The comparison of the sense of loss and cultural displacement in "Minaret" (by Leila Aboulela) and "Bend Sinister" (by Vladimir Nabokov)

Essay by chrishamer December 2006

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The books bend sinister by Vladimir Nabokov and Minaret by Leila Aboulela both

deal with the issue of Cultural displacement and loss. I would like to compare the

difference in their situations how they have been or why they feel displaced and how

They dealed with the great losses in their family.

In Minaret Najwa (the books main character) is made to leave her home country

(Sudan) because her father (a prominent politician) has been accused of fraud and

corruption. Her father is put on trial and executed and Najwa is forced to come to

London with her Mother and her brother. She feels secluded from society in London

and misses her old way of life, where she had many servants to do everything for her

friends and s boyfriend. Najwa seems to be going through a very difficult stage in her

life but things take a turn for the worse when her brother kills another person (her

brother Omar is a drug addict and has been for quite some time) and to top things off

her Mother dies.

The effect of this on Najwa is extremely large she begins to start

searching for her identity and her purpose in life and in this process finds her faith -

Islam she was always part of Islam yet she only seriously got into it in these troubled

times. She uses Islam to cover up her troubles and her depression and tries to help her

brother yet he will not believe that Allah (Islam's god) can help him where he is. She

is saddened by this and goes on to pray for him every day.


In Nabokov's Bend Sinister the main character - Krug finds himself in a state which

has been taken over by a tyrannical Government - "the average man party" and the

leader is an old school colleague who he used to bully. In this almost comical State

Krug a professor of Philosophy is the only one who stands up to this regime.

Some people who read this book will think that Krug has not been excluded from

society but he has along with many other characters in the book. The main pointer

towards this is that Krug does not agree with what Paduk is doing and therefore is

automatically excluded. He sees past the façde and witnesses how all his friends start

getting arrested and inevitably himself.

He is offered a "deal" in which he would endorse what Paduk is trying to achieve yet

when the deal turns sour due to an administrational error Krug falls into a world of

complete madness. This is caused by his son being killed (instead of being brought to

the best stately home he is mixed up with a different boy and is put into the institute

for mad/deranged institute and has an "accident" This madness is how Krug deals

with his sense of no longer belonging to society as well as having lost the one thing

worth living for - his son.

In comparison these books couldn't be more different. On the one side you have

Najwa in Minaret living in Sudan with Islamic law, which is not obeyed to by the rich

and on the other we have Krug who lives in a communistic regime in an unknown

European Country. Striking similarities are that both characters are sent into denial or

madness by a huge loss. In Minaret Najwa looses her mother father and her brother

and in Bend Sinister Krug looses his wife and his son the effect on both characters is

extremely different as I mentioned Najwa searches for her identity or more a purpose

to her life. Instead of finding his religion Krug sees himself go into complete madness

when he finds out about his son yet how he dealed with the death of his wife is more

interesting. He seems to intermittently delve into a parallel world represented by a

puddle. This puddle appears at different stages in the book and always this second -

parallel world appears and Krug sees a different world. It is not an ideal world nor is it

a world of hell. It is a world to where Krug can retreat to. Krug also has very high

moral standards if something is wrong it is wrong and must be corrected before being

signed no matter how small the error with Najwa it seems that she does not mind the

small errors in life, the ones with no fundamental implications. In fact it is safe to say

she does not care about much at all. And the few things she does care about are

people. Also she seems extremely attached for the family she works for even if I

recall correctly saying that she would rather be a slave in that family than have no part

in it at all.