New Media Meets Old

By Rebecca Joubin

I Want to Get Married!
By Ghada Abdel Aal
Translated by Nora Eltahawy
University of Texas at Austin, 2010

 
Ghada Abdel Aal’s “I Want to Get Married!” – a highly popular blog that went on to become a hit television serial during Ramadan 2010 – is part of a recent trend in writing wherein the novel and the blog intersect. Abdel Aal belongs to a new generation of authors born in the 1970s and 1980s that seeks to show off their knowledge of Hollywood films, TV series, Internet, as well as classical and modern Middle Eastern literature, thus challenging previously established literary canons. In “I Want to Get Married!” Adel Aal, a young Egyptian female pharmacist, exposes the hypocrisy of tradition through various ill-starred attempts at finding the right groom. Abdel Aal claims that she represents 15 million Egyptian women between the ages of 25 and 35 who face community pressure to marry and are ostracized when they fail to do so. Some critics have hailed Abdel Aal as challenging the role of Middle Eastern women, who are the traditional guardians of the secrets of the home. However, in my view it is just another book propagating dangerous Western stereotypes of passive, victimized Eastern women with no power to change their destiny. Adel’s final sentence, which supposedly presents the monolithic dream of all Egyptian woman, says it all: My only hope is that it has earned your pleasure, and that it has brought you closer, if only by a single step, to the thoughts of an Egyptian girl trying hard to perform the role her society has allotted her… and until salvation arrives, she will keep saying it, loudly or quietly, or in a whisper: “I want to get married.” Great credit is due to Nora Eltahawy, however, whose fine translation preserves Adel Aal’s sarcastic voice, and successfully reflects various tones and cultural references present throughout the text.
 

This review appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 16, no. 63

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