Questions, Alifa Rifaat, Distant View of a Minaret


1. In what ways are these stories like / unlike the realism of The Day the Leader Was Killed? In what ways are the women in these stories like / unlike the women in The Day the Leader Was Killed?

2. In the title story, in what ways does the view relate to the wife's feelings? (In general, in what ways do the women in these stories view sex?)

3. What do you think eyes and tears could symbolize in "Bahiyya's Eyes"? Why do you think Bahiyya was mutilated? In what ways can you relate her mutilation to the symbolism of the eyes and tears?

4. How does the wife come to accept her husband's death in "Telephone Call"? (In general, in what ways do the women in these stories view death?)

5. What do you think the protagonist of "Thursday Lunch" learns about her mother? about herself? Why do you think Rifaat included the cutting of the chicken's neck (19)?

6. What is the incident in "An Incident at the Ghobashi Household"? Can we tell who is the father of Ni'ma's child?

7. What do you think is the point of the twist at the end of "Badriyya and Her Husband"?

8. Why do you think Rifaat employs a naive narrator in "Me and My Sister"? In what ways is this a story about "sitting at home waiting" (40) for marriage?

9. Why do you think Mansoura attains real power only in death?

10. In "The Long Night of Winter," why do you think the narrator (Zennouba) decides to get up early and have Nargis give her a bath?

11. In what ways is the snake / genie in "My World of the Unknown" like / unlike the jinns in My Name Is Red or the beetle in Kafka's Metamorphosis? Try to examine what these supernatural elements symbolize in each story.

12. In "At the Time of the Jasmine," what do you think the son (Hassan) learns about traditional ways, his father, and himself? Compare this story with "Thursday Lunch."

13. In "The Flat in Nakshabandi Street," why do you think Aziza goes to so many funerals? Why do you think Aziza wants to continue her routine "for ever" (100)? Why do you think Rifaat ends the story as she does?

14. What do you think the narrator of "Degrees of Death" means when she says that "many of us also think of degrees of death where our fellow men are concerned" (105)?

15. What do you think the kite symbolizes in "The Kite"?

16. In "Just Another Day," what do you think happens to the narrator? Sura 89, "The Dawn," speaks of the last judgement, "when the earth is ground to atoms." The final verses of this sura have been translated, "But ah! thou soul at peace! / Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure! / Enter thou among My bondmen! / Enter thou My Garden!" (Pickthall 440). In what ways can you connect these verses with the narrator's reminiscences throughout the story?

17. Do you think Rifaat judges the women in these stories? If so, think about what her judgement might be on each woman. Do you agree with the translator when he says that "Rifaat's revolt falls far short of suggesting there be any change in the traditional role of women in a Muslim society" (viii)? Why or why not?

Links to Alifa Rifaat (information is scarce)
    Alifa Rifaat: working within tradition (planetarabia)

    Alifa Rifaat, a short profile (Arab Women's Solidarity Association) Rifaat:

    A short bibliography of writings by Alifa Rifaat

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