“Daughter, I’m not crying now because I’m fed up or regret that the Lord created me a woman. No, it’s not that. It’s just that I’m sad about my life and my youth that have come and gone without my knowing how to live them really and truly as a woman.”
– Alifa Rifatt, View From a Minaret
This was a great short story collection by Alifa Rifatt, part of the amazing Heinemann African Writer’s Series http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Writers_Series#List_of_authors_and_books_in_the_African_Writers_Series. Set in Egypt with a 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. The stories explored themes like sexuality, loveless marriages, death, childhood
As a woman I of course I couldn’t help but feel empathy with the women in these stories. Being trapped in loveless marriages, having to put up with being 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 nobody to confide with.
The theme of Islam permeates the book and the faith is seen 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:
“Soon the call to dawn prayers will float like clouds of sands across the sleeping city. I shall hear it from three different mosques that surround our building.”
The stories are on the whole extremely short and are unrelated, but in total you can get a strong picture of a male-dominated society, especially as it relates to women and young girls.