Earlier this month, Lebanese feminist writer Emily Nasrallah died at 86. Today, we remember some of her words:
Childhood and youth
“I never thought I would get beyond the third elementary,” Nasrallah told writer and journalist Olivia Snaije. “I repeated the last class for several years just to keep going to school — I desperately wanted something to read, and the only book around was the Arabic edition of the Bible whose stories were too complicated for children.”
Nasrallah, Snaije writes, convinced an uncle living in the US to fund her secondary education. Later, “My family put so much pressure on me that I really had to fight and then fight again to go to university. It was unheard of for a girl to leave the village.”
On the Lebanese Civil War
“[T]he war changed the social situation of women who were homemakers when from one day to the next, their husbands left or lost their jobs and overnight women became responsible for everything… There were even women who fought, and this was part of the new freedom.”
A short translation by Melanie Magidow
Everything in her world was unknown, the gates to the city closed…a country girl moving to the city, asking among the people she knew, looking to get her foot in the door, looking for a place to lay her head. She was, as I remember, holding to her chest a big heavy box filled with the keys to her hopes and dreams. In her eyes, she carried a radiance imparted by the bright mornings in the mountains of her village.
She also carried a passion, in which one could read if one wanted, that this wandering creature wanted to accomplish something she had yet to realize. She hoped to knock on the closed doors she faced. She was determined, despite the challenge, or even the futility, of the experience. Deep down, she held the ignorance of early buds beginning to blossom. She could not yet distinguish between the world’s goodness, and its evils. Thus she remained open to the City, with a thrilling enthusiasm, seeing all its merits, fully expecting acceptance and opportunities…but where to begin?
Translated by Melanie Magidow from Emily Nasrallah, Fi l-bal / In Mind (Beirut: Novel, 2000): 7-8.
For more about Nasrallah from Magidow, visit her website, www.melaniemagidow.com/blog/.
Another short story by Nasrallah, “The Green Bird,” was translated by Thuraya Khalil-Khoury in Hikayat: Short Stories by Lebanese Women, ed. by Roseanne Saad Khalaf.
Read the rest in Hikayat: Short Stories by Lebanese Women, ed. Khalaf.