New Syrian Novel Expresses Distrust of Storytelling

Arabic Literature (in English)

Syrian novelist Maha Hassan was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for the second time this year, for her Al-Rawiyat. The book didn’t make the shortlist, but reviewer al-Mustafa Najjar makes a compelling case for why you should read it nonetheless:

By Al-Mustafa Najjar

Female-VoicesIn her most recent novel, Al-Rawiyat (Female Narrators), published last year, Syrian novelist Maha Hassan explores the realms of oral and written storytelling through a set of female characters, who are not necessarily connected, but are all obsessed with the art of narration.

From the book’s dedication to the unpublished “female raconteurs [who] . . . lived and died in darkness” to the last sentence highlighting the “emancipatory” powers of writing, a celebratory, almost naive tone dominates the novel.

The first narrator, Abbadon, says she lives two lives: A superficial, “typical” one concerned with the satisfaction of mundane day-to-day needs, and a “rich and dense” one centering…

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