In a quiet apartment in Beirut, Aaliya Saleh lives alone, surrounded by her books. Every year, she begins to translate a favorite into Arabic, and, when she is done, she hides the translation away in a box, never to be read by another soul. Her solitude is only occasionally interrupted by the other women in her building — whom she calls “the three witches” — and by the bothersome demands of her estranged family. As the days pass, Aaliyah walks the streets of Beirut, reliving her memories and reveling in the words of writers she admires above all others. And when an unexpected and tragic event intrudes on her peaceful life, she must confront the consequences of her self-imposed isolation.
In An Unnecessary Woman, Alameddine has conjured a vivid portrait of a woman retreating gently into her later years, unconcerned by the strictures of society.
“Whereas most people will tell you that they prefer the city on spring afternoons when she fills her lungs with briny air, when bougainvilleas, purple and crimson, and wisterias, lavender and white, begin to bloom, or during summer sunsets, when the water is decked with a panoply of gold and hyacinth so vibrant that the city practically rocks on her promontory, I prefer her in this subdued light, under roiling gray clouds, rain-filled but not raining, when the neutral air gives contrast to the authentic colors of the city. These clouds prevent me from seeing the brilliant new white on the mountain peaks, but they offer spectacular city sights as compensation.”
Rabih Alameddine is the author of Koolaids; I, the Divine; The Hakawati; An Unnecessary Woman; The Perv; and The Angel of History. He grew up in Lebanon and Kuwait, and now divides his time between Beirut and San Francisco.
Length: 291 pages
Set in: Beruit, Lebanon
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