“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.”
- Sir Francis Bacon
I woke up gasping for air after another nightmare and I knew that this would be another sleepless night. I reached out for his book as though I needed to feel his presence. No one has ever dedicated anything to me - I read the dedication he wrote me one more time; in his head I am smoking apple flavored shisha on my terrace, staring at the stars, obsessing about my toothbrush, and coloring my world in orange. I am not an avid reader of Arabic literature but Ahmed Naje’s Rogers was anything but disappointing.
Reading Rogers felt like sitting next to a remarkable storyteller as he flipped through his photo album and told me the story of each shot. Instead of turning moments into fading memories, Ahmed decided to capture the essence of his childhood memories, school days, traumas, family icons, wars, and amours in his book. The prose and narration, along with his vivid imagery, textured descriptions, and forward colors gave life to each of his characters. His attention to detail can be easily traced in his descriptions – the mosquito scene on his grandfather’s hand is just one example.
Ahmed Naje’s Rogers is a canvas of memories and snapshots where fact and fiction are woven beyond identification. His imagination fed stories to his green inquisitive mind. Questions like the existence of God, the creation and “sewing” of the human body, the laws of attraction, and the need to create a utopia are just a few fragments of his enigmatic book. Unlike other picture albums, Naje’s pictures are far from perfect; he has no reluctance in showing his scars, his fears, his dreams, and his frustrations – as a little boy and as an adult. As a reader, you cannot help but identify with the feelings that each shot evokes.
Feeling the air blow against his face, walking by the river, and seeing green fields set a striking contrast between his life at his hometown and his life in “the big city” where suffocating cement blocks turn his stomach and only the thought of a revolution or a supernatural gift for larceny cause his mental orgasms. The most visible themes revolve around his grandparents, his parents, his street, his cruel teacher, his girlfriend, his undefined female friend, and his best friend. On a deeper level you can trace his unanswered questions – starting from God to his very own existence and his chosen path.
With lots of imagination Naje, echoing Roger Waters of Pink Floyd’s Album “The Wall”, created a brick wall between his reality and his fantasy land. In his own words and using his own palette he decided to color his pictures adding one brick after the other to the wall that he often crossed in his first book – Rogers.