Finding her Voice. A psychoanalytical Reading of Muzoon: Desert Rose, a Novel by Fauzia S. AlSalem, A writer from Kuwait


What is it that causes a woman to lose her voice? And what shape would this voice take if it could be repossessed? Issues of women’s voice and/or identity seem to arise repeatedly in the psychoanalytical theories that try to understand the formation of our subjectivities. The acquisition of language plays an essential role in most of these theories as it is through language that one is seen to possess and maintain an identity, one formed by our entrance into this language. As early as Freud’s theories on the workings of the psyche, we were taken into the complex nature of this psyche that is split between three entities—ego, id, and superego—that work together in order to produce the final result; the subject. This is not a concrete, well-formed subject, however, but is rather the same fractured subject that in Lacan’s theories needs its entry into the symbolic stage; into language, in order to be able to express his or her needs and desires. This happens only when the subject faces a lack, a key Lacanian term later developed and contested by some feminists. It is this lack, therefore, that necessitates speech, as an essential tool one must posses if we can ever come close to fulfilling our desires (which, for Lacan, is an impossibility, but that is another argument). This symbolic stage, Lacan tells us, begins when the child is aware of his or her image in the mirror and his or her separation from the mother/nurturer. When I realize I am not my mother, my nurturer, my source of living, I also instantly realize the need to claim a voice through which I can express to this mother, no longer part of me, that I have certain needs. As the boy and the girl child realize their difference from the mother, each in their own terms, there begins their sexual awareness. For Freud, this begins the boy’s dissociation from the (m)other and his association with the father for fear of castration. Similarly, the girl learns to hate her mother, or her resemblance to her mother, and to desire what her father symbolizes, thus Freud’s controversial penis envy.

Poststructuralist feminists saw that it is necessary to contest one of the main arguments that both Lacan and Freud’s theories rest upon, that of the lack, as it relates to a patriarchal worldview that relegates the feminine as the one lacking and the masculine as the one possessing, and as such, negativity becomes a feminine trait. To subvert this negativity, poststructuralist feminists argue for a way to perceive the formation of the subject outside of the logic of the lack, or to find in this lack a position of authority:

But we are in no way obliged to deposit our lives in their banks of lack, to consider the constitution of the subject in terms of a drama manglingly restaged, to reinstate again and again the religion of the father. Because we don’t want that. We don’t fawn around the supreme hole. We have no womanly reason to pledge allegiance to the negative. (Cixous 1460)

It is from this argument that Cixous and other poststructuralist feminists call for women to write their bodies, as a way of giving voice and authority to an entity – femininity or the female body – that has so far been perceived as voiceless or “negative.” And since Kristeva’s studies into the semiotic chora has attributed to the feminine elements of fluidity and lack of structure,  these elements became exemplary in attempts by feminists to enter – or re-enter – the semiotic chora, if merely in their writing.

Thus our novel, Muzoon, the focus of this paper, begins in the voice of the woman before her entry into the symbolic order, before her entry into the world that will take away her voice, thus manifesting Kristeva’s semiotic chora:

My first birth .. my first birthday .. or the first after the first million. The closest sketching to the memory of my breed, one related to the memory of my genes following one another in the lap of water. …  From the warm lap .. from the depth .. depth of the womb .. the water drop finds its way out to guide its seed, and to push it towards labor .. in order for the breed to be, and for the genius of the instinct to predominate .. and for life to go on. Thus arrived my first birth .. the one closer to the memory.[1] (1)

The novel begins with the voice of an unborn baby—not words exactly as an unborn baby cannot be seen to possess words—as she relates her entry into the world. This baby, however, is silenced upon birth for the next sixteen chapters. When finally a voice is given, temporarily, for that girl to express her joy at experiencing the colors of the world, she is severely punished and her clitoris, what may here be considered an equivalent to the penis, is amputated, thus ending her speech, unless it is a speech in which she portrays her submission to the patriarchal world that took away her voice[2], symbolized in her adopted mother Om Salman. Here again Cixous’ words come to mind when she write:

As soon as they begin to speak, at the same time as they’re taught their name, they can be taught that their territory is black: because you are Africa, you are black. Your continent is dark. Dark is dangerous. You can’t see anything in the dark, you’re afraid. Don’t move, you might fall. Most of all, don’t go into the forest. And so we have internalized this horror of the dark. (1455)

And Zuwaina soon internalizes this fear. 

When she is allowed to speak again, nine chapters later, she does so in order to show us her entry into another level of submission to patriarchy, exhibited in her marriage to Abdulaziz and ending with her production of the child Muzoon, after which she is silenced, as her role in life, that of producing a child, has ended. Silenced till the end, the novel, nevertheless, ends with this character’s death in the penultimate chapter, the final chapter resolved to the miraculous awareness of this character’s daughter that life should be lived to its fullest. So again, woman must die, in order for a life to take shape, albeit this life is that of her own daughter, resembling yet again the separation that forces the child away from the (m)other in order to enable its proper entry into the world.

In her introduction to Lacan’s Feminine Sexuality, Jacqueline Rose explains that

[F]emininity is assigned to a point of origin prior to the mark of symbolic difference and the law. The privileged relationship of women to that origin gives them access to an archaic form of expressivity outside the circuit of linguistic exchange.

That point of origin is the maternal body, an undifferentiated space, and yet one in which the girl child recognizes herself. The girl then has to suppress or devalue that fullness of recognition in order to line up within the order of the phallic term. (54)

Thus Zuwaina’s awareness of her real self begins while still in her mother’s womb. Her ability to articulate this self is achieved only as a result of her access to this mother’s womb.  Julia Kristeva calls this stage, one in which the child is still not severed from mother, the chora, thus differentiating it from the later symbolic stage. Within this differentiation, there lies also Kristeva’s elevation of this stage in relation to the symbolic with its necessary splitting of the subject:

The chora is not yet a position that represents something for someone (i.e., it is not a sign); nor is it a position that represents someone for another position (i.e., it is not yet a signifier either); it is, however, generated in order to attain to this signifying position. Neither model not copy, the chora precedes and underlies figuration and thus specularization, and is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm. (2170)

That the chora precedes the sign, and thus language, is evident in Alsalem’s text when the first voice uttered becomes that of a child who obviously has not yet entered the symbolic, and is thus still empowered in her position within the chora, an unsplit, unsplintered position.

Muzoon chronicles the lives of three women; mother, daughter, and granddaughter, told in a non-chronological order, to add yet another feature to a text narrated by women, that of the lack of structure and order. Ziana, the grandmother, lives in Oman with her two daughters from a husband, Hmoud, who left her for years in order to secure a financial future in Zanzibar. Lonely without her man, Ziana soon meets and starts an affair with a neighbor’s brother, in town for a visit. This affair leads to the inevitable pregnancy of Ziana, noticed after her lover, Yves, leaves Oman on the outset of war in France, his homeland. Ziana, fearful of the punishment adulteresses are fated for in her country, hides her pregnancy, after having failed at aborting it, until the time comes for her to give birth. Then, assisted by a trusted maid, she takes refuge in a cave and gives birth to a daughter, Zuwaina who is left in the mountain, to be taken in by an old woman, Om Salman, and raised as her own daughter. Ziana is soon forced to leave for Zanzibar to meet her husband.

Meanwhile the girl, Zuwaina is raised in the way of mountain people, a strict and harsh way of life. At an early age, however, the girl shows vigor as we see her love of life and of play during her time with Masoud, the boy who takes care of their sheep. Zuwaina describes one such time spent in childhood bliss as such:

We ran across green grass .. water tunnels .. the rabbit quivering in my hand and shaking. I jump and play among the oleander plants, olive and juniper trees. Masoud runs with me .. as usual he can’t keep up with me. I always beat him in running and racing (125)

I jumped into the cold refreshing water running on our bodies. We started splashing each other .. diving and coming out .. swimming and floating. Singing and laughing, the water murmuring in a soft music that amused and distracted us, till we forgot about time in this little heaven of ours. (126)

Yet it is precisely this incident of her swimming with the boys in the crevice that lead her mother, influenced by the knowledge that Zuwaina is a bastard, to see this as a sign that something has to be done to prevent the girl from following in her mother’s footsteps. She therefore hires the service of some women known to perform the act of circumcision, common in those parts of the country among traditional conservative people.

Here we read of Zuwaina’s most horrific experience with being circumcised at the hands of these women:

I started calling out to my mother .. begging her to save me from them, and from their attack and bondage. I started kicking the big black woman with my legs .. swearing at her and spitting at her. She was like a monster attacking me with all her strength and power. She sat on my right leg putting it under her thigh .. her friend took the other leg, parted between my thighs, then sat on my other leg. She took off my underpants with her hand, rubbed a cold ointment on my body while I shouted and bit the woman who had my head between her thighs. Suddenly her razorblade shined while it descended cutting my meat, in an agonizing pain that struck like hot coal to my soul, burning and cutting my body in a quiver that shook me and pulled my soul out of my body. Hot blood comes out of me, her hand sprinkles salt and presses on my wound with her burning herbs .. pepper that causes me to faint. After which I felt nothing. (133)

Done with no proper medical care, this procedure leads Zuwaina to develop high fever that when finally abated, results in the girl losing all sparks of life and developing a fear of anything outside the circumference of her home, conveniently suiting her for her role as a dutiful wife and mother. “A giant fear stands between us,” she tells us of her relationship with her mother henceforth, “allows me nothing but obedience and acceptance .. and total submission to her will and choice.” (138-9) Upon this, Zuwaina stops talking, echoing Cixous’s words “Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time.” (1457) Zuwaina “no longer had any desires or interests” to motivate her into even the most ordinary act of speaking. (139) Language stems from a need to express our desires, Lacan tells us, so once her desire is killed, Zuwaina loses her language.

Her speech is only regained when her biological mother, Ziana, finally returns from Zanzibar and under the guise of caring for those in need, takes the girl under her wings and tries to build up her character again.

With [Ziana] .. in her company, the day started to reveal its other face. Meaning got bigger and wider. … I tried hard to speak and learn .. I crossed the tunnel of paralysis with letters and words. With the tutor Maitha, I learned to read … my behavior changed and I broke my solitude. … When the fits approached … I began to read .. read .. read .. fast .. fast. Until the bird of my soul rested .. my breath calmed. Ziana’s best gift for me .. was teaching me to read (231-2)

And as Ziana begins to lavish on Zuwaina the care and love of a mother long lost, Zuwaina gradually begins to come back to life, as exhibited in her joy of acquiring language through learning to read.

Soon, however, Zuwaina is seen by a man from Kuwait, a neighboring country, who admires her and pays a huge dowry to marry her. The wedding night, as anticipated by Zuwaina, and probably even Ziana, returns the former to her silent position as the pain of her first sexual experience returns her to the pain she suffered when her clitoris was cut.

This marriage results in Muzoon, the book’s namesake[3], though the word also signifies much more. However, though the book is called after her, and though Muzoon’s narrative occupies the biggest part of the novel[4], her story, though one around which the plot revolves, remains dim in the shadow of her mother’s intense and savage childhood and adulthood. My focus therefore remains with Zuwaina’s character as it is through this character that I regard the novel as a place in which the writer, Fauzia S. Alsalem gives voice to a woman deprived of the pen, metaphorically, literally, and symbolically that should allow her speech. Through this, and through the circular, non-conformist style of writing, I see this text as an extension of Cixous’ call for women to write their bodies.

Let me now take a few moments to outline the three major characters as I see them to inhabit Freud’s three divisions of the psyche. I argue that Alsalem’s novel is a woman’s text spoken by one person, one psyche, but in the voice of the three divisions Freud allocated to this psyche. Ziana is thus the id, Muzoon the ego and Zuwaina the superego. This argument will further be used to prove that the voice of Zuwaina, the superego, is the one repressed, and thus silenced by society, and therefore the one given power in the text of Alsalem.[5] It is as though Alsalem here follows Cixous’ advice when she writes that “woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies – for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal.” (1454)

            Alda’as further argues that Alsalem, as a woman, is best suited to describe the intimate details surrounding Zuwaina as her circumcision left her as hard and emotionless as those rocks in the mountains of Oman where she grew up, “a hardness that leaves no man able to explain its intimate details in as much light as a woman can. Only she can deliver to the reader what it means for a woman to love, and to enjoy that who she loves, which is what this author [Alsalem] managed to do.” (my translation]

Muhammed Mutasam, a critic who analyzes the effects of FGM on Zuwaina, rightly argues that Ziana is the most passionate among the three main characters, and Zuwaina the least passionate. I agree with this argument and stress that is it indeed Ziana and Zuwaina’s passion and lack of it which distinguishes each in the places I have allotted them along Freud’s divisions of the psyche. Thus Ziana’s passion is seen in this reading as a demonstration of the id, while Zuwaina’a lack of passion demonstrates her as the superego.

AlDa’as is among the critics who offer the strongest analysis of the novel. AlDa’as sees Muzoon as

the tale of a desire that overcomes three women: the first is killed metaphorically by this desire as seen in her inability to speak about the hidden truth and her eternal waiting for that forbidden French man that wears her out eventually; the second woman killed this desire resulting in her innocent laughter rattling and her prime youth grown old; the third woman, however, still enjoys experimenting with this desire. (my translation)

And I see these three women as the embodiment of one women and her struggle with this desire: one, the id, Ziana, in which the desires reigns most strongly, a second, the superego, Zuwaina, in which the desire is killed, and a third, the ego, Muzoon, who is able to play along the lines of this desire.

The best place from which to look at these three characters as examples of the id, ego and superego is in the chapter that presents Muzoon’s trip to go see the gypsies with her cousins. Upon being told about the arrival of the gypsies, Muzoon expresses an immediate desire to go see them, a desire that was immediately checked by her mother, the superego, only to be released by her grandmother, the id. Muzoon tells us:

But before I flew with their wings, my mother’s net captured me and stopped me weaving threads of suspicion, caution, and refusal for all kinds of reasons. But Ziana’s hand released me from her grip gently and kindly, and she said, hugging my mother’s hand:

--Go with them ..  but come back before the sun sets and it gets dark (33)

That same chapter actually begins with Muzoon’s description of the two women as “two opposite poles:”

Ziana .. and Zuwaina. Two opposite poles. My life will tread between them .. in acceptance and rejection .. positive and negative .. strength and weakness .. fear and boldness .. easy and difficult .. hesitant and wild .. dream and reality. Two different currents, each pulling me towards it, trying to reshape and reform my will, my behavior and my nature. My mother Zuwaina is the image of fear, hesitancy, doubt, seclusion, fatality, and isolation. Ziana is the opposite side of all those former features, carrying all openness, boldness and daring, ambition and will, pleasure and adventure .. arriving at all she desires. Each of the two tries to erase and write on my consciousness and awareness. (27)

Thus, early in the novel, Muzoon tells us that she is the ego, torn between the id’s boldness and the superego’s fear.

That Ziana is the id is felt most clearly in the Book of Love.[6] This book begins with her meeting of Yves, the French neighbor who ignites her sexual sparks and takes her on a journey towards discovering her sexuality. Her estrangement from her long absent husband has left Ziana sexually inactive for many years, that Yves’ flirtations soon took effect and resulted in her throwing away all restrictions and inhibitions formally imposed and ingrained within her as a member of a conservative society. With Yves, Ziana declares:

I understood the pleasure of the body .. its secrets .. its points of strength .. its delight. As if my body opens for the first time. As if it’s the first taste of the fruit of the body .. the enlightening and disappearing aroma of the forbidden fruit. The mysterious and vague secret of the closed flower .. storming and attacking .. torturer and tortured .. rebel and radical. The boiling of thundering volcano from its prison. (91-2)

And with this all the old restrictions were melted and through it Ziana learned to appreciate her body:

I learned with him .. with him I respected my body even more. I understood its value .. its vigor and charge of life. It’s the elixir of the soul .. its fuel .. its violence and vigor. … With Yves, all meanings changed. I was born again .. … I had to tear open my cocoon, and set my soul's butterfly free. To believe in me first so I can be free from me. To take the first step towards salvation. … The revolution of the body freed my soul and my mind. (92-3)

Freeing her body, Ziana was able to free herself from all other restrictions and was able to understand that what the heart desires needs to be reached no matter the difficulties. Later in her life, when Muzoon asks her mother what is meant by the term adulteress, Ziana answers her that “An adulteress is a woman .. who loved truly .. and didn’t know how to hide her love .. so people stoned her.” (45)[7]

Zuwaina, on the other hand, is clearly the voice of societal restrictions and prohibitions instantly recognized as soon as she is forced to understand her forced separation from her real self. As she gained consciousness after her circumcision she tells us: “I was no longer myself. … I was unable to recognize her face. … When I returned to life, I didn’t return to myself. I was unable to recognize my new face. Nor my mutilated body .. nor my missing soul or my lost mind.” And as soon as this awareness that she is not herself is felt, Zuwaina becomes the voice of societal obligation, and the voice of authority.

            If Zuwaina is obviously an embodiment of the superego with its restrictions and prohibitions, then Ziana and Muzoon, each in their own terms, stand for the part of the psyche that is still in touch with its desires. Drucilla Cornell, in a recent article on autonomy, explains that:

The more we actively assume our desire, the less we are captured by traditional gender roles. We become able to assume special responsibility for our lives.

Let me be clear that, by desire, I mean not only sexual desire, but also what we broadly conceive as our ability to chart out a life that is our own. (145)

Here outlining both Ziana and Muzoon’s choices in life, the former in her assuming of her sexual desire, and the latter in her ability to make her own life, as seen in her choice to study theatre in Kuwait, to travel wildly regardless of her pregnancy, and to allow herself to enjoy Bernard’s company regardless of her semi-commitment to Dhari.

Riyadh Abu Awad agrees with me that Ziana might best portray the id when he compares her relationship with Yves to Muzoon’s relationship with Bernard. Abu Awad explains that while Ziana’s sexual encounter stems from her subconsiousness, Muzoon’s is a clearly conscious effort on her part, one which she addresses and fully understands. As we read of Ziana ‘falling’ for Yves as a result of his bold advances on her body, we also come across Muzoon’s more alert attraction to Bernard:

In Ziana’s analysis there is no satisfaction but that of the body. No truth to life if not in the body .. the burning of passion .. the satisfaction of the soul and its completion with the body. Marriage means a man you desire. But the man I desire doesn’t quench the roaring of my mind .. and doesn’t close the doors of its trouble. Only Bernard builds the bridge between logic and reason and connects the bridge of completion and question .. hesitation and faltering .. and anger that pours hatred out of the struggle over a strong yearning that burns my body. (304-5)

And Muzoon chooses Bernard specifically because it is a conscious choice, made by the demands of her conscious mind.

Drucilla Cornel argues that gender roles lose their strong grip on our personalities as we strive to assume our desire. She goes on, interestingly enough, to clarify that “by desire, [she] mean[s] not only sexual desire, but also what we broadly conceive as our ability to chart out a life that is our own.” And so we find Ziana claiming her identity by enjoying free sexual encounters, unhindered by society’s prohibitions, while Muzoon claims her identity by taking control of her own life, ‘charting’ it out individually and away from what is expected of her from her society. In her choosing Bernard, she also shows an ability to choose her life.

What is significant here, and what takes us to Lacan’s symboic and Kristeva’s chora, is that upon this awareness, Zuwaina literally feels the separation from her mother, essential in the Freudian analysis of subject formation, and in the Lacanian and Kristevian elaboration upon the girl’s entry into the symbolic chora. Zuwaina explains:

I was not her daughter any more .. she was not my mother any more. Something between us broke. Something was scalped from our skin. A huge gulf parted us though we lived in the same house. Silence was a high wall that prevented us from connecting and talking. A deep hole kept us apart .. crossing it meant death or falling into oblivion.

The oblivion Zuwaina fears here is that same fear Freud refers to as he explains the castration complex. It is also that same fear that Lacan refers to when he dictates that entry into language necessitates a severance from the mother, a lack.

            Emily Zakin outlines two modes of subject formation describing them as the psychoanalytical account, and the gender theory account. According to Zakin, and she clarifies that she is indeed simplifying, in the psychoanalytical account:

The Symbolic order … represents the conditions for emergence of sexual difference and psychic identity. Entry into the Symbolic is, however, premised upon a severing (or sacrifice) of one's prior relation to the body (itself a relation already mediated by representation) which will henceforth be figured only through the medium of language. (23)

And similarly, though with a difference in terms of the medium, gender theory sees that:

It is through the social domain of laws and institutions (particularly that of the family) that the infant child becomes individuated and differentiated as a gendered human being. Politically, then, the processes that instantiate gendered identity do so through the reproduction of social values and the naturalization of gendered norms. … Entry into society is, however, premised upon a pre-established ordering or codification of one's relation to the body. To this extent, the subject is socially split, attaining identity (however unstable) only through a series of political oppressions. (24)

Thus we see that Zuwaina’s first entry into the formation of her identity was figured by her severance from her body, symbolic in the novel in her severance from her mother’s body, and thus, on the level of the narration itself, her severance from language. Her second entry into her identity is when her adopted mother, the voice of society, forces upon her body an act that guides Zuwaina into a binary perception of her position as a girl, and what that position entails, thus forcing her severance from her own body, or an essential part of her body.

Zuwaina’s birth in the first chapter remains one of the earliest indications that her entry into language necessitates her severance from her mother. However, in order for her to leave the comfort of her mother’s womb and attack the world, Ziana has to take her into a cave. Thus for Zuwaina to step out of her cave, Ziana has to go into one herself. This reflects on my earlier argument on Muzoon’s final awareness of the importance of enjoying life to its fullest and how it was only reached when her own mother, Zuwaina, died.[8] It is as though AlSalem is telling us again that society forces this severance from the mother, which results in the death of the mother, if metaphorically as is the case with Ziana, or her separation from the world, as is evident in her entry into the cave. In order for Zuwaina to enter life, Ziana, thus had to leave it, even if temporarily, through her entrance into a cave that hides her from this life.

            What is significant in Zuwaina being seen as the superego is that she is the one among the three women who is mostly silent, which slightly interferes with her role as the superego, responsible for guiding the ego to the correct path to follow in order to be a better member in her society. It is as though Alsalem is telling us that a woman whose voice is taken away and replaced by a masculinist one, can never really be seen to have a voice in herself. Zuwaina has no voice because a woman who appropriates the voices of her patriarchal society in their reservations and restrictions upon its women, is forever voiceless. Therefore, for a woman to have access to her voice, she needs to be one like Ziana, one who acknowledges the demands of her own body in spite of her society’s restrictions. Or at least one like Muzoon, who begins to learn to balance her body’s demands with her society’s dictates. A submissive Zuwaina can never have a voice of her own, and when she speaks, she speaks the words of others. Thus she is silence. Thus she is death. She is the strongest example of what Butler termed performative construction of gender.

            Zuwaina is the woman silenced because she is a woman, given voice by our writer simply to assert that a woman with a voice not her own cannot live in this world. Is this a novel that cries for women to speak out, to lash out against their society? Maybe not so as intended by the author. But it is indeed a novel that insists on giving women a voice that is not limited to what is expected by them. Alsalem gives Zuwaina a voice that speaks only when hidden from society – as while still in her mother’s womb, and as, later while being protected by her mother, Ziana, who, we are told, took excessive care of Zuwaina. But by focusing on the element of voice hidden, stolen, and chased away, Alsalem shows us what it is to speak as woman. Zuwaina’s silence in thirty five out of the forty five chapters of the book, is only a silence in words, her presence is always felt in the stories of Muzoon and Ziana. “She writes in white ink,” as Cixous tells us.

Works Cited

Abu Awad, Riyadh. “Muzoon: Desert Rose .. Search for Identity” Islam Online 21 April 2001 <> 4 March 2005.

Alda’as, Sa’da. “Muzoon .. Gives Fauzia Alshuwaish the Omani Nationality.” np: np, nd.

Alsalem, Fauzia Shuwaish. Muzoon: Desert Rose. Lebanon: Dar Alkenooz Aladabia, 2000.

Alshareef, Ahmed. “On ‘Muzoon – Desert Rose’ Kuwaiti Writer Fauzia Shuwaish Alsalem Discovers Oman’s Inner World.” np: np, nd.

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” In The Critical Tradition. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford St Martin’s, 1998. 1454-66.

Cornell, Drucilla. “Autonomy re-imagined.” Journal for the Psychoanalysis of Culture & Society. 8:1 (Spring 2003): 144-52.

Kristeva, Julia. “Revolution in Poetic Language.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. NY: Norton, 2000. 2169-78.

Mutasam, Muhamed. “The Effects of Circumsicion on Girls.” Elaf 11 December 2003 <> 4 March 2005.

Rose, Jacqueline. “Introduction – II” Feminine Sexuality. Jacques Lacan. Trans. Jacqueline Rose. NY: Norton, 1985. 27-58

Zakin, Emily. “Bridging the Social and the Symbolic: Toward a Feminist Politics of Sexual Difference.” Hypatia. 15:3 (Summer 2000): 19-44.


[1] This and any future quotations from the novel are my own translation.

[2] AlDa’as remarks on this as she stresses that Zuwaina was raised in a patriarchal family that deprived her of feminine affection.

[3] We are told, through the words of Yves, that Muzoon means desert rose, and that it is symbolic of the woman of Oman.

[4] The novel is divided in four books and forty five chapters. Muzoon narrates almost half, twenty one chapters, with Ziana, the grandmother given fourteen chapters, and Zuwaina, who I insist is the force behind the story, only narrates ten chapters.

[5] Ziana, being the Id, seems to invite a similar analysis if considered as the voice of instinctual feminine sexuality. Yet I make the distinction here in terms of the psyche in general, regardless of the masculine versus feminine body they each inhabit, to stress the element of suppression that silences Zuwaina. Ziana, being the Id, is naturally, or instinctively, voiced, as her sexuality is what gives her voice. It is the Superego, repressed by society, that best exemplifies the voice of a woman silenced. And it is this that Cixous and other poststructuralist feminists call for when they require women to break the shakles of patriarchy and speak, though aware of the fact that to speak, they have to return to the place of the Id, of primal sexual desire. Ziana, therefore, is feminine sexuality, released from its chains, while Zuwaina, is one that is repressed.

[6] The novel is divided into four chapters, or books, each divided into smaller chapters. The chapters are titled: The Book of Birth, The Book of Love, The Book of Knowledge, and The Book of Death.

[7] Ahmed Alshareef points to the fact that the three women share a name that seems to be derivative from the same source, one which resembles the word ‘zena’ or adulteress in the text’s original language, as though by this, the writer tries to beautify the act of adultery.

[8] This reminds one of Freud’s death drive as he sees it being inherited by the superego.