Variations on Night and Day

by Abdelrahman Munif

Start Free Trial

Variations on Night and Day

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 436

Abdelrahman Munif is a significant Arab author who has had to make Damascus, Syria his home, after being stripped of his citizenship by Saudi Arabia because of political differences with the rulers of that country. VARIATIONS ON NIGHT AND DAY is the third and last volume of Munif’s trilogy—known in the West as CITIES OF SALT. The first volume, MUDUN AL-MILH, was published in 1984 by the Arab Institute for Research and Publishing, located in Beirut, Lebanon. It was translated into English by Peter Theroux in 1987 as CITIES OF SALT. This volume caused a sensation and was banned in a number of Middle Eastern countries, because of its hard-hitting and satirical look at the discovery of oil in an Arab country, which—in reality—can be identified as Saudi Arabia. The powerful saga was continued in the second volume, AL-UKHDUD (1986), translated into English by Theroux as THE TRENCH (1991). THE TRENCH moved the story forward and portrayed what had become of the Arab country after it had become rich beyond its people’s wildest dreams.

In TAQASIM AL-LAYL WA AL-NAHR (1989)—which has been translated by Theroux into English as VARIATIONS ON NIGHT AND DAY (1993)—Munif does not move forward, but back to a time before the Arab country was even founded. He describes with the same razor-sharp perspective that made the previous two volumes so powerful. Because of the sheer will and ruthlessness of sultan Khureybit, Mooran is able to emerge as a country. The sultan is not above using his military might to crush his opponents. At the same time, in the early decades of the twentieth century, the British government looks to secure its influence in the region by manipulating the political balance that exists. A major figure in this third volume is an English diplomat by the name of Hamilton. He becomes the trusted associate of Khureybit. Hamilton does his best to understand how the sultan thinks. He even goes so far as to become a Muslim himself. Besides the political intrigue that is played out by the rival clans, Munif brilliantly delineates the bitter intrigue that takes place behind the palace walls as the many wives of the sultan vie for influence. VARIATIONS ON NIGHT AND DAY exposes how it was possible for an Arab country to be cut out of the desert, as well as what means were necessary to ensure that this new country would not crumble from within. Munif has written a stinging satire which—along with the previous two volumes of CITIES OF SALT—will stand as a powerful statement on how a modern Arab nation has evolved.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access