Saturday Summer Re-Runs: Alexandra Chreiteh on Writing About Menstruation in Modern Standard Arabic


In what sort of language can an author write about something as banal and contested as menstruation? Should a character pee in colloquial Arabic or Modern Standard? In the first part of a two-part interview, which ArabLit is re-running for Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth), Rachael Daum discusses urinary-tract infections, menstrual blood, and language with acclaimed Lebanese novelist Alexandra Chreiteh:

By Rachael Daum

Chreiteh accepting an award. Chreiteh accepting an award for Always Coca Cola.

Something I really admire about both of your novels so far is your head-on approach to very, shall we say, earthly matters. In Always Coca-Cola, Abeer gets her period, and in Ali the protagonist is prone to UTIs, and you write very viscerally about the flow of blood and urine, respectively. I’m interested in this, and why you chose to have your readers confront these subjects? Particularly written in fus7a [Modern Standard Arabic]?

First of all, it is the…

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