Translation: Davide Knecht
One of the first novels to speak openly of gender issues in the Arab world.
"The Bride of Amman" (taken from the original Arabic title: Arous Amman), by Fadi Zaghmout, is the translation of a bestseller in Jordan, the subject of heated controversy, although it was not censored. The original Arabic edition, published in 2012 by Jabal Amman Publishing in Amman, Jordan, continues to rank among Jordan's bestselling novels. An English edition was subsequently published in 2012 by Signal 8 Press (Hong Kong).
In this book, humor and sadness are mixed together in an explosive cocktail which leads the reader to reflect on the condition of women and homosexuals in the Arab world. Four young women and a young man speak out one after the other, their voices alternating to tell the stories of the tragedies they have gone through. These different episodes of their lives are recounted in a direct and vivid way, with numerous dialogues, highlighting the trials to which young people are subjected in a traditional society where sclerotic rules of good behavior and the fear of what people will say are governing romantic relationships. For women, it is compulsory marriage, as fast as possible, a successful engagement counting for much more than any academic success. It is also submission to paternal power, with all the risks of abuse that this entails. And it is, of course, the value of virginity, jealously guarded because it is one of the conditions of the social order as it is conceived and observed in a family that wants to maintain its rank. For men, it is the obligation to behave in a manly manner, with all the hypocrisy that this represents regarding those whose sexual orientation takes them away from the way of life prescribed by society. The result of all this: a lot of suffering, and sometimes exile when family imperatives have been seriously violated, and when the situation seems hopeless, even death.
Homosexuality and the Arabic Novel: The Triumph of Mockery
"... The greatest daring of the book, however, comes from the novel's 'only' male character: Ali. This time, Fadi Zaghmout attacks a taboo in the Arab-Muslim world, that of male homosexuality. In Ali's story, we witness the suffering of a man who has to compose between what his heart tells him, what his body wants, what his family dictates to him, what his religion intends to him ... and what does not want to see the Society. … ”
« ... Un roman remarquablement écrit, parfois teinté d'humour et aux dialogues ciselés dont les écrivains français pourraient être jaloux. Et cela ne serait étonnant qu'un jour, une metteuse en scène ne s'en empare pas ... »
Interview of Fadi Zaghmout (in French) when L'Épouse d'Amman is published in French.
“… Not devoid of touches of humor that lighten it up a bit, we follow in horror the difficult life of Leïla, Hayat, Salma, Rana and Ali and we say to ourselves that we are very happy to live in France even if the questions of women's rights, equality with men, violence committed against wemen are still far from being resolved and we must continue to fight until they are. … ”
« ... Premier roman indispensable, portraits de femmes qui explosent les cases assignés par la tradition, vibrant appel à la tolérance plaidoyer pour un changement des mentalités en terres arabo-musulmanes, L'épouse d'Amman émeut, secoue et ouvre le champ des possibles. Fadi Zaghmout offre un livre essentiel que chacun devrait lire pour comprendre l'autre ... »
“… Fear of the others' look, fear of rejection, fear of one's own feelings… Fear of dying, of being killed for being different; this should no longer exist nowadays. And yet this story takes place in the 21st century. Slices of cruel life and yet relentless truth, this story calls out, enlightens and reminds us that it is high time for things to change. … ”
« ... Le regard de Fadi Zaghmout est tendre, son écriture fluide et crue rend ses héros attachants et proche de nous, leur combat, leur courage et leur détermination nous émeuvent ... »
“… Fadi Zaghmout's gaze is tender, his writing is fluid and raw, making his heroes endearing and close to us, their fight, their courage and their determination move us. … ”
« ... Roman noir tout en conservant une formidable puissance poétique, L'épouse d'Amman est le reflet du difficile paradoxe d'un monde qui se veut moderne en restant englué dans ses valeurs traditionnelles et strictes. Chacun/e est ainsi acteur/rice d'une comédie des masques désespérante, et n'a d'autre choix que la résignation ou la fuite, par l'exil ou la mort ... »
« ... Nos yeux d'occidentaux pourraient juger les différentes situations à l'aune de la seule religion mais l'Islam n'est pas le seul coupable. Ce sont le patriarcat et les traditions archaiques qui partout dans le monde briment la liberté des femmes ... »
Violence, Resistance, and Pleasure in Fadi Zaghmout’s The Bride of Amman.
Dr. Viktoria Pötz, School of Applied Humanities and Languages, German Jordanian University, Jordan.
"A powerful narrative, an intricate braid of secrets, exposing Jordanian society's hypocrisy and obsession with the institutionof marriage. Its pioneering feminist vision is a bid for tolerance, equality, and freedom. A compulsive read."
Safia Moore and Sawad Hussain give their views of Fadi Zaghmout’s debut novel, The Bride of Amman, a bloggish book on life and sexual freedom in Jordan.
"It is a brave book that weaves together lives that are in conflict with the diktats of religious, patriarchal, and societal mores — the three hegemonies that submerge and suffocate truthful expressions of gender and sexuality. The personal accounts are chilling, and I find a lot of resonance with similar issues faced by women and gay men in India. The book also offers hope that challenges can be overcome and life can be lived on one's own terms within the matrix of our societies. The simplicity of the truthful writing, and the complexity of th emotions the characters undergo, takes the reader on a roller-coaster journey that is thought-provoking and invigorating. More power to Fadi and the book, and empowerment of women and the LGBT community, world-over."
"Gender, sex, and sexuality: the unspoken issues in Arab societies are addressed creatively and sensitively in a novel that embraces all walks of life. Every Arab woman should read this book to gain more insight into enpowerment of gender, feminism, and sexuality. Every Arab man should read this book to get a glimps of what Arab woman endure under male domination and how their mothers, sisters, and homosexual brothers have had it tough."
"The Bride of Amman evoked in my heart a longing for freedom. A bold and powerful novel, it tells the stories of women I recognise, and I can see myself in them — I could have been one of them."
"The Bride of Amman is unputdownable and rattingly significant read. Fadi Zaghmout creates a wonderfully distinctive polyphonic narrative of characters' selves trying to engage with the world around them to act or to make choices. While the novel voices the marginalization and disempowerment of its characters struggling to fit in a culturally conditioned and constructed subjective identity, it neatly weaves the narrative of its characters negotiating an active role within society's power dynamics. A must-read novel to understand how subjective identity and culture shape one an other."
"Fadi Zaghmout engages the full range of human emotion as he confronts head-on the destructive, corrosive effects of prejudice, tradition, and male privilege on sexuality, sexual expression, and gender identity. Charged, dynamic, and engaging, The Bride of Amman is sure to disturbe and please — and to remain with readers long after they've finished Zaghmout's compelling narrative of these lives desperate for liberation."
"… Hard-hitting prose quickly draws the reader into the lives of four young women and a man living in today’s Amman. They are close friends and share many things, not least, the risk of total devastation if they do not abide by the rules. …"
"… The taboo topics explored in the novel–including homosexuality, sexual abuse within tight-knit families, sexual harassment in the workplace, extramarital liaisons and interreligious marriage–have rendered the novel quite controversial in the Arab world, with readers either wildly celebrating or denigrating the novel for its “unrealistic” portrayals of Jordanian society. …"
Fadi Zaghmout, a graduate in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking from Sussex University, is a Jordanian intellectual living in Dubai and specializing in gender issues in the Arab world. Since 2006, he has been running a blog dealing with various subjects of society in the Middle East: fadizaghmout.com, with analyzes in English and Arabic. He is particularly attentive to the condition of women and sexual minorities. Arous Amman ("The Bride of Amman") is his first novel. It was followed by Jenna ‘Ala al-‘Ard ("Heaven on Earth") and Layla w Al-Hamal ("Leila"). Fadi Zaghmout also participates in conferences in the Arab world, the last and most important being Nuqat 2019 Regional Conference: the State of the Elastic Mind, during which he addressed the issue of gender and presented his next literary project: a science-fiction work featuring a world where gender is based on physical size.
Davide Knecht holds a Masters in Linguistics from Inalco (Analysis of Classical Arabic - Dialect Arabic Diglossia in the Media in Lebanon). He collaborated on the Italian version of Nani in festa. Iconografia, religione e politica a Ostia durante il secondo triumvirato, Ch. Bocherens, ed., Edipuglia, Bari, S. Spirito, 2012. He has also done translations while volunteering with migrants as well as in as part of his position at YCI Education.
Leila Un roi pour une reine (A king for a queen)
Salma Trente ans ! (30 years!)
Hayat Un homme minable (A pathetic man)
Rana La couleur de l'amour (The colour of love)
Leila Une parfaite femme à marier (The perfect woman to marry)
Ali Un chemin obligé (A forced path)
Hayat Le retour du cauchemar (The nightmare returns)
Chapitre III (The pity of others)
Salma La pitié des autres
Ali La religion sur mesure (Religion made to measure)
Hayat Abusée par mon père (Abused by my father)
(The pity of others)
Rana Une femme nouvelle (A new woman)
Salma Un monde insipide (A bleak world)
Hayat Le fantôme de mon père (The ghost of my father)
Ali Jouer avec le feu (Playing with fire)
Rana Qui est sans péché...(Who is without sin...)
Hayat Drôles d'histoires (Funny stories)
Salma Les deux mariages (The two marriages)
Leila Deux noces (Two weddings)
Ali Première nuit (First night)
Rana Une Arabe en Suède (An Arab in Sweden)
Leila Oum Hassan
Hayat Je n'ai jamais su entrer dans le moule (I never knew how to fit the mould)
Ali Ma vie secrète (My secret life)
Leila Écran maudit (Cursed screen)
Rana L'amour d'un père (Fatherly love)
Ali Une nouvelle famille (A new family)
Hayat Une vie heureuse, malgré le passé (A happy life, despite the past)