"This novel has some of the elements of a spy thriller: covert operations, mistaken identities, secrets, and betrayal. Yet it is tale of a young woman coming of age in early 20th-century Egypt. The arranged marriage of 16-year-old Zanouba to a cotton wholesaler named Ali Khalil crumbles on her wedding night. After being repaid her dowry and a three-month allowance and getting a divorce, she is able to marry again. Still a virgin, she marries gentle, pious Abdel Meguid, then joins in the harem. Mashalla, another wife who is afraid of losing her rank, especially if Zanouba bears a son, plans a vicious attack but is thwarted. In this mesmerizing story, written in simple, unpretentious prose, readers can almost taste the succulent fruits of the garden, feel the softness of the golden silk robes, and hear the cries of the professional mourners. . . . Highly recommended."—Library Journal
Out el Kouloub (1892-1968) is an author whose voice is just becoming heard in the United States. A member of the Muslim aristocracy in Egypt, she wrote unforgettable novels, mostly about Egyptian women of varying social classes and about family life in a traditional society. Like most members of the aristocracy, she wrote in French.
In Zanouba, the reader is treated to vivid scenes of Egyptian middle-class life, starting in the 1900s. Abundant in traditional poems, songs, sayings, and rituals, the story of Zanouba enhances our understanding of certain deeply seated aspects of Egyptian life: the practices—including elaborate rituals—involved in guaranteeing the birth of a son; the jealousy and anger of the barren wife. Out el Kouloub’s lush documentation bridges past and present while telling a tale that is both believable and touching.
Out el Kouloub (1899-1968), an Egyptian author, fled Cairo in the early 1960s after Nasser came to power. She was the author of five books, including Ramza.
Nayra Atiya is the author of Khul-Khaal, which won the 1990 UNICEF prize for the best book on women, children, and development. She is translator of Ramza, also published by Syracuse University Press.
5.5 x 8.5, 234 pages