Each story in Catalogue of a Private Life by Libyan author Najwa Bin Shatwan navigates a topic that feels resonant with our modern, more intimate understanding of worldwide worries. Strong images abound, stirring up questions: what can we as individuals do to help the collective good?
Passing, almost trivial statements stick in the mind – the first story (of eight) in Catalogue Of A Private Life includes the gem, “White socks were naturally a great measure at how fashionable a man was or how noble.” The dinkus is used to denote transitions through time, much like a film shifting through events. Another story, The Irresponsible Director, speaks volumes about the role food has in narratives: everyday observations that will likely strike a chord with us in their minutiae.
In Catalogue of a Private Life, Bin Shatwan writes complex characters into stories that create a unique space to explore the rich tapestry of human behaviour, of lives from a place that a Westerner such as myself may find difficult to fully comprehend. An air of religious sobriety underlines almost surreal scenarios – here, fictional elements are believable if you hold them within a heightened world built on truth.
Catalogue Of A Private Life, Najwa Bin Shatwan [trans. Sawad Hussain] (Dedalus)
Price: £7.99. Info: here
words BILLIE INGRAM SOFOKLEOUS
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