She yearned for tropical climes, cruel suns, purple horizons..

This here is a literary post! Relating to my life in the Middle East! Holy f! This is rapidly evolving into some strange diasporic lifestyle blog..I even have a fashion post planned for the near future. How strange!

Anyway, now that I'm done talking about how rad my own blog is..

I am in a class at AUC called Modern Arabic Literature in Translation. The term "modern" is used somewhat loosely, and because I am one of only a handful of Americans in the class who is not enrolled in some type of Middle East history class concurrently with this one and is able to tie the historical landscape in with the period of the work, I have had a hard time relating to or enjoying most of the novels we've read.

A few weeks ago, though, changed that. In an uncommon bout of studious fever, I locked myself in my room and read over 200 pages for this class [way ahead of time, too!]. Once I got past the second page I couldn't tear my eyes away. I rushed through the novel, compulsively turning page after page, anxious to see the resolution. The second-to-last chapter was so powerful it actually caused my stomach to turn and a wave of nausea to come over me. I feel that any book well-written to the point of eliciting a physical response like that is a life-changing work. I can only describe it as an Arab interpretation of "Ethan Frome". Somehow, despite being translated from the original Arabic, it retains this very light, whimsical languistic feel and the way in which things are phrased is strikingly beautiful, which stands in stark contrast to the darkness of the work as a whole. The book is "Seasons of Migration to the North"; the translation by Denys Johnson-Davies is fantastic. Freaking read it.

I've included some of the more striking language from the book, because it is so beautifully worded it is begging to be read.

"..that just like us they are born and die, and in the journey from the cradle to the grave they dream dreams some of which come true and some of which are frustrated; that they fear the unknown, search for love and seek contentment in wife and child; that some are strong and some are weak; that some have been given more than they deserve by life, while others have been deprived by it.."

"There are many horizons that must be visited, fruit that must be plucked, books read, and white pages in the scrolls of life to be inscribed with vivid sentences in a bold hand."

"I feel that I am important, that I am continuous and integral. No, I am not a stone thrown into the water but seed sown in a field."

"The whole of the journey I savoured that feeling of being nowhere, alone, before and behind me either eternity or nothingness."

"I am the desert of thirst."

"Such a woman...knows no fear; they accept life with gaeity and curiousity. And I am a thirsty desert, a wilderness of southern desires."

"And I, like millions of mankind, walk and move, generally by force of habit, in a long caravan that ascends and descends, encamps, and then proceeds on its way. Life in this caravan is not altogether bad...The going may be hard day by day, the wildnerness sweeping out before us like shoreless seas; we pour with sweat, our throats are parched with thirst, and we reach the frontier beyond which we think we cannot go."

"The spectres of night dissolve with the dawn, the fever of day is cooled by the night breeze."

"But mysterious things in my soul and in my blood impel me towards faraway parts that loom up before me and cannot be ignored."

"I experience a sense of richness as though I am a note in the heartbeats of the very universe."

As a tangent, I've prepared a list of other books I consider "Life-Changing"*; mainly because I'm pretentious and think you'll rush out and read the books** I recommend. Humor me.

-The Island of Dr. Moreau
Ok, I'll just come right out and say it: I love HG Wells. Y3niyy, love love love him. He makes such fantastic social commentatries. The Island of Dr Moreau was terrifying and riveting and poignant..and just plain awesome. I also identified on some level with a man who lived through terrible things, wishing he was babck home in the civilized world where it was safe and predictable, and then finally getting back after so much stuggle and realizing he no longer belonged there because he had changed too much to go back. I fully understand experiencing something so outside your realm of understanding and wanting so badly to go back to things that are comfortable and safe, and getting there and realizing it had stayed the same and you had changed too much to go back to that stagnant life. I get chills just thinking about how well written it is. I could read it over and over again and find some new metaphor or symbolism every time.

-Into the Wild
This book is touching, and painfully tragic, but also inspiring. Chris McCandless wanted to live life on his own terms no matter what the cost, and that's what he did. So few people have the balls to really take their lives into their own hands and do what they want with it, to hell with those who don't understand. I was afraid when I recognized myself in the ill-fated main character-- he descended into the Alaskan wilderness to live his ultimate adventure, and I want to walk into the forests of Cambodia, build a teepee, and live naturally for an indefinite period. With every amazing adventure comes great risk, and this story is proof of it. But it is a beautiful adventure story, and the fact that it all really happened is sobering and humbling. I haven't seen the movie, but I doubt it could do Jon Krakauer's beautiful writing justice.

-The Time Machine
Once again, I love love love HG Wells' social commentaries. This one is a little more blatant than that of The Island of Dr Moreau- it paints a dark picture of the future of civilization, given the propensity we as humans have for dividing classes and lording over one another. It is terrifyingly poignant, and I have forced it upon some of my nearest and dearest [sorry, Kenny!].

-Lord of the Flies
I read Lord of the Flies the summer before sophomore year, and have remembered it nearly word for word [especially the last few pages] ever since. Yet another social commentary on the futility of war, the ending is sad and beautiful all at the same time. I don't want to give it away for those of you who haven't read it..but the realization of the children at the end is the realization I feel we as people will have one day standing before some greater power than ourselves- silly, embarrassing, afraid, remorseful for the things we have done which seemed so important at the time but end up having been in vain.

-Tales of a Female Nomad
This is the book that validated all my desires to break free of the social norm and gallavant around the world, seeing and doing things on my own terms. It is really inspiring; a woman who took her divorce with grace and dignity and used it as a catalyst to change her life, travelling the world, coming and going as she pleased, doing incredible things and meeting amazing people along the way. I made my mom read it in the hopes that it would help her better understand my obsessive wanderlust. It really was life-changing for me, and helped me form a better idea of what I want out of life, to understand that a life lived on anyone else's terms is a life wasted.

-Animal Farm
Like Lord of the Flies, I read this book in the 9th grade and the message behind it still resonates with me today: those who are oppressed or colonized will eventually revolt, but not without taking on some of the characteristics of their oppressors in order to beat them, sparking a vicious cycle which inevitably leads to destruction. While the message is more overt than in some of the other books I've listed with social commentaries, it is every bit as thought-provoking and insightful, and still relevant even though times have changed since it was written in 1945.

*I also consider "Ethan Frome" one of these, but seeing as I've already mentioned it, I didn't want to be redundant and include it in the list. You're welcome.
**Yeah, ok, some of them are short stories or novellas. Whatever.

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