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Pillars of Salt (Interlink World Fiction) Paperback – March 30, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Interlink Pub Group (March 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566562538
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566562539
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Pillars Of Salt ($29.95; paper $12.95; May 9, 1997; 256 pp.; 1-56656-220-1; paper 1-56656-253-8): This skillfully constructed novel, the second from an acclaimed Jordanian writer, portrays the vulnerability of women in an embattled traditional culture through the stories exchanged by two patients in a mental hospital. One has obediently surrendered to her husband's choice of a younger wife, the other has seen her marriage fall victim to political violence. 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. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


This remarkable book by a brilliant Jordanian writer is part of Interlink's Emerging Voices: New International Fiction series, which also includes work from such other countries as Chile, Lebanon, Serbia, South Africa, Yemen and Turkey. Faqir's first novel, Nisanet (published by Viking), was hailed by critics for its "passionate, breathtaking, masterful style and powerful storytelling." Clearly, Faqir has not slacked off in her new novel, Pillars of Salt. Here she interweaves ancient Arabic storytelling traditions, with Muslim and Christian theological sources and modern facts, to capture an alternative picture of Jordanian history - the continuing repression of Arab women whose daily contributions to the nation's economy and struggle for independence are stifled in a male-dominated society. This is the story of two women, a Bedouin peasant named Maha from the Jordan Valley, and Um Saad, wife of a prosperous butcher in Amman. They are forced to share a room in the Amman mental hospital to which they have been confined before and after the British Mandate of 1921. At first, Um Saad refuses to speak with a "filthy Bedouin," but the two women gradually become friends, united in a fierce struggle to survive the inhuman rigors of the institution. The life stories they share with one another are simultaneously horrifying and mesmerizing. Maha's husband Harb, an heroic member of the Resistance, was the love of her life. After he is killed by the British, their love is not enough to protect her from the violence and repression that surround her. Um Saad yields, too, to the humiliation of her husband bringing home a new young wife. Faqir's masterful use of irony sets the tale's iconoclastic tone and relieves the characters' relentless pain. In the opening pages, for example, her storyteller, Sami al-Adjnabi, interrupts his smarmy invocation to "Allah the Beneficent" - a disingenuous patter we assume he obsequiously utters before any oral presentation - to say, "On second thoughts, it is my she-ass Aziza who should tell you this story. Faqir's story - most assured unlike any Sami has told ever before -about consequences endured by women who tell the truth is impossible to put down. --Independant Publisher

More About the Author

Fadia Faqir is the author of four novels: Nisanit, Pillars of Salt, My Name is Salma and Willow Trees Don't Weep. She was born in Amman, Jordan, and moved to Britain in 1984. Her work was published in nineteen countries and translated into fifteen languages.In 1989, the University of East Anglia awarded her the first Ph.D. in Critical and Creative Writing.She currently holds a writing fellowship at St Aidan's College, Durham University, where she teaches creative writing. She often writes on issues of gender, identity, and culture.
Faqir divides her time between Durham, London and Amman.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Natalie A. Pavlis on September 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
I love reading the work of Arab women writers so I was happy to try reading Fadia Faqir. The book centres upon the stories of two women in an insane asylum in Jordan. As the book unfolds, the stories of the women and how they come to be in the asylum is told. The book must be read in order to appreciate the beauty of the writing. Ms. Faqir is able to powerfully relate the stories of the two women making each one compelling. Never have I read such an incredible description of the pain and grief associated with losing a loved one as in this book; it is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who just loves beauty would adore this book and also "Memory in the Flesh" by Ahlam Mostaghemi.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By janice on December 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A haunting and beautiful story set in Jordan, a friendship between two women, a contrast to the desert and the city. Not to be forgotten. Jan, Tucson
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. E. Meyers on April 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, Amazon's summary of the novel is incorrect. Maha's husband is the love of her life, but he never brings home a second wife. That's part of the story line that revolves around Um Saad, the woman Maha meets in the asylum.

From an IB standpoint, this book doesn't work too well for the works in translation unit for two reasons: it's not a translation and the Islamic religion is not accurately represented. The novel was originally written in English and then translated in Arabic and numerous other languages. This is an IB mistake but one worth noting. In addition, while the culture is portrayed correctly, the info relating to religion is skewed. For these two reasons, I would not choose it for the works in translation unit.

That said, it was an interesting book to read, which is why I gave it four stars.
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