Catalogue of a Private Life

Catalogue of a Private Life
كتالوج حياة خاصة
(Katalug hayat khassa)

Written by

(نجوة بن شتوان)

Published by


The impact of conflict on everyday life in Libya

A collection of eight short stories that dissect the senselessness of war in contemporary Libyan society by placing the details of everyday life in an absurd dimension. Conflict is embodied by the family disputes and the village truces in “The Burglar in White Socks” and “The Young Cow Crossed the Field”, while the titular story “Catalogue of a Private Life” and “Conventions for the Protection of Pestles” depict the interaction between the military and ordinary people. “When can we go home?” is a touching account of survival amid total destruction. The other three short stories reveal the incongruity of serious political issues and question our gaze. 

The setting of these stories is often undefined: if a town or a city is mentioned, it is not described in detail, but rather transposed into a dream-like atmosphere through storytelling. The witty observation of these places allows the author to critically address issues such as patriarchy, religion, a quest for identity, and resistance.

Approximate number of pages: 80p.

Foreign rights: contact the author


Translation samples

Reasons to publish this book

Najwa Binshatwan is one of the few Libyan authors in contemporary Arabic literature and this book exemplifies her ability at short story writing. In spite of its weighty theme, this collection is witty, full of emotional tension, and accessible. It challenges the conventional image of Libya by tackling conflict and migration in an unusual way with a subtle dark tone. It would appeal to any country that has dealt with the Libyan political crisis and international routes of migration.


Prizes and awards


“‘Catalogue of a Private Life’: Eight ordinary stories with extraordinary insight”

review by Manal Shakir, ArabNews, March 2022

«Shatwan writes beautifully. Her style is pared down to bare essentials. No flowery excess. I found it fascinating that the spareness of the language actually made the stories otherworldly and captivating. »

“Stories Deeper Than Parables”, review by Ainehi Edoro, Brittle Paper, June 2022  

“Najwa Bin Shatwan: كتالوج حياة خاصة (Catalogue of a Private Life)”

The Modern Novel

Reviewed by Cristina Dozio