For Arabs: democracy, then crime fiction

Crime fiction may not be the first thing on the minds of the protesters taking to the streets for democracy across the Arab world. But one of the offshoots of the downfall of Arab dictators is sure to be an explosion of thrillers and mysteries.
Until now there has been almost no crime fiction written in Arabic. A couple of little-known writers in Egypt and Morocco have contributed old-fashioned Agatha Christie-style cosies (“One of the people at this oasis is the killer.”) The best Arab detective writer has been Yasmina Khadra, whose series about Inspector Llob is supremely gory and noirish. But Khadra writes in French from exile in France.
I believe Arabs have eschewed crime writing because it’s a democratic genre.<!--more--> One man wants to find out something that a big organization – the CIA, the mafia, the government – wants to keep secret. It’s easy to see why Hosni Mubarak probably wasn’t a fan of Raymond Chandler.
For people who live in democracies, it’s easy to find fiction credible that suggests a man can investigate – and once he fingers the bad guy, the bad guy will be punished. That’s why Scandinavian crime fiction by Henning Mankell et al is so popular: the Nordic societies have us all convinced that an eruption of violence, crime or murder, will soon enough be resolved and life can go back to its usual extreme orderliness.
Not so for the Arab world. Arabs have a deep sense of fatalism. Not only do they lack faith that the bad guy will be punished, they’re quite sure the bad guy will prosper. He’ll drive his Mercedes to his villa directly from the government offices or state-run companies where he rakes off his big take. The ordinary guy will be left to live on $2 a day.

Read the rest of this post on my blog The Man of Twists and Turns.

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Comment by Dana King on February 24, 2011 at 11:25pm

Excellent point, Matt. I hadn't thought about it, but now that I do, crime fiction needs a sense of justice in it. Even in stories where the bad guy "get away with it," the idea of justice is present; the story is in how he evades or perverts it. When evasion and perversion of justice are the norm, crime fiction loses it foundation.


Excellent post. Thanks.

Comment by Matt Rees on February 24, 2011 at 11:18pm
Right, Peg. Once they have this experience of the bad guy actually getting his, they'll look for that in fiction too.
Comment by Peg Herring on February 24, 2011 at 11:16pm
Interesting post, Matt. I hadn't thought of it that way, but I agree. The individual, whether crimesolver  or not, has a hard time changing the Arab world. Cool that they are banding together to get it done.

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