An Unnecessary Woman

Rabih Alameddine, Author
Rabih Alameddine. Grove, $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2214-8
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4915-3713-8
Ebook - 324 pages - 978-1-922148-29-2
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Compact Disc - 978-1-4915-0786-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-4915-0739-1
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-8021-9287-5
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-8021-2294-0
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Midway through Alameddine’s new novel, the narrator thinks: “There should be a literary resolution: No more epiphanies. Enough. Have pity on readers who reach the end of a real-life conflict in confusion and don’t experience a false sense of temporary enlightenment.” Like his previous novel The Hakawati, An Unnecessary Woman is set in Beirut, and this time the beauties and horrors of the city are seen through the eyes of Aalyia Sohbi, a 72-year-old translator who was born there and remained through the war. The elements that make up Aalyia’s chosen life are minimal: reading, translating, an apartment, and a single friend, dead long ago. Her habit of many years is to begin each new translation, according to a strict system, on the first day of the year. The solitude that allows for this work is precious, unusual, and precarious, and when it is threatened by the ongoing war and her patriarchal family, she answers with a machine gun. Alameddine’s most glorious passages are those that simply relate Aalyia’s thoughts, which read like tiny, wonderful essays. A central concern of the book is the nature of the desire of artistic creators for their work to matter, which the author treats with philosophical suspicion. In the end, Aalyia’s epiphany is joyful and freeing. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Agency. (Feb.)
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