samedi 5 février 2011

Mille et une nuits, sexisme et oppression


Il y a une bonne douzaine d'années j'avais commencé à lire Les Mille et une nuits dont j'avais entendu parler depuis l'âge de 10 ans peut-être comme faisant partie des chefs-d'œuvre de la littérature mondiale.

Au bout d'une centaine de pages j'ai laissé tomber pour une toute simple raison : je m'ennuyais.

Quoiqu'il en soit, l'argument premier de l'œuvre ne manque pas de mettre mal à l'aise le lecteur occidental contemporain. Ne s'agit-il pas de l'histoire d'un sultan (Schahriar) qui fait assassiner son épouse infidèle ainsi que toutes les femmes qu'il aura épousées la veille afin d'éviter d'être à nouveau trompé?

C'est donc aussi le sort réservé à Shéhérazade qui sauve sa vie par le moyen que l'on sait : raconter des histoires, divertir son prince, être à son service, à la disposition de son bon vouloir et de ses humeurs.

Est-il démonstration plus aveuglante de l'oppression de  la moitié de l'humanité par l'autre moitié dans une civilisation qui considère comme allant de soi que le mâle ait droit de vie ou de mort sur la femelle/objet dont la raison d'être est de perpétuer le sang de son maître et de satisfaire ses caprices ?

Les crimes "d'honneur" qui ont lieu dans le monde musulman et qui sont commis en France ou en Allemagne  par des immigrés turcs ou pakistanais ne sont-ils pas comme un reflet et une perpétuation d'une tradition multi séculaire qui paraît être comme une composante structurelle des cultures de l'Islam?

Après les attentats du 11 septembre, l'épouse de Lionel Jospin avait participé à une lecture en public d'extraits des Mille et une nuits pour assurer de sa solidarité les Musulmans qui ne devaient pas être confondus avec les terroristes du W.T.C.

Son initiative m'avait laissé un peu sceptique car finalement Sylviane Agacinski -dont les prises de position sont aux antipodes de ce qui constitue le cadre des relations entre les deux sexes dans le monde arabo-musulman- ne cautionnait-elle pas précisément le fondement même de l'asservissement de la femme dans la culture qui est probablement la plus répressive et obscurantiste du point de vue de la situation des femmes dans la Cité? 

Les Mille et une nuits, chef-d'œuvre de la littérature mondiale? Hmmmm...


16 commentaires:

Flocon a dit…

Sans aucun doute y avait-il en moi un préjugé eurocentriste que je masquais derrière le regret que le livre fût en fait une collection d'histoires, contes et légendes d'origines indiennes, perses et arabes.

En petit-fils de la civilisation gréco-latine, la dispersion des auteurs (inconnus), des lieux, des actions et des personnages, tout cela constituait un cadre narratif qui ne m'était pas familier et auquel je n'étais pas disposé à m'adapter.

I may return to it anyway...

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Quand j'écris "Est-il démonstration plus aveuglante etc." ce n'est pas par hasard quoique je n'ai pas cherché particulièrement cette expression.

Je ne suis tout de même pas le seul et premier au monde à faire cette observation relative au cadre narratif des Mille et une nuits.

Les féministes, inter alia, m'ont bien précédé j'en suis sûr, il n'empêche, tout le monde semble faire l'impasse sur l'intolérable sexisme qui constitue la trame même de l'œuvre.

Comme un aveuglement collectif en quelque sorte.

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Je me souviens que c'est après avoir lu qu'un personnage quelconque courtisait l'objet de ses désirs en l'appelant mon petit trou que je me suis dit que j'avais mieux à faire ailleurs...

La dimension poétique avait dû m'échapper.

Anijo a dit…

J'ai tué Schéhérazade
Dans son dernier livre, comme dans sa vie, cette journaliste et écrivaine libanaise lutte contre le carcan imposé aux femmes par le patriarcat et les religions. Et appelle les femmes arabes à prendre leur destin en main.

I Killed Scheherazade is mainly about the hypocrisy and ugliness of separation. The theocratic world incorporates the most extreme kind of puritanism in its scripture and policy, yet allows its male citizens to carry out appalling acts of sexual degeneracy that would never be tolerated in the decadent and godless West. As Haddad puts it, Islamic governments will burn copies of Lolita but won’t prohibit child brides. The theocratic world denies sexuality yet also magnifies it to a degree far beyond the Western supermodel and billboard culture. Its clerics claim to be above base desire, and yet their laws on vice and virtue are detailed to a prurient and ludicrous degree (the Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi remembers being told off by the Revolutionary Guards for running in the street; the officers were concerned that the pistoning motions of Satrapi’s buttocks could arouse passing males). Haddad quotes an old Lebanese saying: ‘We want something and we spit on it.’ Sexual schizophrenia stretches far beyond Islam, of course.

Flocon a dit…

Anijo tu es vraiment la reine des recherches sur l'Internet!

Je ne connaissais pas l'ouvrage de Joumana Haddad ni même sa personne.

And to think one of your links comes from Le Monde magazine...

Encore de la lecture pour aujourd'hui...

Have you read One Thousand and one nigths, partly or entirely?

Anijo a dit…

Flocon,
I remember as a young lass reading Scheherazad's tales
about Sinbad and Ali Baba and Aladdin. It was a book for children and did not include the bit about the king marrying one virgin after the other and then killing her, or any of the tales about lust.

Before reading your post this morning, all I ever thought of when Scheherazad came to mind was that it refers to someone who can spin a good yarn.

Flocon a dit…

Anijo,

Thanks so much for having called my attention (up?)on this Lebanese writer I had never heard of before.

J'ai lu les deux articles et je suis bien content de constater que je n'ai pas écrit que des bêtises dans mon billet! ☺

From the Ikilledsheherazade.com site I arrived at that other article in the Guardian.

Some more reading to do... ;-)

Flocon a dit…

"all I ever thought of when Scheherazad came to mind was that it refers to someone who can spin a good yarn."

Like there's more to it than meets the eye...

Or there's more to it than meet the eyes.

(I never know which is correct but I have a preference for the first one. One eye suffices, it's the overall idea which prevails methinks)

Anijo a dit…

'Meets the eye' is correct. And yes, he he, one eye suffices.

Reading about Joumana Haddad is a delight. She's quite the woman. Interesting that the marquis de Sade was one of her early inspirations.

Anijo a dit…

A not so glowing review of Haddad.

ZapPow a dit…

Not glowing, but disingenuous, I think. The author's main reproach seems to be that the stereotype about the arab woman doesn't really exist because she doesn't have it, and because she knows a few people that don't correspond to it, giving examples that are a bit shallow : her turkish friend living in the USA, an iranian author that happens to be a man with an open and modern mind, a woman that has been sentenced for murder, a young girl who died watching protests in Iran, and an Islam reformer who is known today to be a fake.

Flocon a dit…

I've read this review of Haddad's positions on the Stanford university site.

For what I understand, it seems the authour (Cynthia Haven?) contests the way Haddad refers to "clichés" when it comes to dealing with the fate of women in Muslim countries.

"I know, I know … the cowering Muslim woman, wearing a burqa, submissive to her husband, her son, her houseplant. Anyone seen one of these around lately? Raise your hand. Anyone?"

If she's right you need not worry any longer about the lives of Afghani women then...

This Cynthia Haven seems to go around only with Western educated arab women.

I suggest she pays a visit to some French big cities suburbs not to mention Saudi Arabia.

Flocon a dit…

oops... ZapPow m'a précédé...

Anijo a dit…

ZapPow and Flocon,
Thanks for your comments. I agree with you two. I was a bit surprised by Ms Haven's comments. I would have thought than most progressive women would be proud of Haddad.

Note that she links to this article by Noami Wolf.

I'll admit to sharing some of their opinions about some Muslim women wearing the veil voluntarily. I had quite the argument with Old Frog on SF's site some time ago. I'm beginning to wonder if he was right all along.. I'll have to rethink my opinions. Sometimes it's difficult to reach any conclusions.

Attempting to understand the Muslim world is quite difficult for me.

Flocon a dit…

"Sometimes it's difficult to reach any conclusions."

That is the basic of any philosophical questioning. It may lead to skepticism.

Here is what Jainism says about it:

1.Syād-asti: "in some ways it is"

2.Syād-nāsti: "in some ways it is not"

3.Syād-asti-nāsti: "in some ways it is and it is not"

4.Syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ: "in some ways it is and it is indescribable"

5.Syād-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ: "in some ways it is not and it is indescribable"

6.Syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ: "in some ways it is, it is not and it is indescribable"

7.Syād-avaktavyaḥ: "in some ways it is indescribable"

Also your remark hints at Hegel dialectical process. There's no fact, no idea, no concept, no historical situation which isn't fraught with inner contradictions which have to be overcome in order to reach a higher level of understanding which itself etc.

In a nutshell, everything is in progress and never ceases to evolve into something new which was already concealed in its premise.

The oaktree is virtually in the acorn.

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"Attempting to understand the Muslim world is quite difficult for me."

Does it make you somehow less uncomfortable to know you're not the only one?

There is a famous quote (in France only...) by General de Gaulle (who served two years in Beyrouth during the 20s):

"Vers l'Orient compliqué, je volais avec des idées simples."

It was often recalled during the Irak war in order to underline how naive and uninformed the Bush administration was when it launched the war the French warned it not to.

Anijo a dit…

Alors Général de Gaulle et moi nous avons quelque chose en commun.

:-D

Anyway, a very good philosophical response that did make me feel more comfortable. Thank you Flocon.

La Globule a dit…

Speaking of De Gaulle, what do you think of the recent attempt by the French Ministry of Education to add De Gaulle to the reading list for high school students, and of the controversy that it has created in some circles?

(Sorry to be off topic - although the relationship would be literature and how much it is content versus style)

Flocon a dit…

Bonjour La Globule,

Here is a much pleasant nickname ☺

Once again my ego is at risk! Why should my point of view matter to anyone? ;-)

I've read De Gaulle's memoirs of war in the mid heighties not for the sake of good literature but evidently for its historical content.

Sure it's well written but there are so many other authours worth reading one can't help wondering why this strange idea came to the minds of some pundits in the Éducation nationale...

Eventually I can't see any other reason but a political one.

Mitterrand also wrote a number of books with equal literary merits and I can imagine the right calling blue murder had Jospin proposed Mitterrand were to be read in high schools!

I haven't lost my sleep over this matter but now that you make me think of it this little story me semble être une autre petite provocation politique, sachant parfaitement que les profs allaient réagir comme ils l'ont fait.

Political gain? Did the one who launched the idea want to create another opportunity to denounce the teachers'unions as politically motivated and averse to La vraie France as embodied by de Gaulle's figure?

Cette suggestion n'était pas innocente non et il ne s'agissait pas de permettre aux élèves d'étudier de beaux textes.

Not having spent much time on this issue I didn't have an opinion but now that you've asked me, I've found out I have one! :-D

Thanks for your interest in my little blog la Globule ☺