Stories and journal notes by an extraordinary young woman adventurer and traveler, Arabic scholar, Sufi mystic and adept of the Djillala cult Not long before her death Isabelle Eberhardt wrote No one ever lived from day to day or was dependent upon chance It is the inescapable chain of events that has brought me to this point, rather than I who have caused these things to happen Her life seems haphazard, at the mercy of caprice, but her writings prove otherwise She did not make decisions she was impelled to take action Her nature combined an extraordinary singlness of purpose and an equally powerful nostalgia for the unattainable Paul Bowles, preface One of the strangest human documents that a woman has given the world Cecily Mackworth, I Came Out of FranceIsabelle Eberhardt was an explorer who lived and traveled extensively throughout North Africa She wrote of her travels in numerous books and French newspapers, including Nouvelles Alg riennes Algerian News, Dans l Ombre Chaude de l Islam In the Hot Shade of Islam, and Les journaliers The Day Laborers Paul Bowles has taped and translated numerous strange legends and lively stories recounted by Mrabet Love with a Few Hairs novel , The Lemon novel , The Boy Who Set Fire stories , Harmless Poisons, Blameless Sins stories , The Beach Caf Look Move On autobiography , and The Big Mirror novella


10 thoughts on “The Oblivion Seekers

  1. BrokenTune BrokenTune says:

    Combined review of both In the Shadow of Islam and The Oblivion Seekers.In the Shadow of Islam The Oblivion Seekers are both collections of writing by another lady travel writer that I have encountered Isabelle Eberhard Never heard of her I had not either, but a quick look at her biography ensures that I will look at ain depth biography about herISABELLE EBERHARDT 1877 1904 was born in Geneva, the illegitimate daughter of a former Russian Orthodox priest and a part Russian, part Combined review of both In the Shadow of Islam and The Oblivion Seekers.In the Shadow of Islam The Oblivion Seekers are both collections of writing by another lady travel writer that I have encountered Isabelle Eberhard Never heard of her I had not either, but a quick look at her biography ensures that I will look at ain depth biography about herISABELLE EBERHARDT 1877 1904 was born in Geneva, the illegitimate daughter of a former Russian Orthodox priest and a part Russian, part German aristocratic mother Her father was an anarchist and nihilist who was to convert to Islam, and his daughter s life was to take similar dramatic turns before her tragically early death at the age of twenty seven Increasingly isolated from her family and her inheritance, she was plagued by emotional and financial problems, but she had a fierce will From an early age she dressed as a man for the greater freedom this allowed, and she developed a literary talent and a gift for languages, including Arabic Like her father Eberhardt became drawn to Islam She converted while in Algeria with her mother After her mother s death she cut all ties with her family, called herself Si Mahmoud Essadi and travelled throughout North Africa She became involved with Qadiriyya Sufi order, married an Algerian soldier, worked as a war reporter, helped the poor and needy and fought against the injustices of French colonial rule She was also the victim of an assassination attempt but later successfully pleaded for the life of the man who attacked her She openly rejected conventional European morality of the time, preferring to choose her own path, and drank alcohol, smoked marijuana and had numerous affairs She died in a flash flood in A n S fra, Algeria, in 1904 Eberhardt, Isabelle In The Shadow of Islam Modern Classics Kindle Locations 25 32 Peter Owen Publishers Kindle Edition In both collections, In the Shadow of Islam The Oblivion Seekers, Eberhardt describes life in norther Africa, Algeria to be precise, from the point of someone actually living with the people at around 1900 She doesn t cling to any European perspectives she may hold and gives a voice to the people she encounters, their believes, their customs, their reasoning She describes tribal rivalries, domestic issues, love, slavery, hardship, wealth all of which seems to have its place in her settings The stories are not connected and aren t really stories either Rather they are vignettes of observations or conversations mixed with stories Because Eberhardt does not give the account from the perspective of a European traveller, but of someone who is searching for her own self, she does not judge or at least, she pretends not to judge The stories truly are interesting However, her writing is lyrical as it is does at times come across as too stylised to be a true account of her observations Some poetic licence was no doubt at play When looking at both collections separately, In the Shadow of Islam is a better book It contains one or two stories that are also in The Oblivion Seekers but I found the translation of the stories in In the Shadow of Islam to have a much better flow In a way this is surprising because The Oblivion Seekers has gatheredpraise on account of the translation by Paul Bowles, which in my opinion is not warranted I found Bowles translation hard to read In the Shadow of Islam 3.5 The Oblivion Seekers 2.5


  2. Inderjit Sanghera Inderjit Sanghera says:

    The Oblivion Seekers is a series of vignettes by Isabelle Eberhardt, a triply obscure novelist, whose poetic style and eye for local colour and detail and ability to capture the acrid yet hypnagogic world of North Africa and the myriad of customs, beliefs and idiosyncrasies of Arab Berber Islam deserves wider recognition A myriad of colours shimmers through the images described by Eberhardt, lightness and darkness coalesce and separate and sometimes merge into one beneath a mirage of imagery The Oblivion Seekers is a series of vignettes by Isabelle Eberhardt, a triply obscure novelist, whose poetic style and eye for local colour and detail and ability to capture the acrid yet hypnagogic world of North Africa and the myriad of customs, beliefs and idiosyncrasies of Arab Berber Islam deserves wider recognition A myriad of colours shimmers through the images described by Eberhardt, lightness and darkness coalesce and separate and sometimes merge into one beneath a mirage of imagery Long and white, the road twists like a snake towards the far off blue places, towards the bright edges of the earth It burns in the sunlight, a dusty stripe between the wheat s dull gold on one side, and the shimmering red hills and green grey scrubs on the other It is the disenfranchised and the outsider, the dregs of society who populate the short stories which make up The Oblivion Seekers , the torpid, lugubrious and often violent social dynamics of Algerian society are explored via the characters, all of whom long for something grander than the fate life has awarded them and who cling onto any solace they can find As happens with love s creatures, Achoura felt a new life being born within her It seemed to her that never before had she really seen the sun turn the crests of the mountain gold, and never before watched the capricious play of light on the trees If the world Eberhardt describes seems cruel and cold, then this is merely a reflection of life in colonial Algeria, of individuals whose hopes laboured under the insurmountable weight of oppression, yet Eberhardt is able to infuse with a sense of beauty and poetry


  3. Jeff Jackson Jeff Jackson says:

    Wonderful collection of mostly short stories, filled out with a few sketches, diary entries, and a letter Eberhardt s writing throughout is threaded with a subtle but radiant strain of lyricism Paul Bowles translation here is exceptional and these stories with their often cruel desert settings and stoic sensibility bearthan a passing resemblance to his own work while predating it by half a century 4.5 stars


  4. Jimmy Jimmy says:

    The back of my copy of the book said One of the strangest human documents that a woman has given to the world Cecily Mackworth.Maybe at the time it was But it seems to melike one of the strangest women who has ever given any documents to the world.Here she is dressed in her typical moslem man attire she dressed up as a man all her life She was born in Switzerland, raised by a Russian nihilist father, and lived most of her life in Algeria and South Africa and occasionally France A The back of my copy of the book said One of the strangest human documents that a woman has given to the world Cecily Mackworth.Maybe at the time it was But it seems to melike one of the strangest women who has ever given any documents to the world.Here she is dressed in her typical moslem man attire she dressed up as a man all her life She was born in Switzerland, raised by a Russian nihilist father, and lived most of her life in Algeria and South Africa and occasionally France Apparently the French government thought she was a spy, and went to great lengths to keep her out of their country, even though she was legally married to a frenchman.She was a nomad, and pretty much wandered throughout her life, writing short journalistic story pieces mostly about the wandering lifestyle The one novel she wrote was destroyed in a 1904 flash flood that also took her life at the age of 27.The stories in this slim book are stories of people who struggle with freedom and convention They also contain incredibly vivid descriptions of landscapes She seems to have a strong sense of justice In the story Criminal , she says Crime, particularly among the poor and down trodden, is often a last gesture of freedom She is a genuine independent thinker though her stories aren t driven by thought, you get a sense of her originality through them Above the gorges, scarcely moving their wings, hung the eagles, like golden nails affixed to the incandescent sky He came to the true countryside It was the month of July Not even a strip of green remained on the land s exasperated palette The pines, the pistachio trees and the palmettos were like blackish rust against the red earth The dried up river beds with their banks that seemed to have been drawn with sanguine made long gaping wounds in the landscape, revealing the gray bones of rock inside, among the slowly dying oleanders The harvested fields gave a lion colored tint to the hillsides Little by little the colorless sky was killing everything.


  5. Nate D Nate D says:

    Stories of life in the margins of society by a Swiss Russian Muslim journalist who spent most of her life altogether too short, she died during a flood at just 27 in 1904 traveling North Africa, whenever the French government, suspicious of her allegiances, wasn t barring her from the colonies It may be that Eberhardt s own story is evencompelling than her writings, but they are all born up by clear, quietly lyrical prose and her perpetual rejection of the patriarchal bonds of colonial Stories of life in the margins of society by a Swiss Russian Muslim journalist who spent most of her life altogether too short, she died during a flood at just 27 in 1904 traveling North Africa, whenever the French government, suspicious of her allegiances, wasn t barring her from the colonies It may be that Eberhardt s own story is evencompelling than her writings, but they are all born up by clear, quietly lyrical prose and her perpetual rejection of the patriarchal bonds of colonial power and family


  6. C.A. C.A. says:

    I WISH I COULD GIVE THIS BOOK MORE STARS THAN FIVE One of the most bizarre people living and writing EXACTLY where and how she wanted to WRITE I have nothing but TOTAL admiration for Eberhardt and her work Yet ANOTHER life cut entirely too short To think that this genius writer wrote these remarkable stories, then was killed in a flash flood in the desert at age 28 is almost too painful to think about.Hats off to the ever remarkable Paul Bowels for his translations, a writer who knew genius I WISH I COULD GIVE THIS BOOK MORE STARS THAN FIVE One of the most bizarre people living and writing EXACTLY where and how she wanted to WRITE I have nothing but TOTAL admiration for Eberhardt and her work Yet ANOTHER life cut entirely too short To think that this genius writer wrote these remarkable stories, then was killed in a flash flood in the desert at age 28 is almost too painful to think about.Hats off to the ever remarkable Paul Bowels for his translations, a writer who knew genius when it came his way.BUY THIS BOOK FOR EVERYONE YOU KNOW CAConradhttp CAConrad.blogspot.com


  7. Alvin Alvin says:

    These beautifully written short pieces set in the Sahara read rather like ancient fables, which makes them a fun read One ought not confuse them with serious ethnography, though, as Eberhardt s adoration of the indigenous population is deeply colored by orientalist romanticism The book also has an excellent bio of the author a peripatetic protofeminist crossdressing Russian muslim journalist by Paul Bowles, who clearly lifted Eberhardt s schtick for his own writing.


  8. Jonathan Norton Jonathan Norton says:

    Short selection of fiction and non fiction by the intriguing figure of Eberhardt 1877 1904 , daughter of a Russian anarchist who lived in Switzerland, who travelled to Algeria and converted to sufism The focus of the writing is on life at the borders, in the interior regions of the fringes of French rule, and in the borders of respectable society, where vagrants and prostitutes wander There is some anti imperialist detail about the iniquities of French imperialism, under which the expropriate Short selection of fiction and non fiction by the intriguing figure of Eberhardt 1877 1904 , daughter of a Russian anarchist who lived in Switzerland, who travelled to Algeria and converted to sufism The focus of the writing is on life at the borders, in the interior regions of the fringes of French rule, and in the borders of respectable society, where vagrants and prostitutes wander There is some anti imperialist detail about the iniquities of French imperialism, under which the expropriated tribes were compensated according to alien notions of land inheritance, which were simply meaningless in the native culture The importance of drugs to the visionary experience of the eponymous oblivion seekers is also considered The selection was composed and translated by Paul Bowles, but the tone and content here is quite different from his novels, in which the pitiless desert and its ruins simply unwind the European minds Eberhardt and her characters clearly believe they have discovered an alternative existence in Islam


  9. Loraine Loraine says:

    Amazing Tranced into oneness with the universe Poetic Impressionistic Other worldly Paul Bowles has offered a superb translation of these evocative stories, stories that take the reader to a different time with nomads and kif smokers and French colonialists in Morocco and Algeria Reading this collection was like hearing Jimmy Hendrix for the first time a real rush.


  10. Gea Gea says:

    Incandescent writing.