Maryam Keeper of stories by Alawiya Sobh

Maryam keeper of stories by Alawiya Sobh

Lebanese fiction

Original title Maryam Al-Hakaya

Translator – Nirvana Tanoukhi

Source – personal copy

Well, this is a great day for the blog it sees the 800th review and this book seems fitting all the time I have run the blog. I have run shadow juries connected to translation prizes. So for this to be the first in my new shadow EBRD prize jury is a real treat. Alawiya Sobh studied English and Arabic literature at university and has been writing since the early 1980’s and was editor of a leading woman’s magazine. This book won the sultan’s prizes in 2006 four years after it came out, her other novel was also longlisted for the Arabic Booker prize.

Before the war ended, Alawiyya did come sporadically. Somwtimes, she would be gone for days, weeks or months, but in the end she would return to knock on my door. I rarely left the flat. Often, I would only only go to the firm to collect my slary at the end of each month, since regular attendance wan not enforced. Particularly during the early years if the war when the fighting was at its worst, I spent most of my time at home in my room, unless I had arranged to meet Abbas. Ibtisam and Alawiyya, for their part, went to the fronts and disappeared for days. they wandered off like a sheep and grazed in the war meadow only to be brought back to my little stable where they regurgitated their tales.

Maryam talks of her friend and them going to,the front, I loved this image.

Maryam is a Lebanese woman, she is in Beruit.But she is just found out she is going to leave and go to live in Canada away from the war. She is worrying that the stories she has told her friend the writer Alawiya haven’t been used by her. Even thou she promised. So we see Maryam recounting the tales she had told her friend. She worries about why ALwiya hasn’t asked for more of her stories.So we see Maryam struggle as the war raged on but also times before a place that is now lost.Then we also see her parents yes her mother is a bit of a character there is some great interaction between and the father who the mother has just in the place she wants him. Like the tales of her various aunts like the slow one. Then we see the wider picture of the city and the conflict, which for me at the time was bewildering and complexed.

My sister prepared to carry out Mother’s orders and stood guard over the brad for fear of puinishment,But my older brother Ahmad slipped by her, stole some loaves and escaped down the valley to eat them there. My sister ran after him, but he was faster and soon disappeared from her sight. He devoured the loaves in the orchard while, bacj at the house, fear devoured my sister. When Mother returned and heard about my brother’s “big Belly”, she broke into a rage and ran after my sister to thrash her.

The mother was feared and made the daughters hold the line .

This book has an interesting take on Maryam narrating, but a writer called Alawiya in their lives that had promised to tell the story. There is a feeling is this Maryam or is Alawiya being Maryam? It is good to see a female voice on the Lebanon war, I have read a couple of books from the male perspective. It was great to see the bonds between mothers daughters and friends keep their spirits up in the darkest times. A family saga set during a dark time shows how the family pulls us through the darkest times and also the humour we find within families even in the dark days of the war there is still humour here. I wouldn’t have read this without it being on the EBRD literature prize shortlist so I am pleased it was on the list.

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A new prize a new shadow EBRD translation prize

€20k EBRD Literature Prize reveals inaugural shortlist

I have decide that time was right to leave the shadow Man Booker prize after seven years I feel I was ready to step back. I have decide with an Old friend Lisa of ANzlitlovers to do a small shadow jury of us two for the New EBRD prze the prize from the European bank of reconstruction and devolpment is for fiction translated to English from the countries that EBRD work with that is 40 countries and a wide range of lit this has given an interesting shortlist of Six book.I feel for me to support this new prize is the way to go.  As the chair the lovely Rosie Goldsmith said

 Already I can predict this prize is here to stay. It’s different and it’s important. Our entries came from Armenia to Albania, the Baltics to the Balkans and beyond. This prize has broadened my mind and also my definition of the novel. We’ve read a Turkish feminist road novel, a love story from Beirut, a memoir from Morocco, a black comedy from Albania and a rollicking Russian satire – just a few of our entries, from established writers to those who deserve to be: the standard of storytelling and of translation is excellent and our winners will blow you away.”

have reviewed three of the books on the list already. 

The six shortlisted titles are All the World’s a Stage by Boris Akunin (translated by Andrew Bromfield from Russian, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)Belladonna by Daša Drndic (translated by Celia Hawkesworth from Croatian, Maclehose/ Quercus), The Traitor’s Niche by Ismail Kadare (translated by John Hodgson from Albanian, Penguin), The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Ekin Oklap from Turkey, Faber & Faber), Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez (translated by Ümit Hussein from Turkish, Telegram Books), and Maryam: Keeper of Stories by Alawiya Sobh (translated by Nirvana Tanoukhi from Arabic, Seagull Books).

Lisa has also just reviewed The Traitors  Niche  and is reading the Pamuk that is also available on bbc in an abridged version from the reading europe programme

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