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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Daring novel on Saudi womehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.align.full.gifn sparks debate

It's hardly Sex And The City, but by Saudi standards, Banat Al-Riyadh (The Girls of Riyadh) is a bombshell of a novel. The fictional tale of the loves, dreams and disappointments of four young women in the Saudi capital sizzles with anecdotes about homosexuality, drinking champagne, dressing in men's clothes and going out on dates. Published in September, it sold out within a month and is now in its third printing. Not surprisingly, this daring novel by first-time author Rajaa al-Sanie has sparked intense debate in the Arab world.

( Author Rajaa al-Sanie's book tackles the hush-hush issue of Saudi women's love lives. --AP)

The book, which isn't available in English, is told in the form of weekly e-mails from a female narrator to Internet subscribers in Saudi Arabia. It portrays four women whose stories are based on true-life ones that dentist intern al-Sanie says she has heard. Some critics have condemned the book for giving Saudi women a bad reputation. On www.daralnadwa.com, a popular Arabic forum that has generally supported al-Sanie, one chatline participant took the opposite view and said the book should be named Infidel Girls. But surprisingly, the book has also attracted a groundswell of support for the 24-year-old author. Glowing praise comes from Mr Ghazi al-Qusaibi, a renowned Saudi author who is also the kingdom's labour minister. He calls it 'a work that deserves to be read. I expect a lot from this author'. Educator Hussah al-Ghanem agrees.

And while some criticise Ms al-Sanie for not writing in proper Arabic prose in her book, others said she has started a new genre in her use of easy-to-read Arabic language and intertwining the cyber world and chatroom style with Arabic literature. Ms al-Sanie says she wrote the book to highlight issues that society denies. Writing the book came at some cost. Some friends have cut ties with her because 'they don't want to hurt their marriage prospects by associating with a bold friend', she said. Fortunately, her family has rallied around her. Feedback from readers, like a man who got the book from his divorced daughter, also keeps her going. Read More....

Source: The Electric Newspaper (Singapore)

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