The Forbidden Woman


The Forbidden Woman

Malika Mokeddem
Translated by K. Melissa Marcus

European Women Writers Series

156 pages


February 1998


$50.00 Add to Cart

February 1998


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Forbidden Woman tells the story of Sultana, an Algerian woman doctor who, after years spent living in France, returns to her native village in order to attend the funeral of a former lover. The clash between her origins and the Westernized life she now leads is explored in telling detail against the backdrop of current events in Algeria. A work that combines insight into both political and personal matters, The Forbidden Woman develops a complex portrait of a country torn between progress and prejudice, secular life and Islamic fundamentalism.

In this passionate book, Malika Mokeddem places special emphasis on the position of women in modern Algeria. The frequent indignities and injustices suffered by the narrator reflect the plight of women in a society marked by patriarchalism and religious fundamentalism. Yet the novel also suggests that, along with modernization, there are emerging demands for women’s rights in Algeria—demands that might well signal a vastly different future for this tormented nation.

Author Bio

Malika Mokeddem was born into an illiterate nomad family in Kenadsa, Algeria. She had the opportunity, rare for a Moslem female, to attend the university in Oran. Later she completed her medical studies in Montpellier, France, where she currently practices medicine. The Forbidden Woman is her third novel. Melissa Marcus is an associate professor of French at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of The Representation of Mesmerism in Honoré de Balzac’s “La Comédie Humaine” and the translator of Nina Bouraoui’s Forbidden Vision.


“Malika Mokeddem, through her autobiographical character of Sultana and an intriguing supporting cast, gives us a rich and relevant description of the steep divide in the geography of her soul—one educated beyond the boundaries of the extreme element of Islamic fundamentalism in Algeria, and one that yearns for home. The Forbidden Woman is a short, lush, and provocative novel. It provides a piercing view of the inner life of anyone who must live in exile, both physically and emotionally, along with a necessary and practical understanding of the current prognosis for most of Algeria’s women. At once unsettling and enjoyable.”—Bloomsbury Review

“Through the narratives of Sultana and Vincent, Mokeddem creates an interesting dual perspective on the plight of contemporary Algerian women struggling to preserve female strength in the midst of sexist culture. While Sultana’s pain seems irremediable, hope lies in the fresh determination of Delila and also in the active resistance of the village women who finally band together in solidarity with Sultana to defy oppression.”—Rachel Stein, Multicultural Review

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