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Pbk • Hbk • eBook • 256pp
“A talented and inventive storyteller, with a well developed sense of tragedy and comedy”
“The Madness of Despair depicts the tragedy of the Middle East, which will remain without solution until Arabs can live in freedom and dignity in their own lands rather than turning to life in exile. “ Al-Jarida, Kuwait
“The Madness of Despair is primarily a love story where love becomes the mirror of longing for home, and love for a person mixes with love for a nation . . . the author has fluently and elegantly succeeded in portraying the tempestuous conflict submerging her characters.” Katia al-Tawil
And some great reader reviews:
"If you've had a summer of repetitious disappointments, injections, tests and bad recommendations, break out with this amazing novel. I've been up all night, glued to page after page.
"It is more than a novel: it is a psychologically precise account of love, disappointment and modernity. It looks beyond the grim politics of post-COVID London and transports the reader into a city like no other. I am incredibly tempted to offer a plot precis: I shan't. Get this, read it, review it but never give too much away. I am amazed that, to date, I have not heard of Dr Al Said. I searched but found only this insightful gem. Now I feel armed to face the horrors of the modern untuned hurdy gurdy that is England!"
"This novel is amazing! I couldn’t put it down though I should be finishing my PhD! Usually I don’t read novels in Chinese or English but this time I was attracted by the cover and wanted something different. It certainly was different! The characters jump out of the pages and the story pulls you along even if you want to go and eat or sleep! I’ve read it twice and still find new ideas. I can’t think of any word for this, just INCREDIBLE!"
The Madness of Despair tells the story of Maliha, who is living in London with her husband Nafie after an arranged marriage in their distant Arab homeland. The couple become good friends with Doctor Nadim, a fellow exile, but in the twists and turns of the friendship, the men’s nostalgia for their old lives – and old ways of living – come into conflict with Maliha’s ambition to live and love freely and make something of her new life now she’s settled in London.
Though ready to throw off the constraints of her disastrous marriage at the slightest turn, Maliha is ill-prepared for the fire of emotions that overcomes her, leading to unforeseen consequences for all three. It is a powerful narrative that reveals just how much psychological suffering and cultural displacement can upset the most ordinary of aspirations for life and love.
Ghalya F T Al Said is a novelist who studied in Oman and the UK, culminating in her obtaining a PhD in International Relations at the University of Warwick. Her novels, preceded by poems and short stories, focus on immigrants in foreign, usually Western settings, and how they try to cope with and adapt to conflicting concepts of belief and culture.
Two of these novels are set in Oman and the rest in the UK. They comprise The Madness of Despair (2011), in translation here, plus Days in Heaven (2005; 2nd edition 2011) of which a part was excerpted in Banipal 51 (2014), Sabira and Asila (2007), Scattered Years (2008), The Tedium of Time (in two standalone parts 2015 and 2017) and District of the Blind (2019). Additionally, in Oman, she has opened one traditional Museum and plans to open a second one soon on culturally related themes.
Translator: Raphael Cohen is a professional translator and lexicographer who studied Arabic and Hebrew at Oxford University and the University of Chicago. He has translated a number of novels by contemporary Arab authors who include George Yarak, Ahlem Mosteghanemi, Mohamed Salmawy and Mona Prince. He translated and introduced, for Banipal Books, Poems of Alexandria and New York by Ahmed Morsi (2021), and for Banipal magazine has translated a growing number of works by Arab poets, including Ahmed Rashid Thani, Samer Abu Hawwash, Hala Mohammad, Ahmed Al-Mulla and Marwan Makhoul.
The Front Cover painting: The cover painting is by the Iraqi artist Afifa Aleiby. Aleiby is known particularly for using the female figure as a recurring motif to reflect beauty, taste, politics and society while bringing together different influences from Renaissance painting to religious icons and social realism. Born in the southern city of Basra in 1952, she studied at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad before leaving Iraq in 1974 for the then Soviet Union to study and specialize in monumental art at Moscow’s renowned Surikov Institute. She has participated in numerous exhibitions through out her career, from Baghdad and Moscow to Yemen, Italy, Syria, Lebanon, England and the United States, as a representative of the artistic and cultural face of the Iraqi civilization. She presently lives in the Netherlands. For more information and a chance to see many more of her paintings, go to: https://www.afifaaleiby.com