Saturday, July 3, 2010

Book Review

Book Review: But it's Mozart! (!و لكنه موتسارت) by Lamiaa Mokhtar: Every once in a while you come across a book that takes you by surprise; not necessarily because it's brilliant, but because it's unique and heartfelt. Lamiaa Mokthar's play, But it's Mozart!, took me by surprise, for several reasons. Firstly, it's a play about the almost mythic rivalry between Mozart and Salieri, and it's written by an Egyptian woman. That, in itself, is something, considering the current state of Egyptian society. Secondly, the play is so compelling and energetic, that, while reading it, one forgets that the play doesn't cover any new ground regarding the subject matter, which is a testament to Mokthar's storytelling talent. But, to me, the most striking aspect about this play is that despite its brevity, it manages to paint both Mozart and Salieri vividly, really bringing them to life. Mokthar makes this feat look easy, but, really, it isn't.

The rivalry between these two legendary composers (which, to this day, some claim is nothing more than a myth, unsupported by facts) has been the subject of numerous written works, most famous of which are Alexander Pushkin's short drama Mozart and Salieri, and Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus, which was adapted into the Oscar-winning film of the same name. Mokthar borrows liberally from these two works; but she also adds another touch that is, arguably, all her own, which is giving the story an almost mythic feel by adding (in the very first scene of the play) the imaginary character of a gypsy that tells a young Salieri that his life will be ruined by the Sin of Envy. The ending, in which the ghost of Mozart's father appears to Mozart to show him the future, also is a brilliant touch, and one which gives the story and the play a bitter-sweet/fairy-tale like atmosphere.

I, for one, would have paid to see this play performed on the stage. But as a book (which the publisher cleverly formats like a novel for easy reading), this is a compelling, one-sitting read, which, if not quite a must for fans of Mozart, is recommended for readers and theatre-buffs looking for something fresh and heartfelt.

* Available from Dar Oktob.

1 comment:

  1. Here is Lamiaa Mokhtar or Lamia Moukhtar again Ahmed : I'm continuing my comment because it was too long so i had to divide it into two parts : There is one last small point I wanted to comment on : you said : " it's written by an Egyptian woman. That, in itself, is something " , first Ahmed I prefer to indicate me as a writer or a female writer as the words man and woman in my opinion are not appropriate to describe a writer or an artist or any other profession , and the word woman in our Egyptian mind refers to older married females while we all are young people trying to make themselves a name in literature and art , all of this is a minor thing but the major one is that you said " That, in itself, is something " .. I don't understand why ? .. there is no intellectual difference at all between a man and a woman or a boy and a girl , that's what my father taught me since I was four or five years age - and by the way my father is from upper Egypt before he came to Cairo when he was young - , so I know in my heart that being a female doesn't mean that I must write about my dreams about prince charming or something like that , in my opinion a female writer has to write in a way makes readers don't know whether the writer is male or female unless they read the name on the book cover .. for example Agatha Christie was a very talented crime novelist and when you read her novels you can't identify whether she is male or female .. right ?

    Anyway .. I'm very happy with your blog Ahmed which appreciates my play a lot .. Thank you very much and I hope you like my coming novel when I finish it – God Willing- , I'm glad to hear the opinion of a distinguished young artist and writer like you , have my best wishes of luck , success , and happiness ..

    By the way too : this is the link of my play about Mozart group on facebook , my name on facebook is : Lamia Moukhtar , if just you wanted to add me on facebook someday or to look on my play group , best wishes and greetings again :