In the Twilight of Humanity: Incommunicability, Hospitality and Violence in Hoda Barakat’s Courrier de la nuit
Narratives bearing on the experiences of forced migration are increasingly numerous within contemporary Arab literary production. The present essay aims to analyse Hudā Barakāt's novel Barīd al-layl (2017) by setting it within this 30-year trend. By bringing several generations of Arab displaced onto the scene, this book is particularly representative of the paths that led to the current ‘refugee crisis’ and acts as a trait-d’union between past and present experiences of flight. By choosing to use the epistolary form, Barakāt gives back their agency to her ‘subaltern characters’ and grounds their exile back where it started: in the contexts of war and repression of their countries, but also in the loathing of their dysfunctional families. In this way, the experience of displacement is no longer romanticised as in the past, through the fictional tools of nostalgia and memory, but relocated in the harshness of its reality. Shelters provided by the West to these fleeing people ultimately prove to be spaces of nightmare and bestiality. Drawing on the Derridean concept of ‘hostipitality’, my analysis of the novel will show how Barakāt focuses on describing the side effects of ‘bad welcoming’ on both asylum seekers and the host society, unveiling mechanisms of bio-power and subterranean violence that make the whole world a dystopian representation of humanity in its twilight years.