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The Oblivion Seekers

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  385 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Stories and journal notes by an extraordinary young woman--adventurer and traveler, Arabic scholar, Sufi mystic and adept of the Djillala cult.

"Not long before her death Isabelle Eberhardt wrote: "No one ever lived more from day to day or was more dependent upon chance. It is the inescapable chain of events that has brought me to this point, rather than I who have caused t
Paperback, 88 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by City Lights Books (first published October 1st 1975)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  385 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Tolgonay Dinçer
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yazarın yaşamı tam bir başkaldırı. Erkek kılığına girip Afrika çöllerinde dolaşmış, takma ad alarak Cezayir'e yerleşmiş. Çölde araştırma ve keşif gezilerine katılmış. Bu kitap yazarın tek öykü kitabı, öykülerin çoğu kendi vatanı olmayan Afrika'da geçiyor ve insanların o dönemdeki yaşamlarını tüm gerçekliğiyle, oranın yerlisiymişçesine aktarıyor. Tek eleştirim dini öğelerin gereksiz yerlerde öykülere dahil olmasıydı.

Kitabın sonunda yazar kendini doğru bir şekilde anlatmak için yazdığı bir mektup
Jan 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Combined review of both In the Shadow of Islam and The Oblivion Seekers.

In the Shadow of Islam & The Oblivion Seekers are both collections of writing by another lady travel writer that I have encountered - Isabelle Eberhard.

Never heard of her? I had not either, but a quick look at her biography ensures that I will look at a more in-depth biography about her.

"ISABELLE EBERHARDT (1877–1904) was born in Geneva, the illegitimate daughter of a former Russian Orthodox priest and a part-Russian, p
Inderjit Sanghera
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
‘The Oblivion Seekers’ is a series of vignettes by Isabelle Eberhardt, a triply obscure novelist, whose poetic style and eye for local colour and detail and ability to capture the acrid yet hypnagogic world of North Africa and the myriad of customs, beliefs and idiosyncrasies of Arab-Berber Islam deserves wider recognition.

A myriad of colours shimmers through the images described by Eberhardt, lightness and darkness coalesce and separate and sometimes merge into one beneath a mirage of imagery;
Jeff Jackson
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wonderful collection of mostly short stories, filled out with a few sketches, diary entries, and a letter. Eberhardt's writing throughout is threaded with a subtle-but-radiant strain of lyricism. Paul Bowles' translation here is exceptional and these stories with their often cruel desert settings and stoic sensibility bear more than a passing resemblance to his own work - while predating it by half a century.
4.5 stars
The back of my copy of the book said "One of the strangest human documents that a woman has given to the world" -- Cecily Mackworth.

Maybe at the time it was. But it seems to me more like one of the strangest women who has ever given any documents to the world.

Here she is dressed in her typical moslem man attire (she dressed up as a man all her life). She was born in Switzerland, raised by a Russian nihilist father, and lived most of her life in Algeria and South Africa and occasionally France. A
Nate D
Mar 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Stories of life in the margins of society by a Swiss-Russian Muslim journalist who spent most of her life (altogether too short, she died during a flood at just 27 in 1904) traveling North Africa, whenever the French government, suspicious of her allegiances, wasn't barring her from the colonies. It may be that Eberhardt's own story is even more compelling than her writings, but they are all born up by clear, quietly lyrical prose and her perpetual rejection of the patriarchal bonds of colonial ...more
Elif  Yıldız
Suç, özellikle yoksul ve ezilen kitleler arasında, sıklıkla son bir özgürlük yeltenişidir.

Isabelle Eberhardt’ın çok garip bir yaşam öyküsü var. Zaten beni de yazdığı kitaptan çok hayat hikayesi cezbetti ve o sebeple merak edip Unutuşu Arayanları okudum.

Yaşamın sıra dışı oluşuna ağlaması onun bayağılığının, cahilliğinin bir işareti değil miydi?

Unutuşu Arayanlar, yazarın tek öykü kitabı. İçerisinde on bir öykü ve yazmış olduğu bir mektup var. Kitabın içerisindeki bütün öyküler en temelinde özgür
May 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I WISH I COULD GIVE THIS BOOK MORE STARS THAN FIVE! One of the most bizarre people living and writing EXACTLY where and how she wanted to WRITE! I have nothing but TOTAL admiration for Eberhardt and her work. Yet ANOTHER life cut entirely too short! To think that this genius writer wrote these remarkable stories, then was killed in a flash flood in the desert at age 28 is almost too painful to think about.

Hats off to the ever remarkable Paul Bowels for his translations, a writer who knew genius
Jonathan Norton
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Short selection of fiction and non-fiction by the intriguing figure of Eberhardt (1877-1904), daughter of a Russian anarchist who lived in Switzerland, who travelled to Algeria and converted to sufism. The focus of the writing is on life at the borders, in the interior regions of the fringes of French rule, and in the borders of respectable society, where vagrants and prostitutes wander. There is some anti-imperialist detail about the iniquities of French imperialism, under which the expropriate ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing. Tranced into oneness with the universe. Poetic. Impressionistic. Other worldly. Paul Bowles has offered a superb translation of these evocative stories, stories that take the reader to a different time with nomads and kif smokers and French colonialists in Morocco and Algeria. (Reading this collection was like hearing Jimmy Hendrix for the first time--a real rush.)
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Incandescent writing.
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
ne hoş bir kadın...
“Above the gorges, scarcely moving their wings, hung the eagles, like golden nails affixed to the incandescent sky.”

This is a strange little collection: short stories, letters, and sketches that come together to feel something like a memoir. I’ve had it on my shelves for many years, but finally decided to read it because of a reference to Isabelle Eberhardt in Patti Smith’s Woolgatherers. A part of me is glad I waited this long, because it turned out to be a really interesting experience in lig
Joseph Schreiber
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A curious collection of tales by a most fascinating, unconventional woman who captured a view of North Africa at the turn of the twentieth century from a perspective that most European women would never have dared to take. For my full review, see:
Jamie Arthur
Yazarın hayatı ilgimi çektiği için başladım. Hikayeler hafif ve kolay okunuyor. Kitap incecik zaten. Ama Eberhardt'ın yazar olarak pek başarılı olduğunu söyleyemeyeceğim. Öykülerin bazılarında gerçekten sıkıldım.
Quinn Slobodian
Oct 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Raised by a Russian Nihilist in Switzerland, Eberhardt escaped to French Algeria in 1897 at age twenty and converted to Islam there with her mother. She traveled as a man but fell in love with and married a man too, joined a Sufi brotherhood, was gored by a would-be assassin's saber, both worked with and fought violently against the French colonizing powers, and died in a flash flood which also carried away her life's writings. The Oblivion Seekers is a translation by Paul Bowles of the fragment ...more
Carol Smith
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
This tiny tome is a teaser, a tasting menu of tidbits by and about the remarkable Isabelle Eberhardt. She was the original rebel girl, adopting the dress of an Algerian man in the late 19th century, wandering freely about the desert on horseback, and causing Algerian officials all kinds of headaches.

You'll find a brief summary of Isabelle's life - one that will make you want to read more about her. You'll find a modest collection of her stories, vignettes really, that are full of obvious autobio
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exquisite, delicate stories of Northern Africa from a forgotten time and a unique perspective.
Dec 20, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting read. The stories have a common thread of "escaping," as the title might suggest. Some are stronger than others, and a few feel...well, incomplete, which is probably understandable given the circumstances of their publication. A vagrant rejects death in a hospital, a prostitute falls in love with a customer only to face rejection, a would-be bride rejects her suitor; there's this theme of refusal here, and very few happy endings.

One story came across as pretty antisemitic and feat
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How a movie hasn't been made of Eberhardt's life is beyond me. But in addition to leading a life like an adult version of Tin Tin, she wrote in beautiful prose. "The Oblivion Seekers" is a small introduction to Eberhardt's works, as selected by Paul Bowles, who also wrote the fascinating introduction on Eberhardt's life: it reads like a treatment for a Spielberg film. There are apparently about *800* pages of Eberhardt's works currently in print, covered over two volumes, so at less than 10% of ...more
Sara Gray
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a collection of beautiful, gem-like short stories set in North Africa in the early 1900s. Even in translation, I was struck by the beauty of the language here.
Duncan Holmes
Bought at Oxfam. A curiosity...
The writing wasn't what clinched the 3 stars for me - it's the novelty of it, the topic, the approach and the author herself who pushed the boundaries of happiness - the idea that for many comes out of complacency rather than its pursuit.

I found her ideas on colonialism so early absolutely fascinating - and so early, in the first decade of the XX century; but I disliked most of her approach to women. In any case, I think she should be celebrated and publicised more often.

May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
She remembered, as one recalls a particularly beautiful dream, a time passed on open slopes flooded with golden sunlight. She had been there, below the great mountains split by gorges that opened them here and there to the blue warmth of the horizon.


Isabelle Eberhardt has made me strangely homesick for a place I've dreamt of since I was young but have never seen, and probably never will: Tassili n'Ajjer, the plateau of the rivers. Once you've lived in the desert, I suspect, some part
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
..."The vagrant and his love went out and walked along the road, where there was no one. They went hand in hand, smiling in the night.
They did not speak, because they understood each other better in silence.
Slowly they climbed the slopes of the Sahel, as the late-arriving moon came up out of the eucalyptus forests of the Mitidja.
They sat down on a rock.
The nocturnal countryside was bathed in a bluish light, and silver feathers trembled on the damp branches.
For a long time the vagrant stared
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one is a quick read, 11 brief stories, a few pages from one of Eberhardt's diaries, and a letter to the editor of a paper sent to correct misinformation printed about her. The stories are all set in her adopted home of Algeria, and they're informative and insightful, but in all honesty, I found the most interesting part of this book was the preface which gives a fairly brief but fascinating description of her incredible life. Born in Switzerland to a Russian Orthodox mother and Russian Musl ...more
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Languid short stories that will slow your reading, in order to appreciate the rich narrative of love, loss, pain, and ecstasy...
carl  theaker
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fancy-fiction

None of the stories in Isabelle Eberhardt's
'The Oblivion Seekers' could be more inspiring
than her biography contained in the Preface. Her
actions and adventures would be incredible for
anyone today so it is almost beyond imagination
that such a woman lived at the turn of the
century. I do not believe one has to dress like
the opposite sex and contract malaria to become a
great writer. I see Eberhardt's actions as a
determination of reaching a goal. Hers was
achieving and defining escape and freedom.
Alex V.
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short collection of even shorter vignettes from Algeria, published/translated in 1975 but written sometime around the 1890s, has an brave but cautious air about. Not surprising, since its author Isabelle Eberhardt, according to the City Lights website, "spent her childhood dressed as a boy and her short adulthood living a journalist's life in Africa, full of luck and illness, passion and melancholy."

Eberhardt was likely a better journalist than writer of fiction. I'd really give it 3 and a
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: pascal
These fragments reveal Isabelle Eberhardt's unique perspective and style. I think it is clear they are character studies or sketches, rather than fully-formed pieces, but deciphering intention is one of the most problematic aspects of posthumous publication. Regardless of Eberhardt's original plan for these pieces, they're worth reading to get a sense of her craft. Eberhardt's writing feels propelled forward by keen, mesmerizing descriptions - something as ordinary as the sky or dessert is eleva ...more
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Isabelle Eberhardt was a Swiss-Algerian explorer and writer who lived and travelled extensively in North Africa. For the time she was an extremely liberated individual who rejected conventional European morality in favour of her own path and that of Islam. Dressed as a man, calling herself Si Mahmoud Essadi, Eberhardt travelled in Arab society, with a freedom she could not otherwise have experienc ...more
“Crime, particularly among the poor and downtrodden, is often a last gesture of liberty.” 7 likes
“But the vagrant owns the whole vast earth that ends only at the nonexistent horizon, and his empire is an intangible one, for his domination and enjoyment of it are things of the spirit.” 5 likes
More quotes…