Pillars of Salt
Pillars of Salt is the story of two women confined to a mental hospital in Jordan during and after the British Mandate. Maha, a peasant woman from the Jordan Valley, and Um Saad from Amman find themselves sharing a room. After initial tension they become friends and exchange their life stories.
Maha's version of history, which is told from the inside, is framed by the narrative of the storyteller who reports as an outsider. Maha's husband Harb was the love of her life and his death has serious repercussions for her. Um-Saad does not survive domestic repression and her husband’s betrayal, who brought home a young second wife, Yusra.
The intricate structure of the novel with its different voices and interlacing narrative lines conforms to the ancient tradition of storytelling in Arabia. Both Muslim and Christian theological sources are used to create a mythical storyteller and dramatise the plight of women who are subjugated by society. The apocalyptic vision of the novel refers to the continuing repression of Arab women whose daily contribution to the economy and struggle to survive in a male-dominated society have largely been overlooked.
Reviews and Endorsements
“Compulsive reading. A feminist vision of orientalism.” (Angela Carter)
“This is a powerful and distinctive piece of writing, melding the recent history of the country with the continuing personal and political oppression of Arab women.” (The Sunday Times)
“The histories of Maha and Um Saad, which typify Jordanian experience during the British Mandate that lasted through much of the 1940s, are framed and echoed by the comments of ``The Storyteller,'' who relates them to us in a dazzling and often very moving display of narrative art.” (Kirkus Review)
“This is a wonderful book, with beautifully drawn characters, which illustrates the difficulties faced by many women living in a male-dominated society.” (WhichBook)