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Book Title: امرأتان على شاطئ البحر|
The author of the book: Hanan Al-Shaykh
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Edition: دار الآداب
Date of issue: 2003
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 664 KB
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Loaded: 1795 times
Reader ratings: 7.4
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The first time he asked how to say 'good morning' in English and American and found they were the same, he exclaimed in surprise, 'Praise the Lord! They're the same as each other inside and out!' Whenever I see a book by a woman of color with a super low rating and/or reviews littered all over with a variation on the theme of "didn't like the characters = main reason for not liking the book", I sigh and crack my fingers and pull on my gloves. More often than not this "didn't like the characters" business translates to "didn't understand the book", and since the author's neither white nor male she doesn't get the benefit of the doubt of "oh I didn't understand so the fault must be with me and the book will still get a shiny high rating", bending the sentiment of Catholic guilt into such an impressive cross-categorization of peer-pressured faith that it's as much a marvel as it is a goddamn annoyance. Seriously, though. What's not to like about the characters? What could possibly sideline that unspoken taboo of not shitting on a book cause the main character's a rapist/murderer/pedophile/accomplice of genocide/midlife crisis white boy with a penchant for boundary violation and really pitiful attempts at philosophy? You tell me.
The front cover says The Handmaid's Tale, which is associative in one sense and really insulting in a more important other. A review on this site compares this to Woolf, which I have to thank both for my moment of "Aha!" and the resulting fruitful pursuit. See, the narrative viewpoint in this is super super close first person that switches enough to keep one on one's claustrophobic toes, sidewinding through each character in such a way that jostles complicatedly enough against sociopolitical anathema for extremely complex discussion. I'm probably forgetting some main academic tenet or another, but a great deal of Modernism in the likes of Loy and co. felt akin to that same breed: solipsistic yet glancing, covert yet nakedly revealing, plotless yet so entrenched in the train of one at a time self-reflecting minds that it's nigh impossible to look away. Add in the "unnamed desert state" (most likely Saudi Arabia), characters that have no time for pandering to reader's views of "nice" when there's flesh and blood to live out, and a culture clash that the further one gets one will begin to make sense of whether they like it or not, and you get this modern psychological thing that's about as centered around feminism as The Golden Notebook.
I originally started reading this so as to counterbalance the happy-go-lucky archetypes that show up without fail in nearly every one of the The Arabian Nights. There's some of that, as well masculine romanticism succumbing to the late 20th century realities of STDs, sexual awakenings of the queer variety counterbalanced with mental stagnancy to the extreme, whatever the -phile term is for the Middle East when it comes to white US women escaping their issues with suburbia, and some really strong overtones of Rebecca in the last parts. Not the unnamed second wife, mind you. The one who wouldn't play by the rules and, here in this novel, is hellbent on staying alive and kicking for however long it takes to get what she wants. Dislike the first person pov characters all you like, but I can easily imagine all of them skateboarding in a burqa towards their intended destination. One of them may come to this conclusion by the tenets of Islam, another by memories of the land of Tony Hawk, but it's not as simple as an "Arab woman surmounts oppression" headline. It never is, of course, but this really drives it home.
I wonder if some readers didn't like this cause they've nursed fantasies of what it would be like to be female and obscenely rich in the land the pages of this book describe. Or maybe they expected a single tone of stoic endurance or Oriental escapade instead of bits of humor and pieces of overwhelming horror and a psychological immersion that never ever quits. Ah well. Whatever the case, this is very much a "modern" novel, where the Itches That Must Not Be Scratched are scratched, the results of said scratching are recoiled from in favor of social conformation, and the scratcher lives long enough to repeat ad nauseam. Thank god for politics and the Internet, amiright? I pictured myself sitting in front of the television explaining to Batul and my aunt and my mother what was really going on in the foreign films: the woman whom Mr Rochester kept shut away in Jane Eyre was his mad wife, not his mother.
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Read information about the authorHanan Al-Shaykh (Arabic: حنان الشيخ) is a Lebanese journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and playwright.
Al-Shaykh was born into a conservative Shia' Muslim family. She received her primary education in Beirut, and later she attended the American College for Girls in Cairo.
Al-Shaykh began her journalism career in Egypt before returning to Lebanon. She has also lived in Saudi Arabia and is currently residing in London.
Her short stories and novels feature primarily female characters in the face of conservative religious traditions set against the backdrop of political tensions and instability of the Lebanese civil war.
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