He was born in the town Nelopus on Yorba (Cygni Alpha-3) as the son of a well-to-do tailor and his wife, a music teacher. Nothing is known about his early life and education, but according to tradition, he left home at twenty working for the Gwent-Orlov publishing house on Yorba.
He spent the next ten years traveling on the planetary circuit of his territory as a salesman of minimic filmbooks imprinted on shigawire. In that case, al-Harba's job was to carry with him the latest publications of Gwent-Orlov, contact publishers and negotiate with them for the reprint rights to the Yorban works. If he was successful in selling them, the works were transcribed from his minimic film, and he would then seek out local works, buy the reprint rights for them; have them copied onto his compact wire, and travel to the next planet.
It was a job that required a good deal of both independent judgment and risk capital, because at no time were the travelers assured of a sale, and the shigawire for the minimic film was both fragile and extremely expensive.
It should be noted that the account books of Gwent-Orlov list their personnel by employee identification numbers, therefore shed no light on this part of al-Harba's life
He apparently severed his attachment with Gwent-Orlov, and it is recorded that in 10276 AG headed for file Imperial capital on Arrakis, where he spent the next 37 years of his life. In 10278 AG, he was discovered by Ghanima Atreides and Farad'n Corrino, who remained his patrons for 30 years.
All known by his life is contained in his works themselves, or in statements by contemporaries and nearcontemporaries. The following comprises the entire documentary evidence of the life of Harq al-Harba in Arrakeen:
His first play, The Sandrider (10280 AG) met with acclaim in Arrakeen and he handwrote a thanking letter to a critic for a favorable review (it is preserved in the private papers of the Hoffinch family). In 10281 AG his signature appears (with that of "L. Fen Whately" of whom nothing is known) on the authorization card for an account at the Bank of Arrakeen. In 10286 AG he married Vela Cinoli with whom had four children. He wrote a letter in 13 nAvlardim 10291 AG to his publisher, H. H. Kanadel, raising a question about royalty payments (kept n the archives of the University of Aleppo on Grumman). In 10295 AG he purchased half-interest in an Arrakeen restaurant (not a tavern, as is sometimes claimed), and the contract bears his signature. In 10306 AG, he gave a deposition as a witness in a plagiarism suit brought by a fellow Arrakeen playwright against an author on Salusa Secundus. The original would have been taken to Salusa Secundus for the proceedings, where it has apparently been lost, but the document in the Arrakeen records is a copy attested and sealed by the Court Prothonotary.
Apparently while al-Harba enjoyed the help and the company of the royal family, he felt somewhat out of place at court, refusing the suite of rooms offered to him by Ghanima. He did allow her to attend rehearsals, though, and even occasionally let the royal children play walk-on parts, much to their delight.
A rumor says that Ghanima persuaded Harq al-Harba to write a masque which the family produced privately for the court, each person proudly playing his or her own role. Leto appeared, appropriately enough, as the voice of God. The text was not preserved, Harban scholars have argued that the story is merely apocryphal.
Tradition has it that he frequently stated in letters (now lost) to friends that he could work only in absolute solitude, seldom leaving his room, and almost never leaving his house. It has been suggested (by Dauwar Gwiltan) that al-Harba became afflicted with agoraphobia from his many space journeys, and the neurosis forced him to turn to writing. While this theory is attractive, and explains many personality quirks of the writer, it has no independent support.
Since his death, his reputation has grown until he became recognized as the absolute master of his time. Prior to the discovery of the Rakis Hoard, his plays were the best known account of the turbulent era from 10150 AG to 10219 AG.
In a period noted for the richness and variety of its dramatic accomplishments, Harq al-Harba was counted among the first rank of playwrights of his day.
The poet and occasional playwright al-Mashrab, 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.)
However in 10630 AG (more than 300 years after his death), his authorship and even his historical existence was challenged. All these 'skeptic' schools of thought share certain arguments denigrating the reputed author, and how could such a famed personality leave so little historical documents about his life. The controversy began with Avelarad Svif-Josif, a minor noble of House Rembo, who expressed doubts that a salesman could have possessed the ability to write the plays credited to him. This reservation was expounded at length by Kurt Zhuurazh, who asserted, in his Al-Ada and al-Harba (10635 AG) that Farad'n Corrino was the true author of the plays.
Bsh. Joon Piitpinail's Al-Ada is al-Harba (10638 AG) was a handsome volume which remained the fullest expression of the skeptic schools of thought. 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 added four objections, which have reappeared in all later claims:
- According to Naib Guaddaf's Arrakeen Judgement, al-Harba died of an intestinal hemorrhage following a prolonged bout of drunkenness.
- The description of actress Karené Ambern of a meeting with al-Harba.
- al-Harba was a secret computer enthusiast.
- The final argument, that al-Harba's fellow playwrights considered him a brainless clod as seen in the play Arrakeen Corners by Tonk Shaio and from Naib Guaddaf's Judgment
In 10665 AG another contender was proposed: J. T. Duub nominated Count Hasimir Fenring in Half-a-Dozen Harbas. Duub's chief obstacle was Fenring's death in 10225 AG, 21 years before Harq al-Harba was born, but this proved no insuperable obstacle to Fenring's proponents.
A third powerful contingent entered the field in 10710, when A. J. Kiilwan claimed in The Man Who Was al-Harba that the plays were actually written by the emperor Leto II Atreides a theory that has surpassed the others in popularity and permanence.
Critics reply that the al-Harba Question is a question only in the minds of those clouded by snobbery, delusion, hero-worship, and ignorance of Atreidean literary history. A point against these theories is that no professional Harban scholar has ever lent them credence; indeed there is more evidence that Harq al-Harba wrote the plays attributed to him than for the works and existence of others (Virgil, Rabelais, Milton, McCartney, Shumwan, Astiki, Carnwold, and a host of others put together). Furthermore, the small documentary evidence about al-Harba and his life is much more than exists for any of his contemporaries except those of Great Houses, with their profession as historians. The Rakis Hoard had done nothing to upset the conclusion that the Harban plays were the fruits of the genius of Harq al-Harba.
21 plays are generally accepted as his authentic works, all but two of them included in the famous Works volume, edited by his wife Vela Cinoli, and published on Fides in 10320 AG. Al-Harba received more public acclaim for his history plays than for any other genre, but he was equally skillful in tragedy and comedy. Although he seems never to have written one of the melodramas so popular in Arrakeen, his plays contain many of the elements that gave the melodramas their appeal.
In their order of composition, they are:
- 10280 AG The Sandrider (History)
- 10281 AG Kuursar Divided (History)
- 10283 AG Shaddam IV (History)
- 10283 AG The History of Duke Leto, Part I
- 10285 AG The History of Duke Leto, Part II
- 10288 AG "Sook," He Said (Comedy)
- 10289 AG Players at the Game of Pebbles (Comedy)
- 10292 AG The Dusty Palms (Comedy)
- 10296 AG Hasimir (Historical Tragedy)
- 10297 AG The Shuumkee Progressions (Comedy)
- 10298 AG Plenty of Time for Love (Comedy)
- 10299 AG Carthage (Tragedy)
- 10300 AG? Not the Worm Ouroboros (Comedy, not incl. in Works)
- 10302 AG Water for the Dead (Tragedy)
- 10303 AG Lichna (Historical Tragedy)
- 10304 AG Ampoliros (Tragedy)
- 10304 AG The Arrakeen Tarot (Tragedy)
- 10305 AG Stilgar's Dream (Tragedy)
- 10306 AG Chani (Historical Tragedy)
- 10310 AG Troubadour, Another Melody (Comedy)
- 10312 AG Don't Drink the Water (Comedy, not incl. in Works)
Most of the works were originally performed in Fremen language, and may indeed have been com posed in that language, in which al-Harba was fluent. His native tongue, however, was the Yorban dialect of Galach, and it is thought by some that the translation into' Galach of the Works is not a translation at all, but al-Harba's original version of the plays, which he then used as the basis for the Fremen versions. Al-Harba's deep insight into humanity, his understanding of society in its virtues and vices, and above all his profound compassion have made him a writer not of an age, but for all time.
Behind the scenesEdit
Harq al-Harba is a figure mentioned only in several entries of the Dune Encyclopedia, having a whole entry on his own. His enigmatic legacy has been obviously modeled after Shakespeare ans his authorship question.