Latest Review: "So You May See" by Mona Prince
The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Elizabeth “Six” Mullins on Mona Prince’s So You May See, which is translated from the Arabic by Raphael Cohen and available from the American University in Cairo Press.
For those of you interested in knowing more about the novel and its translation, I highly recommend checking out this interview with Raphael Cohen:
ArabLit: How would you describe إنى أحدثك لترى in an elevator pitch?
Raphael Cohen: So You May See is a self-reflective account of narrator Ayn’s long, stormy, and ultimately eternal love affair with Ali. It is a psychologically and symbolically complex work which attempts to inverse traditional views of women. It is also frequently funny and with a declared mystical interest. The novel has two long sections involving Ayn’s journeys in the Sahara and a parallel love affair in Sinai which are closer to ordinary narrative.
AL: Which parts did you find funniest?
RC: I thought both sections involving goats were funny–the goat in the desert and Apollo, the Corsican’s attempt to marry Ayn with the seven-goat dowry. That whole scene in fact. Also the parts where Ayn turns her hand to magic.
And here’s the opening of Six’s review:
From the beginning of Mona Prince’s So You May See, I was clear about what the narrator, Ayn, was trying to accomplish. She writes, in no uncertain terms, “I will write about you and me, about our love story.” She explains that she will “subsume it within a travel narrative” so that the changes and discoveries within herself and within her relationship would mirror the changes in landscape. She explains that she will add sex, politics, and some psychoanalysis to the narrative, to enact a “tried-and-tested recipe for fame.” Essentially, Ayn’s prologue acts as a sort of thesis statement, a road map for the novel, a set of promises that sometimes read like a contract, or vows:
“I will write my love story just as it is, incomplete, and from my, sometimes less than objective, point of view . . . I will make an effort, in accordance with my ability or my understanding, to make room for the perspective of my co-partner in the story . . . I will write passages based upon moments I lived through without adhering to a specific form. The passage may take the form of a narrative, a prose poem, a quotation from other texts, or a letter. A section may be long, one line, or one word; in the literary register or colloquial; with a fair deal of sarcastic asides or critical interventions that sometimes undermine what I’m writing.”
What choice did I then have but to examine the entire novel in terms of whether or not it delivered on these promises? From then on, for better or worse, reading So You May See became more of an assessment of the terms it had set for itself than an open-minded exploration of the text.
Click here to read the full review.