Review: Revolutions of the Heart, by Yahia Lababidi

"There is truth here and here and also over there."

Literature Review

 

Revolutions of the Heart_Yahia Lababidi
Revolutions of the Heart, written by Yahia Lababidi. Available via Bookshop.

 

The first thing that strikes the reader about Yahia Lababidi’s Revolutions of the Heart  is its ‘genre-bending’ element. The book is divided into ‘Essays, Appreciations, Reflections,’ which delves into literature, religion, and global politics, and ‘Conversations & Fictions’ — a more intimate section which provides insights into Lababidi’s motivations, influences, and thoughts on an equally wide variety of topics.

 

The author describes himself as one who lives "for and through good conversations," and the book gives the impression of an intimate conversation on some of the topics that matter most to him. 

 

This collection of essays, interviews, and aphorisms is Lababidi’s invitation for his readers to encounter new ideas and refine old beliefs. Ultimately, the reader's conversations with the author will indeed set their hearts in motion.

 

In Revolutions, Lababidi pivots hard and fast from one chapter to the next, both in terms of subject matter and form. In "Ballad of the Global Patriot," the Egyptian-American author drops a string of aphorisms — "when our hearts break, do they break open, or do they harden? We can live like a hardened scab, impervious to mighty winds of the mutilated world around us, or like an open wound, sensitive to the slightest breeze of suffering or injustice we encounter." 

 

His essays on the Egyptian uprising allow the reader to understand the idea of democracy, the various responsibilities of a citizen, and their implications in countries as vastly different as Egypt and the United States. Lababidi also shares a brief, lighthearted glimpse into his gaffes as an "off-the-boat" immigrant in "Coming to America: The Remake." 

 

One thing is constant as the author analyzes global and current events while inserting aphorisms along the way — Revolutions of the Heart  is a buffet of rich ideas and thoughts which demand the reader’s full attention.

 

As Lababidi writes about the Egyptian side of his nationality, heritage and culture, the reader can almost sense the longing, loss and pride of "those, like myself, who watched from faraway parts of the world (where we thought we were building new lives) suddenly felt distances collapsing and were sucked into the vortex. It took an (inner) quake like this for us to realize that maybe ‘you can never go home, again’ but you can never leave home, either."

 

On the American side, in the aptly titled "The Pornification of Popular Culture - A Rant," his poignant take on U.S. culture and current events is a discourse on how and why the "American popular culture aspires to the condition of pornography."

 

Lababidi defines his aphorisms as "what is worth quoting from the soul’s dialogue with itself." Of Revolutions  he says "my hope is that my spiritual aphorisms, found in my latest work, might serve as a form of peace offering and balm in these troubled times," and in his latest work, the author shows that he is not just a poet or an aphorist with words that soothe, but someone whose words also border on prophecy. 

 

In certain parts, Revolutions of the Heart  is shockingly prescient, reminding its readers that present-day events are often an echo of historical ones. It seems like Lababidi is talking about the global covid-19 pandemic and subsequent racial injustice-fueled protests in America, when he says "physical distance is difficult because of the helplessness it engenders. To see one’s world unraveling ... and to feel that you can’t do anything can be terribly frustrating. But with distance, one also sees more clearly. Art is about cultivating a certain distance so that we might, in turn, lend our vision to those in the thick of historic events."

 

One can describe Lababidi’s eighth book, in a line of critically acclaimed works of poetry and prose, the way the author characterizes Irish writer John Banville — "whether meditating on the truths of art or science, investigating the nature of reality or mortality, or forever trying to pinpoint the elusive self, this modern master demands to be read slowly and thoughtfully." For who takes on religion, culture, philosophy, and more in one fell swoop? 

 

First time readers of Lababidi, can reference his previous work to understand that this intersection is a space he fully and intentionally inhabits.

 

In a conversation with Rob Vollmar featured in Revolutions of the Heart, the author claims of interdisciplinarity, "there is truth here and here and also over there. You can make a dense weave of these different strands and ring them into agreement in a larger conversation, a larger sense of possibility. That’s something I believe in and I believe in it, deeply. Whether it’s literature or beyond, I hope to never have to choose one thing to the exclusion of all else." 

 

This intricate tapestry of truth is Revolutions of the Heart's crowning achievement.

 

 

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Literature, Books, Poetry, Philosophy