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In: Oriente Moderno
In: Oriente Moderno
In: Studi Magrebini


In Nāzilat dār al-akābir (“The misfortune of the house of notables”, 2020), Amīra Ġanīm (1978) creates a fiction that fascinates Tunisian and Arab readers, reopening at the same time the debate on the significance of the historical character of al-Ṭāhir al-Ḥaddād (1899–1935), one of the most revolutionary social reformers of the 20th century. The misfortune to which the title refers is linked to the discovery of a mysterious letter sent by al-Ḥaddād to a young scion of a family of notables from the Tunis medina, Lallā Zubayda. The find raises the suspicion of an illicit love story between the two protagonists, triggering a series of heavy reactions and cascading events.

To bring out the weight of al-Ḥaddad’s positions on colonial powers and the women’s rights issues, Ġanīm supports her fiction with historical documentation. Through the role of eleven narrators she manages to connect important events of almost a century ago with contemporary ones, up to the revolution against the Ben Ali regime and beyond it.

In the article I intend to argue how Lallā Zubayda and her faithful maid, Luwīza, represent the two faces of the same country, symbols of a Tunisia martyred by patriarchal powers, colonialism and erroneous post-colonial policies, which have created the objective conditions for various internal clashes. The implicit message of the novel would be an urgent call towards a social reconciliation between social classes after an acute reflection on Tunisian identity and women’s rights, in a period of difficult political transition.

In: Studi Magrebini