Literature on the life of an egyptian in modern europe

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1. Introduction

“[I am] like hundreds of thousands of others: people with an Arab or a Muslim background doing daily double-takes when faced with their reflection in a western mirror.” (Soueif 2004)

Born in Egypt, as the child of two Arab university professors, Ahdaf Soueif is an author who fuses elements from an English education and society with aspects from her Cairene milieu in her fictional and nonfictional writings. Several years of Soueif’s childhood were spent in London, where she was able to explore the Anglophone literary scene whilst embracing her Egyptian roots through the culture of her parents. Ahdaf Soueif is the product from a dual Eastern and Western upbringing, a life characterized by a mixture of different cultures which is commonly linked in postcolonial studies with hybrid identity. According to Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin, hybridity is “one of the most widely employed and most disputed terms in post-colonial theory, [which] commonly refers to the creation of new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonization” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 118). Many literary analyses of novels produced in the era following colonial occupation focus on how two or more cultures fuse and how the characters in these stories attempt to negotiate the differences that come along with such a merger, a pattern which is also followed in Ahdaf Soueif’s In the Eye of the Sun (1992)and The Map of Love (1999). Homi K. Bhabha describes this process, known as hybridity, as the creation of culture and identity from the blending of cultural elements of the colonizer and the colonized, thereby defying the origins of any authentic identity (Bhabha 1990). Authors situated in this postcolonial era move between different worlds, trying to merge diverse cultures. This fusion of different cultures has led these postcolonial writers to a coalition of different reading audiences, which has exposed them to different levels of apprehension and appreciation.

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Analyzing the high level of hybridity in Soueif’s personal life, one might expect that a similar interest in transcultural elements will be detected when reading her fictional and non-fictional work. Ahdaf Soueif has written several articles on political and cultural affairs that shape the contemporary world, such as “The Heart of the Matter” (2007) that deals with the troubles in Palestine in a present-day context. In 2004, she published a book entitled Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground, which contains a collection of non-fictional essays on significant matters that are linked with the “Mezzaterra” in a globalized world. As a recipient of two different cultures, Ahdaf Soueif is engaged in making different cultural grounds meet throughout her writings, or as Soueif herself describes it, in exploring the “Mezzaterra”, which refers to the construction of a meeting point for diverse cultures and traditions,

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