Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fragments of Me - Story by (Mahmoud Mansi) - Reviews - Criticism

© Mahmoud Mansi
Egypt / Alexandria / Gleem / 2009

Fragments of Me…
A Story about Alexandria,


I left the lights behind, and vanished through the darkness of the pure night. It was something much more mysterious than magic which called my name. I heard the sighs of the Mediterranean, whispering me back for an old reunion. I’ve just entered the forgotten zone of wonders. The breeze that I couldn’t exhale for years, took my spirit flying into another world. It’s been ages since I left the lights of the city, and explored a new variety. My native genes nostalgically awakened the lost feelings inside my heart. I looked at the wavy sea and the few scattered fishermen busy in its science. The young ones were wearing a moustache, while the eldest grew their beards. I stood still trying not to disturb their nature, and listened to their spoken words of wisdom. Such words could not be spoken by philosophers or written in any foreign literature books. How determinant they were! I wondered, “How life is so different here, while the city is just a few steps away!”


I looked to find the boats resting on the shore waiting for their next expedition. I wondered, what if we spent our sleep times dreaming about our next battle! Walking through them, and feeling the salt on their old wooden body, my eyes spotted their painted names. They were all names of their beloved ones and symbols of an unfound culture. Maybe those poor fishermen have no effective tools to change the city, but they still got the passion that doesn’t exist anymore in the bright citizens, and in me! I knew that the shore (that everyone sees but never approaches with a thoughtful spirit) was actually the real Alexandria! The spirit of magic that yet never died, but have become nearly extinct… We have been attached too much to the city with all its seducing lights and twinkling desires till we became part of it, while pulling one another to its vortex. The more we dive deeper, the more we move faster toward the center of such vortex, and that’s what life is like now; rapid circles that get narrower with each day!


I noticed that it’s only the sunset image that is seen from the seaside, but the huge buildings are always covering the first moments of the sunrise birth. Well that’s the way it always goes with human beings! You are always obligated to greet someone in school, work, street, club, and anywhere, but you only care about saying goodbye to the special ones! You never know when you can see them again. Well, by one way or another, the sun knew about that too! Maybe its rays were late in greeting the fishermen, but were always there for a passionate crimson goodbye. The fishermen knew about that too, that’s why the hidden view of the sunrise greetings didn’t bother them. How amazing!


I thought about the real Alexandria as a word, symbol, history, meaning, culture, and future… How original! I thought about The Lighthouse and how it guided the merchant, fishing and war ships. And I thought about the Great Castle, which took over its glory, and defended the loamy shores of the blessed city of science, art, and magic. Its existence longed for years, “But where was all that now?” It’s no more than a place to visit, watch, and add some words in the history books. Where did all the wonders of science, poetry, art, literature, love, and passion go to?


It’s the land and sea that saw the misery and couldn’t speak about it. The land released its germs. The sea refused to swallow our mistakes, and left it as a living evidence for our bloody crimes. We were born rich in an era, and had to live watching our wealth go with the next tide. We let it go, because the fake light twinkles tangled our greedy eyes. Our departure was the cause, leaving everything good behind, just gone with the wind. And in return, we struggled to reach a new goal, our desires. We became part of a ridicules game; perusing fashion, taste, colors, movies, cars, races, and any other kind of shallowness while leaving behind only one thing, “Our Life!!!”


I looked at my reflection, and saw the pathetic reality of the life I was living. I thought I was a leader of my own, I thought I was the master of any internal storm and I thought I was actually in control! But I turned out to be just another puppet, dancing for the pleasure of other puppets! No wonder those fishermen own such wisdom, it’s the ugly world they see every day while sailing with their boats. Studying more about a virus, would surely tend to realize a cure! That's what I thought about… I remembered, when there was a curious baby with energy all over his body, and trying to always touch a hot cup of tea while ignoring the orders of his parents; sometimes after all their plans would fail, they eventually leave the child touch the cup! Why did they do that, and still do? Is it cruelty? No it’s reality. When the child learned about the "bad", "danger", "threat", "weakness", I mean any kind of the spread "viruses" around… this child was able to be saved from its danger and its effects!


From this short expedition in the darkness of the shores, and on the gleam of the reflected moonlight I learned too much about my small city. The city which had been my home since I was born… The city that Alexander the Great once dreamt to make it the Capital of the World!


I glanced at the magnifying view once again, feeling so free, feeling so strong, and feeling like a native too! I’ve been breathing passionate magic for minutes. I wished to stay in this place forever, my real Alexandria. Nevertheless, I faced the lights once again, gave my back to the endless knowledge and walked away… knowing that I have a mission to do, a forgotten message to carry on, and a buried culture to resurrect…


  • Published with Beyond Magazine / Cairo / July 2010.
  • Published online with ActivYouth.com.

Reviews by my Readers,


Rasha Adel: "I thought I was the master of any internal storm and I thought I was actually in control! But I turned out to be just another puppet, dancing for the pleasure of other puppets!" this is so insightful on identity crisis of modern humanity... Beautiful work of art. Thanks for the share :)

Jenny Mitchell: Oh wow Mahmoud... I love this piece; it so reflects life in all its light and shadow. I was moved by your sunset images; your reference to the need to greet everyone, but only say goodbye to those who are special... but more so to your references to children's life lessons and how we teach our children, our efforts to shield them from the bad things in life, but in the end having to allow them experience it (your reference to a hot tea - it's very special to me as I have a very strong memory as a child needing to give my mother her hot tea and spilling it on myself and suffering burns as a result, even after my mother trying to tell me it was too hot for me to pick up).

Mahmoud, your words ring so true to me and mean so much to me. Aside from the obvious references to Alexandria and its lost written wisdom and the lighthouse... I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Alia Taher: Wow! It's amazing, Mahmoud! I like the profound reflections of self & world expounded here. As an Alexandrian, I can easily relate to the exquisite description of Alexandria as the city of magic, charm, beauty, discovery, revelation & inspiration. In relation to that, there is a beautiful poem entitled "Alexandria" written by Desmond O'Grady & published in his book, "My Alexandria."


I also think the title, "Fragments of Me" is very well chosen because I believe that it is very expressive of the feeling one gets when contemplating the sea. For, we all as humans feel very minute before its vastness & immensity. It fills us with awe & sublimity. Thus, the picture with the caption, "My Parlor of Inspiration," is very befitting of the halo of illumination the sea endows people with. A lovely, eye-opening work of art & great reflections on Alexandria by an Alexandrian writer :)

Enjy Maged Ashour: I think you should check out a song called “The Islander” by “Nightwish”….couldn’t help thinking about it (lyrics & video) while reading,

It’s true how amazing the wisdom of the fishermen is…”the ugly world they see every day while sailing with their boats” & the pirates they encounter on their adventures teach them how to understand & appreciate the buried treasures of life. We too as city people have our own pirates & ugliness to face & learn from but unfortunately we do not always learn our lessons & we still walk right towards the “light” traps just like bedazzled moths!!

What we truly need is to hop on board those “boats resting on the shore waiting for their next expedition”, set the sails & explore life, see the world with the eyes of fishermen…because experience is the only road to “knowledge” & “wisdom”…we need to be ourselves :“Native Alexandrians” & try to collect the “Fragments of [us]” to be whole again.

All in all, this is such a great & relatable piece written by a true fisherman. One day, more of us will truly see Alexandria’s wonders & untold tales…One day, Alexander the Great will return to us & lead the way…
I also think the title, "Fragments of Me" is very well chosen because I believe that it is very expressive of the feeling one gets when contemplating the sea . For, we all as humans feel very minute before its vastness & immensity. It fills us with awe & sublimity. Thus, the picture with the caption, "My Parlor of Inspiration," is very befitting of the halo of illumination the sea endows people with. A lovely, eye-opening work of art & great reflections on Alexandria by an Alexandrian writer :)

Carina Bastain de Souza: Very, very beautiful and wise. And the True Alexandria is always inside you, you were never far from it... you just forget the way for a while...

Noha Salah: I have to make an expedition in the city :)) I felt that I miss many things in it !! I liked every word in this story!! We must ask our selves about the history of this city and what is happening to it now...

Noha Khatib: Very impressive ... as we are created from this world soil and inhabit it we share with it a lot, I believe we all are affected by the place we grew up in it with a way or another it became an unseparated part of us in our personality and ...our way of thinking .. we are fascinated by the city with all its glowing and attractive things to the limit that it stated to haunt us to chain us with our own wish while on the other contrary we never can abandon the nature with its sea ... we share the sea, this very puzzling nature as he is hugged by the earth and its waves longing for spending sometime on earth's land but it still hold its dignity to be just as himself. I think your words echo with a way or another in everyone's own life ... I adore the spirit of this story a lot and also the powerful metaphors in your writings they always hit a nerve in a mysterious way :)) ...Very Nice short story .. keep it up and wish you the best of luck :)

Hanan El-Dakkak: I'm impressed!!!I love the depth of your vision of Alexandria, the sea, the people...I've always looked at the sea as the treasure of knowledge, wisdom and passion. Alexander the great saw the strength & greatness in the sea, the sun rise is... born through the sea and sets within its arms... Moses sailed the sea to learn from a privileged slave of Allah! What a gift Allah has bestowed to us, may we learn from the mysteries and deep wisdom of it. May we have it as a mirror to see our true selves, and the waves will only blur our contradictions that plain mirrors don't reflect.

Abu M.Yusuf: I am amazed with the fluidity of construction of scenes with words so nicely chosen. Alexandria is in our subconscious...a nostalgic reminiscence of prosperous past where humanity had excelled and that is not only fragment of you but fragment of us all, from the feel of magic you make. Thanks so much...lots of love & regards. Hope to read you more in near future, so please keep me in your list of readers.

Colette Frege: Despite the fact that Alexandria is facing a myriad of problems, there is still magic in this city as you say and this is why I stay! Enjoyed sharing your feelings.. Thanks.


May Kosba: "Nevertheless, I faced the lights once again, gave my back to the endless knowledge and walked away… knowing that I have a mission to do, a forgotten message to carry on, and a buried culture to resurrect…"

I love it... One thing stands out here is the strong sense of belonging to the place. There's a man who acknowledges mistakes of his kind and is willing to carry the burden of responsibility to enliven the culture and the Alexandiran identity..Awesome!

Marwa Fawzy Mahmoud: You resurrected Alexandria in your own so special way. Now, I understand what you meant by Native Writer. I never thought that a land can spark this stream of thoughts and pictersque words into the brain and sentiments of someone with such eloquence and grace.That was a beautiful piece really :))))

Salma Mohamed: Mahmoud. It's really great why don't you continue it as a story. I think you are great at describing what u see and mix it with feelings that bring the picture alive. I think it would be nice to consider a story in which the hero is a boat... for example and transfer what your eyes see and what your heart feels to the reader through the boat for example. REALLY GREAT. VERY PROUD.


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With Pleasure,
 
Your Native Writer,
Mahmoud Mansi .
-One of the Twenty Winners for the Literary Award / A SEA OF WORDS 2010
-HR Specialist / Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport
-International Author  / “A Journey from Darkness to Light

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