By Jihan Anwar
The French Ambassador to Yemen and the Spanish Embassy’s Charge D’Affaires,Juan Paramio introduced Pedro Riera, a Spanish author of books for children and youths, to a local audience. Riera recently finished an unconventional book about Yemen, with illustrations by Nacho Casanova.
“El Coche de Intisar, Retrato de Una Mujer Moderna en Yemen ”- “Intisar’s Car,Daily Scenes of a Modern Yemeni Woman” is the tale a young, funny, brilliant anesthetist that strives to be treated as equally in a society where men are usually considered to hold power.
Pedro Riera, author of “El Furtivo” and “La Criatura del Bosque”, wrote his latest book based on his stay in Yemen in 2009 and 2010.
Intisar – not an activist, feminist, or a woman trying to change the world – is a fictitious character who presents the Western world to the reality and personality of Yemeni women, as perceived by Riera.
Mr. Juan observed, “The principal character is a woman, for a change. The book doesn’t talk about Islam specifically, but it does address issues and challenges that are encountered in the society and could be considered as an infringement to justice in some way.”
How could the author have been able to glance at the female component of Yemeni society and learn about their inner thoughts, hopes and routine lives? Riera gives a good deal of credit to his wife, Alienor, as his primary source of information and anecdotes.
Riera and his wife also conducted about 30 interviews with Yemeni women, and had the good fortune of having four Yemeni women friends with whom they were able to freely discuss and explore various subjects.
Intisar is in search of a day-to-day type of freedom. We are introduced to her character while she drives through the streets of Sana’a, whilst sitting in diwans and while she is at the hospital. It all serves to help us form and idea about the complexity of the reality which surrounds her.
Intisar’s most prominent desire is to stand on an equal footing with men, and she felt that cars, in a way, offered her this opportunity. Cars are a symbol of freedom for her, as they take her exactly where she wants to go. There is a peculiarity about Intisar which makes her stand out. It’s the way she analyzes and deals with her society and the situations she finds herself in. The name Intisar itself symbolizes victory, the possibility of change after a fight.
French Ambassador Frank Jules praised Reira’s ability to penetrate Yemeni society. “You will learn a lot about yourself through it,” he said to the crowd which attended the event, which was held at the French Cultural Center. He expressed the hope that the book could provide a way for Yemeni and Western society to meet halfway. He added that Intisar’s car “brings Yemen closer to us and maybe will prompt people here to write a similar book about French society.”
“The frustration, hope, and ambition which I used to create the character are not my own. It’s not me voicing my opinion in the book,” said Riera, “My foremost rule was to be a medium through which the voices of the Yemeni women I met could be heard. I wanted to challenge preconditioned ideas about Arab women in general and Yemeni women in particular. I wanted people to realize the pulse of life that is behind the veil, beyond the niqab.”