Literary Trajectories of Sulaymān al-Ḥalabī, a Hero Who Was Born a Criminal
On 14 June 1800, Sulaymān al-Ḥalabī, a Syrian student, stabbed to death General Kléber, leader of the French occupation forces in Egypt. A few days later, the first account of the event – the trial documents – was written, translated into the main languages spoken in Cairo and distributed by the French military. Since then, accounts of this fact have multiplied, each presenting Sulaymān al-Ḥalabī in a different manner, ranging from fanatic, to victim, hero, then back to the fanatic and the hero. Comparing the different stories about Sulaymān al-Ḥalabī and relating them to their context of production, this paper explores their possible motives and effects, showing how the character’s literary trajectories depend more on the circumstances in which the stories were written, rather than on a search for truth. Until now, three main tendencies have decided Sulaymān al-Ḥalabī’s destiny: legitimation, mirroring reality and responding to the regime’s propaganda.