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Bringing Lebanon’s Civil War Home to Anglophone Literature: Alameddine’s Appropriation of Shakespeare’s Tragedies

Yousef Awad

Keywords: appropriation; Arab American; Lebanon’s civil war; Rabih Alameddine; Shakespeare

Abstract

In I, The Divine (2001) and An Unnecessary Woman (2013), Arab American novelist Rabih Alameddine borrows lines, characters, themes, motifs and tropes from Macbeth and King Lear to portray the horrendous experiences his protagonists undergo during and after Lebanon’s fifteenyear civil war. In An Unnecessary Woman, traumatic memories of the war leave Aaliya Saleh reclusive and isolated, sharing a building with three other women whom she dubs ‘the three witches’; in I, The Divine, Sarah Nour El-Din, the youngest of three daughters of a Lebanese-American couple, feels alienated and displaced and eventually chooses self-imposed exile. Alameddine frames Aaliya’s and Sarah’s stories within narratives of chaos, anarchy and sweeping violence reminiscent of Macbeth and Lear. Reading Alameddine’s novels as appropriations of Shakespeare’s tragedies valorizes the novelist’s contrapuntal vision and demonstrates how Arab writers in diaspora, writing in English for an international readership, strategically draw on Western canonical texts to represent the experiences of Arab characters.

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