WHAT HAVE YOU DONE
WITH YOUR KIDS,
Cover Design by
Éctor Sandoval ©
EZZA AGHA MALAK
(Université Libanaise, Lebanon)
CYNTHIA T. HAHN
(Lake Forest College, USA)
Tolerance, love, disillusionment and war, the breakdown of the couple, the retraction of women's rights and abuse of children, are among recurring themes in this author's works. Agha Malak's fiction has an authentic tone, characterized by her extensive use of true stories, integrated into the greater historical context. Author of several dozen literary, psychocritical, linguistic and pedagogical articles, Agha Malak regularly presents her critical analyses and her fiction at conferences worldwide. She speaks of writing as her sole raison d'être and as a form of engagement, of the French language as a saving grace, as an outlet and existential need, and of the word, as her only weapon. Her novels, which mix artistic expression with suspense, are to be read on several levels, with multiple meanings. A prolific author of one or two works a year, Agha Malak participates annually in francophone Salons du Livre, in France— Burgundy, Paris, Provence—as well as in Beirut, Lebanon, considering la francophonie a project worth defending. To date, four volumes of collected critical essays have been published on her written works.
'Ezza Agha Malak’s new novel, What Have You Done With Your Kids, Dad?, touches upon some particularly painful issues as it describes the abusive relationship of an overbearing, Muslim man seen thru the eyes of his own young children. The progressive breakdown of the couple means more than the separation of two adults with children. Not only do these young ones have to face the terrible psychological assault upon their own mother, but they also have to reconcile themselves with the loss of their father and with his wrongdoing. No longer a sought after, loving, role model, their father has become a repulsive figure symbolizing the suffering of their mother whom they strive to protect. When the mother and her two children flee a devastated Lebanon at war in 2006, they all but abandon their cultural roots behind for an unknown and uncertain future in France.
Ezza Agha Malak has already displayed the immense depth of her talent as a writer in a previous acclaimed novel in translation, Anosmia: Nostalgia for a Forbidden Sense. In this new novel, narrated by the young son, she takes an intelligent approach in systematically revealing her sensitive subject. She lets her story develop by itself, and her criticism of machismo, or rather, her denouncing of the use of a religious Code of Law favourable only to men, demonstrated in the narrative by a ludicrous, shameless hypocritical husband/father, makes the point clearly. Ezza Agha Malak does not criticize Islam as a "bad" religion; she shows rather that a restrictive interpretation of it leads to the denigration of and humiliation of women. As a writer, she aptly narrates the cause for women's rights, as a battle worthy of being fought.
Ezza Agha Malak’s emotionally brutal novel owes much to some brilliant predecessors that also analyze father/child relations, like Tahar Ben Jelloun’s The Sacred Night, or Dominique Fernandez’s In the Hand of the Angel. Agha Malak paints her characters extremely well, and we do feel for the young hero, who desperately tries to send a loving message to his Dad. We note that in spite of his father's rude and incomprehensible behaviour, actions he vows never to imitate, the maturing son finds a way to reconcile himself with the rupture of this crucial relationship. At the close of the novel, the reader's thoughts will linger on the little dog left behind, the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, and on Lebanon, this once so rich and beautiful country, today an ongoing battle field divided and often characterized by religious sectarianism and crippled by medieval ancestral feuding.
May this narrative message of hope and reconciliation by Ezza Agha Malak, proud Lebanese author, that life, no matter the circumstances, must go on, be heard by her fellow Lebanese citizens, and contribute to the rebuilding of her wonderful Motherland.'
Author of the novels, Enfants de la Patrie.
Acosta Ñu, 16 août 1869
Dr. Ezza Agha Malak
In 2001, she received the Lebanese Parliamentary Commission's Ordre du Mérite.
Dr. Cynthia T. Hahn
is Professor of French at Lake Forest College, USA.
She received a Ph.D. in Francophone Literature
University of Illinois at Urbana, USA;
Her translation from French of Dr. Ezza Agha Malak's book,
Anomia. Nostalgia for a Forbidden Sense,
was published by University Press of the South in 2007.
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