I Sweep The Sun Off Rooftops


Since the U.S. publication of Women of Sand and Myrrh?which has now sold more than 35,000 copies and was selected as one of the Fifty Best Books of 1992 by Publishers Weekly?Hanan al-Shaykh has attracted an ever larger following for her dazzling tales of contemporary Arab women. In these seventeen short stories?eleven of which are appearing in English for the first time?al-Shaykh expands her horizons beyond the boundaries of Lebanon, taking us throughout the Middle East, to Africa, and finally to London. ...

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I Sweep the Sun Off Rooftops

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Since the U.S. publication of Women of Sand and Myrrh—which has now sold more than 35,000 copies and was selected as one of the Fifty Best Books of 1992 by Publishers Weekly—Hanan al-Shaykh has attracted an ever larger following for her dazzling tales of contemporary Arab women. In these seventeen short stories—eleven of which are appearing in English for the first time—al-Shaykh expands her horizons beyond the boundaries of Lebanon, taking us throughout the Middle East, to Africa, and finally to London. Stylistically diverse, her stories are often about the shifting and ambiguous power relationships between different cultures—as well as between men and women. Often compared to both Margaret Atwood and Margaret Drabble, Hanan al-Shaykh is "a gifted and courageous writer" (Middle Eastern International).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the first of these 17 finely honed stories, a stifled Lebanese wife feigns madness in order to get a divorce from her obtuse but, it turns out, surprisingly resilient and devoted husband. Asked her age, Fatin replies, "The age of madness." This combination of sangfroid and desperation, truly mad situations and sane protagonists, sets the tone for al-Shaykh's (Beirut Blues) fiction. Several stories, notably "The Marriage Fair," spin plots from the ostracism an unmarried woman may endure in the Arab world. In "The Land of Dreams," a female Danish missionary in a Yemeni village tries to find a third way past the impossible choice between a life in the church and a naive assimilation into the surrounding village, which takes an interest in her that has nothing to do with her religious work. The poignant "I Don't Want to Grow Up" concerns a young girl and her brother living in an oil-company compound whose conception of the world is shattered by their servant's clever pragmatism. Setting her tales in the Middle East, North Africa and London, al-Shaykh uses intellectual lightness to buoy even the most oppressive of situations: insanity, suicide, abandonment and immolation. These short narratives represent the faith of a dedicated rationalist whose favorite subject is the stubbornness of unreason in matters of the heart and hearth. (Aug.)
Library Journal
A Lebanese writer, al-Shaykh has demonstrated her prowess in three previous collections (e.g., Beirut Blues, LJ 9/1/95). This latest work, a delightful collection of 17 stories, confirms al-Shaykh's rank among leading Arab women writers such as Nawal al-Saadawi. Strong, intelligent, and sometimes sorrowful voices dominate these narratives, exemplifying a diversity of contemporary Arab women. Throughout her career, al-Shaykh has confronted censorship in Arab nations for her fiction's sexual explicitness, politically sensitive topics, and portrayal of women. This collection may likely produce similar reactions. However, it should also bring al-Shaykh additional praise and attention for her powerful prose and soulful depiction of the Arab woman's struggle with modern society vs. traditional ways. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Lib. System, Eugene
Kirkus Reviews
In a collection of 17 exquisitely calibrated stories, this noted Lebanese writer (Beirut Blues, 1995, etc.) explores the lives of Arabs living on the cusp of modernity. With few exceptions, the people al-Shaykh writes about are urban residents, middle class, and comparatively well educated. They live in Africa, Morocco, London, or Beirut and are just as likely to be Christian as Moslem. For them, the traditional ways are not so much dying as lately relegated to a cultural storeroom, brought out for special occasions (notably when women assert themselves in love, marriage, or work). In one traditionally resonant tale, 'Qutal-Quylub,' a group of skeptical village women, whose husbands are all working abroad, learn that a local magician, who claims she can do business only by moonlight, has found a comely young man to share her bed. In another, 'The Land of Dreams,' a Danish missionary's proselytizing efforts are undercut by the charms of Yemeni villagers. A beautiful young woman in 'The Marriage Fair' prefers the transports of love to the stability of marriage, which she fears will snuff out all possible excitements. Determined, strong-willed women abound in al-Shaykh's fiction. One of them, in 'A Season of Madness,' feigns lunacy in order to divorce her husband and marry her lover, while a young war widow from Beirut (in 'The White Peacock of Holland Park') gradually grows obsessed with a poet. The title story tartly describes a young woman set on living in England, no matter how menial her life there, because it'll still be better than Morocco, where one can do nothing but "sweep the sun off the rooftops." Stories, in all, that glow with empathy and intelligence.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385491273
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1 ANCHOR
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Hanan Al-Shaykh

HANAN al-SHAYKH was born in Lebanon and brought up in Beirut. Formerly a writer for the prestigious daily Al-Nahar, she is also the author of Women of Sand and Myrrh, The Story of Zahra, Beirut Blues, and, most recently, I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops. She lives in London with her family.

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Table of Contents

A Season of Madness 1
The Spirit to Engaged Now (Do You Want to Hold?) 11
The Marriage Fair 31
The Land of Dreams 45
Place de la Catastrophe 87
I Don't Want to Grow Up 93
I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops 109
The Funfair 135
The White Peacock of Holland Park 153
An Unreal Life 163
The Scratching of Angels' Pens 187
Cupid Complaining to Venus 195
Qut al-Qulub 209
The Holiday 231
Do You Know Someone Who Can Teach Me the Piano? 243
The Keeper of the Virgins 249
The Land of the Sun 263
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