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review 2020-04-28 15:29
Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali - D.T. Naine

Third re-read for the World Lit I course I am teaching.

Sundiata might have been the basis for the Lion King (or Hamlet, though there are plenty of reasons why I give source material credit for that story to the Danes and such - but there is a possibility). Unlike the European stories which focus on the son far more than the mother, the Mali epic does a large attempt of backstory for Solgon, who is not one of those wonderous beautiful creatures.

The story is a good quick read, and this version keeps the oral tone of the tale. If you haven't read this, you really should. If everyone in the world knows about Beowulf, they should also know about this.

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review 2016-09-04 14:41
Book Bingo - Scary Women Author Square
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing

2016 Book Club Read for Sept.

It took me three tries to make it though this book. Three times. This third time, I don't know what it was but after about 50 pages, I just didn't want to put the book down. This is slightly strange because the people are largely unlikable.

The novel has a frame story, and then presents the notebooks of the central character, Anna. The notebooks are a chronicle, perhaps, of her life (both fictional and real) and her mind. They are her attempt to break writer's block or a lack of desire to write. They are the Yellow Wallpaper in many ways.

In some ways, the book is about the modern Yellow Wallpaper because while Anna and her friend Molly are "free women" they aren't really free. Men and society who makes the women think they need men still control their lives in such a way. (For instance, there really isn't much difference between Tommy and his father).

The novel itself seems to be about confronting or coming to terms with fear - be it of madness, life, or the lack of life. Perhaps that is way it is engrossing.

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review 2016-09-03 13:49
Read by Flashlight
The Mummy Awakens (Kindle Single) (A Vintage Short) - Naguib Mahfouz

What happens when you sell out Egypt to the French?

 

You don't want to know.

 

Mahfouz is one of those writers who proves that literature transcends genre.  This short story not only makes use of the mummy motif, but also of cultural pride, humanity, and colonialism.  And it's only 28 pages.  Creepily told.  And actually scary.

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review 2015-12-12 15:56
Egyptian Austen?
Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories - Alifa Rifaat,أليفة رفعت

 

 

                This is a collection of short stories, that are by and large short, set in Egypt (mostly Cairo), and told from the viewpoint of women.  To say that Rifaat is a feminist, at least in the board Western use of the term wouldn’t quite be right.  The stories are not advocating women moving out of the household, but more

 

                Quite frankly Rifaat reminds me of Jane Austen.   Not in the sense of writing manners and marriage, but in the sense of writing about the quiet things, in the sense of being able to do so much with a simple turn or phrase of a sentence.

 

                A large portion of the stories focus on marriage or coming to terms with what a marriage is, in particular, how a woman is forced to adapt to a marriage where her wants (sexual and emotional) are not the primary focus.  There are also a few stories about how society forces women to act a certain way.

 

                Still, Egyptian Austen, at least in terms of the wonderful writing.

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review 2015-04-02 21:02
Arabian Nights and Days - Naguib Mahfouz,Denys Johnson-Davies

                The thing about 1001 Nights is the ending, where Sherzhade gets to keep her head.  Would you really like to be married to a man who kept beheading wives on the first day of the honeymoon?

                Mahfouz seems to be playing with this idea and some others in this quasi sequel to Arabian Nights.  In part, he explores why a sultan can do something and an everyman cannot.  He deals with the question of faith and how stories and telling change our view of that.

                This novel is more like a series of inter-connected short stories where characters and character types from the Nights play out.  The stories are more locally focused and a little less adventuress than some of the tales in the Nights, but it is a deep and quiet book.

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