Birds of September: Marriage and migration

Nasrallah achieved acclaim for her first novel “Birds of September” by 1962, which earned her critical praise and three Arabic literary prizes.
by Rana Tabbara

23 November 2018 | 12:53

Source: by Annahar

  • by Rana Tabbara
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 23 November 2018 | 12:53

The cast of Birds of September at Irwin Hall, LAU (Annahar/Rana Tabara)

BEIRUT: “I’ve always wanted to translate one of Emily Nasrallah’s books into a script for a play,” said Lina Abyad.

Emily Nasrallah, who was born in July 1931 and passed away last March, was a Lebanese writer and a women’s rights activist. She graduated from the Beirut College for Women (now Lebanese American University) with an Associate’s Degree in Arts in 1956 and then earned her BA in Education and Literature from the American University of Beirut in 1958.

Nasrallah achieved acclaim for her first novel “Birds of September” by 1962, which earned her critical praise and three Arabic literary prizes. She went on to become a prolific writer who authored novels, children stories, and short-story collections.

According to Abyad, a theater director and University Lecturer at LAU, she never realized the urgency to produce a play from Nasrallah's works until her sudden death.

“I met Emily five months before her death and right after she came back from Germany with an award, she looked like she was in good health and so I didn’t feel the urgency to collaborate on a work, Abyad told Annahar. “Then later I heard about her death and it hit me that I have to start working on something immediately.”

Abyad read almost every novel done by the renowned writer before she chose Birds of September to present on stage.

“I chose this particular novel because it contained all the elements and messages that Emily had pushed forward in her lifetime,” noted Abyad. “Besides it being a tribute to the author, conducting Birds of September the play was an adventure.”

Abyad’s own reading of the book was informed by her feminism and she felt that there were two key things a script should highlight from the novel, marriage, and migration. According to her, the two points are important because they still relate to the modern day.

“In theater, we always have to dramatize or emphasize at least a single point when we translate a book into a play,” said Abyad. “The fact that I had a feminist approach to the text drove me to emphasize the scenes that exhibited the struggles of the young women of that era, whose struggles are still reflected by women today.”

The play

“Love is a taboo, we don’t speak about love!” shouted the villagers in the play in opposition to the three young girls who were deemed to be silenced, daughters.

The play tackled the story of four young girls, where three fell in love with young men not destined for them and one fell in love with freedom, writing, and education. Minding that love in the context of the play meant nothing but public stares, but not love affairs.

Forced to obey orders, the couple that came from different sects were drawn apart; the lovers who came from different socio-economical classes did not end up together; and the last couple faced a dead end when the young man Raji decided to travel to America and leave his lover behind.

The stage that was designed with floating luggage and scenes that incorporated farewells and various letter exchanges that illustrate visibly the feel of the hardships of migration.

Within the play, scenes were paused and the actors and actresses would interrupt the role plays to face the director and shout out their opinions and feedback over the scenes.

During the migration scene, one actor interrupted and gave his following opinion: “Lina can we stop for a bit.”

“What is happening Alaa, what is wrong?” answers Abyad.

“I think we are over dramatizing the scene, everyone travels and migrates it doesn’t have to be that intense,” said Alaa.

Then Abyad proves her point through exhibiting a video of someone who talks from personal experience about how it feels like to live through this particular situation.

Other scenes incorporated many other unusual acting techniques and directing tactics that transported the audience from the play to the real world and vice versa. The ending was also unexpected, and events took new dimensions, ending some stories on a happy note and others in a sad tone.

The play premiered Thursday night last week in Irwin Hall at the Lebanese American University’s Beirut campus and will continue to perform up until the 23rd and 24th of November at LAU and on the 25th of November in Emily Nasrallah’s hometown Koufayr, Hasbayya.

Tickets reservations can be made through LAU at:: 01-786454 or 03-791314 ext. 1172


Welcome to “Naya”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment.

We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya editor, Sally Farhat:

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