Jarrar, Nada Awar
Jarrar, Nada Awar
Born in Lebanon; married; husband's name Bassem; children: Zeina (daughter).
Home— Beirut, Lebanon.
Somewhere, Home, Heinemann (London, England), 2003.
Dreams of Water, HarperCollins (London, England), 2007.
Nada Awar Jarrar is a Lebanese novelist, born and raised in Beirut, and has continued to live there with her husband, Bassem, and their daughter, Zeina. However, when Israel attacked Beirut in July, 2006, she and her family were forced to leave the city and flee into the mountains, in hopes of finding a safer place to stay. The move is frightening for family members, both those within the country and those living elsewhere or traveling. War means rations, short supplies of necessary goods, concern about access to medication, and unreliable sources of power. The family faces endless decisions about the next best course of action, such as whether to remain in their mountain village or attempt to cross the border to Syria. The events also force Jarrar to reflect on the last war, in 1975. At that time she had been out of the country, a schoolgirl visiting England with family, and found it impossible to return for many years. If they leave again, will they be able to get home again? In an article for the London Times Online, Jarrar recalls her thoughts the first night after the fighting began: "All I can focus on as I wait for sleep is my anger at Hezbollah for making the decision to go to war without consulting anyone else in the country."
Jarrar's experiences, both as a child during the civil war and as an adult facing yet more fighting, have colored her impressions as a writer. Her first novel,Somewhere, Home, won the Commonwealth Best First Book award for Southeast Asia and the South Pacific in 2004. Her follow-up novel,Dreams of Water, was written in the midst of the new war. The book follows the wanderings of Aneesa, a Lebanese girl whose brother has vanished, likely due to the strife and violence. Unsure of where she is safe, Aneesa flees to London, but her ties to Lebanon remain strong, even thousands of miles away. She becomes entangled with a fellow refugee and eventually returns to Beirut. There are strong themes of family ties and loss, as well as the confusion inherent in relocating to a country so foreign to one's usual surroundings. A reviewer for the Bridlington Free Press Online commented that "written in a non-linear style with short, austere prose, ‘Dreams of Water’ both irritates and captivates," finding fault with the jumps in time between sections. The reviewer went on to note, however, that the work settles into a "haunting paean" focusing on the triumvirate of tragedy that shadows Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East: bewilderment from constant loss, "the damage of war, and the accidental trauma caused by faith." Elinor Cook, in a review for the New Statesman, also noted the disjointed feeling of the narrative structure, concluding that "this is a haunting, impressionistic portrayal of exile, but its vague contours create a blurred, unsatisfying whole."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
New Statesman, June 18, 2007, Elinor Cook, "Hazy Memories," p. 67.
Times Literary Supplement, January 12, 2007, Chitralekha Basu, review of Dreams of Water, p. 20.
Bridlington Free Press Online,http://www.bridlingtonfreepress.co.uk/ (January 4, 2007), review of Dreams of Water.
London Times Online,http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ (July 27, 2006), "A Family at War."
Reading Groups Web site,http://www.readinggroups.co.uk/ (December 9, 2007), author profile.