“This year, the AUB
Book Club is adding some spice to its monthly meetings by choosing books
that focus on specific themes. For its November 24, 2005, get-together, the
theme chosen to discuss was the “stream of consciousness” technique used in
both Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Osaima Darwish’s Shajarat Al Hob Ghabat Al
Ahzan (Tree of Love, Forest of Sorrows).
The club’s members, sitting in a circle in a spacious room in West Hall over
juice and cookies, were joined by author Osaima Darwish, along with the
translator of the book, as well by Professor Rula Baalbaki (one of the
club’s faculty advisers) and Sleiman Bakhti (the book’s publisher). The
meeting, marked by the relaxing atmosphere of an open discussion approach,
began with an invitation for questions to be put to Darwish. In response to
the intriguing question—why and how she wrote the book—the author explained
that though she considers herself “a born writer,” it was only after going
through some shocking events in her life that she started writing her novel.
She added that she was also inspired by the three countries where she
lived—England, especially the countryside; the Gulf, which she considers a
region different from other Arab countries; and Syria which, to her, is
close to Lebanon in ways other than geographical.
A good part of the discussion dwelt on a comparison of technique between
Darwish’s novel and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. According to Baalbaki, both
novels are more introspective than eventful and penetrate deep into the
characters’ minds. Darwish found a similarity not only between Virginia
Woolf and herself, but among all writers in general, and said that all
writers think the same—they get rid of pain by materializing it in writing.
According to Darwish and to a few others present, this is a cyclical
process, a form of “confrontation and therapy.”
The discussion ended with a heated debate on women’s rights, in which
Darwish expressed her optimism concerning the issue. Her opinion is that
even though men are the ones who make the rules, men and women support each
other nowadays, especially in the work field.