The Story of Zahra
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The Story of Zahra

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3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  508 ratings  ·  61 reviews
With more than 21,000 copies in print ofWomen Of Sand And Myrrh, and more than15,000 copies of The Story OfZahra, Hanan al-Shaykh is the best known and mostadmired woman writer of the Arab world. The paperbackpublication of Zahra will bringthis passionate and courageous novel to a muchlarger group of readers. Its haunting story of ayoung Lebanese woman who attempts to stem...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 15th 1996 by Anchor (first published 1980)
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Alshaimaa
رواية متعبة
قصة زهرة فتاة دخلت إلى عالم الكبار دون أن تمر بالمنتصف
عانت في حياتها رضوخ مميت لمن أراد أن يأخذ بزمام حياتها
أحببت قصتها في القسم الأول، وكان أسلوبها نوعاً ما ممتع، وتناولها لأكثر من وجهة نظر كان جيد ولكن في القسم الثاني كان حديثها عن الحرب في لبنان وحياة زهرة في تلك الأيام. شتتني أسلوبها واستطرادها الغريب في الكتابة، وإعادتها للإحداث أكثر من مرة، لم أفهم الغرض من هذه الإعادة!
سؤال:
هل قد تتحول الحرب في لحظة لشيء نعتاده ونمارس تمسيح المرايات وكوي الملابس خلاله؟

اقتباس:
كوننا كالبرتقالة وصر...more
Anasylvia
2.5 stars. This book started off really well. The writing is really great in some places and really sets the tone for this novel. Zahra is a young Lebanese girl who at a young age witnesses her mother's infidelity. Having witnessed that at a young age her impression of relationships and love is skewed. She goes on to have a relationship with a married man and then tries to reinvent herself by going to visit her uncle in Africa. While in Africa she marries her uncles's friend only to have that re...more
Stephen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
طَيْف
بعد الانتهاء من الرواية قلت في نفسي: لن أدع كآبتها تأسرني

فحنان الشيخ جمعت في الرواية شخصيات مهترئة ومشوهة...ذات صور نمطيّة...إنها كليشهات مكررة...وللأسف تعالج مشكلاتها بالطريقة التي تزيدها بلاء...فلا يكاد بصيص أمل يظهر حتى يأتي سواد معتم فيطغى عليه

ربما كان للبعد الاجتماعي دور كبير في الرواية...فالقصة الرئيسية هي قصة "زهرة" المرأة المضطهدة التي تحتويها بيئة فاسدة تقودها إلى الرذيلة...والإحساس بالظلم يولد لديها ضعفا لا تستطيع معه دفع الأذى عنها...بل تجده حلا في نهاية الرواية للشعور بالحياة والوجود
...more
Diyar
The writing was beautiful in this book. I could sense it was written in Arabic, I recognized the language she used. It did not always fit in Dutch, so I was glad I knew what she meant in Arabic. The way the thoughts of Zahra were written was beautiful.

But.. I had a few issues with this novel. First of all I could not understand Zahra. I understand she had been through a lot, but at times I couldn't understand her motives for doing things. She would just make random decisions out of nowhere. Her...more
Anney


It is the mid-1970’s, and while Lebanon is erupting into civil war, Zahra’s face is erupting with acne. In The Story of Zahra al-Shaykh’s characters do more than make the political become personal- they embody the political.

The story of Zahra chronicles the journey of a young woman during the Lebanese civil war. Her tumultuous childhood and young adulthood involves familial abuse, abortions, travelling to visit an exiled uncle in Africa, a failed marriage, and more. The writing is compelling, v...more
Kate
This novel begins with Zahra as a young girl living with her family in Beirut. Her parents mistreat her, and she runs away to live with her uncle in Africa. When he eventually begins sexually abusing her, she reluctantly agrees to an arranged marriage with some other man, a marriage that ultimately fails. After the divorce, she returns to Beirut, which is now entrenched in civil war. The streets are dangerous for many reasons, but especially because of the sniper who sits on a rooftop on Zahra’s...more
Mariam sa3afeen
رواية مربكة حقا...لم أفهم شخصية زهرة بصراحةبدت عاجزة تماما ,انتظرت طوال الرواية أن تأتي برد فعل بسيط لما حولها, لكنها بقيت في قوقعتها ولدت مع ذلك الخوف الذي جعلها تتقبل قذارة كل من حولها,لم أحب الجزء الذي تحدثت فيه حنان عن الحرب .في الرواية ذلك الجاذب الذي يجعلك تتابع للنهاية هذه المعاناة...وتأتي النهايةالمفجعة!!! لتضعك في دوامة...(كانت غريبة وجميلة في آن)
Harun Harahap
"sebuah karya yang sangat anggun , yang pasti akan mengubah prasangka dangkal tentang perempuan muslim sekarang ini"

itu review dari san fransisco chronicle...

"sebuah karya yang sangat rendahan , yang pasti akan mengubah prasangka baik tentang perempuan muslim sekarang ini"

itu review dari gw..
Tasha
This was painful. I know that it was designed to juxtapose the protagonist's mental state with the state of Lebanon during war, but it was still extremely painful, and I found myself hoping that Zahra would just die to end both of our misery during a good portion of the book.
Christine
Quite depressing book & somewhat confusing too when the author skips back anf forth between time past and present. I liked it enough to finish it, but wow not an uplifting, feel-good book at all.
Hafsa
Jun 05, 2007 Hafsa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in modern Arab literature
A really interesting and complex account of war-torn Lebanon from a female's perspective. Brings up many issues relating to gender and war--definitely one of my favorites.
Intisar Borqan
ليست بمستوى كتابات حنان الشيخ السابقة
لم افهم منها الكثير لكن لم استطع الا ان ابدي تعاطفي مع زهرااء في قرارها الاخير ..
Bayan Abdul-hadi
I had a hard time deciding whether I liked this book or completely loathed it!
Zahra was impossible to understand. Book two was irrelevant, as if written by a completely different writer. At too many points I hated how the author exaggerated almost everything. I hated the repetition, as if the purpose was to brainwash you to think like Zahra, to be Zahra for just a moment, but was unsuccessful. All the same I liked her style of writing. Maybe I'll pick up another book of hers one day, not anytime...more
Jason
While it's not difficult to admire and appreciate how radical this work's frank discussion of female infidelity, marital discontent and general sexuality must have been in the context of the Middle East in the mid-1980s, context alone does it make it any easier to connect to such a nonlinear and abstract work populated exclusively by flat, unrelatable characters. Purportedly, the book is influenced by the author's own life. While some great fiction comes from autobiographical elements, here thes...more
Araz Kojayan
Wow, at last it is over.

I don't know what to think about you Zahra.

First you took me to your childhood in an attempt to understand you, to enter into your mind, not judge you and to feel your heartaches. I was with you every time your mother was with that man. I was with you whenever your brother had to eat the meat and you got the bone.

Why did you go to Africa? Why did they send you to your uncle? But anyway you were alienated from your own home, you were as alienated as they could make you...more
Linda
Wow-disturbing book. Very unexpected topic for an Arabic novel-I suppose that's why it was banned in so many Arab nations.
Zahra is one messed up girl. Set in Beirut, young Zahra witnessed her mother's adultery (she was often brought along on trysts), her father's abusive ways-it's no wonder she is so screwed up. As an adult she carried on an affair with a married man who impregnates her twice, leading to abortions. She escapes to Africa where her uncle may or may not be sexually attracted to her...more
Gisela Claveria
This was the recent pick from my book club and we kinda picked it up at random since we wanted to read something by a female middle eastern writer. It was hard for me to get into this book because I did not like the overall writing style and tone of the book, which I think may have lost alot in translation.

The story starts off with Zahra as a young girl and follows her to adulthood. She is an emotionally disturbed person and though the author touches upon why Zahra is the way she is, I don't fe...more
Maimoona Rahman
I read this for my capstone and was bowled over. Call it good writing or good translation, this one can pull at your heart strings. This book blurs the line between good and bad, and at times its portrayal of Lebanese patriarchy makes it appear gynocentric, but there is no redemption for even women.
Alaooy Al-Azawi
هذه الرواية التي تبعث نوع من الصراع النفسي بين القاريء و شخصية زهرة خاصة في البداية, القاريء بلا شعور يعطي كل الاعذار لتلك الفتاة غريبة الاطوار وفي نفس الوقت ضحية العائلة و المجتمع الذي نعيش فيه .
وصفها للحرب كان وفقا, خاصة و ان كان قاريء قد عاش مثل تلك الظروف و مثل تلك الحرب الاهلية القذرة التي تقضي على معاني الانسانية.
الرواية بحد ذاتها انتقادة لنا و لمجتمعنا و لافكارنا الباتهة و التي ترتبط فقط بأمور لا ترقى بأن تكون جوهر الانسان.
النهاية كانت عصيبة و مفاجأة بكل ما تحملها الكلمة من معنى, و لعل...more
Andrew
Read this as part of my Tour of International Fiction. This was in the Lebanese category. Not a bad story, but I'd have been just as happy with just about any other fiction book out there. I liked the way the author starts off with the story of a broken Lebanese adolescent, then follows with chapters retelling parts of that girl's story with the mens' perspectives. Then the second half wraps up from the girl's point of view. A decent, feminist story from a talented but not spectacular author. No...more
Maren
Mar 17, 2007 Maren added it
I took a chance on this one - got it from my public library's usually sad collection - but it was probably worth it. A quick read, Zahra's story is sad and a little disjointed but just about as intense and introspective as she is. I appreciated the narrative voice, which developed along with Zahra throughout the book and slid between her delusional thoughts and what was actually happening. Not necessarily beautiful fiction, but an interesting exploration of femininity, psychology and sex amidst...more
Molly
This story is dark, particularly as a woman reading it. There is no respite from the violence against women and the emotional devastation it wreaks. Read it with caution and possibly a hot mug of chamomile tea, because you will be left unsettled. The prose is poetic and piercing, whether the first person narrative is from the perspective of a young man involved in a terrible civil war, or a young woman struggling from the sidelines of it.
Layali Al-asmar
Powerfully sad story that takes the reader into deep psychological grounds.
Mary
I mostly found this novel interesting for its use of jinn narrative, as Zahra continuously references her qarina, or jinn double, who brings her close to orgasm. I very much suggest this novel for those interested in jinn narratives, the qarin/qarina, national narratives in times of war, and sexuality & war, which are all the aspects of the novel I focused on while reading.
Nile daughter
هذه رواية مجهدة في قراءتها ، زهرة بطلة الرواية شخصية مريضة و مقهورة ، أعطى الوصف المبدئي لها "زهرة في عالم الرجال" ، امرأة قهرها الرجل ؟ لا أنا لم أقرأها كذلك ، فزهرة ضحية أمها و أبيها معاً ، رجال الرواية انفسهم مقهورين ، و بالجزء الثالث من الرواية على الأخص الحرب قهرت الجميع .
جعلتني الرواية متحفزة ، أريد أن أصب غضبي على أحد ما ، و لكن ليس هناك شخص محدد ، رواية عجيبة ، ربما ألملم أفكاري عنها فيما بعد .
Zora O'Neill
Just reread this, many years after college. Language is a bit stilted and translated-sounding (my beef with almost all Arabic lit in translation), but the story is compelling. Really, it's probably 3.5 stars, but I round up because modern Arabic literature that deals with women's issues and politics without being pedantic is in short supply.
Tomi Pakei
Dunia, di mata Zahra
Tidak pernah mudah untuk menggambarkan sebuah situasi semrawut, tanpa kehilangan koherensi dan substansi keruwetannya itu sendiri. Dengan buku ini Hanan al-Shaykh tidak hanya mampu melakukan itu, tetapi bahkan memaksa kita melihat dunia melalui mata Zahra, perempuan Lebanon yang sejak kecil otaknya sudah mulai kacau.
Hend Mohsen
she is exaggerating in showing the disadvantages of our arabic world.she implies many sexual scenes which may be not necessary for the moving of events just to show how much she is unlike Arab "open_minded".She is only trying to get the admiration of the west culture by showing how absurd our society is
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Hanan Al-Shaykh (Arabic: حنان الشيخ) is a Lebanese journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and playwright.
Al-Shaykh was born into a conservative Shia' Muslim family. She received her primary education in Beirut, and later she attended the American College for Girls in Cairo.
Al-Shaykh began her journalism career in Egypt before returning to Lebanon. She has also lived in Saudi Arabia and is curr...more
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