“Once a man is rich, his wife becomes ugly, and his house small”
One Libyan lady commented after we
discussed some of these stories
Are there more Libyan Short story writers than Readers?
On International Woman’s day- we reflected on some portrayals of woman characters in Libyan fiction. They give rich insight into many currents of society. As the writer Ahmed Ibrahim Fagih says- the Short story is a tool of social protest- a vehicle for expressing outrage and frustration, which dissects society like a skillful surgeon.
The collection –Translating Libya-In search of the Libyan Short Story by Ethan Chorin gives valuable insights into the culture and history of Libya.
HOTEL VIENNA (By Wabhi Bouri- regarded as “The Father of the Libyan short story”)
The character of Christina- the daughter of Count Yaruski , a Polish aviator trapped in Benghazi when the Soviets invaded Poland and the Allies took over direction of the Polish army, runs the hotel Vienna. The patrons seemed to enjoy the magic of her eyes and her scintillating conversation, far more than they did the drinks they nursed before them. A Libyan local named Nouri developed an obsession for Christina.
The inner conflicts of Christina, her loss of her country, privileged existence, lack of a respectable stable life, seemed to be find resolution in the possibility of marriage to Nouri.
“ So what ?, she thought to herself , so what if it was in Benghazi?”
We will not spoil the ending of this story by telling its full summary. We urge the readers to read the full story in the collection.
The conflict, and the way it is resolved in the story, brings out an important feature of the cosmopolitan nature of Libya’s main cities- Tripoli and Benghazi where you can find many foreign workers from distant lands staying and working for many years.
The relation between locals and foreigners in a love-relation is addressed in this story.
DOOR TO DOOR (By Maryam Salama)
Set in Ghadames, this love story between a Libyan staff nurse Fatima, and an Ukrainian doctor Valery Tshenko .
“Their ears chose not to focus on the unlikely prospect of love between Ukrainian and Ghadamsiiya. How many times had Fatima scolded Valery for suggesting that there were significant differences? Thrown together, weren’t they proof that love is bountiful, that love is a torrential river before which everything falls?”
As with the previous story, we will not tell the ending of the story, and urge interested persons to read it for themselves.
The writer very skillfully brings about social nuances. The writer-Ahmed Ibrahim Fagih –tells that the short story is like a surgical procedure which skillfully extracts aspects of society. Fagih explains also that the short story is a suitable form of protest, a vehicle for expressing outrage and frustration, far superior to the novel, for the latter demands prolonged labour and loses the immediacy of the author’s passion.
This brings us to the third story-this one set in Tripoli.
TRIPOLI STORY (By Lamia El-Makki)
Set in Tripoli, this story beautifully brings out the points which what the writer Ahmed Fagih can be described as a “ Social Surgery”. Following the aspirations and internal dialogues of a family whose main bread-winner has left his salaried government job and gone into business.
The circumstances of Khalifa’s wife Aisha change
“Today he is taking his family to shop at Al-Jraba street and Gargaresh. At his side, his wife Aisha is lost in anticipation. She is imagining herself shopping for clothes and household goods in places frequented by the middle and upper class, people who one would expect would buy their holiday sweets from the trendiest spots in Tripoli. No longer would she bother tiring herself out, preparing holiday treats at home with her mother-in-law and her daughters.”
This story too ends with a very skillful and beautiful twist which is a great social commentary. In a few pages, the writer has brought out a very important aspect of Libyan society, especially after the sanctions were lifted in 2004.
(as in the case of the other stories, will not tell the ending, as we want the readers to discover for themselves…hopefully, this will encourage a Reading culture.)
READING GROUP DISCUSSION POINTS
- In which time periods, places are the three stories set- (this can be deduced just by the short passages reproduced in the blog)
- Read the three stories and see how the three characters evolve, and write how different social forces shape them
Note- The book by Ethan Chorin is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the Libya and Middle East-North African region of today.
One of the strongest points in the book is Chorin’s commentaries and notes which give great perspective and add to our understanding of the social contexts.
In subsequent blogs we will discuss some of these points of discussion in our Reading group. One point which came out strongly among local readers, in the discussion is that All Libyans are not Arabs. Persons from Amazigh communities spoke of the heterogeneity of Libya, their legacy and traditions in the discussions of the stories.
Pleace click on link below for Kindle edition which can be easily downloaded on any of the mobile phones you use for endless chats on viber-whatapp- We encourage the readers to read these..as in one place the writer Chorin tells of how one Libyan short story writer says- “there are more Libyan short story writers than readers”…please let us reverse this trend.