Roots, History, and the Possibility of Coexistence: Horizontal and Vertical Consciousness in Amin Maalouf’s Ports of Call (published in NDQ 84.1/2)
M. Önder Göncüoğlu
A Lebanese journalist and novelist born in 1949, Amin Maalouf is a person of multiple identities. Like most of his fictional characters, he is formed by several affinities. He is a Christian Arab born in Lebanon, currently lives in France, and speaks both French and Arabic. He is familiar with the cultural winds blowing from both directions. That is, he seems to have been conceived within the long-conflicted history of the East and the West. In terms of his own understanding of cultural identity, he, therefore, comes to be an entity both comprising and compromising a large number of characteristics, of place, religious beliefs and orientations, nationality, language, race, and history; all of which, according to Maalouf, allow people to be part of one characteristic and another at the same time. Identity for him, therefore, is neither a singular entity nor an entity totally inherited from ancestors, but the sum of one’s diverse affinities, including both traumatic and happy bonds experienced “horizontally” and “vertically.” The hope for human coexistence, for Maalouf, seems to emerge from horizontal inheritance generated by one’s time and contemporaries rather than a vertical inheritance that is more about traditions and ancestors.
I will explore and discuss the possibility of coexistence in light of Maalouf’s understanding of cultural identity shaped around the ideas of horizontal and vertical inheritance. To this end, while discussing the possibility of coexistence I will turn back to his works in general, but to Ports of Call in particular. I will also discuss some of his interviews and essays, including some historical information of documentary value, to analyze his personal conception of identity in relation to his representation of cultural identity in his fictional works.
M. Önder Göncüoğlu received his BA degree in the Department of English Language and Literature at Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey (2001). He completed both his MA (2004) and PhD (2011) degrees in the Department of English Language and Literature at Ege University, İzmir, Turkey. He conducted his postdoctoral research in the Department of English at Southeastern Louisiana University (2014). Currently, he is working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Western Languages and Literatures at Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University, Muğla, Turkey.