Alifa Rifaat’s stories are situated within an Islamic framework that allows her to create a feminism of her own. Since Islam and empowerment are often misguidedly placed in contradiction to one another, it’s easy to see why Rifaat is not a household name.
“So instead of giving way to despair, I took the way of active melancholy as long as I had strength for activity, or in other words, I preferred the melancholy that hopes and aspires and searches to the one that despairs, mournful and stagnant.”
“…But every once in a while, I’ll read a book that glorifies problematic relationship behaviors such as manipulation or even stalking. I don’t ever want to write a book that encourages women to seek out unhealthy, or even dangerous, relationships, so I focus on creating relationships that are healthy.”
This may all seem too idealistic to some but nonetheless conveys a crucial message about the role of the artist and what cultural and literary representations can offer in the ongoing debates about the so-called “problem” of Muslims in the Anglophone North Atlantic.
“Happiness,” Woolf writes, “is in the quiet, ordinary things. A table, a chair, a book with a paper-knife stuck between the pages. And the petal falling from the rose, and the light flickering as we sit silent.”
To deal with the sense of ambivalence and confinement, I read. Reflecting back on my refuge in books, yes, I needed comfort and escape, but I was essentially trying to make sense of the turmoil not by watching the news but by reading.
“When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language.”
Last week, I discussed some of my favorite songs that were inspired by literature. Today, in Part II, I continue my foray into the world of music and literature. And at the end, you will find a playlist with over 60 songs inspired by all things literary.
“The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live ten times longer than if you have ten. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever.”