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The Politics of Representation in Ahdaf Soueif’s «The Map of Love»

Sabina D'Alessandro

This book examines the themes and narrative features in Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love. It deals with unresolved questions regarding asymmetrical intercultural relationships and the historical reasons for the present cultural conflicts. It also looks at the role played by nineteenth century visual and literary stereotyped representations of ‘oriental’ otherness when compared with the western tradition. The author offers a critical perspective on Soueif’s use of nineteenth century English travel writing as a strategy for the deconstruction of its representative mechanisms. The book focuses on Soueif’s mapping-out of the complex and conflictual search for identity on the part of the Egyptian protagonists, whilst questioning the possible processes of transformation in maintaining one’s own cultural diversity.


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Introduction -11


11 Introduction Since the publication of her first short stories, Ahdaf Soueif1, an Egyptian writer who presently lives in London and Cairo, has been widely acclaimed as one of the most gifted writers on the interna- tional literary scene. In 1992, the novel In the Eye of the Sun2 came out as a follow-up to the collection of short stories Aisha (1983)3, a finalist for the “Guardian Fiction Prize”. Sandpiper (1996)4, won the “Cairo International Book Fair Best Collection of Short Stories”. It was however The Map of Love in 19995, a fi- nalist for the “Booker Prize”, that brought her worldwide acclaim. Her works continue to get a wide range of critical responses6. 1 Ahdaf Soueif, the daughter of an intellectual Muslim family, was born in Cairo in 1950 and studied at Egyptian and British universities. She has been dividing her time between London and Cairo, crossing national bound- aries and occupying multiple locations. She is one of a number of Arab authors who moved to Europe in the second half of the twentieth century and who, from their adopted homes, attempt to describe their encounters with cultural otherness. Consequently, she is inevitably caught in the net of power relations that govern interactions between East and West. 2 A. Soueif, In the Eye of the Sun, London, Bloomsbury, 1992. 3 A. Soueif, Aisha, London, Jonathan Cape, 1983 and London, Bloomsbury, 2000. 4 A. Soueif, Sandpiper and Other Stories, London, Bloomsbury, 1996. 5 A. Soueif, The Map of...

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