Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories
“More convincingly than any other woman writing in Arabic today, Alifa Rifaat lifts the veil on what it means to be a woman living within a traditional Muslim society.” So states the translator’s foreword to this collection of the Egyptian author’s best short stories. Rifaat (1930–1996) did not go to university, spoke only Arabic, and seldom traveled abroad. This virtual immunity from Western influence lends a special authenticity to her direct yet sincere accounts of death, sexual fulfillment, the lives of women in purdah, and the frustrations of everyday life in a male-dominated Islamic environment.

Translated from the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies, the collection admits the reader into a hidden private world, regulated by the call of the mosque, but often full of profound anguish and personal isolation. Badriyya’s despairing anger at her deceitful husband, for example, or the haunting melancholy of “At the Time of the Jasmine,” are treated with a sensitivity to the discipline and order of Islam.
“A stunning text. The power of Rifaat’s prose and the diversity of her narrative voices render an intimate glimpse into this world primarily about women. Although this is a highly crafted text, it also offers an invaluable gift to a Western audience—reminding us of our global shared fate and shared humanity despite hegemonic discourse.” — Jane V. Rago, Armstrong State University

“What a beautiful edition of this very important book. To see Rifaat in print again is a joy. Her work should always be available.” — John McDonald, University of Portland

“Horrible, beautiful, comforting, divine and devilish at the same time.” — Jan Morris

“Her startling, melancholy stories have a resonance which is as far-reaching as the call of the muezzin which rings across so many of their pages.” — The Literary Review

“Her stories have a frankness and a power that makes them of immediate relevance to the West.” — The Guardian
Table of Contents
1. Distant View of a Minaret
2. Bahiyya’s Eyes
3. Telephone Call
4. Thursday Lunch
5. An Incident in the Ghobashi Household
6. Badriyya and Her Husband
7. Me and My Sister
8. Mansoura
9. The Long Night of Winter
10. My World of the Unknown
11. At the Time of the Jasmine
12. The Flat in Nakshabandi Street
13. Degrees of Death
14. The Kite
15. Just Another Day