The Fiancée Rode In on a Donkey
A lyrical novel with a poetic narrative about an overlooked individual in Arab African history.
For two days the rabbi rides on a donkey to find the ideal fiancée. Legs and arms shaved, hands dyed with henna, a girl to be married must shine like a mirror. Every girl hopes to be the chosen one and ride off on a donkey to live in the city. The desert is the domain of men; they believe they see oases and palm trees sagging with fruit, while women see only sand on top of sand. A rapid look-around at the girls in the circle was enough for the traveling rabbi to find the right one. He chooses Yudah because of her name, a contraction of Yahuda, and because she lowered her eyes when he looked at her.
The Fiancée Rode In on a Donkey tells Yudah’s story. Instead of experiencing her dream of being chosen and riding off on a donkey to live in a palace, she finds herself in an encampment of tents swaying in the wind. She also doesn’t find the Emir, who is battling on other fronts and soon surrenders. Yudah and the rest of his followers are exiled to Ile Sainte-Marguerite, where she pursues a tireless quest for her future husband in France, seeking a man she has never seen. Will the fantastic destiny of the young girl from the desert ever be fulfilled?
In lyrical novel after novel, Vénus Khoury-Ghata chooses overlooked individuals from history and brings them back to life on the page. Hauntingly unforgettable, The Fiancée Rode In on a Donkey is yet another poetic narrative from one of the most respected French authors of our times.
‘Yudah’s story is as poignant as it is astonishing, and the novel’s innovative use of mysticism and imagination are welcome departures from the genre conventions of historical fiction. [. . .] Touching on themes of colonization, religious persecution, and gendered violence, The Fiancée Rode in on a Donkey is a haunting novel about a girl’s quest for survival and self-determination.’—Bella Moses, Foreword
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