Libmonster ID: UZ-757



Candidate of Philological Sciences Peoples ' Friendship University of Russia


Candidate of Historical Sciences Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences

Nejma Keywords:gender relationstraditions and customs of the peoples of North Africaemancipation

Echoes of the" sexual revolution " that began in the 60s of the last century in the United States and Europe, spreading like circles on water around the world, reach the most remote corners of the East and Africa.

Every decade, the relationship between the sexes becomes acute and meaningful there, defining and reflecting the struggle of traditions and modern processes. Arab and African women of our era, following their European and American sisters, are trying to find their face (often literally, by removing the burqa and hijab as a challenge to the society that has fixed them) and express themselves in the public field. Some of them succeed: they become prominent public figures and politicians (members of congresses, governments, prime ministers, presidents of countries), famous writers and artists, scientists, fighters for a clean environment and for peace, and become laureates of the most prestigious international awards. They are already an integral part of the new elite of societies on the African continent.

However, the life of ordinary African women is not the same as that of those who managed to get an education, settle in elite urban neighborhoods, or fit into the artistic and intellectual environment of Europe and the United States.

But even in remote African villages and small towns, new trends are emerging, and women are trying to break out of the networks of traditional norms and attitudes. Bound hand and foot by age-old conventions that dictate strict rules of behavior for both sexes, both within the family and in the village community, they manage to find purely feminine means to somehow change their world and their fate.

One of these purely feminine means was and still is their strategy of behavior in the sphere of personal, intimate relations between men and women. This topic is very important for understanding the inner workings of African societies.

A modern North African writer, who has become very popular not only in Africa, but also in Europe and even in Russia, and publishes her works under the pseudonym Nejma, tells about this with complete certainty and eloquence in her novels. Reviewers call her an Arabic writer, and the context of her novels suggests that she is Berber.

Nejma opens the door for the reader to the female half of the closed Muslim world, refuting the established opinion that love in Arab countries is the prerogative of men, and a woman has no right to intimate feelings and should only be the object of her husbands ' desires, meekly and passively fulfill all their whims.

It is no accident that the author's figure is covered with a veil of secrecy. She doesn't give interviews or show herself in public. In the forewords to her novels "Almonds" and "Vanilla", it is said that " the Orthodox call for burning the writer and her books."

The name Nejma (Star in Arabic) is a landmark for modern Arabic literature and poetry. Its origins seem to be connected with the image of the new Muslim woman, created in the mid-50s of the last century by the outstanding Algerian writer Kateb Yassin (1929-1989) in the novel "Nejma", which was associated not only with the movement of the nation to the liberation struggle, but also with the desire for freedom in the broad sense of this word. words 1.

And in the novels of the French-language writer Nejma, the same call is made - for the liberation of women from the yoke of conventions in the family and society, which deprive her of the right to dispose of and enjoy her body and soul. The sharpness and looseness of Nejma's plots and literary techniques lies in the fact that she writes about what her society demands to be silent about.

Nejma sings about sensual love. With its help, we do not just look into the women's half of the Muslim house, which is tightly closed to outsiders, but also see the naked secrets of someone else's bedroom 2.

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This indicates that freedom in expressing the most intimate feelings and frankness in describing erotic scenes are characteristic not only of literary works of representatives of European or American cultures, but also of writers belonging to other cultures, and in particular to the Muslim one, which, at first glance, seems completely unthinkable.

However, if you look closely, you can see that for women, constrained by the rigid and narrow framework of Muslim law, morality, and all sorts of regulations (from clothing that hides the face and body to restrictions on territorial movement), there are very few opportunities to express their self. And, perhaps, the sphere of intimate experiences and the forms of their manifestations give women the only opportunity to exercise their significance, and sometimes power over men, to express their creative imagination and give free rein to their passions.


The heroine of the novel "Almond" 3-Badra acts as a narrator, recalling all the stages of her fifty-year life, starting from early childhood. Up to a certain point, her fate is intertwined with the fate of her mother, sister, aunts, friends, and in general the entire female population of her village. And thanks to this, a three-dimensional picture of the life of a Muslim woman in the outback of one of the North African countries is created.

Badra lived in the Berber village of Imchuk, and at the age of seventeen she was married to a local notary, a forty-year-old Khmed. He decided to marry a young girl so that she would bear him sons, and then he, who realized his masculine abilities, could go to village festivals with his head held high.

To assess the girl as a suitable bride for their clan, Hmed's mother examined and felt her body from head to toe in the local hammam. Knowing the customs of her people, Badra did not dare to resist. Soon, the groom's grandmother came to the bride's house to watch her work around the house and evaluate her as a hostess.

Of course, Badra wanted another "prince", a younger one. However, the inevitable marriage gave Badra some privileges. A young peasant woman worked on the farm instead, since the bride was not supposed to spoil her hands. At this time, Badra lived like a mistress: she ate the most delicious food, she got the best piece of meat. Before going to the wedding bed, she had to acquire the necessary fullness. Badra was locked in a dark room so that her skin would turn white and receive the approval of the clan women. After all, " fair skin is a privilege of the rich." To avoid the evil eye, Badra was banned from communicating with the outside world. "I was a queen and a slave at the same time," the girl recalls of this pre-wedding period (p. 33). On the wedding day, early in the morning, one of the clan women showed up at the bride's house to give her another, most humiliating procedure - to check if she was a virgin. Such is the tradition in the Berber village.

Badra did not love Hmed and, not getting sensual pleasure, began to hate her husband. She can't give birth to an heir, and that's what all her relatives expect from her.

As a result, after feelings and humiliations, the woman also hated her body, stopped washing and using perfume. She worked around the house from dawn to dusk, cooking. The disgruntled husband stopped communicating with Badra, and his sisters did not miss the opportunity to release disgusting insults to the young woman. When she came to her parents ' home for comfort once again, her mother told her: "Your place is no longer with me. You have a home and a husband. Accept your fate as we all do" (p. 43).

Only Naima's loving sister understood that something was wrong with her and that she needed to be saved. And the heroine of the novel herself could no longer bear her humiliated, joyless life. And Naima helps Badra escape from the village to Tangier, where her aunt lived, by secretly handing over a train ticket. The aunt met her niece cordially, and later took an active part in her fate, supporting her in everything, becoming her friend.

Badra wanted to erase from her mind everything that had to do with marriage and village life. In Tangier, my aunt often visited the homes of wealthy citizens and took her niece with her, secretly hoping to marry her to a rich man. So Badra meets Driss, the "socialite" who changed her life, her attitude and contributed to her mental and physical liberation from social and sexual oppression.

Nejma deeply and seriously approaches the problem of intimate relationships, speaks about them frankly, with excessive naturalism, which indicates a striving for liberation from old, archaic, social taboos.

After the first meeting with Driss, a real, big love came to her. She felt refreshed: "The world suddenly immediately became a tenderness. The world became a kiss. And I was only a floating lotus flower "(p. 105). And this overwhelming feeling led the heroine to realize not only her "I", but also a completely different relationship between a man and a woman. For Badra, enjoyment is possible only in true love. In her understanding, love implies mutual respect, mutual understanding and endless devotion to the beloved. She was sure that she and Driss had a mutual feeling. But he was quite happy with a free relationship.

The wealthy and successful doctor spent his free time at social gatherings in high society. Many young women from Tangier's expensive mansions and their mothers saw him as a good match and tried to attract his attention.

* Here and further translated from English. Ilina N. Yu. by: Nejma. The Almond. L., Black Swan, 2006.

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Driss supported Badra, gave her money, and wanted her to take shorthand classes, study French, and read. The girl stopped wearing the veil and replaced it with dresses that he gave her, began to wear pumps, shawls, expensive jewelry. Driss even got her a job at a car company to earn her own money. This was already a new type of relationship between a man and a woman, impossible in a traditional Muslim village.

This relationship lasted for ten years, but the marriage was never concluded. Driss did not declare his love for Badra, but only continued to "desire a woman." One of the main rules for a Moroccan, as for any North African , is not to get attached to their sexual objects.

Driss shows Badra that she is no match for him. He throws insulting words in her face that degrade her dignity: "You bore me terribly with your big words of love and your tragic face. You are beginning to bore me with your "I love you" and "I hate you" and "one day I will leave you" (p. 188-189).

Badra begins to realize that Driss does not respect her at all, and she bitterly shouts to him: "I am not your thing and not your servant. I didn't run away from Imchuk so that you wouldn't think anything of me" (p.175).

The breakup was inevitable, and it happened. Badra broke up with Driss. She "no longer smelled like cow dung and wore Yves Saint Laurent outfits," and lived in one of the apartments her former lover had given her. She got rid of the complexes caused by long-suppressed desires, freed herself from the oppression of memories of life in the village, and found psychological and physiological balance. After parting with Driss, with an "amputated heart", Badra lived freely, had lovers, thanks to whom she traveled the world and saw many countries (p. 208-213).

After 14 years, Driss found her; he was terminally ill and asked his former lover to take him to her, but she refused.

Thus, the novel "Almond" presents a heroine who can be called an emancipated woman. It was as if she threw off the veil from the female soul and body, made an attempt to destroy the stereotypes that prevent Muslim women from living in the modern world and controlling their fate. The author creates a special image of a Muslim woman-an independent woman who represents liberation from medieval norms and regulations. No wonder the credo of Nejma herself and the character Badra created by her: "To love and live without looking back. Love and never look down" (p. 215).

The heroine of" Almond "breaks out of the stuffy atmosphere of rural life and archaic family-marriage and social relations, illuminated by centuries-old Islamic traditions, and finds herself, finding a true" I " as an independent and self - sufficient person in a different social environment-urban, where the sprouts of European modern civilization with different moral values are actively breaking through. But Badra's path also turns out to be a dead end.


In another novel by Nejma - "Vanilla" 4, we witness how a woman manages to liberate her soul and body, living directly in a purely traditional society, successfully mimicking it and "corroding" it from the inside out with her behavior, views, and life philosophy.

In the new novel, Nejma develops the themes and ideas first expressed in her book "Almonds", where throughout the story we feel the predominant taste of bitterness characteristic of this plant. In "Vanilla", the avalanche of feelings of a woman described by the writer is similar to the sharp and sweet aroma inherent in this spice. As noted in the annotation to the book, " she talks about what everyone prefers to keep silent about, she makes no secret of her sensuality, she writes an endless ecstatic ode to love, which melts the heart and shudders the body, she declares the right of a woman to love and be loved, about the desires of the body, that there is nothing dirty, vulgar, or depraved in bed."

The main character of the novel, like the writer herself hiding her face under the fictitious name Zobida Ait Lemsen, acts here as a mentor to a young girl Leila, who is preparing to marry and does not know anything about the relationship of the sexes. Zobida, who is older and more experienced in matters of love, leads her ward with a firm hand to the heights of understanding her corporeality and sensual pleasures.

In the introduction to the notes, which she says are kept by her teacher Ali - her intimate friend, she says: "in this life, some are given to learn good manners, others-to cultivate the spirit and strengthen the faith. God has made me inclined to pleasure. < ... > I have only one opportunity left to do a good deed before I die: to initiate some girl into the secrets of love. In the strictest confidence, of course. This country decided to ban sex and hide behind a false virtue. If it is possible to establish who I am, I will be hanged " (p. 5).

Zobida justifies and justifies the path of life and mission that she has chosen by several factors: a hard life in marriage with an old and unloved husband, acquired by bitter experience, the status of a widow, which gives a woman the right to a higher and more honorable place on the social ladder, and the fact that she, being from a different tribe, has settled in the among the Arabs, as a foreigner, she might not follow all the rules of the society in which she now lived.

Describing her miserable existence in her younger years, which is the only way to describe it, Zobida recalls: "Sadeq (her husband) always made it clear to me that I was not good for anything. My father and brothers too <...> But I tried to understand. Making my mind work while my skin bled. I was an uneducated recluse, but in my little life, I was still a recluse.

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I tried to get to the bottom of the reasons that cost me these lashes and words " (p. 13).

After the death of her husband, Zobida found some freedom, was able to leave her native places and settled on the other side of the country, where no one knew her. This is how she talks about herself: "Despite my unfortunate Berber background, I have earned a good reputation. They call me kind, kind, and a bit of a sorceress" (p. 18).

The main character of the novel explains her love not only with a thirst for forbidden and condemned pleasures, but also with a certain protest feeling. She says: "Something whispered to me that my desire for men was born out of a vague desire to take revenge... This question almost deprived me of a sense of joyful excitement... " (p. 109).

With the help of hypocrisy and lies, Zobida managed to successfully mimic in a society to which she is deeply ironic and even sarcastic: "The status of a widow brought me the respect that is called Virtuous. As if a chastity belt automatically confers the crown of a saint!<...> After a few months, I was allowed to serve as a qadi (Sharia judge - N. K.). I gave advice to mothers... menacingly branded girls and boys... I ran to the call of my fathers, who demanded my opinion on marriages, and sometimes on financial disputes. < ... > I managed their marriages and divorced them" (p. 19).

Showing the double life of his heroine, Nejma reveals the true essence of the society she describes with its double standards. This is especially true for the male population, who, according to Zobida, see a woman only as a thing; she can be used, and then beaten, maimed, and even killed.

A woman has never, since birth, "heard praise for her appearance... She only knew, as all Zebib virgins do, that men live on another planet, " and if they don't get married in time, they "will have to bury themselves forever in the shadow of their father's moustache" (p.26).

But entering adulthood, a Muslim woman does not receive the expected love, happiness and freedom, but is only humiliated. Nejma narrates in the pages of the novel how wandering Zobida and Leila, having lost their way, find themselves in a strange village inhabited only by silent, gloomy, taciturn women. "Something about these women betrayed both courage and fear, anger and despair" (p. 135).

One of them secretly tells the heroines: "Not far from here lived a tribe of Pure Ones, for whom all women were whores, and they had to be treated accordingly. Their sheikh issued a fatwa ordering the women to be locked up in a special camp, far from the village, so as not to endanger the salvation of believers in this world and the next. Once a month, the men went up to connect with the women, and then came down again. Girls born from such unions remained in the camp to later give their virginity to the Pure Ones. < ... > After getting rid of the semen, the men paid the women for the hymen they had just torn, which allowed the latter to survive until the next month " (pp. 139-140).

Humiliation is a woman's lot in Muslim society. This is the meaning of this parable.

The heroine of the novel does not want girls to repeat the sad fate of her and many other Arab women, and therefore sets as the main goal of her life to teach them to love their bodies and learn the secrets of sensuality, despite all social and religious laws and norms.

Leila's parents entrust their daughter to Zobida, and the two of them go in search of the witch who supposedly "closed" the girl, and now she can not lose her virginity. Women walk the length and breadth of the country. During this time, Zobida initiates the young ward in the secrets of somatic sensations. It teaches her the freedom and naturalness of feelings and bodily movements, instilling in her that the female body is a part of Nature. According to Badra,"...Talking to nature is everyone's right. < ... > I watched Leila. "We're going to count all the stars tonight, but in the meantime, you should take this opportunity to wander around like a lamb." Go on!" Here, in front of me. Walk freely. Drop the knot and show me how you can run!

At first, she moved awkwardly like a sheep, then took a few steps and ran faster. The girl dropped her veil on the cornstalks. I saw her quickly climb a small hill to the west, turn around, raise her face to the sky, which was not far away, descend from the other side, sink into the grass and run, run. Her body was all movement, the child in her rejoicing in every step, jump, dive. She seemed happy" (pp. 56-57). "And I saw in this questioning gaze the birth of something unknown, the possibility of a new existence" (p.164).

Zobida's lessons awakened Leila's self-awareness, made her feel that she was a free person, not dependent on a man's will. Having known true love with the young poet Amir and entered into a secret marriage with him with the assistance of Zobida, the girl could no longer return to her father's family and to the unloved groom. Having severed her family ties and covered her family with dishonor and disgrace, "Leila ran away to the south. Too much in love and now free" (p. 268).

Indeed, in many traditional societies of Muslim countries in Africa and the East, such actions of women are still perceived with unconditional condemnation. But they happen more and more often, joining the general global flow of the movement of women looking for their "I" and their own independent life path.

Prozhogina S. V. 1 Maghreb francophone novel. Alzhir, Morocco, Tunis / / Istoriya romannykh form v literaturakh Afrika [History of Novel Forms in African Literatures], Moscow, 2010, p.45.


Nejma. 3 The Almond. L., Black Swan, 2006.

Nejma. 4 Vanilla. Per. with fr. Garibashvili D. I. M., RIPOLklassik, 2010.


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