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'Nous n'avions ni communauté ni confession': The alienation of 'liberation' in Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter (Darina Al-Joundi, 2008)

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This article examines the 2008 text Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter, written by Lebanese author and actress Darina Al-Joundi. Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter recounts Al-Joundi’s true story of growing up in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war, with a father who was a ‘laïc fervent’ and who tried to raise his daughters to be ‘free women’ in a male-dominated society torn apart by religion and conflict. Using contemporary perspectives on alienation and otherness alongside theories of illness and autobiography, the article will examine the ways in which the paternal desire to ‘liberate’ his daughters (which, in his mind, equates to raising them to be without religion and to be sexually adventurous) actually leaves them vulnerable and open to persecution via the pathologizing of their acts of ‘freedom’. The analysis will focus on two specific aspects: first, the tension between the unorthodox kinship between Darina and her father and the lack of kinship that Darina experiences as her father is able to protect her less and less from those who object to her way of life. Second, starting from the social diagnosis that Darina’s behaviour indicates that she must be sick and in need of treatment, the analysis will propose that a reading of Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter as a narrative of illness actually re-valorizes the pathologized behaviour and shows how Al-Joundi subverts social dogma in order to overcome it, her rebellion continuing through the ‘automythology’ of the text.
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Keywords: Darina Al-Joundi; Lebanon; community; embodiment; illness; kinship; scapegoat

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Exeter

Publication date: 2011-12-19

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