cover image Prisoner of Dunes

Prisoner of Dunes

Isabelle Eberhardt. Peter Owen Publishers, $29.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-7206-0944-8

The Swiss-born Eberhardt (1877-1904) did not relish living like other European women of her time, preferring to ride with and write about nomadic desert tribes in North Africa. She dressed like an Arab man, spoke Arabic fluently, practiced Islam and had numerous lovers, including Slimene Ehnni, the Algerian soldier she later wed. She died young, just 27, in a flash flood. As in In the Shadow of Islam, Prisoner of Dunes offers more desert escapades, as well as brief stories of tribespeople. Eberhardt sheds light on the ways of her usually flexible Arab hosts and generally refrains from criticizing them-there's little here about one disapproving Algerian national who stabbed her in 1901. From the narrative introduction through the cinematic scenes of desert tribes, Eberhardt proves herself a masterfully evocative writer. In her meditation on exile and wandering, she clearly evokes both her own moods and the mood of the region with poetic precision-``Here, in this lost, mislaid place, both grandiose and simple, the noises of our tenacious, useless struggles come to die in the great, immutable silence.'' (Oct.)