Monday, June 20, 2005

Nedjma: The Almond

Pic courtesy: Words without Borders

The New York Times today ran a story titled, A Muslim Woman, a Story of Sex, which talks about an erotic novel being penned under a pseudonym by a Muslim author living in a tradional Arab society in Morocco.

From the NYT:

Written in the first person, "The Almond" follows Badra as she grows up in a Moroccan village and gradually discovers her femininity. Yet, while she dreams of true love, she is forced to marry a much older man, suffering - and hating - in silence as he tries roughly to make her pregnant. Finally, she runs away to her Aunt Selma in nearby Tangiers, and it is there that she meets Driss, a wealthy, European-educated doctor who teaches her the mysteries of love and sex.

While their relationship changes Badra's life, however, it is far from perfect. Driss refuses to marry her and, because they are unmarried, their affair remains hidden from the world. And while Driss satisfies her sexually and she loves him passionately, he is not faithful to her. Gradually Badra steps back and goes her own way, meeting up with him again a decade later under very different circumstances.

Nedjma (the pseudonym used by the author) estimated that about 40 percent of "The Almond," her first book, is autobiographical, but she considered the rest also to be true to life. "It is a testimony written by the feminine tribe," she said. "It is based on the experience of aunts, neighbors, cousins, all women. I felt a moral duty to say: this is what women go through."

Spiegel reports that Nedjma (meaning star in Arabic) refused to use her own name because she fears being stoned in Morocco where she says that talking about sex is taboo. Please read what Moorish Girl had to say in response that!

Nedjma told the NYT that Driss (the male protagonist of her novel "Almond") remains trapped by the customs of Arab men. "He loved this woman (Badra) but he did not know how to appreciate this love outside the traditional framework of society. He was liberated sexually, but not socially."

And in her own relationship, she was asked, was she more liberated than her lover?

She hesitated before answering.

"Yes; there you are, I've said it," she finally replied. "The malaise of the Arab world is that people don't know how to love. They watch romantic soap operas on television out of frustration. They dream about love, they listen to songs, they are sentimental, but they are not tender. They appreciate beautiful love poems, but they don't have the courage of the heart."