Middle East/North African Lit discussion

An Unnecessary Woman
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2017 challenge > An Unnecessary Woman-no spoilers

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message 1: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments Rabih Alameddine (Arabic: ربيع علم الدين‎‎) (born 1959) is a Lebanese-American painter and writer. He was born in Amman, Jordan to Lebanese Druze[1] parents (Alameddine himself is an atheist).[2] He grew up in Kuwait and Lebanon, which he left at age 17 to live first in England and then in California. A lover of mathematics, he earned a degree in engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and a Master of Business in San Francisco. He began his career as an engineer, then moved to writing and painting. The author of four novels and a collection of short stories, Alameddine was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002. He lives in San Francisco and Beirut. (source-Wikipedia)


message 2: by Sue (last edited Sep 14, 2017 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments As this thread is labelled, please avoid spoilers here, though this is by no means a plot-heavy book.

I am currently reading this book for the second time and will be returning from time to time to comment, ask and answer questions. I'm looking forward to this discussion. This is a book that has setting, time, much character, and books. And Aaliya of course.


Diane Barnes After reading this the first time, I became FB friends with Rabih Alameddine. He is very funny and certainly not afraid to make his views known. I have not read any of his other books, but would like to get to The Hakawati before too much longer. It will be interesting to hear others thoughts on this novel.


message 4: by Carol (last edited Sep 14, 2017 01:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol (CarolBrani) | 146 comments It will take a couple of weeks to finish other books, but I am very much looking forward to the read and the discussion.

@diane, that is ... wow!


Kate | 195 comments I read this when it was first published and loved it. The main character is someone I'd like to know in real life, a seemingly interesting 'person'. I've also friended Rabih on FB and have read two of his other books, The Hakawati and his most recent, Angels of History. Even though I liked all of them (and learned about the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco in his latest), this book is by far my favorite, simply because of my affection for the character, Aaliya. Her passion for translating (something I wish I could do), her memories, and her kind of bumbling real-ness made me smile and laugh out loud.

I have pulled my copy from the bookshelf and its full of post it notes. I will try to review them but am leaving for a trip next week and dealing with all that it entails. I can read your comments but might not have any (intelligent) input.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 92 comments I've read the The Hakawati and thought it was very good. But I preferred An Unnecessary Woman by leaps and bounds. I, too, loved Aaliya. She was amazing in so many ways. As I said in the spoiler thread, she is currently my favorite fictional character.


message 7: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments I feel the same way about Aaliya and I'm looking forward to reading the book again. As always, join in as you are able. I'm going to have to friend the author on FB too.


message 8: by Kate (last edited Sep 14, 2017 09:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate | 195 comments So, it seems like a lot of us like her. Why is that?

I'm wondering if it's something that we have in common as the readers.


message 9: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments Kate, that's an excellent question. As I began re-reading, I found that I still liked her a year and a half later. I don't remember all of the specifics of the story, but I do remember her resilience. In spite of everything, she continues. Her life, her city, whatever, may be falling apart, but she continues and stays herself.


Diane Barnes I liked her because books mean so much to her. They are a lifeline, and while my circumstances are much different and I actually do enjoy socializing with friends and family, books are such an escape for me. The love of classical music resonates with me too.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 92 comments Diane wrote: "I liked her because books mean so much to her. They are a lifeline, and while my circumstances are much different and I actually do enjoy socializing with friends and family, books are such an esca..."

I feel the same way. I, too, liked her because she liked books. But I also loved the way she dropped lines from poems and referred to characters from novels as if they were real people--as if she were carrying on a conversation with them. In some ways, the fictional characters were more real to her than the actual people around her.


Margitte | 44 comments It's so magic to meet a reader in real life. There's an immediate soul connection, almost a secret, happening. It's just different kind of friendships, right?


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 92 comments Margitte wrote: "It's so magic to meet a reader in real life. There's an immediate soul connection, almost a secret, happening. It's just different kind of friendships, right?"

That's a nice way of putting it.


Diane Barnes We readers are special people, and recognize a soulmate immediately.


message 15: by Lila (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lila (Jalilah) | 509 comments I am looking forward to reading An Unnecessary Woman! I will be starting in a few days. I've already read The Hakawati and adored it!
I understand there will be a lot of literary references in this one and am a little concerned that I won't appreciate it as much if I have not read the books that are referred to or the literary lines.
What are some of the books mentioned?


message 16: by Carol (last edited Sep 15, 2017 05:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol (CarolBrani) | 146 comments Lila wrote: "I am looking forward to reading An Unnecessary Woman! I will be starting in a few days. I've already read The Hakawati and adored it!
I understand there will be a lot of literary references in th..."


Lila, there are 3 lists on GR of all the referenced books. This is a link to the first of the 3.

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/8...


Diane Barnes Lila, that won't make any difference. The bigger problem is that your "to-read" list will get much longer.


message 18: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments I totally agree with you Diane. Some of the books mentioned I have read but some I knew little about. It's more the love of reading and the written word that's important here. And I may well check the GR lists with this reading...for future enjoyment.


Margitte | 44 comments Thanks for the list, Carol. When I was reading the book I considered making a list, but never got to it. Kudos to the person who did it! With GR's 65 million members, something as thoughtful as this list CAN happen indeed. Just wonderful!


Carol (CarolBrani) | 146 comments Margitte wrote: "Thanks for the list, Carol. When I was reading the book I considered making a list, but never got to it. Kudos to the person who did it! With GR's 65 million members, something as thoughtful as thi..."

I thought it was so cool when I found it, and I haven't even yet read this book!


message 21: by Margitte (last edited Sep 15, 2017 08:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Margitte | 44 comments This book just enriches the soul. There are so many times that I converse with characters in books, in my mind, of course. lolol.
Unnecessary Woman, to me, was a fictional journey through the work of many authors in novel form. I enjoyed reading the non-fictional book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster for the same reason. Informative while highly enjoyable. However, the author of Unnecessary Woman threw in a storyline in such poetic prose, it had me really put down the book constantly to ponder a sentence, a paragraph, a thought. It was just magic. I hope you will enjoy the book, Carol.


message 22: by Sue (last edited Sep 15, 2017 11:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments On my second reading, I'm hoping to get an idea of how this book hooked me so well, what about Aaliya captured me.


message 23: by Lila (last edited Sep 17, 2017 07:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lila (Jalilah) | 509 comments Carol wrote: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/8...""

Three lists! Oh wow. I have only read about 6 of the books on it, although I've read some different books by the authors mentioned and have heard about some of the others.

Up to now it does not seem to matter. I just started and am loving it!


Carol (CarolBrani) | 146 comments Lila wrote: "Carol wrote: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/8...""

Three lists! Oh wow. I have on,y read about 6 of the books on it, although I've read some different books by th..."


Yeah, I don't torture myself with all the Western classics I haven't read, Lila. You know plenty. I'm sure we will get along just fine.


message 25: by Margitte (last edited Sep 17, 2017 03:53AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Margitte | 44 comments I found another list of referred books on Reddit and compared it with the list Carol provided.

The authors without book titles come from the Reddit list. Perhaps we can figure out which books it was :-)

So for what it's worth, here it is:

(Alberto Caeiro)
(Alvaro de Campos)
(Bernardo Soares)
Alain Robbe- Grillet
Albert Camus - The Fall
Alberto Moravia - The Conformist
Aleksandar Hemon - **Homer* Iliad
Alexandre Dumas
Alfred, Lord Tennyson - The Charge of the Light Brigade/ In Memoriam / Mariana / Tithonis
Alice Munro
Alice Walker - The Color Purple
al-Mutanabbi
André Gide - Corydon
Anne Enright
Annie Proulx - The Shipping News
Anton Chekov
Antonio Muñoz Molina - Sepharad
Baruch Spinoza – Ethique (Ethics)
Bilge Karasu
Blaise Pascal
Bruno Schulz - Cinnamon Shops / The Street Of Crocodiles / Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass ( not sure which one or all of them?)
C.P Cavafy
Carl Jung
Cees Nooteboom
Cesar Pavese
Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities
Claudio Magris – Danube / Microcosms
Clifford Ashley - Ashley Book of Knots
Colm Tóibín
Constance Garnett
Czeslaw Milosz
Danilo Kis - Encyclopedia of the Dead
David Hume
David Malouf - Ransom
Djuna Barnes - Nightwood
Durs Grünbein - Cosmopolite
Edna O’Brien
Edward Albee – Who’s Afraid Of Virgina Woolf?
Élisée Reclus
Emil Cioran - A Short History of Decay
Erica Jong - Fear of Flying
Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls / Hills Like White Elephants / A Moveable Feast
Eudora Welty - Death of a Traveling Salesman
Fernando Pessoa – The Keeper of Sheep
Fernando Pessoa, Richard Zenith (Translator) - The Book of Disquiet
Franz Kafka - Dearest Father: Stories and Other Writings
Frederich Nietzsche
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Brothers Karamazov / Crime and Punishment
Gabriel Garcia-Marquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georges Bataille -
Simone de Beauvoir
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa - The Leopard
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
Gustave Flaubert - Madame de Bovary
Haruki Murakami
Helen Garner
Henry Miller
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Snow-Flakes
Ian McEwan - If you want to kill yourself
Immanuel Kant - The Science of Right
Imru’ al-Qais
Imre Kertész – Kaddish for an Unborn Child
Ingrid d’Aulaire - Columbus
Ismael Kadare
Isocrates
Italo Calvino - Invisible Cities
Italo Suevo
J.M. Coetzee - Waiting for the Barbarians
James Allen Scott – Fear of Flying ??
James Baldwin - Giovanni’s Room
James Christiansen – Fear Of Flying ??
James Joyce - Dubliners
James McCourt
Jan Potocki
Jane Carruth – Alice In Wonderland
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice / Persuasion
Javier Marias - A Heart So White / Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me
Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear / Dance and Dream / Poison, Shadow, and Farewell (Your face tomorrow, #1-3)
Jean Améry
Jean-Paul Sartre
John Donne - The Ecstasy / Elegy XIII
John Fowles - The French Lieutenant’s Woman
John Keats - Ode on a Grecian Urn
Imre Kertész – Fateless / Kaddish for an Unborn Child
John Locke
John Milton - Paradise Lost / Paradise Regained
Jorge Luis Borges
José Saramago - The Year of the Death Ricardo Reis
Joseph Brodsky - I Sit by the Window
Joseph Conrad
Jospeh Roth -
Julio Cortázar
Junot Díaz
Knut Hamsun - Hunger
Lana Turner – Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth
Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina / The Kingdom of God is Within You
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Madame du Deffand (author or title?)
Marcel Proust - A l’ombre des jeunes filles(In the Shadow Of Young Girsl) / Du côté de chez Swann
Marguerite Duras
Marguerite Yourcenar - Memoirs of Hadrian
Marquis de Sade
Martin Heidigger
Maurice Blanchot
Maxim Gorky
Michael Ondaatje - The English Patient
Michel Foucalt
Milan Kundera
Mu’allaqat
Muriel Spark - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Nadine Gordimer
Nikolai Gogol
Nuruddin Farah
Omer Engelbert – The Lives Of Saints
Ota Pavel - How I Came to Know Fish (Smrt krásných srnců?)
Ovid - Metamorphoses
Patrick White
Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias / Prometheus Unbound
Péter Nádas - A Book of Memories
Philip Larkin - High Windows
Phillip Roth - Flight Without End/ Goodbye, Columbus
Pierre Corneille - Le Cid
Primo Levi
Quran
Rainer Maria Rilke - Duinio Elegies / The Sonnets to Orpheus
René Descartes
Ricardo Reis
Richard Flanagan - Gould’s Book of Fish
Roberto Bolaño – 2666 / The Savage Detectives
Sadegh Hedayat
Salman Rushdie - Midnight’s Children
Samuel Beckett – Murphy / Waiting for Godot
Samuel Johnson – The Vanity Of Human Wishes
Samuel Taylor Coleridge - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Saul Bellow - Herzog
Schopenauer - The World as Will and Representation
Shakespeare – Hamlet / King Lear / Macbeth / Richard II / Romeo & Juliet / Sonnet 65
Sławomir Mrożek
Soren Kierkegarrd
Stendhal - The Charterhouse of Parma
Sylvia Plath
T.S. Eliot - The Waste Land
Tadeusz Borowski - This Way for Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
The Bible
Thomas Bernard – Old Masters: A Comedy
Thomas Mann - The Magic Mountain
V.S. Naipaul - A House for Mr Biswas
Victor Hugo - Les Miserables
Virgil
Virginia Woolf - Ms. Dalloway / A Room of One’s Own / The Waves
Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita
W.G. Sebald – Austerlitz / The Emigrants
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
William S. Burroughs
William Styron - Sophie’s Choice

Tobacco Shop author?


message 26: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments Wow that is quite a list! I believe I have read about 20 of these authors though not necessarily the specific book mentioned. And the ones I have read are often due to my reading with GR.


Diane Barnes I read some of these before my first reading, and have read a few more since then. I'll never get to them all. One of the things I am enjoying about the re-read is that I save it for my bedtime reading, and after a few pages it's very restful to go to sleep with Aaliyah's voice in my head.


Margitte | 44 comments I have started the reread as well. Quite insightful and just as good as the first read.


Margitte | 44 comments Carol wrote: "https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/8......"

Carol, you have awakened the sleuthing monster in me. Instead of reading only the book, I am reading up everything on Google from beginning to end. I will let you all know when I reached the last website ever listed in the world! :-))))))


Carol (CarolBrani) | 146 comments Margitte wrote: "Carol wrote: "https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/8......"

Carol, you have awakened the sleuthing monster in me. Instead of reading only the book, I am reading up ever..."


We'll be here waiting for you, Margitte! Don't get lost.


message 31: by Margitte (last edited Sep 20, 2017 05:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Margitte | 44 comments While reading up on some of the authors mentioned in the novel, I read this article on Helen Garner.
https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2....

It reflected perfectly how Aayila felt at the age of 73, and brings understanding to her situation.

Madame du Deffand was a great discovery for me - one of those almost famous women from a time period when women were seen but not heard. So, although I am probably wasting a lot of time by finding all these people mentioned in the book, the enjoyment of the book deepened considerably. I understood Aaliya's humor and loneliness so much better too.

By the time I am finished with the sleuthing, I will restart reading the book :-)) Looking forward.


Diane Barnes Oh, Margitte, that's the best thing I've read in ages! I have to read Helen Garner now. Your research is enriching us all.


message 33: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments Margitte, what a fantastic article. When I'm on my PC I'll send it to some friends. I have found that the addition of a cane to my life has altered how I'm treated in subtle ways too, ways that I seem to be noticing more a couple of years after the fact. Yes it gets me a seat on public transportation but something else is going on too. But I recognize the need to be the me I've always been which is what I think the author means. Margitte you are a treasure. Aaliya could have used you as a friend in her loneliness.


Elizabeth (Alaska) No title for Alice Munro above. I don't recall Aaliya mentioning a specific title for her, so that is appropriate. I have read several by her and was especially glad to see her in the book. She isn't obviously thought-provoking as maybe some of the others, but she is definitely worth a read (and maybe more than one!).


message 35: by Lila (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lila (Jalilah) | 509 comments Diane wrote: "After reading this the first time, I became FB friends with Rabih Alameddine. He is very funny and certainly not afraid to make his views known. I have not read any of his other books, but would li..."

I loved The Hakawati! It's very different. In An Unnecessary Woman Aaliya is the star.
The Hakawati has many characters and a Thousand and One Nights structure with many stories within stories.


message 36: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments I do want to read The Hakawati. Somewhere in my apartment I actually have a copy. Maybe this winter will be the time.


Diane Barnes I stopped at page 100 last night, and this is the quote that stood out for me. "When I read a book, I try my best, not always successfully, to let the wall crumble just a bit, the barricade that separates me from the book. I try to be involved. I am Raskolnikov. I am K. I am Humbert and Lolita. I am you."


message 38: by Margitte (last edited Sep 22, 2017 08:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Margitte | 44 comments Wasn't that a great quote? ! Her descriptions of her city was so beautiful. I think this book could have survived strongly on the author's own prose (without the many references to literary figures. He is such an outstanding author in his own right.) But of course, all the quotes and references defined Aaliya's personality. I will read this author again.


message 39: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments Margitte, I agree. I am noticing the prose even more on this second read. The descriptions are so wonderfully done, the metaphors original and so apt.


Diane Barnes On the food subject: the part I was reading last night had Fadia leaving a lamb and okra stew at her door. Aaliyah had it for supper with a glass of wine. She appreciated the aroma and the taste and thought to herself, "This is art". So she loves good food, just doesn't make it for herself. I am also noticing this time around that we are getting to know the three witches a little better all through the book.


message 41: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 592 comments Yes, I was reading how Aaliya was able to listen to all the witches' conversations because of the set up of the two apartments. Then she interposes her comments on their activities, their clothing, their makeup, etc.


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