Monday, January 30, 2006

Samia Serageldin

The Kaleidoscope Metaphor ..

A tiny shift of seismic proportions...

When some of his slightly barmy philosophical-literary obsessions combine in one book this blogger of yours is overwhelmed with joy and rushes to tell all the world of Honourable Readers about it. The book is "The Cairo House" by Samia Serageldin.

One can find in it the Atlantis image, when a structured highly civilized society disappears under the impact of revolutionary political tsunami (the tsarist St.Petersburg Society circa 1918, the ottoman Egypt following the Nasser phenomenon, the "Gone with the Wind" Southern world after the American Civil War..); one can indulge here in one's passion for Alexandrialogy (from a near "insiders" Fitzgeraldian approach to the Corniche Society); one relishes the chance to revisit, ever present in the plot's background, Middle Eastern fundamental political choices (with Political Islam lurking, eyeing with a patronizing smile at naive post-Marxist experiments destined to fail)..

But what has really worked for this blogger of yours is the Kaleidoscope Metaphor. As Ms. Serageldin explains herself "The kaleidoscope (...) has always fascinated me as a metaphor for life: how a seemingly slight incident can alter the course of one's destiny, just as an almost imperceptible shift in the angle of the lens changes the composition to form an entirely new pattern".

We all oscillate, to describe our lives, between two antagonistic Schools of Thought: the Fate/Destiny- GoWithThe Flow School (everything is written in the stars, all effort to change our roadmap is futile) and the Freewill-I'm the Agent and Modifying Force of my Own Personal Project School (you are empowered to make something out of your life). There is however, a third paradigm that can in a way overcome, dialectically speaking, the two others. A paradigm that takes on board the extreme importance of chance. Like described, most recently, in Woody Allen's "Match Point", a minuscule event can have a decisive importance.

We all have "missed the train" situations to deplore, we all have "if only I had recognized it when it happened" moments. Cavafy, that great Alexandrine, described it better than most in his "Che fece... Il gran rifiuto" poem:

"For some people the day comes

when they have to declare the great Yes

or the great No. It's clear at once who has the Yes

ready within him; and saying it,

he goes from honour to honour, strong in his conviction.

He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,

he would still say no. Yet that no - the right no -

drags him down all his life".

Let us put it this way: we should realize that once in a while we are confronted, in a kaleidoscopic-shifting moment, with the need to avoid "the right no".

One should be prepared to have the "great Yes ready within him"..

The real life Cairo House, still owned by the Serageldin family, can be visited at .

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