F. Elizabeth Dahab. Voices of Exile in Contemporary Canadian Francophone Literature

By Pivato, Joseph | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

F. Elizabeth Dahab. Voices of Exile in Contemporary Canadian Francophone Literature


Pivato, Joseph, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


F. Elizabeth Dahab. Voices of Exile in Contemporary Canadian Francophone Literature. Lanham, MA: Lexington Books, 2009.229 pp. Bibliography. Index. $60.00 hc.

In 2002 Elizabeth Dahab published Voices in the Desert: An Anthology of Arabic-Canadian Women Writers (Guernica), a text now used in many courses in Canadian literature, comparative literature, and women's studies. This first collection of work by Canadian women of Arabic descent includes texts published in French, English, and Arabic, and thus epitomizes Deleuze and Guattari's ideal of minor literatures and deterritorialization. She has followed this seminal anthology with the first study anywhere of Arabic Canadian writers, Voices of Exile. It examines the works of several first-generation Canadian authors born in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, or the Maghreb. There is a striking lack of scholarship on authors of Arabic descent in North America, and Dahab's volume fills this lacuna with an in-depth critical study of selected writers and texts. We should note that she prefers the term Arabic as an adjective rather than Arab.

Dahab begins her critical study of Arabic Canadian writers with a detailed (43-page) introduction that examines important topics: Quebec as locus of literatures of exile, other minority literatures in Canada, a profile of the Arabic community in Quebec, language choice of writers, literary themes, and the literary theory of exile. In addition to extensive notes, this chapter includes a list of twenty-nine selected Arabic Canadian writers, their genres, locations, and literary prizes. The rest of the book has one chapter each devoted to five senior authors: Saad Elikhadem, Naim Kattan, Abla Farhoud, Wajdi Mouawad, and Hedi Bouraoui. Beginning with the introductory chapter and continuing through the book, she provides a solid theoretical basis for cultural and literary analysis of Arabic Canadian literature, using these representative francophone authors.

Saad Elikhaden is "among those Egyptian Canadian mediators (such as Alonzo and Naaman) who played a significant role in the transmission and diffusion of their own and other writer's products through the literary reviews and publishing houses they founded" (46). Dahab's chapter on Elikhaden examines four of his major works in English--Wings of Lead (1971/1994), The Plague (1989), Trilogy of the Flying Egyptian (1990-1992), and One Night in Cairo (2001)--as complex experimental novels which capture political and cultural values, as well as the despair of the exile.

The best-known Canadian writer in this study is Naim Kattan, remembered for his twenty-four years as an administrator in the Canada Council promoting the development of Canadian literature. For this public service work and for his thirty-four books, Kattan has been honoured with many awards from both Quebec and English Canada. Dahab's chapter on Kattan focuses on his early novel, Adieu Babylone (1975), then later works, L'Anniversaire (2000) and Le Gardien de mon frere (2003), followed by some short story collections. Some of these books have been translated into English. …

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