emily nasrallah
En | عربي

The Fantastic Strokes of Imagination

The stories that make up this anthology have been chosen for their celebration of an emerging self-expression in the women they portray, as transformation takes place under the influence of new situations and stimuli. A Lebanese writer who has lived in Beirut through much of the civil war, most of Emily Nasrallah's writing holds the presence of war, whether this is overtly articulated or not.

The title story, The Fantastic Strokes of Imagination, goes deep into the despair engendered by war, which the protagonist struggles to come to terms with through the lines of her friend's drawings. It is war itself that eventually awakens Aunt Latifa's consciousness in the first story of the collection. But for Nasrallah the destructive nature of war has proved to be singularly unselective. Thus Aunt Latifa's new awareness becomes the author of her own destruction as she cannot live with the implications of a war she has supported for so long. In Summer Breeze, transformation takes place through dance.

The catalyst is the emigrant stranger who returns to her family's village to dance on the soil of her ancestors. Her arrival has a profound effect on all the villagers, and especially the young girls, as they witness the extraordinary freedom of expression that the newcomer has earned the right to.

Throughout the collection the voice is very much that of the woman addressing quintessentially female anxieties and pressures to which women, not just in Arab region but all over the world, are subject. This is particularly evident in The Cocoon, where a parting brings out the complex relationship between self-expression and motherhood. The last story, The Butterfly, takes some of the images of The Cocoon a step further in what is perhaps a metaphor of the whole subject of female self-expression.

The collection divides naturally into two parts, the first stories have a greater narrative element than the increasingly internalized styles of the last two. No translation of a given work can claim to be the translation. Those that believe that faithfulness to the original should be sacrificed for readability will never convince all those who contradict them and vise versa. As for the individual questions raised by the work, sometimes one feels that any answer is doomed to be inadequate.

This collection has been conceived bi-lingually (one page English, one page original Arabic), precisely because one cannot take liberties with a translation that is presented side by side with its original. It does not aim to provide the definitive answers either to the detailed questions posed by the text or the more general question of translating. In trying to be as faithful as possible to the text, this translation attempts, in a modest way, rather to contribute to the whole discourse on translating, where the less successful passages have as much to say as those which work well in English. reader was no knowledge of Arabic, defeats the purpose of translation, but these have been kept to an absolute minimum.

Translated in English by Rebecca Porteous.

Emily Nasrallah

Publisher: Levant Distributors
P.O. Box 11-1181, Beirut, LEBANON
Tel: (961-1) 488444/484476 Fax: (961-1) 510655

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