This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
When Ali Bader’s The Ungodly Woman is published by Dar Noon, it will already have been an incipient film project, a part of the Iraqi arts exhibition at the Venice Biennale, and a French play, produced by a feminist organization in Belgium:
Bader — author of the acclaimed Papa Sartre, twice longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction — took a circuitous route with his latest novel project.
While seeking a job in Belgium, Bader says he met a filmmaker, to whom he told the core story of The Ungodly Woman. The filmmaker encouraged Bader to write it, but later they found their styles were very different, each seeing the matter from a different angle.
“So I left him and wrote it as a play for a feminist organization in Bruxelles,” Bader wrote. “But from the beginning I imagined it as a novel.”
The play, written in Arabic, was translated into French by Charlotte Cornet and is being staged in Belgium next month. “Quand Fatima se fait appeler Sophie” will be next shown at Théâtre 140 in Brussels as part of International Women’s Day celebrations on March 8.
The play and the novel both tell the story of Fatma/Sophie. After Fatma’s husband goes on a suicide mission, Fatma is threatened with marriage to one of the local militiamen. So she smuggles herself into Europe, where she changes her name to Sophie and develops two personalities: Fatima during the day and Sophie at night. The “ungodly” of the title refers both to Fatma/Sophie and to a woman she saw stoned to death for adultery when she was just a girl.
The play’s facebook page:
A brief trailer:
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