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Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  389 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
"More convincingly than any other woman writing in Arabic today, Alifa Rifaat lifts the vil on what it means to be a women living within a traditional Muslim society." So states the translator's foreword to this collection of the Egyptian author's best short stories. Rifaat (1930-1996) did not go to university, spoke only Arabic, and seldom traveled abroad. This virtual im ...more
Paperback, 116 pages
Published July 20th 1987 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published 1983)
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Apr 26, 2015 Jibran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jibran by: women-in-translation month '16
At first sight the brevity of the stories betrays lack of depth, but it did not take long to correct the initial impression as I read through three or four of the total fifteen stories in the collection. The ebb and flow of the mostly first-person narratives are distilled skillfully into a succession of independent portraits which give an illusion of a miniature painting in writing. It'd be fair to say thatt Alifa Rifaat has captured the essence of contemporary women lives in the Egyptian heartl ...more
Jan 03, 2014 Rowena rated it really liked it
Shelves: african-lit
“Daughter, I’m not crying now because I’m fed up or regret that the Lord created me a woman. No, it’s not that. It’s just that I’m sad about my life and my youth that have come and gone without my knowing how to live them really and truly as a woman.”
- Alifa Rifatt, View From a Minaret

This was a great short story collection by Alifa Rifatt, part of the amazing Heinemann African Writer’s Series ( Set in Egypt with a strongly feminist theme, a lot of the s
Like many wonderful short story writers, Rifaat works with a light touch, keeping herself modestly out of her work to let her characters emerge fully into view as believably autonomous. She tells brief tales from a wide range of perspectives: unmonied, wealthy, elderly, young, woman, man, struggling, comfortable. But perhaps most protagonists are middle aged women.

Superficially the stories are simple, but they gave me a glance of deep, ineffable complexities of desire and motivation. Women hide

মিশরের লেখিকা আলিফা রিফাতের জীবন সমপরকে খুব বেশি কিছু জানা যায় না.. ১৯৩০-এ জনম, নবীন ছোটগলপকার হিসেবে পঞচাশের দশকে কায়রোর সাহিতযাঙগনে বেশ সুনাম অরজন করেছিলেন। পরিবার যাতে বিবরত না হয়, তাই ছদমনামে লিখতেন (আসল নাম ছিল ফাতিমা রিফাত)। উচচপদসথ এক পুলিশ অফিসারের সাথে বিয়ে হয়ে যাবার পর সবামীর অনুরোধে বা আদেশে গলপ ছাপা বনধ করে দেন। তবে আফটার অল লেখক যেহেতু, কলম থামিয়ে রাখতে পারেননি, লুকিয়ে লুকিয়ে নিজের মত করে ঠিকই লেখা চালিয়ে গিয়েছিলেন। সবামীর ছিল বদলির চাকরি, তাই রাজধানী থেকে বহুদূরে নীলনদের কোল-ঘেঁষা
Maryam AL-Ghafri
May 30, 2015 Maryam AL-Ghafri rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
This work is especially relevant when applied to feminism in Arab countries,
and particularly when it comes to feminist writers in Egypt, an Arab country
which had seen a major feminist movement emerge in the latter part of the
nineteenth century and acquire true recognition in the past fifty years or so.

i read Another evening at the club and two other stories. the author tries to illustrate the world of feminism
in Arab world.

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 s
Grady McCallie
Mar 14, 2015 Grady McCallie rated it really liked it
A number of reviews take care to point out that these short stories are not feminist, which is true enough; they are closely-observed pictures of (mostly) women's lives in Egypt. Some of the settings are urban, some rural; all the main characters are subject to the constraints placed on women in this society. The women are oppressed, but the focus is on how they come to terms with and find meaning in their lives, not on whether the structure of society is right or wrong. If you come to these sto ...more
Jerome Kuseh
Jun 24, 2014 Jerome Kuseh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african
Alifa Rifaat takes you into the world of the 1980's Egyptian woman with excellence. This collection of short stories, told mostly through the point of view of old (and sometimes lonely)Egyptian women is a timeless example of the similarity in the experience of women across cultures.

For a society such as hers, it is surprising how Alifa describes acts such as lesbianism and zoophilia in positive (at least, non-condemning) tones.

This is my first experience with North African writing, and it has wh
Jan 11, 2013 Zeek rated it really liked it
A peek in the window of womens' lives from a culture I must admit not understanding. Still their stories, are many womens'...

This is a thin book of clear, honest(the book begins with a woman bored and embittered by her the middle of intercourse), concise, relateable- but mostly sad- short short stories written by an arab woman untainted by western influence, (according to the back cover). Important book imo.

Jen Appell
Mar 06, 2013 Jen Appell rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this collection of short stories. It was feminist in a geomodernist sense; the Egyptian women within the stories believe in feminism of their own sort, not Western modernism. The mix of stories show the diversity among the women and their beliefs. It's fantastic and definitely made me second guess my judgments of women in other cultures.
Oct 21, 2011 Tinea rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tinea by: Alex
Shelves: place, high-lit
Aching. Egyptian women, whole lives or just moments, in two, five pages.
Varsin mielenkiintoinen novellikokoelma, joka laittoi miettimään omia ennakkoluulojani, koska en olisi uskonut musliminaisen näin vahvasti ja avoimesti kuvaavan naisen seksuaalisuutta ja naisen asemaa parisuhteessa yleensäkin. Toisena vahvana teemana novelleissa kuolema.Kuten novellikokelmien lukemisessa yleensäkin käy, joistain pidin, osa jäi etäisiksi.
Victoria Carter
Jan 10, 2017 Victoria Carter rated it liked it
I'd say this is a 3.5 review. I mostly enjoyed the women characters' views on life, love, and death. Each story was a different journey yet they were all similar somehow. My favorite short story was definitely "My World of the Unknown." It was unpredictable and captivating.
Apr 28, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it
I usually consume my text quickly, devouring the content and then moving thoughtlessly on to a new story. I found myself unable to do this with Alifa Rifaat's collection of vignettes and short stories. Rifaat pulled me into a world that was both foreign and all too familiar. There existed a need to sit and consider where the edges of these seemingly antithetical worlds met and the soft and untenable borders of their separation. How was it that Rifaat had found parts of me and my internal dialogu ...more
Suzanne Bhagan
Apr 27, 2014 Suzanne Bhagan rated it liked it
“Daughter, I’m not crying now because I’m fed up or regret that the Lord created me a woman. No, it’s not that. It’s just that I’m sad about my life and my youth that have come and gone without my knowing how to live them really and truly as a woman.”

This quote perfectly sums up the main theme which courses through Alifa Rifaat’s mesmerising short story collection. I only discovered this book, thanks to my local library. It nestled unobtrusively among bestsellers yet the title caught my eye.

Nov 13, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
Depressing and enlightening, making me pause and reflect, annoying, inspiring me to action...Alifa Rifaat manages to do all this in her little book of short stories.

Whilst I wasn't in love with this book as I read it, I kept reading on and on, and I felt intruded upon whenever something or someone interrupted me as I read it.

Simply written, it sucks you into the scene so that you are one with the character, living their life.

These two sentences encapsulate what the book portrays the Arab woman's
Jan 21, 2016 Kit rated it liked it
I would never refuse to pick up any book in the African Writers Series from a secondhand bookshop. It is just a non-negotiable. Unless I've already read it, I would just clean it up. But I did not expect to pick up a book written by an Egyptian woman who talks explicitly talks about societal taboos considering her background as a Muslim. It is absolutely courageous writing. It is a sort of writing that would enforce and gain the respect of other women, but arguably it is more of value to be read ...more
Aug 18, 2015 Matthew rated it liked it
Distant View of a Minaret presents short stories from a point of view you rarely get in fiction (or anywhere else for that matter) that of Egyptian women. Much is said rather patronizingly in the West of the way women are treated in the Arab world, but rarely do we listen to what they have to say about it themselves. Though this is a lot of pressure to put on an unassuming collection of stories, Rifaat's stories feature women who are impressive in their humanity, power, and sexuality. It approac ...more
Feb 10, 2010 Kokeshi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: egypt
One of the best books, or short collections, that I have ever read. The first story hit me like a hammer to the head. Considering I was reading a translation I cannot even begin to imagine what these stories were like in original Arabic text - they must be astonishing. Rifaat holds no punches and tells stories that make you feel sad, delighted, and horrified all in one go.

I would recommend this story collection to anyone even remotely interested in women living in an essentially male-dominated
Jul 28, 2008 Vicki rated it liked it
Much to my surprise, this book starts out in bed with a couple, and the woman has given up trying to figure out how to get her husband to please her in bed. She ruminates about this throughout most of the act, and then gets out of bed to go shower and make tea. Returning to the bedroom to bring her husband tea, she realizes he's died and calls to her son to get the doctor. It's oddly dispassionate and not at all what I expected to read in a Middle Eastern Muslim woman author's work. So it clearl ...more
Dec 18, 2007 Tereneh rated it it was amazing
The interesting element of this book is this idea: "Okay men, if this is your world, your rules, cool. As a woman I will follow them if you hold up your end of the bargain." The stories for the most part show men are not living up to the bargain, so that becomes the issue. In many ways it is how we all live in different societies or within different organizations: family, work, relationships, etc. What do we give away and what do we receive in its place? For the women in these stories their expe ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Nicolette rated it it was amazing
Heartbreakingly honest about the inner person, sexuality, death, family dynamics and daily living of traditional Muslim women. It's hard to comprehend that the author does not have any formal literary training and in fact lived a very cloistered life.

Some might find her boundaries of sex and sexuality off-putting because of her obviously religious background but in my opinion, I find her discussion of these subjects very refreshing and still relatable to all women whether they're religious or no
Julie Akeman
Sep 28, 2016 Julie Akeman rated it it was amazing
Wow! Reminds me of the sadness I read in Nectar In a Seive of which I can't remember the author but she was from India, short but really good, beautiful and sad. This one here gives a good view of women of Islam, it's honest and told from a person who lives in it. This is better to read than an outsider's view looking in. There is a lot of themes of sex and death, and the personal struggles women have within marriage which I think any woman reading this would understand. I highly reccomend this.
Aug 10, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
This is a book of short stories about Egyptian women in the courses of their everyday lives. Mostly, the stories made me sad because the lives of these women are so restricted by tradition and culture. The book jacket calls the stories "melancholy", which captures the tone of most of them for me. Reading this book gave me some insight into the lives of Arab women. I liked the straight-forward, sensitive style of the author.
Jul 05, 2007 Lexish rated it really liked it
I read this quite a while ago in college, but am still fascinated by the way in which the author gives the reader the impression that one is looking into the characters' window just for brief moments of their everyday lives. The stories are primarily about women in Egypt; it's as though the author has chosen from these women's lives *just* those few minutes of otherwise ordinary days in which an unusual sparkle or fleeting moment of darkness occurs. Highly recommended.
Distant View of a Minaret is a lyrical collection of short stories. They reflect common life themes: love, death, jealousy, passion and exhaustion. Rifaat differs from other authors in her ability to pull you into the story. You can hear the animals and streets of Cairo, smell the jasmine and death, and most importantly feel the blood, frustration and tears of the characters.
Radu Popa
Sep 03, 2014 Radu Popa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dropbox, middle-east
Beautiful. theshort stories feel like poetry, the author manages to introduce you in a new world in a matter of a couple of pages. She deals a lot with the suffering and pain women have to endure at the hand of a patriarchical society, but does so with much candour and warmth. Definetely worth reading again!
Mar 19, 2016 Kookie rated it liked it
Very short, interesting stories about the inner conflict of being a feminist in a Muslim society. The women in these stories find small ways to rebel and to find passion and satisfaction despite living under the dictates of a society that tells them not to.

Unfortunately only two of the stories have proper endings. The others are left open ended and rather unsatisfying.
Nina Chachu
Short stories by the Egyptian writer Alifa Rifaat. Most of the main characters are women, who have not been influenced by western values. Several stories also involve death - either of the story's main characters or those they are close to.
Nermeen H
Sep 17, 2015 Nermeen H rated it really liked it
I'm really glad I didn't let the ridiculously orientalist tone of the blurb and translator's foreword dissuade me from reading this very interesting collection of short stories. Now I really want to read the stories in the original Arabic.
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Fatimah Rifaat (Arabic: أليفة رفعت; June 5, 1930-January 1996), better known by her pen name Alifa Rifaat, was an Egyptian author whose controversial short stories are renowned for their depictions of the dynamics of female sexuality, relationships, and loss in rural Egyptian culture. While taking on such controversial subjects Fatimah Rifaat’s protagonists remained religiously faithful and passiv ...more
More about Alifa Rifaat...

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