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Le livre des reines | (dot)gender

(dot)gender | A space by LORENA STELLA MARTINI

One century, four generations of women, and four bloody Middle-Eastern conflicts: these are the core elements of the novel “Le livre de reines” (2019) by the Lebanese writer, journalist and activist Joumana Haddad. 

The Armenian genocide, the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the Lebanese and Syrian civil wars are narrated through the eyes of the four female protagonists – the “Queens” Qayah, Qana, Qamar et Qadar–  , whose lives intertwine with the dramatic historical events occurring around them and their families, causing them to move and to constantly renegotiate their existence.  

The four women, very different among them, all share a strong individuality, an inner strength and resilience that keeps them alive, in spite of everything. This is the very focus of “Le livre de reines”, which gives us the chance to look at four paramount events that struck the Middle East from an original, feminine, feminist perspective:

Reléguées à la marge, les victimes innocentes dans chaque camp, celles qui n’avaient pas leur mot à dire face aux calamités qu’elles enduraient. On les appelle “dommages collatéraux”, et l’objectif grand angle de l’histoire (History ou His Story, “son histoire à lui”?) poursuit son chemin. Mais ce sont ces personnes, à mon sens, qui sont les véritables héros de guerre; (…) celles qui sont plutôt racontées par l’histoire en version Her Story, “son histoire à elle””. (p. 265)

As she explains in the epilogue, Haddad drew inspiration from the story of her family to write this extremely peculiar family saga. From the same author, we also suggest the reading of “Superman is an Arab: On God, marriage, macho men and other disastrous inventions” (2012), a witty and argumentative criticism to patriarchy.