“A Gamble in Honor of Lady Mitzi”… A Match in Search of Hope

What brings a Bedouin boy, an English woman, a retired officer and a horse broker together in one place?

The answer to this question summarizes the lines of the novel “A Gamble in Honor of Lady Mitzi” (2023), and gives the reader a glimpse of its main characters, drawn from the very beginning by the young writer Ahmed al-Morsi. and throughout the chapters with grace and simplicity, not in the details, but starting with those hidden human relationships, revealing the deepest recesses in souls; Simple and complex.

Death…the beginning of everything

“Those who cannot achieve their desires live their entire lives dragging them behind them, like someone with a corpse tied to them.”

Starting from death, al-Morsi begins his novel with the body of Fawzan al-Tahawi; Who said goodbye to life alone, so that his departure remained hidden for a long time. From Fauzan's death scene, we learn of his cousin, who came running not out of love for the deceased, but in search of a lost inheritance. And a long history of waiting for the moment when the stolen inheritance will be returned.

He takes us with him in search of papers proving his wealth, which contains a photograph of a child named Fauzan, riding on a “Shama” (pure-bred Arabian mare), with a foal named “Mitsi” next to him. Mari, an English woman, is a horse broker. , and Egyptian officer Salim Hakki who was dismissed from service.

Thus, this picture takes us to the twenties of the last century, between events and ideas that are not familiar to us today, between horse racing in the region that brought them together, and between the ideas that the national leader Saad Zaghloul (1858 AD – 1927 AD) had awakened the spirit of the Egyptians and the despair that had settled in their minds. Officer Salim realizes some of this when he refuses to kill an Egyptian man in the course of a police job due to national unrest. , but later he lost his job and had to live miserably in a world of poverty and deprivation.

Between the shores of attachment and hope

“Are distant desires worth such a risk? Does weakness make all the difference? Can one desire ruin a person's life?”

The author raises many questions in his work, and we find that he forces his heroes to talk to themselves and to others about key concepts in the soul, trying to connect the past to the present. Does.

If we want to find a thread that unites all the characters of this novel, apart from the tragedies of its heroes related to loneliness, fear and attachment to the past, it is hope, that thin thread to which if we find attachment, Life can go on and by abandoning it the person dies, even if he is alive and thriving.

The author throws us between the shores of attachment and hope, from the English woman who left her country and traveled far to chase her dream of winning a horse race, to the frustrated officer who lost everything in a moment of revolution. Lost, until an invisible Marai al-Masri lives between the extraordinary life of “Pasha and the Pasha” and a bitter reality. Amidst the squares and streets of Cairo, he is hung between two contradictory worlds and the imagination of a beloved, whose actions have led him to a painful situation. Luck.

Historical or psychological novel?

Although the events take place in the past and carry within them important historical lessons, the reader will find the novel to be an accurate depiction of some of the tragedies of our world. The author may have chosen to set the events of the novel in the past, but the emotions and psychological and human condition experienced by his heroes are strikingly similar to what would trouble contemporary readers. Therefore, the novel is more psychological than historical, even though it touches on many ideas such as foreign presence and revolution in Egypt, it is fundamentally a deeply human novel.

Al-Morsi maintains a relaxed pace in his narrative and creates a pleasant transition between chapters without falling into the trap of boredom that often accompanies historical novels. While he was interested in portraying characters at different stages, he immersed us with his heroes, living the moments of defeat and drinking their flavor with a calmness and deliberation befitting a contemplative novel. We review our disappointments with him and see Selim Effendi helpless and Fouzan oppressed and alone. We pity Merhi when he falls in love and we wish we could pat “Lady” Mitzi on the shoulder when she loses hope.

betrayal of hope

“The only gift that reason can give to all who have lost hope is the ability to delude oneself with a new hope.”

The five also come together in one image that shows their diversity. The reality of their existence in an environment that did not resemble theirs brought them together with strangers, attracting desires. Each of them, despite their weakness, relies on the other in an attempt to escape the reality that is troubling them, but each of them has their own way. Sometimes they sink into the clutches of the past, and sometimes they cling to the past as a lifeline. The novel raises an important question: is hope alone sufficient to reach Him, or must we break all bonds of attachment before we can reach Him? Pick a wishful battle?

The language in the novel was simple, despite the presence of words and terms that are not common in Egypt today, but were in use a century ago. This is another point that adds to the strength of the novel. Despite being published in the year 2023, the author seemed like a passionate researcher, not one for words that had disappeared only decades earlier. Rather, it is about the linguistic structures that were widespread at the time they occurred.

In addition to transferring the identity of that time from the gambling that characterized it, such as horse racing and cockfighting, and from there to the design of buildings and the smell of houses, but only those ideas that came from there to our world.

When you finish reading, you will feel a strong desire to discover the Baron's Palace and walk through the streets of Heliopolis, which is no longer the same, but still retains the same name. Perhaps your curiosity will lead you to discover Al-Tahawiyya Island to discover their purebred horses for yourself. When you imagine it as the headquarters of horse racing you will inevitably look towards cockfighting and see Al-Ittihadiya Palace in a different way.

Having reached the last page, “Done”, you will return again to the first pages in search of the beginning of the idea, which you may have missed because of your self-entanglement with its characters. To know that you already knew the ending, but you didn't want to believe it. Rather, you want it to be more joyful, and you want the novel's heroes to be informed about their fates so that they can change them, even if just a little.

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