A Certain Woman

A Certain Woman

Hala El Badry
Translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 226
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7hwf
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  • Book Info
    A Certain Woman
    Book Description:

    In this prize-winning novel, Nahid is a woman determined to go on a journey of self discovery and understanding. As we accompany her in her sometimes delirious, sometimes lucid journey, we are given rare glimpses of the inner thoughts and feelings of a woman confronting questions of love and intimacy within and outside of marriage. It is a story of one woman’s quest for liberation, not from a repressive society or a male-dominated world—that is easy and has been done many times before—but from self-imposed taboos that inhibit a woman’s ability to find fulfillment and to confront the many imponderables surrounding sexuality, desire, and love. Stuck—by conscious choice to keep up the genteel appearances of her middle-class family—in a loveless marriage to Mustafa, the forty-something Nahid finds love and sex with novelist and journalist Omar—himself trapped in a loveless, but not sexless, marriage to Maggie. Although their love story is at the very heart of the novel, we are given broad glimpses of the larger picture of the world outside through Nahid’s work as an archaeologist and Omar’s as a journalist. The novel was well received by women readers, critics, and reviewers and by a majority of the male audience, while a vociferous minority of male critics felt scandalized by it, finding it unseemly that such issues should be raised by a woman. Now English readers can judge for themselves.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-159-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Translator’s Note
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. 0
    (pp. 1-6)

    She turned off the headlights of her car and sneaked through the gate of the garden into the house now bathed in a quiet semidarkness. A strong fragrance wafted from the white lilies she had picked in the early morning and put in the crystal vases in different rooms. The flowers shed smooth yellow pollen that looked like a light powder throughout the ground floor of the villa, creating a pervasive presence akin to lavender. Most of the sunflowers had drooped, except those that were close to the pale light escaping from the yellow chandeliers casting variegated shadows through the...

  4. 1
    (pp. 7-48)

    I watched him take the cigar out of its cellophane wrapper and calmly put it in his mouth in silence, and as he lit it, he gave himself totally to it, puffing it with a smoothness that reminded me of the sun setting in October, then exhaling as if saying goodbye to a close friend. His sharp eyes were alert the whole time, yet if one watched closely, one would observe that he was totally absorbed in the moment at hand, in a single thought that was in sole control of his mind. It was as if his eyes were...

  5. 2
    (pp. 49-106)

    Alone on the beach in Manshiya, she looks into the distance. There, where her eyes cannot see across the Mediterranean, her heart flies to Greece, the land of her ancestors. At the same time, she cannot quite turn her back on her beloved Alexandria where she’d grown up; she is torn between her immediate surroundings, the only ones she’s ever known, and a longing for her roots. Maria never doubted that the sea would bring her the knight of her destiny, crossing the Mediterranean like a migrating quail to accompany her on her way to another life in a different...

  6. 3
    (pp. 107-134)

    She will not be able to persist in this separation from her husband. She is weak toward him, and he has rights, and she knows that quite well. If he acquiesced to her wish, it is because he is letting pass what he knows to be a short-lived tiff that happens often between husbands and wives. He will consider it a temporary quarrel and will keep trying until he succeeds. Their long history together proves his ability to win her over. As for her fantasies about resolving the matter for good because of her hospitalization, it is just one of...

  7. 4
    (pp. 135-168)

    Nahid’s relationship with Mustafa was, for me, a big question mark. Things on the surface suggested a woman settled down in her marriage, content, anxious to drop the names of her husband and children in conversations with others, as if she were carrying them with her wherever she went. But on the other hand, she doesn’t talk about the nature of the relationship, just a few suggestive references and it is up to the others to figure out the significance of these references. She was getting very close to me, and very fast, without saying a word until she found...

  8. 5
    (pp. 169-204)

    Nahid said, “I want you as you are, the whole truth, no matter what the price.”

    Omar replied, “The truth is painful. You might imagine that knowledge is more important than pain, but you are not ready for that.”

    “I don’t accept that others share something with you without me. I don’t want to deal with a picture in my imagination, but with reality, which I love without falsehood.”

    “Listen then: there is another woman in my life. I don’t love her, she is nothing to me.”

    “Since when?”

    “Three months. She invited me to dinner at her house. I...

  9. 6
    (pp. 205-216)

    “If she is cheating on me, can I forgive her?” Mustafa wondered as he seethed with anger, his emotions taking him hither and yon—he wanted to stay alone in the house while his daughter stood at the door ready to go out with him, stylishly attired and preened. He looked at her for a long time. She is the young Nahid that he once loved, with her bubbling gaiety and her urgent requests that compel others to comply at once. He asked her to wait until he got ready and pondered how to answer the agonizing question, “I usually...

  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-217)