T al-Hakim | Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor


T al-Hakim | Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

–Menonim Menonimus

T al-Hakim | Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

T al-Hakim | Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

T al-Hakim | Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

The term ‘Comic’ is the adjective form of the word ‘comedy’. According to A Glossary of Literary Terms “A comedy is a work in which the materials are selected and managed primarily in order to interest and amuse us: the characters and their discomfitures engage our delighted attention rather than our profound concern, we feel confident that no great disaster will occur, and usually the action turns out happily for the chief characters.”

Tawfiq al-Hakim’s novel entitled Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Aryaf (Diary of a Country Prosecutor) is a tragi-comedy as in spite of some tragic episodes like- the episode of Kamar al Dawla Alwan, the episode of Rim, the episode of the village women etc. there are abundant elements that affect our sense of humour and thus delight us. The comic elements in the novel are made up of speech, situation and action. All the type characters representing the government machinery are full of comic traits either in action or in speech. Let us bring out the comic elements in the novel as below:

First, we encounter the comic element in the speech of Shaik Asfur while he gets into the van of the investigating team. He, approaching the Ford, said rather garrulously, ‘you were going out without me?” The police corporal answered with a smile, ‘if we’d known your address, we should have sent a message.’

‘Very well,’ he replied, ‘Give me a cigarette.’ The corporal winked at him quickly and said in a low voice, ‘Shut up- the ma’mur will hear you!’

‘Give me a cigarette’, persisted Shaik Asfur. ‘Come on corporal, I am a corporal too, tonight – in the smokeless army.’

Again he plucks up a twig from a thicket and carrying it as though it were a royal sceptre.

Here the speech and well as the action of Shaik Asfur to be a corporal is really funny and draws out laughter.

Secondly, the horse riding situation of the Public Prosecutor is comic in full. This comic scene is depicted by the author as follows:

“I commended my soul to the Almighty and rode forward at the head of the party, reeling with fright and exhaustion. At length, sleep came over my eyelids and all was oblivion- until I suddenly became aware of my body flying off the horse’s back and coming to rest around its neck. The animal had jumped so violently into a canal that the impact had wrenched me off its back. ‘Just as I feared.’ I thought to myself, I shouted to the ghafir in charge of my mount. The horse, man, the horse!”

Thirdly after reaching the spot where Kamar al Dawla Alwan was shot the ma’mur makes anger with his stuff which is funny enough as the novelist writes down:

 “The party stopped in disarrays. The ma’mur lavishly distributed words of abuse, slaps, commands and prohibition to his faithful followers.’’ And then orders the servant to restore him on the back of his horse.

  Kamar al Dawla Alwan had got one shot unanimously but after the ghafir’s (sentry) interruption a controversy arose regarding the shooting- whether he got one shot or two shots. And with this, they made a fuss which adds funny elements to the enjoyment of the novel.

Fourthly the comment of the superior officer on the weight of the report of a case is also funny. The prosecutor narrates the incident as follows:

 “I scribbled at the bottom of the page. To be filed with the report and clasped my head in my hands, wondering what was to be done next in this case, and whom we could interrogate so as to bring out Report up to a minimum of twenty pages. For I have never forgotten what a Public Prosecutor said to me one day when he received a ten-page report: What is all this? A contravention or a misdemeanour?

   When I replied that it was a murder case, he shouted at me in astonishment, ‘A murder case investigated in ten pages! The murder of a human being! All in ten pages?

  When I replied that with those ten pages we had managed to get the murderer, he paid no attention whatever and went on weighing the report in his hand with careful accuracy: Who would ever have believed that this report could be of a murder case?

 I replied instantly, Next time, God willing, we shall be more careful about the weight.”

Fifthly, while investigating the case of Kamar al Dawla Alwan the prosecutor called in Rim, the sister-in-law of Kamar al Dawla and seeing her charm and beauty he decided to postpone the investigation is really ironic as well as comic. He makes a vivid description of her charm as:

 “This girl, as it seemed to me had a mind like a thicket of reeds and sugar cane, whose dark foundation saw no light except in fragments, like dancing coins, flashing in the dark, whenever the reeds inclined this way or that…”

This narration of his is really hyperbolic (exaggeration) causing delight in the heart of the readers.

Sixthly, the First Judge and his system of the verdict are comic as well as satiric that cause not only laughter but also affecting the readers to their wit. No matter how great the number of cases for hearing- this judge has never yet missed his train. The arbitrariness of his verdict of judgment may best be illustrated by the following case as portrayed by the novelist:

The usher called out a name. And so it went on- name after name- a whole succession of cases exactly similar to the first on which sentence has been pronounced …. He glared at the crowd with eyes like pea behind his spectacles, which bobbed up and down his nose. Nobody not even himself caught the implication of what he had said. The usher went on calling out names. The type of charge had begun and the judge said ‘You are charged with having washed your clothes in the canal!’

  ‘Your honour – May God exalt your station- are you going to fine me just because I washed clothes?’

  ‘It is for washing them in the canal.’

  ‘Well, where else could I wash them?’

The judge hesitated, deep in thought, and could give no answer. He knew very well that these poor wretches had no wash basins in their village, filled with fresh water from the tap. They were left to live like cattle all their lives and were yet required to submit to a modern legal system imported from abroad. The judge turned his glance …….. And pass his verdict, “Fine twenty piastres.”

Thus his entire situation, as well as his actions, are satiric which incite and waken our laughter.

Seventhly, the other judge is an excessively conscientious man who lives with his family in the district office. He is very slow in dealing with cases for he is afraid of making mistakes through haste, and perhaps too, he is eager to fill in time and enlivens his boredom in his provincial outpost. Moreover, he has no train to catch. So from early morning, he sits at his desk as though he is inseparably nailed to it, and he never leaves it till just before noon. He generally resumes the session in the evening too. This session has always been a nightmare…..” His entire attitude and the manner of his judging are highly comic.

Eighthly, in the court of Egypt, a misdemeanour case may turn into a felony as in the case of a woman who had bitten the finger of a person named Shaikh Hasan for the offence of making a cunning joke. The incident is wholly funny as:

The accused woman had a daughter called Sitt Abuha; she was wooed by a peasant named Horaisha, who offered a dowry of fifteen gold pieces. The mother refused and demanded twenty.  The matter stood there until one day the suitor’s brother, a young boy called Ginger, came alone on his own accord and informed the bride’s family, quite falsely, that the suitor had accepted their terms. He then went back to his brother and told him that the girl’s family had agreed to reduce the dowry and to accept his offer. As a result of this cunning joke played on both parties, a day was appointed for reciting the Fatiha at the bride’s house, and the bridegroom deputed Shaik Hasan and Shaik Faraj to his witness.

Everybody came together and the girl’s mother killed a goose. Scarcely had the meal been made ready and served to the guest when the dowry was mentioned and the trick was revealed. It was evident that the deadlock had not been solved and a quarrel flared up between two parties. The girl’s mother began to shout in the yard. Shaik Hasan was moved by the spirit of devoted zeal and did not touch the food. He began to argue with the woman, vainly trying to convince her, while his colleague, Shaik Hasan scratched out his hand towards the goose and began to guzzle it avidly, without entering into the impassioned dispute. It appeared that the enthusiasm on each side went beyond the limits of verbal discussion. Hasan saw that his hand was not in the plate of goose but in the woman’s mouth. He let forth a resounding shriek and soon the whole house was turned upside down in chaotic confusion. Hence was the case and the judge turned to the old woman and said, ‘the case has become a felony and without the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court.’

This instance is a satire on the then-existing social tradition and a grand comic source for the readers.

Ninthly, the signature of the prosecutor that he casts in the files is also funny. He himself admits:

 “The session ended at noon and I emerged from it with my nerves torn to sheds. As soon as I had taken leave of the judge, I found myself confronted with a policeman holding trays filled with ‘Execution of Judgments’ forms which he gave me to sign. I automatically put my signature to the endless streams of documents. (My signature no longer bear any resemblance to my name: speed and frequency have converted it into a couple of lines flung aimlessly at the paper.)”

Tenthly, the food habit of the ma’mur is another instance of comic elements in the novel. It is said that his food habit is simple but he gives a long list of breakfast which is verily satiric as well as ironic.  The following lines may be quoted from what he orders about the item of food as breakfast:

 “Now, listen, his Excellency the Legal Officer does not like mutton or chicken for breakfast, or anything like that. But there is no objection to a few pigeons in rice, with dried biscuit and whipped pastry. If there are light roasted chickens with it, there is no harm. Of course, some curdle milk is always good for health. There is no harm in some eggs fried in cream. That is quite enough. See that you don’t make anything more. The Legal Officer has a small appetite. If you have some waxed honey, bring it in. There is nothing against a couple of cream cheeses and a plate of cakes and dainties. The whole point is something good and light. You know better than anyone what is required……”

Eleventh, the Grave Digging scene is highly comic. When the prosecutor received a unanimous letter revealing that the wife of Kamar al Dawla Alwan died not a natural death but was strangled to death by somebody. After that information, the prosecutor employed some grave diggers who went to the cemetery and began to dig the graves. But the graves they dug were not of women but of men. Later on, some neighbours of the dead woman were called in but all proved in vain. This scene certainly adds something to the comic elements of the novel.

Twelfth, the tale of measuring the weight of the heavens and earth is another witty as well as a comic element in the novel. The author writes:

“Verily well, sir. very well. First of all, kindly inform if this scientist Shentoon measured the heavens and the earth with or without the Throne? The teacher was puzzled and turned to me, asking, ‘Which Throne?”

Thirteenth, the comment on the cup of tea offered to the prosecutor by the attendant in the village is comic as he said, “he proffered two cups of different pattern- one with a broken handle- and I drank cautiously, staring into the interior of the cup, for I feared that I should find a grasshopper instead of sugar.”

Fourteenth, the ma’mur comment on the voting system of Egypt is highly satiric as he says:

 “Well, that is my method with elections…… I let people vote as they like- right up to the end of election. Then I simply take the ballot box and throw it in the river and calmly replace it with the box which we prepare ourselves.”

Fifteenth, another comic and satiric element in the novel is the statistics concerning the crime cities of the world. One of the colleagues of the prosecutor wonders about the issue and says:

  “It appears that statistics had been published in Europe or America – I can’t remember which- to clarify the position of crime all over the world. It was stated that Chicago came first amongst the cities of the world in abundance of crime and was closely followed by Abnub! The other famous cities of the world came later on the list. At that time I would have thought that Abnub was a city in America- but for a footnote in the margin stating that it was a place in Upper Egypt. I was astonished to find that little town possessing such prestige amongst the world’s famous cities –even though it was dubious status in the sphere of crime. Chicago and Abnub- the two poles of humanity’s baser instincts! The first exemplified the crime of civilization’ the latter- the crime of the desert.

Thus in the novel, in spite of some tragic episodes, there are ample instances of comic scenes for which the novel may be called a better comedy than a tragedy. 0 0 0.

Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

Read More: Theme Analysis of ‘Diary of a Country Prosecutor’

Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

N. B. This article entitled ‘T al-Hakim | Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor’ originally belongs to the book ‘Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf-An Analytical Study‘ by Menonim Menonimus. Comic Elements in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

Books of Literary Criticism by M. Menonimus:

  1. World Short Story Criticism
  2. World Poetry Criticism
  3. World Drama Criticism
  4. World Novel Criticism
  5. World Essay Criticism
  6. Indian English Poetry Criticism
  7. Indian English Poets and Poetry Chief Features
  8. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  9. Walt Whitman’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  10. Critical Essays on English Poetry
  11. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: Return of the Spirit-An Analytical Study
  12. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf’-An Analytical Study
  13. Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories
  14. A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Pre-Islamic Period
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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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