Outside the body – Afaf Al Batayneh

It is good to read novels for Jordanian writers. It is even better when they are written well. Having this good feeling about Jordanian novels is not just about the sense of nationality and pride of discovering some cultural and creative local work, but it is different than any other work you can read around the globe because it is the closest to us where it simulate our enviroment the most.

Two months ago, I read a Jordanian short novel for little children ‘Through a mud wall’ by a Jordanian writer Rana Al Zoubi. While it was written in English, I was impressed with how much it reflects the lives of Jordanian’s families on Fridays. The Labaneh, Zaatar o Zeit, Ajloon mountains, the farm, the mosk, … and a lot of other little details gives out a unique experience of this book. I did enjoy the read although it is targeted for children from age 6-10. I recommend it as a gift for your kids. You can find it at the Good Book shop in Rainbow Street.

A week ago, I have also done reading Afaf Al Batayneh’s novel ‘Outside the body’. It is written in around 400 pages in Arabic. The first few chapters don’t really bring up anything new. The story of a Jordanian woman having to deal with the hardship of living in a male dominated society. The abusive father, the social constraints, and the victim mother and children, all resembles the writing of Nawal al Saadawi.

While I am a big fan of Nawal al Saadawi, and while being impressed to find something close to her writings in Jordanian literature, I got bored at first because I didn’t feel that I am getting something new from those first few chapters. The writer has also been very brutal in describing the life of the main character in those chapters, from being beaten very hard by her father for dating a man, to being forced to marry something she doesn’t like, ending with a rape attempt of her husband on their wedding night.

The story progresses smoothly afterward, and while Muna, the main character, endures more hardship in the process, the chapters at the end of the story give a brighter side to her life. She moves to scotland and tranforms from an Arabic woman living under the rigid rules of a premative society into a western woman that is treated like a human being, appreciated and loved.

There is a weird style in the way Afaf wrote this novel that I haven’t seen before. She alternate between characters perspectives in different paragraphs without alarming the reader. You would be reading something thinking a Muna is saying just to realize after a couple of words that her father is saying it! Sometimes it can be really ambigious, but it is a nice style for a change as well.

All in all, ‘Outside the body’ is a good read. I love happy ending, and in this book you would be dying for a light of hope which gladly you will get at the end.

I bought it from Books@cafe, but I think you can find it in other local bookshops as well.


  1. I think this novel is “technically” banned in Jordan so cheers for books@cafe in their efforts to break the taboos.


  2. sounds like a good read.. but in the future, when you recommend a book or a movie, can you please not put in the ending and the whole plot.. kinda kills the fun!


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