Departures : Selected Writings
Isabelle Eberhardt dreamed of escaping the gloom of Europe, and when she was nineteen she realized her desire in North Africa—Dar el Islam. In 1904, when she died in a flash flood in the Sahara, she was only twenty-seven years old, and had led a legendary, tempestuous life that encompassed both subversive political anarchism and the mysticism of Islam.
This selection of short stories, reportage, and travel journals, which glow with sensuous detail, superbly evokes the life of the desert towns and nomadic peoples of the Saharan region of Morocco and Algeria. As a radical individualist, Eberhardt identified with and defended the oppressed; yet she was a romantic as well, and ambiguous about the “civilizing” role of France. Today she has become an iconic figure at the center of discussions about gender, race, colonialism, representation, and writing.
In supplementary essays, Laura Rice provides historical and cultural context for Eberhardt’s life and work, and explores her role as transgressor; Karim Hamdy surveys the realities of colonial exploitation, and places Eberhardt’s membership in the Qadiriya Sufi brotherhood within the larger context of Islam.