Distant View of a Minaret opens with a husband and wife performing the act of intercourse. The story is told from the. Distant View of a Minaret by Alifa Rifaat, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide. This collection of short stories admits the reader into a hidden private world, regulated by the call of the mosque. The book provides accounts of death, the lives.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want miinaret Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Rifaat did not go to university, spoke only Arabic, and seldom traveled abroad. This virtual im “More convincingly than any minarte woman writing in Arabic today, Alifa Rifaat lifts the vil on what it means to be a women living within a traditional Muslim society.

This virtual immunity from Western influence lends a special authenticity to her direct yet sincere accounts of death, sexual fulfillment, the lives of women in purdah, and the frustrations of everyday life in a male-dominated Islamic environment.

Translated from the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies, the collection admits the reader into a hidden rifazt world, regulated by the call of the mosque, but often full of profound anguish and personal isolation. Badriyya’s alkfa anger at her deceitful husband, for example, or the hauntingly melancholy of “At the Time of the Jasmine,” are treated with a sensitivity to the discipline and order of Islam.

Distant View of a Minaret

Paperbackpages. Published July 20th by Heinemann Educational Books first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Lists with This Book. At first sight the brevity of the stories betrays lack of depth, but it did not take long to correct the initial impression as I read through three or four of the total fifteen stories in the collection. The ebb and flow of the mostly first-person narratives are distilled skillfully into a succession of independent portraits which give an illusion of a miniature painting in writing.

It’d be fair to say thatt Alifa Rifaat has captured the essence of contemporary women lives in the Egyptian heartl At first sight the brevity of the stories betrays lack of depth, but it did not take long to correct the initial impression as I read through three or four minzret the total fifteen stories in the collection.

Minafet be fair to say thatt Alifa Rifaat has captured the essence of contemporary women lives in the Egyptian heartland.

It is impossible to doubt the authenticity of each of her female protagonists as they relate their stories with an economy of emotions not usually seen in other contemporary works cut from the same cloth.

These women are up against injustice – injustice as they perceive it – that limits their happiness, their desires and dreams, and brackets them into a simple life formula that can be best described as birth, marriage and death. But even though they struggle against the injustice of tradition without opting for the self-conscious all-out rebellion, a template that modern readers expect women feminist writers to follow, Alifa Rifaat has still touched on many sensitive taboos that threaten the patriarchal worldview more than if it had been written in the said vein of the much-loved but ineffectual total rebellion.

Sexuality and subversive action are two themes that run most strongly vkew all the stories. In An Incident in the Ghobashi Household a woman zlifa the pregnancy of her unwed daughter by sending her away and enacting an elaborate drama as if she were herself pregnant, to claim the baby as her own when the time comes.

In Me and My Sister a dutiful daughter left to support her family after her father takes a second wife fulfills her dreams of romance in what in hindsight is a dreadful ditant. All stories are alike except one, My World of the Unknown, which is a highly erotic fantastical tale of a woman who falls in love with a djinn that changes form into a beautiful snake.

Alifa Rifaat – Wikipedia

It can be read as a fanciful metaphor for female homosexuality and its eventual fulfillment despite the attempts of the good husband and a well-meaning cleric to stem it, who, in a way, represent two pillars of patriarchal power. But Vistant reckon it was expected. This raises questions about the very definition of feminism and its expression. The underlying assumption is that feminist writers in the developing world should either write in the same language, raise same concerns, and choose similar courses of action as their Western counterparts or they are not ‘feminist enough.


According to him, Lebanese women writers are braver because their feminism is inspired by their Western counterparts visw Alifa Rifaa’s reading has been restricted to Arab writers and her struggle is merely against certain man-made interpretations of Islam. Many leading feminist movements in the developing world do not want agendas dictated to them by their Western peers, and want to prioritise their struggles on issues in consonance with local problems.

As it often happens, foreign interference hinders rather than helps when women are expected to follow prescriptive feminism of the Western world.

It then becomes rifaxt for local progressives to argue for change when they are seen as foreign puppets, and all sorts of questions about colonialism, racism and cultural imperialism come up to frustrate genuine female voices fighting, as Ms Rifaat would put, the injustices of tradition.

In a conference on population and development was held in Cairo where Third World women complained that the agenda had been hijacked by European and American women who were only interested in contraception and abortion; and that when they did tackle “Third World” issues, they sounded tifaat patronising and racist. Even at Beijing inthere were complaints that endless discussions by Westerners of reproductive rights and sexual orientation meant that the urgent concerns of women from less developed nations were ignored.

As it is, Ms Rifaat is not interested in setting down clear answers vie the issues she has raised. Her purpose is to draw realistic portraits and through those compel us to ask hard questions. View all 12 comments. Jan 03, Rowena rated it really liked it Shelves: Set in Egypt with distat strongly feminist theme, a lot of the stories were very moving to me as a woman. Rifatt captured the feeling of being trapped as a woman in society, so strongly that it made me feel a bit claustrophobic. Being trapped in loveless marriages, having to put up with vifw cheated on, having little fulfillment in life; some of the stories were extremely sad and depressing.

The stories show women not in charge of their destiny, women controlled by society, women who are solitary and lonely and had vlew to confide with.

The theme of Islam permeates the book and the faith is mminaret as a comfort to these women, as well as a major part of their everyday lives. I loved reading about the Muslim culture, the calls to prayer, the preparations to prayer, and the cultural aspects of funerals and so on; it was really fascinating: I shall hear it from three different mosques that surround our building. View all 14 comments. Mar 18, Zanna rated it really liked it Shelves: 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: But perhaps most protagonists are middle aged women. Superficially the minaget are simple, but they gave me a glance of deep, ineffable complexities alica desire and motivation. Women hide 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. Women hide distajt passionate longings for sexual fulfilment and wider opportunities; whether minareet are thwarted by selfish, heartless husbands, social conventions or their own inhibitions.

The protagonist in Bahiyya’s Eyes weeps that she was born a girl, blaming the practice of female circumcision and her arranged marriage for her unhappy life. But a young woman who made a love marriage q no better as her man is unfaithful and funds his smoking and drinking on her wages without offering love or help to her.

In another story a man persuades himself not to feel for his father until a sympathetic community gives permission for the ristant of grief at his death. Though this idea isn’t made explicit, it suggests how masculine toughness and stolidity is culturally instilled and maintained. The painful consequences are made clear. My World of the Unknown is perhaps the most idiosyncratic piece. Highly erotic, it’s told from the viewpoint of a woman in a harmonious marriage who moves to an old house in a small town, where she unexpectedly has a passionate affair with a female djinn, who tells her, as does the sheik who comes to exorcise the building, that their contact is sanctioned and watched over by Allah.


When the human woman objects that ‘but it is natural for qlifa to be a man’ the djinn replies ‘perfect beauty is found only in woman’. rifaqt

Prayer and devotion are important to most of Rifaat’s folks. In one of the most touching stories, The Kite, an uneducated, poor widow kisses her hand to give thanks to god, unable to perform her prayers in the prescribed way without guidance.

I can’t recommend this edition, translated by this fellow, Denys Johnson-Davies, because of his grotesquely patronising orientalist introduction, which says things like ‘her reading has been restricted to Arab writers…’ and aliffa while she speaks for women’s rights, ‘Rifaat’s revolt is merely against certain man-made interpretations [of Islam]’, in contrast to ‘the women writers of Beirut’ whose ‘Arab form of women’s lib.

What this entails is left for the reader to assume, given our superior Western understanding and access to the great! Western tradition of describing and interpreting Islam and Muslim societies!!!! He does drop a hint though: So ‘Western women’s lib.

Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories by Alifa Rifaat

I’m not sure, at this point, if this admirer and champion!!! In any case, it totally belies the complexity and richness of Rifaat’s handling of love and sex in her stories. I don’t recognise Johnson-Davies description of her work at all. But perhaps in it was inconceivable to him, as to many Western women’s libbers! Jul 08, Zuberino rated it it was amazing Shelves: Later on, feeling herself sometimes to be on the brink of the experience some of her married women friends talked of in hushed terms, she had found the courage to be explicit about what she wanted.

At such moments it had seemed to her that all she needed was just one more movement and her body and soul would be quenched, that once achieved they would between them know how to repeat the experience. But on each occasion, when breathlessly imploring him to continue, he would — as though purposely to deprive her — quicken his movement and bring the act to an abrupt end.

Sometimes she had tried in vain to maintain the rhythmic movements a little longer, but always he would stop her. The last time she had made such an attempt, so desperate was she at this critical moment, that she had dug her fingernails into his back, compelling him to remain inside her.

He had given a shout as he pushed her away and slipped from her: Do you want to kill me? It was the only time of the day when she was in touch with the outside world: View all 6 comments.

Jun 18, Tamara Agha-Jaffar rated it really liked it Shelves: The stories are short, but what they lose in length they more than make up for in depth and penetrating insight. Rifaat has an uncanny ability to elevate ordinary acts of daily life into the level of ritual.

With few exceptions, the first-person narratives are in the voices of women at different stages in life. Although many of the women recognize the injustice perpetrated against them, they do not rage against a patriarchal system that oppresses, discriminates, and marginalizes them.

Instead, they exercise an agency that manifests itself in a different form. They are practicing Muslims who derive sustenance from their Islamic faith. What is impressive about these stories is the feminist consciousness that emerges.

It is not a Western style feminism. Instead, the women operate within the precepts of their Islamic faith. Her thoughts are peppered with references to God and His mercy. But she does what she can. She remembers to thank God for His generosity by performing a simple and tender gesture of raising her hand to her lips repeatedly to give thanks.