Symbolism of Water in Classic and Modern Arabic Literature
Keywords:water, symbol, literary meaning, Arabic literature.
Water in Arabic literature has literal and symbolic meanings. Water is one of the four elements in Greek mythology; life would be impossible without water and it is a synonym for life; life originated in water. Springs, wells, rain, seas, snow, and swamps are all associated with water. Each form of water may take on a different manifestation of the original from which it comes about. Arabic literature employs the element of water in poetry, the short story, and the novel. We find it in titles of poems: Unshudat al-matar (Hymn of the Rain) and Waj’ al-ma’ (The Pain of Water); and novels: Dhakirat al-ma’ (The Memory of Water); Taht al-matar (Under the Rain); Matar huzayran (June Rain); Al-Bahr khalf al-sata’ir (The Seas Behind the Curtains); Rahil al-bahr (Departure of the Sea); and many others. This study aims to answer the following questions: How does the element of water manifest in Arabic literature? What are the semantics and symbolism of the different forms of water in the literary imaginary?
The study refers to six different significations for water in classical and modern Arabic literature: water as synonymous with life, purity and the revelation of truth, separation and death, fertility and sex, land and homeland, and talent and creativity.