On October 1st we discussed about Girls of Riyadh (Benaat al Riyadh) by Rajaa Alsanea. This modern novella explores the lives of traditional young women from the upper-class of today’s Saudi society, their hopeful and at times tumultuous love lives. Reading Girls of Riyadh right after ‘Abd alRahman Munif’s Endings gives an interesting juxtaposition of two Saudi authors responding to changes in the social fabric of the Gulf across the years. It’s interesting to note that the author herself co-translated the book from Arabic, so the age old problem of the skill of the translator is perhaps less of a barrier. Though banned in Saudi Arabia, you can find copies of Girls of Riyadh in Arabic & English at many bookstores across the world.
Our conversation about Girls of Riyadh ranged from the way the internet shapes traditional storytelling approaches to the author’s subtle use (in the original Arabic version) of Arabic characters to phonetically spell English words at key moments in dialogue.
A very approachable read, the book is marked by Rajaa al Sanea’s mix of western & eastern cultural influence, down to a narrative style based on email that incorporated slang and a trans-national inclusion of Arabized English. The story, a forthright and entertaining look at the lives of four young women in Saudi Arabia lent an insight into Saudi society of a particular class and specifically relating to young women, however the themes of negotiating societal and familiar expectations, while seeking to form one’s personal identity and find love are universal.
You can find more about Rajaa Al Sanea and Girls of Riyadh by checking out the following links!
* Asharq Al-Awsat Interview with the author – http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=3&id=3552
* Homanla Online Review – http://www.homanla.org/New/Riyadh.htm
* Arab View Article — http://www.arabview.com/articles.asp?article=567