FATMA by Raja Alem


A Novel of Arabia
by with & translated by &
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Dreams, myths, and prophecies figure prominently in this elegant and eerie tale—an unusual collaboration between the Saudi Arabian woman who wrote it in English and the American cinematographer whose revision of her manuscript thus is, and isn’t, literally a “translation.” It’s a story of transformation and empowerment: that of a naïve village girl married to a snake-handler, who is bitten by one of his creatures, and thereafter becomes one of them (“reign[ing] over a kaleidoscopic kingdom of poisons, danger, and surpassing, deathless beauty”). The narrative is minimal, but Alem creates a fascinating symbiosis between woman and serpents, and when Fatma’s horrified husband recoils (as it were) from her, the consequences are both catastrophic and perversely fulfilling. A unique fever dream.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-8156-0738-5
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Syracuse Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2002