This article examines existential themes in three of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Munīf’s novels: The Trees and the Murder of Marzūq, East of the Mediterranean and Here and Now or East of the Mediterranean Revisited.
The innovation of existentialist literature lies in the strength with which it describes alienation in the modern era, the meaninglessness of life and the pursuit of truth and absolute values. Munīf’s characters reflect the central themes of existentialist philosophy and literature. Like the protagonists of Sartre and Camus, they are aware of the absurdity of human existence and attempt to rebel against it, though often rebellion leads them to death and obscurity.
Munīf’s works, some of which belong to the unique Arabic prison literature sub-genre, highlight individuality and authenticity in his characters and portray other issues that preoccupy Western existentialist writers: anxiety and distress, fear of death, loneliness, alienation and moral decline. In Munīf’s literary world the existentialist fate is inevitable. However, most of his leading characters do not give up and do not succumb to fate, but fight against it in body and spirit. Across the spectrum of his writings, Munīf’s indomitable, yet highly human figures live and die lives committed to the existential ideals of freedom and authenticity, because they are aware that if they give up the struggle, all hope for a better future is lost.