Once upon a time, a king was taking a stroll in his garden when a locust flew into the wide sleeve of his robe. A bird, in hot pursuit, flew in after it. The kind sewed up the sleeve, sat on his throne and asked his people, ‘What is up my sleeve?’
No one knew the answer. But it so happened that a man named Bird, who was desperately in love with a woman called Locust, was standing in the crowd. He came forward, only the face of his beloved in his mind, and proclaimed to his king. ‘Wails and tales. My life story is one long revelation. Only the locust can capture the bird.’
As I was leafing through the books in the neighbourhood library, I came across this book with the above epigraph. As it caught my curiosity, I decided to borrow “The Locust and the Bird: My mother’s story” by Hanan al-Shaykh – a Lebanese woman’s story of forced early marriage, extra-marital affair with the love of her life, subsequent divorce, second marriage with her love and a life of rebellion.
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- A compelling life story in which the author brilliantly captures all the facets of Kamila – the innocent child, the merry prankster, the cunning devil, the revenging wife, the guilt-ridden mother, the hopeless homemaker, the rebelling beauty.
- A window to the life and culture of the Lebanese, especially in Beirut in mid 20th century.
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- The work is scattered with poems and songs. But the beauty of these are lost in translation. I could not really connect with them.
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- I have the same question that Kamila has. At eleven years, Kamila is engaged to her half-sister’s husband, a widower 18 years elder to her. Her mother asks her to say “You are hereby my witness” to agree to get engaged. Unaware of its meaning and consequences, she does so. On attaining puberty, she is forcefully married to him and delivers her first child at 15 years. The society that did not have the courage to defend this child, finds it scandalous that she has an illicit affair with Muhammad, whom she was in love with, at the time of her marriage. The society points fingers at her when she gets divorced and marries Muhammad. None of the laws of the society are able to protect this child. Why?
One of the gems of Arabic literature. Makes me want to read more of Arabic literature.