People have long opined that postmodern literature did not begin in the 1960s but with the work of writers such as Lawrence Sterne or Rabelais, who wrote searing comedic satires that partly riffed on the social structures and religion of their time, also got lost in the rupture of language and word. I would like to add another book to this repertoire, one that I doubt many people have learned of, from a language few would imagine as playful. It is called, Leg Over Leg, by Ahmad Faris Al-Shidyaq. Al-Shidyaq was a writer in Arabic during the time of the Ottoman Empire, based in the modern country of Lebanon. The book was written in 1855 and divided into four acts, which each part in the act divided into prose rants, poems, dictionary definitions, and overall endless word play. Some things affected my ability to enjoy this book. One is that I have no understanding of the Arabic language and the deeper cultural concerns that come with it. I am sure learning that a kifl is a saddlecloth used to ride camels is useful for those expanding their 19th century Arabic, and making several puns with the word using other words of a similar sound or meaning is clever, it doesn’t really speak to me (generally, I am not a fan of postmodernist literature for such reasons; I am less of a fan of the word game and more of a fan of using words to convey something deeper). This book is also quite sexual and lewd, giving plenty of advice on how to penetrate women, satiate men, typical for late modernist and postmodernist work, something completely uninteresting for me. Regardless, I have to remember that this is a book from the mid 1800s, and from Arabia. At a time when the Russians were still on realism and the French were starting to consider the infinite of the word, this guy proves that in other parts of the world, often the ones we stereotypically least expect it from, there were novelists who were truly mad, dedicated to language, and ahead.

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