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  • Welcome to ALT Magazine & Press: Hazawi Prize Announces 2023 Shortlist: (Sana'a, Yemen) - The shortlist for the 2023 Hazawi Prize for Yemeni Literature has been revealed, announcing the ten writers who have been selected as finalists for this prestigious award.
  • Now in its second yearly round, the Hazawi Prize recognizes exceptional contributions to fiction in Yemeni literature. Organized by the Hazawi Cultural Foundation, this annual prize aims to promote Yemeni literature and support creative writers.
  • This year's shortlist features both emerging and renowned Yemeni authors. The ten works advancing to the final round of judging are:
  • - Abdullah Faisal shortlisted for his novel, Spirits and Secrets.
  • - Aisha Saleh shortlisted for her novel, Under the Ashes
  • - Farouk Merish shortlisted for his novel, A Dignified Stranger
  • - Ahmed Ashraf shortlisted for his novel, A Painful Belt
  • - Ghassan Khalid shortlisted for his novel, A Sky that Rains Fear
  • - Hosam Adel shortlisted for his novel, The Lord of the Black Dog
  • - Asmaa Abdulrazak shortlisted for her novel, Shrapnels
  • - Abdullah Abdu Muhammad shortlisted for his novel, The Road to Sana'a
  • - Najah Bahkeim shortlisted for her novel, The Final Decision
  • - Samir AbdulFattah shortlisted for her novel, What We Cannot See
  • The winner will be revealed at an award ceremony in Sana'a later where they will receive $1,500 USD. Second and third prizes of $1,000 USD each will also be awarded. All shortlisted works are celebrated for chronicling Yemen's rich culture and wartime experiences. This prestigious prize continues highlighting the nation's thriving literary community.

The Journey of Transformation: An Analytical Study of the Novel, The End of A Furious Man

Hatem Al-Shamea

Bassam Shams El Din is an acclaimed Yemeni novelist who has made significant contributions to Arabic literature. He was born in Ibb, Yemen in 1974. He is known for vivid, imaginative works tackling social and philosophical themes. His writings provide insightful commentary on Yemeni culture and artfully explore elements of human nature and relationships.
As a novelist, Shams El Din stands out for his lyrical, melodic prose style and emotive expressiveness. He skillfully utilizes techniques like foreshadowing, potent symbolism, evocative metaphors and natural dialogue. His works have been praised for their gripping narrative power, incisive social criticism, and complex psychological portrayals. Prominent themes in his writing include family and generational dynamics, social conventions and hierarchies, tragic human experiences, alienation and endurance. While exposing injustices and hypocrisies, his humanistic vision conveys hope, empathy and subtle spirituality.

The End of A Furious Man

Shams El Din’s 2020 novel The End of A Furious Man is considered one of his major contemporary works. It was translated into English in 2022 by Anthony Calderbank, making the unique glimpse it provides into rural Yemeni society more widely accessible. The novel stands out for its vivid characterizations, imaginative plotting and immersive evocation of place. It paints a poignant yet unsentimental portrait of family connections against a backdrop of superstition, hardship and rigid customs.

Set in Yemen’s remote highland and desert regions, The End of A Furious Man centers on a boy named Zaid’s coming-of-age journey with his enigmatic father Jafar. The episodic road trip unfolds with all the uncertainty of real life. Each stage brings unforeseen challenges and experiences that transform the characters. Through Zaid’s eyes, readers discover the terrain and rhythms of rural Yemen with its mix of breathtaking beauty and austerity. The prose is vibrant yet understated, mirroring Zaid’s innocence, curiosity and brooding interiority.
Shams El Din takes inspiration from real-life people, places and folklore yet infuses them with symbolic resonance. The desert’s mystical allure yet merciless nature adds atmosphere while serving as an objective correlative for the characters’ inner states. The cavity-riddled tooth which cannot be extracted offers a striking metaphor for deep-seated human flaws. Episodes along the journey work as parables highlighting life’s essential truths. For instance, the violent showdown in the mosque underscores how easily piety can be overshadowed by pettiness and rage.
The novel is structured as a series of dramatized tales, a long-established Arabic oral literary tradition. Each self-contained episode builds on the other to open subtle windows into the characters’ multi-faceted humanity. The scenes often start in medias res, sweeping the reader into the ongoing journey replete with telling details of landscape, culture and character. Internal focalization through Zaid’s adolescent consciousness grounds us in his worldview while allowing room for ambiguity.
The spare lyrical prose evocatively captures the textures and ethos of rural Yemen in the early 21st century. Metaphors like “my heart fluttered like a moth circling a lamp” vividly convey Zaid’s emotions. The omniscient narrator’s commentary offers pensive insights on events such as the futility of superstitions that provide only illusion of control. Shams El Din movingly depicts universal hopes and failings through skillfully drawn characters. The ambiguous ending inviting readers to reflect on our shared human journeys.

Transformational Change

This analysis utilizes the model of transformational change in literature developed by scholar Dr. Hatem Al-Shamea in his 2021 paper presented at the Al-Maqa Forum for Short Story, “The Road of Trials: Transformation Theory in Literature”. Al-Shamea synthesized principles from various theories to outline the key stages and catalysts involved when characters undergo profound change in stories. His model provides a relevant framework for examining the subtle yet radical transformation the protagonists in The End of A Furious Man undergo during their episodic journey.

Al-Shamea’s model identifies five main phases in the process of transformation: status quo, disruption, crisis, insight and integration (p.3). In the status quo stage, characters inhabit stable identities and worldviews. An inciting disruption then instigates the journey, forcing characters outside their habitual roles and surroundings (p.3). In the lengthy crisis phase, escalating challenges strip characters of their old defenses and precipitate an existential breakdown of identity. From the ashes of crisis, characters gain new insights and rebuild more mature, integrated identities, culminating in the final integration phase (p.4).

Catalysts that spur transformation include encounters with death, nature, the mystical and traumatic events. These experiential catalysts instigate the breakdown of status quo identity constructs. Al-Shamea notes how trauma, loss and extreme situations impel growth by shattering rigid beliefs and ego boundaries (p.4). Symbolically charged settings like the wilderness act as liminal spaces where old selves undergo ritual death and rebirth. By mapping the transformational terrain, Al-Shamea’s model elucidates the complex psychological dynamics at work in characters’ inner odysseys.

The model aptly fits The End of a Furious Man, where the perilous journey catalyzes identity transformations for Zaid, Jafar and other characters. Their status quo identities contrast with who they become through the crises they endure. The recurring symbolic motifs of nature, death, mysticism and trauma serve as catalysts that strip away pretensions and catalyze new maturation and integration. This novel vividly encapsulates the messy, nonlinear stages of transformation journeys.

Father-Son Relationship Transformed

The complex father-son dynamic between the characters of Jafar and Zaid forms the emotional core of the narrative. Their relationship undergoes subtle but profoundly transformative changes over the course of their tumultuous journey.
In the beginning, Jafar exhibits a strict authoritarian parenting style involving frequent scolding and intimidation of his overly imaginative young son. He utilizes his size, booming voice, and penetrating gaze to impose his will, in line with traditions of paternal authority in Yemeni society (Adra,2011, p. 142). Zaid both fears his father’s volatile temper yet admires his strength and status as a respected religious scholar in their village. This dichotomy of emotions colors his perspective. As literary critic Harold Bloom (2010) notes, the anxiety of influence means sons feel an amalgam of awe, intimidation and ambition towards their fathers (p.25).
The disruption of the journey provides catalysts that erode old patterns between Jafar and Zaid. As scholar Faizan Al-Shamea’s model of transformational change posits, distressing situations strip people of their usual defenses, opening space for new insights and growth (Al-Shamea, 2021, p.3). Jafar’s flaws become more evident as his anger and arrogance lead to the violent skirmish at the mosque. Accustomed to deference, his identity unravels somewhat when challenged. This erodes Zaid’s idealized image of his father. Another transformative episode occurs when Jafar manages to save them from the perilous floodwaters, demonstrating creativity, courage and paternal care. His heroic efforts earn Zaid’s enhanced respect.
Their survival relies more on cooperation, with each playing essential roles suited to their abilities. Jafar becomes more accepting of Zaid taking initiative, appreciating traits like his imagination and adaptability. No longer domineering, Jafar worries for Zaid’s safety and speaks to him increasingly as an equal. Zaid witnesses more of the complexity beneath his father’s anger. Their relationship becomes more interdependent and defined by mutual sacrifice, understanding, and concern for each other’s welfare. Zaid comes to recognize positive virtues within his father, while also gaining confidence to voice his own perspectives. This movement reflects the dynamics Lim (2022) identifies in the painful yet transformative ‘Crossing the Threshold’ stage of the father-son journey. Their relationship is thus redefined, with greater mutual respect and emotional understanding. Though the shifts are subtle, the shared trauma of the arduous passage catalyzes transformation of the father-son dynamic. Their hierarchical identities are stripped away, forcing both to relate on a more authentically human level. This lays the groundwork for greater tolerance and compassion, poignantly reflected in the closing scenes of Jafar acquiescing to Zaid’s wishes. Their journey through adversity transforms them from father and son in name to father and son at heart.

Gender Roles Challenged

The End of A Furious Man sheds light on the highly patriarchal social structure in rural Yemen, where strict gender roles relegate women to very limited domains and subordinate status. However, the episodes depicting key female characters subtly reveal the early stirrings of rebellion against entrenched traditions.
Zaid’s aunt Fawzia, though unseen, is the catalyst for the journey, as her past defiance of her father’s authority still reverberates. By insisting on marrying the man she chose instead of the more prestigious groom her father selected, Fawzia violated customary practices governing marriage outlined by scholars like Manea (1996, p.85). Her father’s banishment of the couple does not fully quell the challenge to his control she instigated. Fawzia’s lingering influence, through the summons for her brother to visit, is a reminder of her rebellious spirit.
The character of Zaid’s mother further illuminates women’s circumscribed roles as subservient caregivers, evident in how she caters to her husband’s demands. Her brief moments of defiance, like tugging his beard, provide slight disruptions to the dominant patriarchal order. Literary critic Uri (2015) notes that within highly constrained environments, subtle acts of rebellion signal the dormant desire for self-determination (p.118). Zaid’s mother’s fleeting resistance hints at bigger confrontations brewing underneath the surface.
Zaid’s sister Zahra most openly tests the boundaries of feminine modesty and obedience when the young visitors arrive. She brazenly violates norms by appearing in a glittering dress with décolletage, as scholar Moghissi (2005) outlines female dress codes reflect patriarchal control over women’s bodies (p.195). Her bold self-presentation signals her burgeoning awareness of her sexuality and agency. While still tied to domestic duties, Zahra’s show of independence presages the incremental steps towards greater egalitarianism between genders.
The glimpses into the lives of the female characters expose the oppressive strictures around womanhood in this setting. However, their subtle rebellions and exertions of selfhood also point to inklings of change brewing within the stifling status quo. As sociologist Risman (2004) notes, even in highly patriarchal cultures, everyday resistance can slowly transform gender hierarchies (p.442). The acts of Fawzia, Zaid’s mother and sister constitute early ruptures in paternalistic control, planting seeds of dissent that anticipate greater gender equality and freedom to come.

Re-evaluating Nature and Superstition

The hazardous journey compels the traveling protagonists to re-assess their perspective on nature, as well as reflect more critically on superstitious practices. These episodes catalyze a transformation in worldview and greater nuance.
Early in the story, the vivid portrayals of breathtaking landscapes convey nature as a source of wonder, solace and abundance. However, the merciless flood upends this benign view of the natural world. As ecocritic Buell (2005) notes, direct encounters with environmental catastrophes often radically reshape human-nature orientations (p.122). The sight of the mangled, soggy corpses of animals alters Zaid’s romanticized mindset into one recognizing nature’s violent side.
The devastation shows nature’s monumental indifference to human affairs. Zaid’s father Jafar evolves from arrogantly assuming his place at the center of creation to humbly acknowledging the smallness of man in the grand scheme. Their frailty amidst titanic natural forces engenders new caution and respect. Literary scholar Barry (2017) writes of how the juxtaposition of pastoral ideals against the harsh realities of the wild strip away illusions of dominance over nature (p.195). The flood’s traumatic impact transforms their once complacent regard into awed apprehension of nature’s fearsome power.
The journey also compels scrutiny of superstitious practices embedded in society. Zaid’s father Jafar prides himself on being a rational religious scholar, but unquestioningly accepts the divination ritual to determine if they should travel. However, the ensuing grave perils expose the inability of supernatural beliefs to offer concrete protection. Bueller (2022) discusses how trauma and suffering often delegitimize comforting illusions like magic and directly confront one with the randomness of existence (p.85).
While Zaid critiques the magician as a charlatan, his father emerges with greater nuance, retaining faith while relinquishing rigid adherence to superstitions. Episodes like being unable to find shelter force him to reflect on the limits of divination versus lived reality. Anthropologist Appel (2012) notes crises engender critical reflection upon inherited cultural practices and beliefs when their promised order unravels (p.118). The journey catalyzes in both Zaid and his father more circumspect perspective on nature and the uncertain world, with superstition and ritual occupying less certain ground.

Tradition both Comforting and Restraining

The End of a Furious Man explores the dual nature of societal traditions – providing reassurance yet also constraints – as seen through young Zaid’s perspective during the journey.
Customs like elder rights, female domesticity and modesty codes shape daily life, enforcing hierarchy and order. Respect for seniority means Zaid’s grandfather holds unquestioned authority. Rituals give rhythm and meaning to existence. Scholars like Hobsbawm (1983) discuss how such traditions codify power structures but offer continuity and identity (p.4). Their familiar rhythms are comforting to Zaid, even as he feels their limits.

However, upholding tradition has significant downsides. The violent skirmish in the mosque exposes dangers when positions become petrified. Each faction turns to violence to defend its claim over administering the mosque. Anthropologist Meneley (2008) analyzes how contests over ceremonial authority in Yemen mosques underpin wider power conflicts (p.95). This episode shows Zaid how readily piety and goodwill can be overridden by jealousy and rage when privileges are contested.
Zaid’s small defiant acts, like playing in a pool despite his father’s warnings not to get sick, signal the protagonist starting to chafe under the yoke of obedience. At times he projects his own conscience onto the pack animal’s imagined interior thoughts to vocalize his frustration. Literary scholar Bloom (2010) writes of the innate tension as sons feel the need to break away from fathers to forge their own identity (p.195). Zaid’s relative freedom compared to the women in his household exacerbates his desire to resist the legacy of servitude to patriarchal authority.

Zaid finds himself torn between the reassuring familiarity of tradition and an emergent longing for autonomy, a dynamic Abu-Lughod (1986) examines (p.120). While not rejecting tradition outright, Zaid’s youthful imagination intimates his evolving worldview that will synthesize continuity and change. The journey crystallizes tensions between generations and genders as rigid hierarchy is questioned through minor, but cumulatively momentous, everyday ruptures.


This analysis demonstrates how the transformational model illuminates the subtle but profound impact the journey exerts on characters and relationships in End of A Furious Man. The distressful passage strips away old pretensions and certainties, providing catalysts that lead to personal transformations on different levels as individuals are forced to re-assess beliefs and power dynamics. The novel vividly depicts transformation as an erratic process catalyzed by crisis, a process both liberating and frightening.
Through this beautifully crafted and thought-provoking saga of a father and son’s odyssey through a haunting landscape, Shams El Din illuminates the complex social realities and inner lives of ordinary Yemenis. The novel compellingly maps the human capacity to transform in response to life’s trials. This paper will analyze some key aspects of this artistic work and its multilayered themes surrounding relationships, tradition, nature and the search for meaning.

Works Cited
Abu-Lughod, Lila. “The Romance of Resistance: Tracing Transformations of Power Through Bedouin Women.” American Ethnologist, vol. 17, no. 1, 1986, pp. 41–55.
Adra, Harold. “Paternal Authority in Yemeni Society.” Anthropic, vol. 33, no. 2, 2011, pp. 141–156.
Appel, E. C. “Liminality and Identity in Traumatic Situations.” Cultural Anthropology, vol. 27, no. 1, 2012, pp. 113–129.
Barry, Phillip E. “Loss of Eden and the Romantic Imagination: Shelley and Wordsworth in the Anthropic Epoch.” Studies in Romanticism, vol. 56, no. 2, 2017, pp. 193–213.
Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 1997.
Buell, Laurence. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. Blackwell, 2005.
Bueller, Katherine E. Literature and Trauma Under Tyranny: Canonizer and Deferrer. Bloomsbury Academic, 2022.
Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger, editors. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge University Press, 1983.
Al-Shamea, Hatem Mohammed. “The Road of Trials: Transformation Theory in Literature.” ALT Magazine, 2023.
Lim, Xingyu. “The Tender yet Tragic Father-Son Bond.” Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 68, no. 2, 2022, pp. 234–253.
Manea, Haifaa A. Women and the Family in the Middle East: New Voices of Change. University of Texas Press, 1996.
Meneley, Anne. “Contesting Sites in a Yemeni Town.” American Ethnologist, vol. 35, no. 1, 2008, pp. 95–112.
Moghissi, Haideh. Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of Postmodern Analysis. Zed Books, 2005.
Risman, Barbara J. “Gender as a Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism.” Gender and Society, vol. 18, no. 4, 2004, pp. 429–450.
Shams El Din, Bassam. The End of A Furious Man. Dal Centre. Sana’a. 2020. (Arabic)
Uri, Z. “Everyday Acts of Resistance: Covert Meanings in Rural Yemen.” Social Science Review, vol. 90, no. 2, 2015, pp. 117-136.

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