In a recent article for Global Literary Theory, Evelyn Jean Pine reviews Absentees: On Variously Missing Persons by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below:
“Heller-Roazen shows how our disquiet about people who are neither here nor dead shapes the laws of different countries and cultures related to those who leave, disappear, or are banished. He points out that both in literature and law, the return reshapes the absence. But nonpersons are not only created by vanishing and disappearance — for one’s rights can always be taken away, even one’s good name in the form of ignominy like Hester Prynne forced to wear the red “A” in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
This author is at his best when he digs deep into the structures of the literature he explores. He contrasts Classical Arabic literature with the medieval European writers who speak about outcasts and outlaws at a distance in third person. Fortunately, the pre-Islamic “Bandit Poets” of classical Arabic literature speak for themselves. Driven by poverty to theft and violence, these poets reject the classical Arabic celebration of love, travel and tribe, and revel instead in their resolve, skill and independence, singing to and for no-one. Al-Shanfara in “Lamiyya” or “Poem Rhyming in L” casts himself not as a nomad but as wolf, leopard, or jackal — distinct and separate from the humans.”