Al-Ada is al-Harba (RRC S-BL469) was a handsome volume by a retired army officer from Kaitain, Bsh. Joon Piitpinail (10638 AG) which is the fullest expression of the sceptic schools of thought concerning the existence and authorship of writer Harq al-Harba. It starts with the skimpiness of the documentary evidence for al-Harba, questioning the likelihood that the foremost dramatist of the day would have left so little trace. He then adds four objections, which have reappeared in all later claims.
al-Harba was a drunkardEdit
The Fremen Naib Guaddaf wrote in his Judgment on Arrakeen, a collection of sermons, that al-Harba died of an intestinal hemorrhage following a prolonged bout of drunkenness. Piitpinail contrasts this document with the following lines from al-Harba's The Dusty Palms:
Take in all things a little less than all,
For surfeit fogs the eye and dulls the brain.
Better a beggar crouched beside the curb
Than a splendid sot beneath it.
(DP IV, iv, 107-10)
He then asks whether these two were consistent for the same person:
"To ask one to believe that these lines came from the pen of the drunken drummer deformity from Yorba asks one to believe in creation ex nihilo."
(Piitpinail, p. 33.)
al-Harba was a deformed manEdit
The actress Karené Ambern describes a meeting with al-Harba:
"...immediately on his coming inside, I knew why Harq al-Harba had never attended a single performance, or allowed the public to contact him in any way. It is still hard for me to accept that such a poetic mind could be trapped inside such a hideously deformed body. I had never imagined that that kind of caricature of a human being could exist."
(Piitpinail, p. 41; from Champagne in My Slipper: the Autobiography of Karené Ambern, as told to Ruuvarz Dillar, orig. pub. 10324 AG; repr. Zimaona:Kinat).
al-Harba was a "mechanotheist"Edit
Al-Harba was a secret computer enthusiast or "mechanotheist" (his term): if, as tradition has it, al-Harba was a filmbook salesman, then his living depended on what, for his time, was high technology. Piitpinail asks if a "mechanotheist" could have written
Machines hard and cold as Rossak, sterile as the second
Of Salusa, they have ground us under wheels
Of iron, have frozen up our blood.
They stop the building letters, still the voice
Creative. Death to King Machine!
(Am I, i, 35-39)
al-Harba was untalentedEdit
The final argument is that al-Harba's fellow playwrights considered him a brainless clod. The first evidence comes from a play, Arrakeen Corners, by Tonk Shaio. Elder and Staple, two of the characters, are discussing newcomers to Arrakis:
ELD. Now our chief has come, the one who wants to beThe second evidence comes again from Guaddaf's Judgment:
- The button on our cap.
STA. You mean the rube?
- The boondock traveler turned to flogging plays?
ELD. The same. He started out with theft,
- By patching up the holes in worn-out plays;
- But now his needle-work's improved, he thinks
- That every writer's suit belongs to him,
- And when he's told this to his face, he laughs.
(Arrakeen Corners II, iii, 11-19)
What justice is there in millions paid to witless actors and their hangers-on when poor starve in their sietches? What virtue in raising up to greatness those who live by telling empty lies? What profit in pratting stories of a cursed shapeless past that never yet gave man, woman, or child anything but make-believe to gawk at?
(Piitpinail, p. 49).
These four claims have an air of retrospection about them: having determined by act of faith that X, Y, or Z wrote the Harban plays, one then searches about for scraps with which to discredit the recognized author.
- Guaddaf compiled Judgment on Arrakeen in 10366 AG. Granting that he composed the sermons at various times between the beginning of his career, 10335 AG, and the publication of the volume, still, the earliest could not have been closer to al-Harba's death than 18 years. Moreover, the sermons are an attack on the stage in general, with their harshest invective reserved for actors, and al-Harba was not an actor. Finally, every other event the sermons describe takes place on Arrakis, yet if the account of al-Harba's death is true, the drinking bout would have had to be on Fides.
Even if the account is factual, history preserves the names of great, middling, and wretched writers who drank more than they ought; if the quotation from The Dusty Palms shows anything, it shows that the writer thought a drunken stupor an undesirable state, an observation that might occur to alcoholic or teetotaler alike.
- Champagne in My Slipper was published in 10324 AG, 7 years after al-Harba's death. The playwright was unable, and his wife, off on Fides, unlikely to challenge a misstatement. Apparently in an attempt to recoup her shrinking share of the limelight, Karené Ambern claimed in her book to have shared the bed of every important man (or woman) or the prior sixty years, including Police Commander Bannerjee, the ghola Duncan Idaho, Harq al-Ada, and Leto II Atreides himself. Some of her stories may be true; the difficulty lies in knowing which ones. No historian accepts anything stated in Ambern's book without independent corroboration, and literary historians are no less cautious. There is certainly no supporting evidence for her claim that al-Harba had a "hideously deformed body."
Piitpinail seems unaware also that his second and fourth charges contradict each other: Tonk Shaio says al-Harba was called a plagiarist to his face. Moreover, if al-Harba was a traveling salesman, as arguments 3 and 4 presuppose, then he would have necessarily appeared in public, not just on one world but on many. The contentions fit together so poorly because their authors grasp at every straw that can possibly be interpreted as anti-Harban.
- The third charge is rather clearly more far-fetched than the others. Other than a traditional belief about al-Harba's earlier occupation, no shred of evidence supports the third point.
- Certainly Shaio's play preserves some literary squabble of the times; it may even refer to al-Harba. Such flytings were plentiful and, for the most part, mere showmanship. But the poet al-Mashrab, an occasional playwright himself, said in his memoirs that he loved al-Harba "for his understanding and quiet ways." The artist and set designer Anani Strosher said of al-Harba and the writer Au'Riil that "staging their plays has been the supreme joy of my life's work, but if I had to choose between knowing them and staging their plays, I would rather have known them." (Both quotations from F. S. Marik, Monuments of Atreidean Drama, III, 454; V, 628.)
The fourth charge also contradicts the second: Karené Ambern says al-Harba was a recluse.