Article in brief: reviewing Ajwan, the first Arabic young adult science-fiction book written by Noura Al Noman. The review explores the different themes covered in the book, and the whole new world the author created to demonstrate the horror of wars.
I have to admit that Arabic literature has never been on my radar, and that’s because of how philosophical and figurative Arabic literary pieces have become in the last two decades. However, I have found myself attracted to Ajwan, an Arabic Young Adult Science-Fiction novel written by Noura Al Noman. There was so much hype going on around this piece when I first decided to read it back in 2013. The novel opens with Ajwan, the 19-year-old girl who witnesses the destruction of her planet and the death of everyone she loved. Her story is about survival and her desire to find the child she never met. Ajwan literally travels across the universe to find her baby, who had been taken away from her by unknown people who’d drugged her and had taken the baby out of her body. Al Noman managed to create Ajwan, the first Arabic Emirati young adults science-fiction literary piece and has won Best Young Adult Novel in Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature in 2013.
What I really loved about Ajwan is the themes that relate to our world today. It features the cruelty of war and the destruction wars leave behind. The novel was straight to the point and had no gimmicks.
This literary piece is a clear example of Bildungsroman, and what I find interesting is the complex world the novel takes place in. The author has created a universe that I believe makes this novel a brilliant piece of literature in the history of young adults science-fiction in Arabic.
The novel greatly focuses on themes of survival in the guise of Ajwan. The readers will find themselves introduced to different planets and different races such as the race of Hafiki who Ajwan belongs to. It is a race that resides on a water planet where its people survive under water (even though they could live above it). The book opens with the pregnant Ajwan who finds herself alone on a spaceship after the destruction of her planet. Motherhood is another obvious theme in this novel. You find this theme manifesting in Ajwan’s love for the child she had never met, and Ajwan’s relationship with Rohani who welcomes Ajwan in her home, and even though she is not a mother herself, she finds herself sympathising with Ajwan and her loneliness in their world. The war and the cruelty that comes with it are major themes in this book. The author has succeeded in showing how brutal wars are through the death of different characters throughout this novel.
The novel has also been about the importance and strength of relationships. Al Noman created so many layers that emphasised this theme through Ajwan’s relationship with herself, with Rohani, and with her kidnapped baby who at the beginning of the novel is literally taken away from Ajwan’s womb; in all of those relationships she finds different amounts of strength to help her through. At first, Ajwan does come off as whiny and weak, but as her story progresses she becomes fierce and the ordeal she overcomes shows the inner strength she has.
The novel reflects the reality of what our world is now going through and Al Noman did not waste her time sugar-coating it in her novel. It is brutal at times and the deaths in the novel were not kind and gentle. The author’s ability to create a world she was not ashamed or frightened to destroy at times is ambitious, and realistic when it comes to touching the themes of war. That brutality of assassinations and suicide was emphasised on so well in this novel. Hats off to Noura Al Noman for creating Ajwan.
Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)
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