In Arabia Jonathan Raban suggested that if the Arabs were to acquire a genuine contemporary literature, it would be written by women ‘because women were the only people living under the kind of strain which produces serious poetry and fiction.’ Arab men, he said, had it too easy. He also predicted that when the lattice harem screens were cast down and that first manuscript was published, Arabia would be considerably shaken by the consequences.
Now, ten years later, an Arab woman author has written a very clever, sophisticated and observant novel. But it is also a bitter and angry one and it gets increasingly bitter and angry as it goes on. With good reason. Soraya Antonius is a Palestinian; her novel was written in Beirut during the camp massacres of the Israeli invasion. The book, which is partly autobiographical, is about the eviction of her, her family and her people from their homes and country, and the gradual shattering of their way of life during the bloody events which led up to the creation of Israel. It is a deeply partisan book, more a passionate cri de coeur than a restrained, balanced historical novel: the Zionist terrorists, for example, are caricatured