How Do You Learn to Write About (Saudi) Women?

If you’re Youssef al Mohaimeed, author of Munira’s Bottle and Wolves of the Crescent Moon, this:

I worked hard to teach myself. I have read many psychology books about women. I also visited shops to discover the differences between various fabrics and their feel on the skin.

Uh, interesting. The (female) reviewer at Al Masry Al Youm, who collected the above quote, seems to buy it. She writes:

At times, the reader can forget that the author of this well-woven novel is a male. Al-Mohaimeed successfully dives into Munira’s world and portrays its intertwined details.

The reviewer, Amany Ali Shawky, says that al Mohaimeed was pleased with the English translation, which came out a few months ago from AUC Press. That’s good, because:

Explaining those complex female sentiments in a foreign language is challenging. But I think I was lucky with my English, French and Italian translators.

Now I’m perversely intrigued. What are these complex female sentiments (that are difficult to explain in English, French, and Italian)?

Lisa Kaaki also reviewed the book about a month back for Arab News, and enjoyed it. She quotes Al-Mohaimeed as aiming to be the Murakami of the Arabs:

I think we knew a lot about Japanese lives and their minds thanks to Yukio Mishima, Yasumari Kawabata, Murakami. We knew about Indian culture through the works of Arundhati Roy and Aravind Adiga. So I hope I can describe the lives of Arabs to all the readers of the world.

Now, as to whether you can describe the culture of the Lebanese, Egyptians, Moroccans, Saudis and Omanis—of all social classes and backgrounds—in one book…by one author…well….

One last review from reviews website iCroc: 2 of 5 stars.

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Categories: Saudi

6 replies

  1. *headbangs*

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  2. Hi! First of all I must tell you I find your blog lovely (it sounds weird but it’s like that!), and relaxing and a source of so many wonderful books. Anyway, do you have any idea about which Italian translator al Mohaimeed had in mind? ’cause I found none of his novels in Italy. Shukran

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  3. Hmm, I don’t. I would suggest contacting Amany Ali Shawky, but her email isn’t listed on the Al Masry Al Youm site.

    You could certainly email Al Mohaimeed about it, though. He’s accessible via his official English site:
    http://www.al-mohaimeed.net/english/index.php?option=com_contact&view=contact&id=2&Itemid=115

    And his much more extensive Arabic one:
    http://www.al-mohaimeed.net/arabic/

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    • Thank you very much! (unfortunately I can’t read Arabic that well, yet at least).
      I’m thinking about making a page on my blog about arabic literature in Italian, a sort of spin-off of yours! with due appreciation and link to this. I’ll let you know if I do.

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