Manual No Exit

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And because they see each other so clearly, their self-inflicted pain is constant. By serving as mirrors for each other, they also serve as unrelenting torturers. Garcin, played by Jonathan Bolt, is a dapper figure dressed in a white linen suit, white shoes, white shirt and a black tie. As the metaphorical heat increases, Mr. Bolt, like Garcin's once-crisp suit, begins to crumble. Like an exotic, poisonous tropical flower, Mr. Bolt's Garcin begins to shed his civilized manner and blossom into the coward and wife abuser he was at his ignominious death.

Pamela Burrell, as Estelle, begins her descent into Hell as a flirtatious manipulator of men.

Review: ‘No Exit’ by Dark Horse Theatre Company

But like Garcin, her true character as a child murderer propelled by lust and vanity emerges. As quick as a flash of forked lightning, Ms. Burrell can switch Estelle from an undulating figure of sensuality and unfulfilled desire into a brittle, harsh caricature of humanity.

The third in this triumverate of human need and unmitigated hatred is Inez. Phyllis Sommerville's Inez is a cold, calculating woman, and the most intelligent of the three. Inez is the first to comprehend the punishment they are to receive. She also realizes that their characters are so well balanced that there is no possibility any of them will be able to alter the punishment inflicted on the two others.

Sommerville's Inez is rigid in manner, cruel in her vocal intonation and unrelenting in her sexual desire for Estelle. Trip Plymale lends a humorous note to the sassy bellhop, who snaps gum and files his fingernails as he answers yet again the stock questions of new arrivals about torture chambers, racks and hellfire and brimstone. As this play ends, Garcin, Inez and Estelle are exposed as the characters they formed while they were alive.

Now, in Hell, the possibility for choice and change is over. For the rest of time, Estelle will not care that Garcin is a coward as long as he kisses her. But Garcin will never be able to kiss her because she knows he is a coward.

Inez will always despise Garcin and lust after Estelle, who will never reciprocate. This spellbinding production is aided by Phillip Baldwin's impressive set design. Two walls of this hellish chamber jut out from a black space. Nothing exists outside this narrow, uncomfortable room. Isolated in space and time, the walls delineate a spiritual emptiness. They are painted with a bland landscape in which the trees are neither lush nor bearing. Since existentialism is part of a phenomenological tradition that prioritizes experience over essence, it allowed intellectuals a fresh look at their situation under colonialism.

Rather than being locked into a hopeless essentialist position as Muslims who, for instance, are incompatible with reason, existentialism proposed a situational explanation of their cultural position and suggested ways in which the post-colonial generation could connect to this experience, take responsibility for it, and shape a new future for themselves.

It sounds vague and complicated, until we are reminded that Simone de Beauvoir used existentialism in the exact same way to mediate about the condition of women in bourgeoise society. Intrigued by the discovery of Arab existentialism, I realized that I can use it as a platform for the exploration of Arab decolonization as such. As for the original book I set out to write, I will start working on it soon. That is, what does it mean to be a person in the wake of decades of colonial modernity.

Taking post-colonial Arab ontology seriously, I was interested in the inside story of decolonization, in the internal dynamics of this process. We tend to think of decolonization in terms of physical liberation and only as something that happens within the confines of the nation-state. It turns out that Arab decolonization was a transnational business par-excellence and that via a two-way relationship with Sartre it developed global ethics of liberation and a clear expectation for true emancipation.

But what about Palestine, they asked? This fragmentation brought scholars to reduce Arab decolonization to the narrow cause of Pan-Arab unity through which an entire course of history was approached. This time there are more historical actors, both in the region and outside it. There are also more historiographical fields to reckon with, such as Francophone and French studies, decolonization studies, and global intellectual history to cite a few.

However, the basic method remains the same and that is to read extensively the Arab intellectual tradition and to get to know Arab intellectuals as intimately as possible. J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have? There is much talk about the Global s, with Chinese, Mexicans, Indians and Indonesians, to name a few, playing a coordinated role. Almost everybody is there except the Arabs. So, my hope is that the future reader of this book will be able to integrate the history of the region into the larger picture of the s.

No Exit from Pakistan: A Review

Needless to say, we write exclusively to fellow academics and that trickles down via the classroom to a larger audience. I just hope that as many colleagues from outside the field of Middle East Studies will give this story a chance. That is the practical expectation I have. On the level of fantasy, I hope that some general readers will pick up the book and hopefully take time to re-think the Arab world of the s.

No Exit | Samuel French

I say fantasy because it is really not a realist expectation. However, every now and then, I do get mail from such a reader.

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Last week, for instance, I corresponded with a Palestinian man who grew up in Saudi Arabia and who never had a chance before to read about Arab thought in the s and its drive toward universalism. It is an effort to theorize these two movements in terms of political theology and begin a conversation about the so-called secular nature of the s. My argument is that in ontological terms, both movements established sacrificial cultures that offered an experience of sacredness that, later, Islamic fundamentalists such as Qutb mimicked.

In that sense, the transition from the so-called secular experience of the s to the fundamentalism of the s was not as dramatic as it appears to be, but rather a variation on the post-colonial theme of sacred liberation. J: If this is a book about how Arabs used existentialism for the sake of advancing their own cause of self-liberation and find an exit from the colonial condition, how come there is so little pure philosophy in it? Existentialism, is a neat way of doing this.


The book shows how European existentialism was transformed into Arab existentialism for the sake of articulating the notion of post-colonial freedom, to mobilize the political and intellectual elites via the call for commitment iltizam as well as the many ways in which feminists, Palestinians, and dissidents used it to contest state authoritarianism and challenge patriarchy. Mostly, it assists us in tracing the transnational history of anti-colonial humanism, and how its notions of race and otherness assisted the post-colonial generation to join a universal cause of emancipation.

Philosophy becomes part of this story only when its impact on decolonization was significant for instance, with the early efforts of Abd al-Rahman Badawi to reconcile Sufiism with Heideggerian existentialism as a solution to the post-colonial condition of inauthenticity and anxiety. Otherwise, this is not a book about philosophy and hence cannot do justice to this important field.

By offering a wide spectrum of intellectual possibilities, Arab existentialism germinated the culture of decolonization and functioned as the intellectual foundation of an entire generational endeavor. Indeed, by the late s, the Arab world boasted of having the largest existentialist scene outside of Europe.

We have known you for a long time, and from the first contact with your ideas. You are the only Western writer that all Arab newspapers follow closely. Mostly they were touched by his sincere effort to simply and meaningfully recognize who they were, and they felt validated by and through his writings. Indeed, with the possible exception of Karl Marx, for the last two hundred years—roughly during the entire course of Arab modernity—no other foreign intellectual was more translated, read, debated, engaged with, and admired than Jean-Paul Sartre: his philosophy, lit- erature, theater, and his global politics.