Friday Finds: Excerpt from Rula Jurdi’s ‘Camera Obscura’

In Banipal magazine’s most recent issue, they published excerpts from nine recent novels. One of these was poet and novelist Rula Jurdi’s Camera Obscura (2017), in maia tabet’s translation; an additional excerpt is now online:

The excerpt online is a continuation of the chapter begun in Banipal 69.

Of the novel, Banipal editors write that “Rula Jurdi focuses on conflict between violence and spirituality through an intricately plotted story that is set among Lebanon’s Druze community.”

The novel explores the individual struggles of three different women against social and gender boundaries. Nour in particular unpicks the relationship between Israeli colonialism and the local Druze community through the lens of a camera.

It opens cheerfully, with a meal with Nour’s family and friends out on a balcony with a beautiful view. Although the initial conversation is of espionage, they pass a pleasant weekend that ends in a dance performance. But this is soon shattered when — a week later — Maha tells Nour that her brother Samir has been detained for taking photographs, and she blames both the Druze judge and the Druze community as a whole.

The next morning, Maha relays more details that unsettle Nour’s view of her life, in an unpicking of comfortable and settled stories — an interrogation of who is friend and who is spy — in search of some truth that can help her hold things together. Near the end of the excerpt, as Nour falls asleep, she thinks about how her own father “in a matter of days, transformed into an entirely different person.”

Translated by the gifted maia tabet, the excerpt gives a glimpse of the novel, forthcoming in English translation.

Also: Jurdi’s first collection of poetry, Ghilāf al-Qalb (The Heart’s Peel) (October 2014) is also currently being translated into English and French. You can read three poems from the collection on ArabLit: “Your Rhythm in the Reciter’s Chest,” “The Heart’s Peel,” and “Isfahan.” Her self-translated poem “Coaxial Cables” appeared on Asymptote.

Read the excerpt at Banipal.