Egypt Independent

The pick: An extemporaneous literary production trip, in 140 characters

“Of the martyrs of the revolution we lost before we even thought of a revolution,” wrote a tweep on her timeline the evening of 30 October. She specifically mentioned a woman who died in the village of Sarando in 2005, during a police raid against the farmers, who were resisting their forced eviction from the land they farmed for so long. Sarando was an index of mounting dissent in a country that didn’t wait much before it turned its dissent into an explosive revolution that would unsettle everything from there on. Few remember it now.

This tweep and others went on a poetic trip of memories and ponderings when Twitter became a temporary and spontaneous site of literary production. The trigger was the Arabic preposition “’an,” which loosely translates into “of” or “about,” and precedes the headline of a fleeting thought. “’An” became a hashtag and was sustained for hours by dozens of sleepless tweeps that night.

But this storm of collective and unrehearsed expression was not limited to thoughts about the revolution and its pains alone. It also became a trigger for a nostalgic and shared past — that past of pop singer Mohamed Mounir, lace socks of kindergarten suits and morning shows on Egyptian radio.

One tweep wrote, “Of the nostalgia that hit Twitter, and revealed its human face.” Another poeticized over the “strange full moon night and the magic of this hashtag.”

A renowned tweep praised how a two-letter preposition stirred so many tweets worth reading, describing it as a moment of intense ownership of the language. It’s also a moment in which the virtual space of the Internet brought many strangers together and put them into an extemporaneous production trip — a trip to nowhere.

This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.