Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories
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Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  231 ratings  ·  29 reviews
More convincingly than any other woman writing in Arabic today, Alifa Rifaat, an Egyptian, lifts the veil on what it means to be a woman living within a traditional Muslim society. Her writing articulates a subtle revolt against, and a sympathetic insight into, the place of women in the essentially male-dominated Islamic environment. Change, development, and understanding...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published July 20th 1987 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published 1983)
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“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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_...). Set in Egypt with a strongly feminist theme, a lot of the s...more
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...more
Jan 18, 2014 Shelley rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Shelley by: Rowena
Shelves: africa, short-stories
Distant View of a Minaret by Alifa Rifaat is a captivating collection of vignettes about everyday life in modern-day Egypt. I was unaware of Rifaat before this collection was reviewed and praised by my Goodreads friend, Rowena.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this somewhat obscure author. From reading the preface to this collection written by her translator, Denys Johnson-Davies, I learned some intriguing facts about Rifaat: she writes only in Arabic, is not college-educated, has traveled...more
Jerome Kuseh
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...more
Suzanne Bhagan
“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.

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...more
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 husband...in 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.

Oct 26, 2011 Tinea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tinea by: Alex
Shelves: place, high-lit
Aching. Egyptian women, whole lives or just moments, in two, five pages.
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
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...more
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...more
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
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
A look at traditional gender norms abroad that challenge Western ideas of feminism. Poetic, intimate, and moving.
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.
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.
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.
Jen Appell
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.
Michele Abrams Lehn
I read this one for a literature class I'm taking. It is actually a compilation of short stories. The writing is excellent, the themes intriguing. A classic of Arabic literature, filled with beautiful and surprising stories as well as breath-taking imagery. A truly lovely book.
Kathy Davie
I very much enjoyed reading this collection of short stories. Written by an Egyptian woman, Rifaat concentrates on the everyday lives of Muslim women in Caierene society. Nice to have this realistic introduction to a Muslim society.
not pretentious at all, the collection is a great collection of various stories, both content-wise and considering points of view.
really recommended to those interested in literature from the Arab world.
Apr 04, 2013 Hagar marked it as to-read
Comment ce bouquin a-t-il atterri dans ma liste de livres lus, je me le demande. Encore plus curieux, les 5 étoiles qui lui ont été attribuées, serait-ce mon subconscient qui me joue des tours ?
Dora Okeyo
Alifa Rafat writes with such clarity you cannot help but be in the characters' lives- feeling their anguish, dreams and desires.

This is a must read for women.
It's a great book, but extremely difficult to read as a female. It shows how trapped and powerless women are among fundamentally religious sector in Egypt.
sara ahmed
an excellent collection of short stories. also, i think it's a great way to know more about middle eastern culture and traditions.
This reminded me more of Chekhov than anything else - a female, Egyptian, devoutly Muslim Chekhov. Really, truly excellent.
I need this on my bookshelf. So different and yet so similar to the world I know.
Jul 28, 2011 Kate added it
meet the arabic dorothy parker...
I want to read this again!
Irad Narukaya
Irad Narukaya marked it as to-read
Sep 20, 2014
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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...
UT, Nr.4, Zeit der Jasminblüte Die zweite Nacht nach tausend Nächten : Erzählungen Erotic Stories Distant View of a Minaret (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)

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