Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Women of Algiers in Their Apartment" translated by Assia Djebar *****

  • Short stories
  • Algerian
  • Originally published in 1980
  • Vocabulary:
    • laterite:   a reddish ferruginous soil formed in tropical regions by the decomposition of the underlying rocks.
  • Quotes:
    • p.21..."Hatred! the painter hissed as he brought both tea and whiskey,  We suckle it with the milk of our exploited mothers!  They've understood nothing:  it's not only colonialism that's at the root of our psychological problems, but it's the belly of our frustrated women!  When we're just fetuses, we're already damned!"
    • p.34..."Gold coins don't need to go looking for takers!"
    • p.47..."I see no other way out for us except through an encounter like this:  a woman speaking in front of another one who's watching; does the one who's speaking tell the story of the other one with the devouring eyes, with the black memories, or is she describing her own dark night with words like torches and with candles whose wax melts too fast?"
    • p.48...." this strange city, drunk with the sun but with prisons high up on every street, does every woman live first for herself or for the chain of women once locked in, generation after generation, while the same light, an unchangeable, rarely dimmed blue, continues to pour forth?"
    • p.50..."For Arabic women I see only one single way to unclock everything:  talk, talk without stopping, about yesterday and today, talk among ourselves, in alll the women's quarters, the traditional ones as well as those in the housing projects.  Talk among ourselves and look.  Look outside, look outside the walls and the prisons!...The Woman as look and the Woman as voice....".
    • p.64..."The sobs outside seemed more muffled, but I could still distinguish their singsong.  Their gentle singsong.  This is the moment, I said to myself, when grief becomes familiar, and pleasurable, and nostalgic.  This is the moment when you weep almost voluptuously, for this gift of tears is a gift without end."
    • p.69...:I knew my part, it was one I'd played before; stay mutelike this, eyes lowered, and patiently let myself be examined until the very end:  it was simple.  Everything is simple, beforehand, for a girl who's being married off."
    • p.70...."...for life never comes unaccompanied to a woman, death is alway right behind, furtive, quick, and smiling at the mothers....".
    • p.73..."There are those who forget or who simply sleep.  And then there are those who deep bumping into the walls of the past.  May God take pity on them!"
    • p.121..."Ramadan is the truce of all grudges."
    • p.133..."Thus, Morocco is revealed as the place where dream and its incarnation of an aesthetic ideal meet, the place of a visual revolution."...referring to the paintings of Delacroix
    • p.134..."In these brief and graphic or written annotations, there is an almost feverish hand at work, an intoxicated gaze:  a fugitive moment of evanescent revelation standing on that borderline in motion where dream and reality converge."...
    • p.151/Closing line...."Only in the fragments of ancient murmuring do I see how we must look for a restoration of the conversation between women, the very one that Delacroix froze in his painting.  Only in the door open to the full sun, the one Picasso later imposed, do I hope for a concrete and daily liberation of women."
  • Review:   The title of this collection refers to a painting by Eugene Delacroix, which was allegedly inspired by a brief visit inside the harem of a home in Morocco.  The painting and the stories in this collection depict the emotional and intellectual state of women hidden within walls and the veil.  It is also a collection comprised of haunting, evocative prose which stirs the deepest aspect of the reader's self.  The yearnings, fears, coping mechanisms, faith, belief, and suffering of the women in these stories will forever be imprinted in my heart.  I have rarely read such a marvelous collection.

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