March 30, 2008

On Feminism – Sitt Marie Rose

Posted in Books Reviews, English at 2:44 pm by Rou...

It is almost impossible to talk about “Feminist Writers” in the Middle East without mentioning names such as “Qassim Amin” (Father of the Egyptian Feminist Movement and the author of the 1899 pioneering book “تحرير المرأة”; a.k.a. “Women’s Liberation”), “Nawal El Saadawi” and “Ehsan Abd el Qodoos” from Egypt, “Nizar Qabbani” from Syria, “Fatema Mernissi” from Morocco, and “Emily Nasrallah” from Lebanon. Their contributions have remarkably enriched the feminism literature wave in the Middle East for decades. However, the book I chose to share with you today is not written by any of the previous names. The book name is “Sitt Marie Rose” and it is written by the Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and artist “Etel Adnan”.

 

The novel mainly revolves around the Lebanese Civil War and how it affected the lives and relationships of those who witnessed it, but is reflected through the eyes of a Christian pacifist woman schoolteacher, “Sitt Marie Rose”, who was a beloved teacher of deaf-mute children living in Beirut during the war. Marie Rose had a deep sympathy and connection to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and helped them during the war, relinquishing the protection of her own tribe. Seen as a traitor to the Christian cause, she was kidnapped and brutally executed by her Christian former friends, who have joined the Phalangist party, in front of her own students.

 

Reaching beneath the exterior surfaces of the surroundings and the individuals involved in the murder, this powerful novel questions the political, religious, and patriarchal ideologies that lead – unavoidably – to this primitive violence of men against women, and shows the brutality that results from thinking in a tribal way about politics in a modern country.

 

Men’s attitude towards women was very obvious throughout the novel, such as a sentence that was uttered by one of the male characters in the novel that said: “It’s a waste of time to try to reform a woman who takes herself seriously” and the description in another sentence that said: “They, the Chabab, had to bring women back to order, in this Orient, at once nomadic and immobile.”

 

Etel Adnan’s “Sitt Marie Rose”, is a very good example of Feminism Literature and Women’s Studies in the Middle East that confronts subjects such as the suppression of women, the warped fulfillment of violence, and the persecution of others under religious pretenses.

 

I will leave you with a part of the novel…

How long must we wait for the impossible mutation?

It’s fear, not love, that generates all actions here. The dog in the street looks at you with terror in his eyes. The combatant has the mentality of a cave man, and despite his courage, goes forward with a mask, or huddles for hours behind sandbags. Snipers, mercenaries, attracted by the bad smell of this war, lie in wait for their prey, like snakes. They are ashamed of their appetite for crime and odiously proud of their ability, and yet they hide, in the night of their veins, a kind of panic that drove them to kill Arabs in Algiers, blacks in the Congo, and Moslems or Christians in Beirut. The citizens of this country are accustomed to fear, fear, the immense fear of not deserving their mother’s love, of not being first at school or in the car race, of not making love as often as the other guys at the office, of not killing as many birds as their neighbor, of being less rich than the Kuwaitis, of being less established in their history than the Syrians, of not dancing as well as the Latin-Americans, of being less of a break-neck and extremist than the Palestinian terrorists.”

 

All the best,

Rou…

On March 30, 2008 

 

 

References:

–    http://www.archipel ago.org/vol7- 2/adnan.htm

–    Various Internet citations

–    “Women and Violance”; paper by Mayyada El Shereef

 

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