Renaissance Buried Alive in “The Collar and the Bracelet”

Sayed Elsisi


Through a close reading and interdisciplinary analysis of the 1975 novella al-Tawq wa al-Iswira (The Collar and the Bracelet) by Yahya al-Tahir 'Abdallah and the 1986 cinematic adaptation directed by Khairi Bishara, this article demonstrates how the textual and visual narrations converge and diverge in their representations of the Upper Egyptian village at a point of potential Nahda, or renaissance. It further demonstrates how the novella and the film utilize the image of the circle, alluded to by the titular collar and the bracelet, to uncover and disrupt the circular patterns of oppression that dominate rural life. These patterns of oppression are made manifest through the juxtaposition of binary oppositions:  life and death, modernity and tradition, myth and science, and patriarchal structures and the push for increased gender equality.

This study examines not only the question of Nahda/renaissance in the novel but also the representation of women and their position within the popular imagery. As this study uses parallel narratives to read Abdullah's works, it traces the link between the representation of women in the novel and other women's representations with a distinct presence in the mythology, literature and the folklore; such as Isis in the ancient Egyptian mythology, and Na'sa in the folkloric story of Ayyoub Al-Masri (the Egyptian Job). Even though it is apparent that men have absolute power and occupy the pinnacle of gender hierarchy power in the rural village of the novel, this article questions the veracity of such a claim. While the novel begins with what seems to be assent to that gender hierarchy, the hierarchy is revealed as false through different contexts: Egyptian mythology, anthropology, folklore, and intertextual reading with other works by Yahya al-Taher and writings of others.


Nahda; Arab Renaissance; Upper Egypt; Modernity; Egyptian Mythology; Isis and Osiris; Folklore; Shahrazad; Patriarchy; Yahya al-Tahir 'Abdallah; Khairi Bishara

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