The voices that matter

Greater Kashmir

The new wave of novel writers came into prominence in Arab world with the publication of a novel by a Lebanese Muslim woman. Hunanien Sheikh. The novel is a new representation of international culture and civilization, the values and foundation which are common to women throughout the globe. The new global cosmopolitanism found in the novels of Hunanien Sheikh makes her novels worth reading.
Hunanien Sheikh was educated at Beirut and Cairo. The Suicide of a Dead Man is her first novel but A Story of Zohra gave her wide publicity and recognition too. The story is about a virgin beautiful girl. There is neither romance nor the nervous uncertainty in the book. The experiences are drawn with the backdrop of Damascus Lebanon and Africa. It is the most thematic concern which takes the modern audience by surprise and influences them deeply. The novel is an account of the horrors of war, which caused destruction to her family and her house. The whole Arab world is shown under the horrid influence of war and the other aspects of Arab society also came to light. The banning of the novel in Arab world indirectly explains the influence of this novel.
Ghaza Simen another novelist of Arab world is distressed with the Arabs. She has felt it very much that Arabs have accepted the mental defeat from the west and its effect must be long lasting. The novel Beirut Night Mayor (1976) is the novel written in the same backdrop of Arab defeat and it became famous very soon. The plot of the novel is woven around a narrator who lives close to a shop where the tamed animals are sold. Soon the area comes under constant bombardment for several days. The animals suffer from starvation. The owner is very much concerned about feeding the animals. When he brings the feed for them the animals pounce open the owner and with his meat they feed themselves. No doubt the novel is symbolic in tone but it is not ambiguous. It is perhaps pointing towards the dreadful destiny of Arabs and the future of Arab world.
The work of a contemporary woman writer Laila Usman is of great interest for the present day reader. Her short fiction attracts translation rather than her novels. Eyes in the night is one such short story which narrates human suffering and woe in an absorbing manner. Publication of this story in English attracted wider readership. The full fledged novel of this writer Wasinya Comes out of Sea is the tragedy of life between the desert and the sea. The book has been appreciated for its message.
The living legend novelist Salwa Baker wrote Golden Chariot Doesn’t Go to Heaven in 1991 in English. The main concerns of this work are suppression, exploitation, insecurity and meaninglessness of the personality of woman. She creates such homogeneity between the theme and the text, which gives the feeling of a great craftsmanship. The novel revolves round extreme feminism. The writer has an experience of being imprisoned herself. The novel apart from other aspects gives a passing reference to the conditions of women jails in Egypt.
The new novelist who possesses a different sense and sensibility is Azheef Saif. The creativity of Saif is conglomerate of different movements and the antithetical attitudes in literature. In the Eye of the Sun is her English novel. The novel revolves round a woman Asieya. The June 1967 Arab-Israel conflict and defeat of the Arabs are ingrained in her psyche. She is a widely traveled woman having visited Cairo, Alexandria, Beirut, Rome, Paris, London and New York. She is sufficiently aware of the circumstances in these cities. She meets people with different sensibilities and different social lives. The dilemma and uncertainty, the violence and peace becomes part of her social experience. But she does not seem to be finding the light at the end of the tunnel. The twilight of the uncertainty appears to be dawning upon her. She finds herself a helpless human being.
Another important women novelist is Shar Khalifa. She is Palestinian and writes in Arabic. The topic of her study is very difficult as to how can the women counteract the Israeli aggression. The central concept of Shar Khalifa is the same which she wants to utilize in Babal Saba throwing light on the conditions of women is Israel occupied areas. The common concern of Arab world women novelists is colonization, conflict and a search for an identity in the fast moving world.

(Shazia Manzoor teaches at Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Kashmir)