Friday, May 01, 2009

Libyan Female Writers

Beirut has been chosen as the World Book Capital this year, and the bookworm that I wanted so much to be there and immerse myself in all these books on display but I had other commitments.

There has indeed been a flurry of Arab novels in the last few years not only in the Arab world but also on the international scene. Recalling the hit books by Arab authors that reached international fame, I found myself nodding in agreement with the statement that ""The West likes Arab novels that deal with political oppression, women, or sexual taboos. ""...




Algerian writer Ahlam Mosthaghanemi is not far from this thought
when she notes that:

"Arabic writers are accepted in the West only if they criticise their homeland or their culture and religion. The West only promotes Arab writers who criticise their own people and culture. Mosthaghanemi, who has more than 2 million readers in the Arab world, said her works are not well received by the Western world because of her great respect for the Arab culture and her religion."

Something tells me that's how our very own Hisham became famous ;) but that is not today's topic so put those filed tongues back where they belong he he he....

What I had been thinking about all along was... are taboos really stiffling Arab women writers as this article implies ? which is again what Mosthaghanemi whom I respect immensely states :

" [..]as women writers are forbidden from using personal emotions as a tool of creative writings, most of the works of Arab women lack the warmth of real life. “We have to take great risks to portray the basic emotions of human beings like love, lust and romance”".

It vividly brought to mind a chat I had with a great Arab blogger friend of mine (let's call her A) about why with all her talent, head firmly on her shoulders and great humour does she not write a book. A told me that she shelved her dreams of writing novels because everything she wants to write about could be unacceptable.

This led me to have a short look at Libyan blogs after all even blogging is writing n'est ce pas?

And so I discovered that poet Lolitta's blog was no longer available... a week after she made this post :



Lolitta is Libyan and she writes beautiful daring poetry in English. Is it social pressure or is it because she has gotten married and simply moved on?

In a ranting from back in January, it was with surprise that I noted Shahrazad complaining that :

" Many Libyan female bloggers have either left the blogspehere all together or have made their blogs open to invites only [because]hey have been put into the so called pressured social paralysis situation where either the parents or some other family member has read the so called blog and disapproved of it existing . On the other hand these fanatic members of family read other blogs and enjoy them as well[.]Many fathers have given consent to their daughters writing a blog and quite a few are so proud of them and encourage them continuously until they get entangled in the dos and don’t of a young lady still unmarried whose future hubby might not approve of her blog!"

I'm all for sharing everything with family but it's difficult enough to be a blogger so why bother to tell anyone? (personally I regret telling some people - who are not family about it but I was happily surprised that one of my brothers who stumbled on it by chance loved it and was so proud of me he actually wanted me to stop being anonymous). Use the blogosphere as a sandpit to hon in your writing skills ladies - and don't tell anyone yet :P

I don't think that the Libyan males are against their sisters, mothers, wives etc. writing but more as social pressure and the 3ayb part - as in what cannot be seen then does not exist... or that the precious females maybe recognised and their ideas misintepreted and God forbid their reputation ruined because Libyan dudes would be trolling their website/blog . This was indeed confirmed in the comments from various Libyan female bloggers on that post here.

I think that's why controversial Libyan Violet's blog is hardly known and people who do comment do so almost shyly because most of her writing is about love or sometimes blatant erotica and all one anonymous commenter could tell her was " u're longing for an orgasm ".

Then I checked Luna and she echos Shahrazad " we Libyan bloggers especially the women face tremendous pressures from family ,work and all who are close. Is Blogging such an awful thing ??I never in my mind thought it to be till I got into trouble with needless to say the closest people to me." Again some of the comments confirm the suspected weird behaviour that prompted some bloggers to go underground or in this case in 'restrict' mode.

This is a pity as we readers loose so much by not being able to tap into their ideas, experiences, emotions plus someone could actually be the next Nobel or Pulitzer prize winner.

We have tons of talented ladies!

So I guess if you keep to cooking recipes, mothering and crochet tips ( which I think is absolutely fine as topics as well) you are OK. If you venture into more mature ground whether you are blogging or being in the printed media - about your life, fantasies or hopes then you have two choices : (1) if you bash your own strongly enough then you will be celebrated in the West a la Hirsi Ali or (2) move to Beirut :) otherwise the climb is very steep!



14 comments:

programmer craig said...

Arabic writers are accepted in the West only if they criticise their homeland or their culture and religion.Don't you think that's true in all cases where an author is of a different culture? I mean, seriously, do you think an author who promoted the virtues of Christianity and Western values would be promoted and/or widely accepted in a Muslim country? :)

The West only promotes Arab writers who criticise their own people and culture.And why does it matter, really? Aren't Arab authors writing for an Arab audience? If so, then what is the problem? And if not... then I wonder why not? What is their purpose in writing books about their culture, that are intended for export to other cultures? If the intent is to export their culture to a foreign culture, then why do they have a right to complain when the other culture rejects that effort? That makes no sense. Haven't I seen you complaining about cultural imperialism yourself, Highlander? :p

If an author wants to promote their culture across a cultural boundary, there is nothing wrong with that. But neither is there anything wrong with the target culture if they don't approve of that author's work.

Anglo-Libyan said...

excellent post

MusicLover said...

Why Jane Fonda Is Banned in Beirut
Anti-Semitism leads to startling censorship in Lebanon.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124113399848475095.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Brave Heart said...

let me ask u the same question u asked to ur friend
why with all your talent, head firmly on your shoulders and great humour do u not be a writer or journalist? u have all what journalist needs, and in this case u will benefit more people that your blogg's readers.

for the libyan female thing, it is a social culture, it need long time with constant treatment and debate to overcome it.

i think most of us do not care if his sister ,wife or mother has a blog, but he cares about more about people srunding him and how they to this issue.
the other thing about arab female writers, to be honest most of them espicially saudi ones + Ahlam were famouse not because they write good novels or great sotries but because they write about the female secret life in these closed socities, i did not read to them but that what i understand from the midea. one example is Raydh's girls, this book finishes from the bookshops in just few days and it has more than two copies now i think, the question is why, the answer is because the writers talk about the life of saudi girls in certian ages (teenager age)it doesnt have any other value.

i still believe u can be one of the best libya female writers. just do it

Tariq said...

It seems your post has generated some buzz on other blogs

Nelly Furtado & Juanes - Te busque & Fotografia LIVE!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=J-X7aH4d9GU&feature=PlayList&
p=45FE0BFD980A2F29&index=0&
playnext=1


The Truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. Jim Davis

Highlander said...

Programmer Craig, thanks for the comment, I don't think I made my post clear... Let me explain:
(1) Apparently Arab female writers feel that their wings are slightly trimmed in terms of letting go full steam.
(2) Libyan female bloggers do not express themselves as much as they wish.
(3) There are have been more novels in Arabic in the Arab world written for an Arab audience - but the majority that got translated in foreign language ( English/French)- and this where the writer has a chance at internationalism are usually those that meet certain criteria not related to excellent prose :P
(4) Some writers write not in Arabic at all and directly for a non Arab audience and in this way they many immediately model themselves on the criteria needed for their book to succeed in foreign lands.

You say "Aren't Arab authors writing for an Arab audience? If so, then what is the problem? And if not... then I wonder why not? What is their purpose in writing books about their culture, that are intended for export to other cultures? If the intent is to export their culture to a foreign culture, then why do they have a right to complain when the other culture rejects that effort? That makes no sense."

When Charles Dickens is translated into Arabic it is because it is a great book that has made an impact in its country and Arab readers would like to read it- some would hate it and others would love it - but my problem is that sometimes the Arab author equivalent to Dickens is not translated into a foreign language but the one who writes trash is :P but I guess it comes down to personal preferences too but the foreign lands do not get the chance to see the full spectrum of talent but only a limited number of writers who seem to reinforce the stereotypes.
Hmm I'm digressing but I'm not sure how to be clearer.

Highlander said...

Braveheart - thanks for your encouragement my friend I know a couple of bloggers who would be just perfect for this role.

Tariq - really ? thanks I'd love to know what was discussed if you can send me the links please and thanks for letting me know.

Highlander said...

AngloLibyan - you are welcome.

Music Lover I think some Lebanese blogger explained why she was banned in Beirut other than the official line about her having visited Israel. Can't remember the link where though.
I also think I understand the angle that you brought up which is that Beirut has banned many books/movies etc.. mentioning Jews.It may seem useless, stupid censorship and yeah I read many articles/posts about this alleged antisemitism - but still we really can't be too hard on the Lebanese as they have an ongoing feud with Israel, where they have tasted blood because of Israeli Jews. ( It does not decrease the pain inflicted on Israelis too but that's another story).
I do realise that some of Nayhoom's books have been banned there too :P, and the guy is Libyan !
Anyway Jane Fonda although female is not an Arab writer.

a_akak said...

Great post :)

Fe Aman Allah

programmer craig said...

Thanks for taking the time for a lengthy response, H :)

I guess I concentrated on the first part of your post and the ending, since I don't have any way to really relate to the middle part of it.

(1) Apparently Arab female writers feel that their wings are slightly trimmed in terms of letting go full steam.That's hardly surprising, is it? After all, the written word reaches many orders of magnitude more people than the spoken word does. I would be shocked if Arab women were comfortable putting things in print that they wouldn't be comfortable sharing with their friends and family in person.

(2) Libyan female bloggers do not express themselves as much as they wish.Do they, in their personal lives? You are the Libyan woman I know best, and you seem quite open, I don't really know what you are like when you are dealing with your fellow Libyans in an environment where there is no anonymity.

(3) There are have been more novels in Arabic in the Arab world written for an Arab audience - but the majority that got translated in foreign language ( English/French)- and this where the writer has a chance at internationalism are usually those that meet certain criteria not related to excellent prose :PYou will never find a piece of literature being translated for its excellent prose! Reason being, "excellent prose" doesn't translate! It's only excellent prose in the language it was written in. Works get translated because of their brilliance, if non-fiction. If fiction, they get translated because of their excellent stories.

I feel like I'm still left with my question about why Arab authors who write about Arab culture and Islam expect to be well received in a Western and Christian country? I'm just not getting it, I guess.

Continuing because I never know when this will cut off!

programmer craig said...

(4) Some writers write not in Arabic at all and directly for a non Arab audience and in this way they many immediately model themselves on the criteria needed for their book to succeed in foreign lands.If they are discussing Arab culture and Islam (as you mentioned in the post) and they choose not to even write in Arabic or to try and get published in Arab countries, there are only two reasons I can think of to explain that:

1) For whatever reason, they intend to write something that they know would not be accepted by an Arab audience.

2) They intend to write something as propaganda, to serve a religious/political agenda of some sort.

In both cases, the author knows it is a waste of time and effort to try to get their work published in the Arab world, right?

When Charles Dickens is translated into Arabic it is because it is a great book that has made an impact in its country and Arab readers would like to read it- some would hate it and others would love it...That's considered classic literature, Highlander. Can't we discuss some contemporary authors, instead?

- but my problem is that sometimes the Arab author equivalent to Dickens is not translated into a foreign language but the one who writes trash is :P Well, Charles Dickens wrote "trash"... he hardly paints a flattering picture of the early industrial days in Europe, wouldn't you agree? His works are downright depressing!

It's been a while but I don't recollect him having anything good to say about Christianity or Western culture, either. In fact, he could be considered one of the biggest critics of Western culture to have ever lived :p

...but I guess it comes down to personal preferences too but the foreign lands do not get the chance to see the full spectrum of talent but only a limited number of writers who seem to reinforce the stereotypes.Lol. Reading blogs has certainly reinforced *my* stereotypes, so I wouldn't be so quick to promote the idea that exposure to a more widely accepted Arab voice would fix everything, in that regard :P

Honestly, Highlander, for every Arab like you've I've run into (and I do like and respect you a lot, you know) I've run into a dozen that just drive me crazy. I never even realized the culture clash was so bad until I started reading Arab blogs. Do I really want to know what Arab authors write, in Arabic?


Hmm I'm digressing but I'm not sure how to be clearer.Glad to see you digressing! You used to do it a lot, and I hope you start doing it more, again :D

Yes, you were clear. Thank you. I think we still disagree about the whole "translated works" thing, and I'll take your word for the rest.

MusicLover said...

Libya: Women, Writers and Artists
by Fozia Mohamed

http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/05/03/libya-women-writers-and-artists/


http://kolenalaila.com/


http://friendfeed.com/aviavia/f5f44a30/global-voices-online-libya-women-writers-and


Merel - 13 year old - cello - Tarantella - 2makemovies

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ad8AvnSiw5Y&NR=1


I posted about the Beirut link because I read it before you posted.


As for Arab female writers they should write what ever they want but the problem that Arabs do not read period.

Maya M said...

Programmer Craig took some words from my mouth. Of course Dickens was highly critical of his society and culture, and this was on purpose. As for Hirsi Ali, I would mention two details you seem to omit. First, she wrote "Infidel" in Dutch; I guess she would have less success if she had written it in her native language and waited for somebody to mention and translate it. Second, she became a celebrity after Theo van Gogh was murdered because of the film they were making together. I guess you wouldn't want any Libyan author to be "advertised" in a similar way, do you ;-) ?
I also agree with Craig that Arab Muslim writers who are altogether happy with their culture and religion, if brought to Western audience, are more likely to reinforce stereotypes than to break them. However, if you don't care about stereotypes, I think it is possible, with appropriate marketing, to publish such works in the West. I would like to try such a novel, if it is not extremely boring (as noncritical texts tend to be). I became interested in Arab literature after Sept. 11, and I am sure I am not alone.
In what language are Libyan authors writing - Standard Arabic or Libyan dialect? And have they a choice, are they free to use and influence the language (as in the Anglo-Saxon world) or there is some government-appointed academic body setting language norms (as in France and some other European countries)?

Maya M said...

MusicLover, I wish it were only Arabs who don't read. Do you know any country where a significant proportion of young people do read? They watch TV, and they play video games. Old people like me fear that we are steadily evolving into an oral or, worse, a non-verbal culture.