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An Unnecessary Woman

Alameddine, Rabih

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
An Unnecessary Woman
"Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family's 'unnecessary appendage.' Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read-- by anyone. After overhearing her neighbors, 'the three witches,' discussing her too-white hair, Aaliya accidentally dyes her hair too blue. In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman's late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya's digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colorful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya's own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left" -- from publisher's web site.

Publisher: New York :, Grove Press,, [2013]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780802122148
Branch Call Number: x
Characteristics: 291 pages ; 22 cm


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Feb 08, 2015
  • pablo rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

An excellent book and a great read. Written by a man from the POV of a woman. It gives a taste of those terrible times in the Middle East and the tragedies unfolding there now.

Sep 12, 2014

I lived in Lebanon for two years 1960-62 and the title "An Unnecessary Woman" resonates with me as I met a few of these women whose lives have haunted me ever since.

The women that I knew were not intellectuals as it seems Aaliya is, she, at least has her books which I understand explicitly. The women whom I knew were "kept" by their brothers or other family members and their lives were unfathomable to me — a young Western woman who felt that she had a whole and interesting life ahead of her — which is somewhat how it has played out.

I am looking forward to reading this book as it seems as if it will fill in the gaps that western newspaper reporters have not been able to do about life in Beirut since the '60s.

Mar 16, 2014

"At 72, Aaliya Sobhi has been alone for most of her life -- divorced and childless, she's considered "unnecessary" by both her family and her Lebanese culture. But she has her books and an almost obsessive desire to translate her favourite novels into Arabic, which she then stores in her apartment, sharing them with no one. Set during a single day, and composed almost entirely of Aaliya's own thoughts, memories, and discourses on literature, this is a book for book lovers. "Dip into it, make a reading list from it, or simply bask in its sharp, smart prose", suggests Booklist." Fiction A to Z March 2014 newsletter


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Jun 19, 2014
  • quagga rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Most of the books published these days consist of a series of whines followed by an epiphany. I call these memoirs and confessional novels happy tragedies.

Jun 19, 2014
  • quagga rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

To write is to know that you are not home. I stopped loving Odysseus as soon as he landed back in Ithaca.

Jun 19, 2014
  • quagga rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

To paraphrase the everparaphraseable Freud, who said something to the effect that when you speak about the past you lie with every breath you take, I will say this:
When you write about the past, you lie with each letter, with every grapheme, including the goddamn comma.
Memory, memoir, autobiography -- lies, lies, all lies.


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