literary scene with stern-faced literary criticism, diligently chasing the different genres of literary writing in Sudan, the Arab World and the international sphere, with the firmness of a critic who learned the literary lesson in all the languages he spoke and wrote in," he added.

"Khatim is an original part of creativity in Sudan. His identity was associated with writing in general, literary writing in particular. He was strong, solid, daring and never cared about emotions, continuously going ahead with producing knowledge about texts and their psychological and philosophical dimensions," he further said.

University Professor and literary critic Dr. Leemya Shammat views Khatim's criticism project as "a living example of eager readiness to investigate and probe which is not contented with a stagnant idea and a chronic conviction, always seeking to daringly go deep into areas fenced with fossilized convictions and established prejudices."

"Khatim had devoted most of his writing to the Sudanese creative achievement and its different genres, coupled with intuitions into the open international horizon," she said.

The Great Loss:

Says Poet Yousef al-Habboab:"Khatim's departure is a great loss for literary criticism. Khatim was a knowledgeable and motivating critic and, with his death, an important chapter in the book of literary criticism and literature has been torn off."

"With Khatim's departure there faded the glow of intellectual battles with all their solemnity and bitterness," added Hanbboab.

"It is indeed a great loss. Just see how he was determined to enrich his experiment, despite his health crisis," he said.

Novelist and story writer Mohamed Khlafalla Suleiman says Khatim had witnessed "an era quite fierce, an era when writers do not tolerate criticism and would take revenge."

"That is why critics had distanced themselves from criticizing the works of their contemporaries. This had resulted in what could be described as the prevalence of 'clandestine criticism' or rather the' gossip' behind closed doors!" he said.

"But Khatim had taken his spade and challenged the stars of his time, criticizing them until they bled. Khatim had changed criticism from a club of public relations into a field for literary autopsy and firm criticism. But he had always used to revise his thoughts often doing justice to writers he had criticized."

University Professor Mohamed al-Mahdi Bushra believes that the departure of Khatim "would leave a void in the area of literary criticism that already suffers a shortage in qualified writers."

"Khatim has a school that takes a quasi-analytic approach. He had always looked for questions. There is no doubt that there are lots of dispersed contributions among his papers, which his ailment had prevented them from seeing light. We hope his family would take care of those papers and publish them for common benefit," he said.

Literary critic Majzoub Aydarous, the General Secretary of Tayeb Salih's Award For Literary Creativity, said Khatim joined the University of Khartoum in 1962 at a time when the University's sphere was dominated by a constellation of men of letters and criticism like critic and poet Mohamed Abdelhai, Poet Mohamed al-Makki Ibrahim, critic and story writer Mahmoud Mohammad Madani and Abdallah Mohamed Ibrahim.

"He chose literary criticism in which he made invaluable contributions, paying attention to the generation of the 1960s and shaking some convictions in the area of literary criticism," said Bushra.

"Khatim had also traced the contributions of British critics, thanks to his mastery of English. This had helped him to present a different view in literary criticism. He had also presented a number of new writers and critics, through his supervision of the literary supplement in the daily newspaper 'Al-ayyam' in the 1970s. The London-based "al-Arab" newspaper had published a number of his important articles during his service in the Sudanese Embassy in London," he said.

Novelist Bushra al-Fadil described Khatim as "a tempestuous critical mind and after the days of Mohamed Mohamed Ali. I consider Khatim one of our most distinctive literary critics."

"Khatim has departed with his mind laden with a keen desire to write about Mohamed Abdelhai and Mohamed al-Mahdi Majzoub, writing he postponed for years because of his ailment," Fadil has said.

"Khatim's book'Muhawalt Fi al-Naqd al-Adabi' (Attempts in Literary Criticism) is distinct and Khatim is one of our nation's strongest voices in literary criticism," he said.

"Khatim is a great loss and his long absence from the literary scene had built a layer of wax between him and the new generations. May the Almighty rest his soul in eternal peace," added al-Fadil.

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