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An uncompromising novel and a sinister, wonderful fable-like story of feminist power
on 11 December 2010
Dirty Weekend, an account of 48 hours of violence against one woman, and her retributions, is by turns bizarre, poignant, powerful and empathetic.
This is strong, provocative fiction whose style is reminiscent of the writers Gordon Lish (e.g., Peru: A Novel, Dear Mr. Capote) early Jenny Diski (e.g., Nothing Natural) and Andrea Dworkin (Mercy, Ice and Fire). It has a raw honesty in its portrayal of the chameleon forms of violence perpetrated against women.
The story of Bella has the tone of a sinister fable or parable by the likes of Angela Carter. In the opening pages, she has already been threatened with sexual violence by a man who lives opposite her. He promises to pour acid on her skin. But then 'Fate found Bella one night ... and whispered in her ear. And when she woke up, she knew she'd had enough'. It is from this point that she is empowered; no longer wishing to remain persecuted and victimised by the ignorance and violence so common in so many men. She decides, with the help of a mystic, that - since men seem only to view her as a victim - she is unable to at least act even as a bystander and avoid their glare, so concludes that she has no other choice than to take action.
In a series of explicitly and clinically described episodes, Bella enacts her ideas of retribution upon one violent man after another. If these extreme scenes are powerful, it is because of the brutal honesty in the evocation of Bella's pain and outrage, and the attitudes of the men that only wish to threaten and oppress any iota of self-regard that she may have.
It is an uncompromising novel, working as it does within the ugly, hypocritical shadows that our supposedly moral society casts. Occasionally cliches do spill over the overall quality of the writing, yet Zahavi's strength - to be celebrated, and foolish, if not impossible, to deny - is in her fluidity and razor-blade precision to evoke a dark vision; a sinister fable-like version of feminist understanding and empowerment.