An Unnecessary Woman

An Unnecessary Woman

Book - 2013
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"Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family's 'unnecessary appendage.' Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read-- by anyone. After overhearing her neighbors, 'the three witches,' discussing her too-white hair, Aaliya accidentally dyes her hair too blue. In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman's late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya's digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colorful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya's own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left" --
Publisher: New York :, Grove Press,, [2013]
Copyright Date: ©2013
ISBN: 9780802122940
Branch Call Number: FIC ALAM
Characteristics: 291 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

A reclusive septuagenarian woman stays in her apartment with the translations she labors over in private and her memories -- a haunting portrait, but not without Alameddine's characteristic humor.

From the critics

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Aug 31, 2018

do not waste your time. it is SO meta and arch, that the author even has the heroine say, if this was fiction, . . . It Bloody ~`is A WORK OF FICTION. Tedious. The heroine translates other people's books into her language and then puts them away for no one to read. ARRRRRGh! Don't read this.

Oct 10, 2017

Interesting use of life passage in the life of women and different cultural expectations. Liked some of the literary juxtapositions and phrases used. Helped form a more concrete understanding of "being" versus "doing" life.

Sep 11, 2017

Almost 3 stars, but a disappointment. It's a rambling set of reminiscences of a reclusive old woman and her devotion to her city (Beirut) and her books. Having isolated herself from almost all the people around her, all that remains of her world are her memories, her grievances and her translations of books that she diligently completes and then hides away with no intent of ever sharing them with the rest of the world -- a world from which she feels herself to be an outsider.
My problem with the book is that to hold my attention in the absence of plot, the writing must be spectacular or the characters must be very engaging (or both). The writing is highly literate and erudite but otherwise unremarkable; and although Aaliya is certainly a strange duck, I found it impossible to care very much about what became of her.

Aug 20, 2016

Really enjoyed the parts of the book describing the central character's life in Beirut. Sort of drifted off during her descriptions of the books she was translating.

Jun 15, 2016

I greatly enjoyed this book - following Aaliya on her physical and literary journeys. I wish I could say that I was familiar with all of the literature and music that was central to her existence but thankfully that was not imperative to understanding her solitary life.

Apr 04, 2016

I felt absolutely nothing for the protagonist and didn't care what was happening or was going to happen to her. Her inner life was marginally interesting in the first half, but not enough to redeem the book overall. Dull as watching paint dry.

Sep 23, 2015

A masterful tribute to literature and its power to shape lives and create a prism through which one experiences reality. Simultaneously, an exploration of solitude and the complexities, difficulties and disappointments of human interaction. And yet, hope and rationality seep up from what could have been an oppressive tale. I loved this book and how it took a seemingly ordinary -- yes, unnecessary -- life and made it poignant and meaningful. Highly recommended.

Sep 07, 2015

A book that enthralls with a fully developed character that reminisces about her 72 years, her country and city (Beirut), and her place in life. Meanwhile, her passion of literature and translations. The authors ramblings, metaphors, references to specific readings, all create an enthralling and introspective read.

Aug 07, 2015

This is an INTELLIGENT book, one to read slowly and contemplate the words. As a teacher, I always talked about using “voice” and the voice of Aaliya, a woman in her seventies is clear, concise and belies the title. She is not an unnecessary woman. Married and divorced by the age of 20, her story is the timeline of the timeline of Beirut’s violent history. Her love of books and her love of Beirut shine through in this story, as many other reviewers have said, as a love letter to literature and Beirut.

LPL_KateG Jul 23, 2015

An intimate look into the life of a 72-year old woman in Beirut. Alameddine's protagonist loves books more than people, and is a charming curmudgeon who drops literary references like its her job. Which, it kind of is. If you like slow, well-written, in-depth character studies, give this one a try!

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Jun 19, 2014

Most of the books published these days consist of a series of whines followed by an epiphany. I call these memoirs and confessional novels happy tragedies.

Jun 19, 2014

To write is to know that you are not home. I stopped loving Odysseus as soon as he landed back in Ithaca.

Jun 19, 2014

To paraphrase the everparaphraseable Freud, who said something to the effect that when you speak about the past you lie with every breath you take, I will say this:
When you write about the past, you lie with each letter, with every grapheme, including the goddamn comma.
Memory, memoir, autobiography -- lies, lies, all lies.


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