Reworking ancient texts in contemporary mediterranean context: allegoric projection and utopic nostalgia in the works of Naguib Mahfouz and Pier Paolo Pasolini

Gündeş, Feridun
This study explores how the use of ancient texts in modern works of art can shed light on the lives of subaltern people in the present time. Works chosen for analysis are Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Arabian Nights” and “Gospel According to St. Matthew”, and Egyptian novelist Naguip Mahfouz’s “Arabian Days and Nights” and “Children of the Alley”. In these, two artists have a common point of referring to, and borrowing from, the same ancient texts: The Biblical-Qur’anic narratives of Abrahamic religions, and the story collection of One Thousand and One Nights. In their works, both artists depart from a sense of discontent over the current state of things, which is shaped by modernity and capitalism. Mahfouz, in his novels, explores the reasons behind the problems of present age. Fictional worlds in his works are allegoric projections of the real world. What makes real and fiction relatable to each other are the ancient texts these novels refer to. Through their employment, Mahfouz intends to help his readers understand the past more clearly. Pasolini, on the other hand, tries to find certain essences in ancient texts that are remnants of those aspects of life expelled by modernity outside the field of vision. These essences, belonging to a time when modernity and capitalism did not exist, can contain kernels of hope to help overcome status quo, and establish a new world. Thus, by using ancient texts in his films, he finds hope in the past, and establishes utopia through nostalgia.