Ghasi Algosaibi died on August 24, 2010.
I’d heard of the man; seen his clever maple-syrup eyes in photos, his poems on online shelves. I knew of his revolutionary-style, structured house, lined with chairs and perspex cubes, and his son, Suhail, equally laudable, who writes his own current affairs blog. But I’d never before made such discoveries about the intricacies of Algosaibi’s life; his work as labour minister and technocrat, his writings, his pushes for Saudi reform and his pronouncements that Bin Laden was ”deranged.”
Algosabi, born on March 2nd, 1940, was a Saudi Arabian writer and ambassador for Britain and Bahrain. Due to his passion for fairness in society and visions of a better Saudi future, he is often hailed as one of the greatest revolutionaries in Middle Eastern culture. It is a testament to his incredible endurance, both emotional and physical, that Algosaibi managed to spend two years travelling from England to America, promoting his beliefs, whilst seriously ill.
Brought up in Cairo, he fought tirelessly for women’s rights,and Saudi freedom until his sad death from stomach cancer. His political portfolio includes work on industry, labour, water and health. In a short period of time, the man obtained a BA in law and a PHD and MA in International Relations. His novels, such as Houma (2002) and Shiquat Al-Hurryah (1994,) which dealt with the maturing of a group of Arab teenagers living in a small flat during the 1960s, when political crimes and rebellion in Saudi were rife, as well as his revolutionary poems, deal with love, freedom and agitation. Many of these novels and poems were banned in Saudi due to their secondary subjects- East/West relations, corruption and alienation, and criticism of powerful regimes.
My favourite, Octopus, tackles the theme of lost love in a biting, profound fashion and clear language. Beneath its simple structure and violent epithets about veins and knives, an underlying message of hope can be seen; not only for the return of the lover, but for something broader beneath the romantic heartbreak; a firmness and determination to restore the broken society .in which the author lives.
Algosaibi was heavily criticised due to a poem he published in 2002 during the Palestinian uprising, The Martyrs. The piece expressed admiration for the Palestinian suicide bombers, stating that the group ”died to honour God’s word.” Algosaibi defended his work after criticism by the Jews, calmly accusing Israel of war crimes.
Algosabi’s son, Suhail, was important to him. It is said that he offered to give Suhail a diamond ring, The son since rejected the gift, seeing it as superfluous to his personal goals. Suhail now has his own website, Suhail’s Radical Dojo, in which he publishes extensive blog posts on news items, controversial topics, and outlines of his own goals; to prevent the abuse of children and to continue, in political terms, his father’s legacy. Described on his Twitter site as ”Bahrain’s most outspoken entrepreneur, martial artist, and author,” he sees himself as a ”lifestyle engineer.” His most recent post is titled ”How Not to be a Fat Woman” and details Bahrain’s obesity crisis.
Suhail and Ghazi Algosabi had an incredibly close relationship, fuelled by their similar passions and beliefs. There is a sad picture of Suhail within his blog; stooped over a pile of his father’s works, his glassy eyes reflecting what he’s lost, beneath an obituary printed in forlorn sky-blue letters.
In the past five years, the ban on Algosaibi’s books has been lifted, and the Saudi Cultural Ministry has acknowledged his contributions to the nation, both literary and civic. Algosabi may have left us, but at least, in Suhail’s writings, we still have the legacy of this great man; as distinguished and brave as he was placid.
WORDS: Sophia Darell
IMAGES: Jaume Vilardell – http://blog.jaumevilardell.com/selection/