Youm el Sabat El Infaali (Emotional Steadiness Day) by Sohair Al Mosadfa, (Ibiidi Book Data Publishing Services), 2019.
The concept of secret societies that rules the world has been always a fascinating subject for writers, movie makers and readers. Most of humans have thought, dreamed or even tried joining such groups to do the right thing, to free the world from its misery, ignorance, poverty and malady while gaining fame power and appraisal from laymen and history alike. The rumors about the free masons, Bones and Skulls, Ivy leagues fraternities and similar organizations have been always associated with “hidden” goals that no one from outside the members and even the inner circle within the societies in question. The final result is power, influence and wealth, who would not want to achieve these goals?
To my recollection, none of the writers who tackled the subject were able to reach a positive conclusion regarding such societies, in other words these bodies tend in the end to stand for some sort of crime, disgraceful behavior or evil values in spite of claiming in the start that they stand for the exact opposite. These secretive entities ruling the world remains always a mysterious question, no one can confirm that they exist or have that type of influence. On the other hand a definitive denial of their presence cannot be corroborated.
In her novel “Emotional Steadiness Day” or “Youm el Sabat El Infaali”, Sohair Al Mosadfa created a secret society that has no name who recruited eleven people with no particular talent to put them through a training session on an island in the Nile for one day, the only thing that they have in common was that they live in the same block “the Maspero triangle”, a poor area in Cairo that is located behind the Egyptian television on the Nile. The prize if they pass the test is glory and ruling the world.
The training had the purpose of getting them to control their emotions, what they feel should not show on their faces and that should be their way to reach the top, be the best and the most famous each in his or her field.
The singer would be the most renowned one, the physician would be the best and the most famous, the ones involved in politics would be the most powerful and popular whether in the government or the opposition and so on.
The plot and the narration kept the reader’s curiosity on the edge, inquisitive about how the events will turn out, how these characters will a reach the goals designed for them or if they will achieve them at all. But like the secrets of the temple, the important part or the knowhow was not revealed, instead after the session ends, the message that they got was that they will be contacted again in ten years.
The novel starts with a murder crime, a semi famous belly dancer killed in a private restaurant where Rawya,-the top graduate of the Emotional Steadiness training- works as a singer, no one among her neighbors or friends know that this is her job. At the murder’s night the whole members of the training session suddenly appeared in “Lasagna”, the cozy restaurant owned by Mrs. Verona the Italian lady who fell in love with an Egyptian man a few decades earlier and never left Egypt since.
Their appearance was a surprise for Rawya and the murder occurred moments after their arrival. She managed to hide and the story went in two parallel lines.
One of them was what happened thirteen years earlier; the eleven chosen ones ended up becoming nine, one murdered, one escaped and disappeared, one girl raped by the whole bunch as part of the training and Rawya who managed to hide until that awful day ended.
That was thirteen years earlier not ten as the instruction book told them - the people who organized the training knew that they will probably end up killing each other or try to anyways, an awful way to prepare some people to rule the world. The surviving recruits took each their own path and never met all together since.
The second line is that of the murdered belly dancer and trying to find her killer specially that the prime suspect was Maspero, the one who escaped the training day on the island.
Maspero realized early that in spite of the announced goals of the secret organization (freeing the world from dictatorship, injustices, poverty and oppression); they could never be standing for anything good. The unrevealed standards with which they chose the candidates who will rule the world are suspicious, he did not accept the offer, risked his life swimming back to Nile’s shore and remained the one with total freedom.
He did not achieve much in the years after escaping that landmark day in the lives of those who finished the training; but was able to change his shop’s business activities, fall in love and maintain his sanity in his own way. He explained his reasoning to his sweetheart Rawya after escaping the training and waited for her in her poor room the next day.
“Since we arrived to the island I got the feeling that this was a dangerous group, I couldn’t tell what they wanted from us but life experience taught me that no one will spend generously on a group of young poor people without asking them sooner or later for dangerous missions.”
The novel is full of complexities that the writer managed to bring them all together to make sense in an open end that might deserve a second novel. Freud and his sex theories, politics and the despicable ways it is practiced, the concept of God and how intellects in general have their doubts about his existence or flat out deny it, and her answer to that was on Maspero’s words “Why do you deny God’s existence, he did not harm you in anyway in spite of being a stray worthless nothing, leave God for us the poor”.
The logic behind that brilliant phrase is that the poor, the sick, the weak and those oppressed in life, need to believe in God maybe they will be able to accept their status in life easier and hope for a better fate on the other side.
Al Mosadfa worded this phrase to fit someone living in poor neighborhood with limited education. That is one pitfall that many novelists fall in, putting big words in the mouth of limited personalities that they create. Al Mosadfa intelligently evaded such a mistake. In her attempt to draw Maspero as a mythological persona, she did not overdo it, he is still a miserable human that gain respect in some situations and disapproval in others.
Al Mosadfa’s style is smooth, appealing, stimulating to the reader. She managed to master the type of writing that gets the reader to run through the pages without missing any details to get to the bottom of the story hoping to know more about the secret society and how it functions, wishing that the rules of recruitment will be revealed in the novel; the reader will either to look for these secretive societies in real life to join or stand against. This is a great goal that very few writers were able to achieve, influencing the reader’s behavior and opening new thought horizons.