Tag-Archive for ◊ care free life ◊

Author:
• Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Herta Müller was born in 1953 of farmer parents from the German speaking minority enclave village of Nitzkydorf (Nitchidorf) in the Banat in Romania. The majority of the German speaking peoples of this part of Romania originally came from Swabia (Schwaben) in Germany.

From 1973 to 1976, Müller left her village to study German and Romanian literature at the university of Timisoara. She then worked as a translator but was dismissed in 1979 because of her unwillingness to cooperate with Ceaucescu’s secret police. She became a kindergarten teacher while giving German language lessons in private. The success of Müller’s first novel, Nadirs, published in 1982, encouraged her to become a novelist, a poet and an essayist.

Müller has received various prestigious awards: in 1984 she received the Aspekte Literaturpreise for Niederungen (Nadirs), the Marie Luise Fleisser Prize, the Ricarda Huch Prize in 1989, the Kleist Prize in 1994 and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary award in 1998. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009.

After a first emigration refusal by the authorities in 1985, she finally obtained permission to emigrate to West Germany in 1987 with her husband, the Romanian German novelist, Richard Wagner. She currently lives in Hamburg.

Müller was well known for her writing about the bleak, oppressive conditions that Romanian people had to endure under Ceausescu’s despotic, communist regime and consequently her books were censored. She was a member of Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of German speaking writers who, frustrated by all the censorship, were calling for freedom of speech.

Herta Müller has been labelled one of the most talented and prolific German writers of the last twenty years. All her novels are set in Romania, but unfortunately not all her work has been translated from German.

Nadirs, originally written in German and published in Romania in 1982, then in Germany in 1984, was published in English in 1999. It’s Herta Müller’s first book, a semi-autobiographical novel with no traditional plot, in a form of a diary of fifteen short stories of various length. The narrator is a little girl who writes about her thoughts, her deeds, her fate and the destiny of the people surrounding her. It is also about how she perceives the bleak, repressive existence in the lowlands where she lives with her family, under the grim, authoritarian and corrupt communist regime of the unnamed Ceausescu.

The novel conveys the little girl’s unadorned, honest, acute description of everyday life, sketched in unrelated segments which have in common the importance that the girl bestows on them. She is often mixing reality with dreams which then become overwhelming fantasies that lead to delusions.

Herta Müller has an uncommon style of writing, disjointed and bare, misleadingly simple but deeply effective. Her usage of allegories, imageries, symbolism, contrasts and succinct language make this thin novel brim over with poignantly powerful, vivid pictures of rural life in the lowlands, presumably, in Nitchidorf in the Banat, Müller’s native region.

The author uses all these illustrations to disclose the little girl’s rough and innermost afflicted childhood and establish her psychologically disturbed character. She seems to be surviving rather than living the care free life of a child of her age.

The author’s choice of words and the somberly intense, devastating social atmosphere of destitution, sexual looseness, alcoholism, injustice, suffering and confinement, is almost Kafkaesque, without a glimpse of hope and is too dark and morose and nightmare-like.

For all these multiple reasons and hidden complexities, Nadirs is a novel that has to be read in little portions at a time with a fair amount of assiduity. “When laughter becomes guffawing, when they bend with laughter, is there any hope? And yet we are so young”. “Your eyes are empty. Your feeling is empty and stale. It’s a pity about you, girl, it’s a pity”. Black Park.

Author:
• Friday, April 29th, 2011

Fadia Faqir was born in 1956 in Amman, Jordan to a conservative family where she was one of nine children. She obtained her BA degree in English Literature from the University of Amman, followed by an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, England.

In 1990 Fadia Faqir was awarded the first Ph.D in Critical and Creative Writing by the University of East Anglia. She was the senior editor of the Arab Women Writers Series, for which she received the 1995 New Venture Award.

Fadia Faqir is a defender of human rights, especially in the Arab world. She is a member of the Board of Al-Raida, a feminist journal published by the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon. She now lives with her Hungarian, Irish, English, husband in Durham in the north of England.

Fadia Faqir has written three novels to date :
Nisanit in 1990.
Pillars of Salt in 1998.
My Name Is Salma in 2007 which was published in several countries and translated into fourteen languages.
She has also written some short stories and play scripts.

Young Salma is a wild Muslim Arab shepherdess who likes playing the reed pipe to her goats, frolicking in nature and swimming in the river. She lives with her parents and elder brother, Mahmoud, in Hima, in a bedouin village in the Levant. Her family is very conservative, consequently her care-free life ends when she gets pregnant out of wedlock by her young lover, Hamdan, which brings dishonour upon her family.

She has to escape before her brother kills her, so as to purify the family’s blood and restore their honour, by taking refuge in the Islah prison where she gives birth to a baby girl. But Salma’s baby girl is snatched out of her arms at birth by her cell mate, Noura and given to the prison warden to put in a home for illegitimate children, despite Salma’s shouting and screaming to retain her.

Salma is then smuggled into Lebanon by a nun and lives in a convent before seeking refuge and safety in England and settling in the city of Exeter. It is difficult for the unsophisticated bedouin young woman to be so abruptly uprooted and reject her upbringing, confront a different culture and meld Salma into Sal or Sally, her English adopted names.

Salma tries to adopt a good English accent and manners from her elderly English landlady, Elizabeth, but will always remain and feel an alien outside her village. She can’t bury the past which haunts her constantly and certainly can’t forget Layla, the daughter she left behind and yearns for and who will be the end of her.

Salma is torn between wanting to live and her feeling of guilt, which according to her beliefs, deserves death as punishment. Her defiant character pushes her to seek a job as a seamstress and to take a second job in the evening in a hotel bar in order to make more money to be able to pay her bills. She even enrolls in an English literature course in the Open University to improve her English and marries her Geordie teacher, John Robson, and bears him a baby son, Imran.

Salma even has a social life as she becomes a close friend of the retired Welsh headmistress, Gwen and also enjoys the friendship of Parvin, a Pakistani young woman who, like Salma, escaped from her family to avoid an arranged marriage imposed on her by her father.

Both young women have in common the feeling of injustice dictated by their family’s inherited, intransigent conventions and the fear of being caught by their kin after breaking away. Salma and Parvin are vulnerable, insecure and apprehensive about their future. They form a good match and therefore become of invaluable support and comfort to each other.

Nevertheless, Salma can’t help perceiving herself as a sinner and therefore unworthy of living. An infidel who is no longer a Muslim, an impure, a kind of a living filth who deserves to be beaten to death. She has an obstinate, strong character and determination for survival combined with a strain of self-hatred and self-destruction.

The whole novel is narrated by Salma who gives her point of views about her past and her present by random flashbacks between the Middle East and England, which at times disrupt the smooth running sequence of the narration. The author declares that the structure of the novel is deliberate in order to convey that Salma felt alienated from both communities: the permissive West and her very conservative own community.

The main subject of the novel deals with cross-cultures, oppression, violence against women and the position of the female gender in society in certain patriarchal communities, portrayed by the author through honour killings and forced marriages. Serious and complex subjects treated with skill and with a pinch of humour.

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