Beyond Prurience

My interest in Arabic literature follows my interest in all literature: it’s artistic, it’s sympathetic, it’s aesthetic. My ideal book could be Sonallah Ibrahim’s (Egyptian) Stealth, could be W.G. Sebald’s (German) Austerlitz, but it’s definitely not So-and-So’s Sexy, Tongue-Wagging Look ‘Behind the Veil.’

Still, one of the important functions of literature is to communicate across space and time, to penetrate borders, boundaries. As such, the emergence of the Saudi book The Others, about lesbian relationships in the Kingdom, is of particular interest to me. As is the new compilation of lesbian and bisexual women’s stories in Lebanon, Bareed Mista3jil.

The collection’s plain, straightforward writing is something beautiful in itself:

“My mother is a devout Muslim woman. Her belief in God is so powerful that she surrenders everything to His will. Anything that happens is because God wills it. And so she didn’t question or challenge my homosexuality ‘Allah heik ketiblik,’ she said. She told me it made no sense for her to try to change God’s will. Shortly after, I told my father, and he had the same reaction: ‘We cannot change what is God’s will. If it is meant for you to change, you will change on your own.’