Bringing Lebanon’s Civil War Home to Anglophone Literature

Alameddine’s Appropriation of Shakespeare’s Tragedies

in Critical Survey
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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 fifteen-year 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.

Contributor Notes

Yousef Awad is Associate Professor at the University of Jordan. His first monograph, The Arab Atlantic: Resistance, Diaspora, and Trans-cultural Dialogue in the Works of Arab British and Arab American Women Writers (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012), is based on his 2011 PhD thesis at the University of Manchester. Since then, Dr Awad has published a number of articles exploring such themes as cultural translation, identity and multiculturalism in the works of Arab writers in diaspora.