New Syrian Novel Expresses Distrust of Storytelling


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From the book’s dedication to the unpublished “female raconteurs [who] .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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