May 23, 2024

May Ziadeh in the Hell of Al-Asfouria

May — the Nights of Isis Copia

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For many years, the life of the late writer May Ziadeh has been a significant enigma. She has continually captivated the attention of both the cultural community and the general public, with some of her secrets still remaining undisclosed.

“I hope that someone will vindicate me after my death.”

Based on May’s wish in her manuscript about the Nights of Al-Asfouria, Waciny Laredj took on the role of the faithful guardian of May and her memories. In his novel “May — the Nights of Isis Copia,” spanning 300 nights in the hell of Al-Asfouria, published by Dar Al-Adab and consisting of 351 narrative pages, and reaching the longlist of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Waciny Laredj successfully cloaked his novel in the guise of autobiography. He allowed May the freedom to express all her pains, perhaps to alleviate her burdens. It’s as if he were a clever moderator, leaving ample space for his guest to speak.

In this novel, Algerian writer Waciny Laredj narrates the life story of the Lebanese author May Ziadeh. May falls into a state of depression, leaning towards isolation following the deaths of her parents and the departure of Gibran. Despite her significant cultural contributions to women’s issues, she experiences shock when her cousin Joseph falsely accuses her of insanity, leading to her imprisonment in a mental hospital (Al-Asfouria) with the motive of seizing her wealth.

“The worst thing is to feel that no one is there for you in this world of fear and silence.”

May Ziadeh formed this impression from a series of experiences of loss and betrayal, starting from her first love, Joseph, to the literary guests of her salon in Cairo, including Al-Aqqad, Taha Hussein, and Mustafa Sadiq Al-Rafi’i.

May Through Her Own Eyes

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