Whatever Happened to the Arab Spring: Albert Cossery’s Philosophy of Revolution in The Jokers (Published)
This paper investigates Cossery’s philosophy of revolution in his novel La Violence et la Dérision (1964), translated into English as The Jokers in 2010. I examine Cossery’s philosophy in the light of Michel Foucault’s concept of power and his views on revolutions in general and the Iranian 1979 Revolution against the Pahlavi regime in particular. I argue that Foucault’s analysis of the revolutionary situation in Iran still applies to the revolution that took place in Egypt on January 25, 2011. This argument extends to Cossery’s novel. The Jokers represents a revolution that is similarly “out of history” with a similar hope for success. While the January revolution is located at the extremely serious and reverent, the revolution in Cossery’s novel wallows in ridicule and irreverence. Due to the opposite directions taken by the serious revolution in reality and the ridiculous one in the novel (the former soaring up to heaven, the latter falling down to earth), both of them are, in Foucauldian terms, located out of history, challenging the dominant power structures. Cossery manages to bring a group of Diogenean characters to the frontlines of an extraordinary revolution. These characters usually play secondary roles in works of art about resistance and revolution. In this novel, they are the leaders, the planning and the executive body of Cossery’s philosophy. In the end, the Diogeneans succeed, but their ultimate success still depends on the abandonment of traditional ways of revolution, because governments are used to these ways, and those in power know how to turn them to their advantage.