The Journals of Sarab Affan
by Jabra, Jabra Ibrahim
Translated with supreme eloquence and sensitivity, this final work by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra is affirmative yet unsettling in its theme of salvation in the face of inevitable loss, alienation, and exile. Jabra tells his love story through alternating journal entries and with a complex layering of voices, revealing how a love affair takes shape through twin perspectives of a famed male novelist and the woman who desires him. Initially he is seen through the text of her journals: from her fascination with his writings until the instant when she arranges their first meeting. Thereafter, Jabra presents the male novelist’s point of view: from the start of the relationship leading to physical separation and then to momentary reunion in Paris. Jabra’s well-known concern with the inconstancy of identity and its articulation through multiple first-person narration is a constant theme. However, this is the first time he places a strong female character at the center of his novel, with all the enticing complexities that result from the interplay of the author’s projected female and male emotions. Crafting a tale of love from two opposing yet linked points of view, Jabra encourages readers to question their assumptions about the nature of self, its role in shaping character, and the possibilities of salvation through action. Ghassan Nasr’s exquisite translation accurately conveys the poetic sensibility of the original, making this edition a prime choice for studies in Arabic and/or Middle Eastern literature and for courses dealing with female narrative in Arabic literature.