Sunday, March 26, 2006

La Chrysalide

I loved this book! We follow a couple generations of an Algerian family through French occupation, civil war, and into independence, with a focus on the struggle for women's rights. Khadidja, first wife of a rich Muslim farmer, is unable to bear a son. She goes to a French doctor against the wishes of her family and society and is able to conceive following treatment. She has a boy, but finally is made sterile by the attempts of local traditional herbalists to make her conceive again. Her husband, who thinks his bookish child an insufficient heir, marries again and again, which is his right, but Khadidja puts her foot down more often than not and begins to get her way. Faiza, the daughter of the second-wife, becomes extremely close to Khadidja in spirit, carrying on her struggle for liberation by going to school, bucking traditional mores, and leading an independent life. Fundamentalism, feminism, and decolonization all merge in an illuminating family drama whose themes are still vitally important in these clash of civilizations times.

[An Englishtranslation exists, but I can't vouch for it.]

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