To mark the launch of the print edition of Not Dead But Sleeping, Anna Della Subin presents a sequel to the book in lecture form. Prompted by the 2011 Egyptian uprising, Subin’s essay on the cultural politics of sleep takes as its starting point Tawfiq al-Hakim’s 1933 play The People of the Cave. Based on the legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, which also appears in the Qur’an, the play tells the story of three Christian men and a dog who awaken in a cave after fleeing from persecution by their pagan king. Upon venturing out, the men discover that three hundred years have passed, and must come to terms with a transformed world. Though hailed in literary circles as a landmark in Egyptian drama, the play flopped with audiences, some of whom fell asleep.
Subin’s essay, published as part of The Long Tomorrow, an issue devoted to speculating on the future, examines The People of the Cave and the myth that inspired it. Subin traces the origins and incarnations of the sleepers, a story told and retold at moments of political awakening, from postrevolutionary America to contemporary Egypt.
For Revolution Begins in Reverie (A Sequel), Subin examines how the myth of the sleepers continues to resonate today—in relation to political escapism and apocalypse in the age of Trump, as well as an Islamic State group named after the 309-year nap. Subin draws on lessons in exorcism and ritualised mutiny from a nineteenth-century spirit possession cult formed by women, and considers the sleepers as a theological argument for solar power. She considers the myth’s speculative uses and revolutionary potential, poetically pushing back against Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous dictum, “There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.”
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Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have specific questions about access, please write at least three days before the event and we will make every effort to accommodate you.
- Anna Della Subin writes for publications such as the London Review of Books, the New York Times, and the White Review, among others. She is a contributing editor at Bidoun.