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Ahdaf Soueif

Ahdaf Soueif (أهداف سويف) (born 23 March 1950) is an Egyptian novelist and political and cultural commentator.

Early life

Soueif was born in Cairo, where she lives, and was educated in Egypt and England. She studied for a PhD in linguistics at the University of Lancaster. Her sister is the human and women's rights activist and mathematician Laila Soueif.


Her debut novel, In the Eye of the Sun (1993), set in Egypt and England, recounts the maturing of Asya, a beautiful Egyptian who, by her own admission, "feels more comfortable with art than with life." Her second novel The Map of Love (1999) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, has been translated into 21 languages and sold over a million copies. She has also published two works of short stories, Aisha (1983) and Sandpiper (1996) – a selection from which was combined in the collection I Think Of You in 2007, and Stories Of Ourselves in 2010.

Soueif writes primarily in English, but her Arabic-speaking readers say they can hear the Arabic through the English. She translated Mourid Barghouti's I Saw Ramallah (with a foreword by Edward Said) from Arabic into English.

Along with her readings of Egyptian history and politics, Soueif also writes about Palestinians in her fiction and non-fiction. A shorter version of "Under the Gun: A Palestinian Journey" was originally published in The Guardian and then printed in full in Soueif's recent collection of essays, Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground (2004) and she wrote the introduction to the NYRB's reprint of Jean Genet's Prisoner of Love.

In 2008 she initiated the first Palestine Festival of Literature, of which she is the Founding Chair.

Soueif is also a cultural and political commentator for the Guardian newspaper and she has been reporting on the Egyptian revolution. In January 2012 she published Cairo: My City, Our Revolution – a personal account of the first year of the Egyptian revolution. Her sister Laila Soueif, and Laila's children, Alaa Abd El-Fatah and Mona Seif, are also activists.

She was married to Ian Hamilton with whom she had two sons, Omar Robert Hamilton and Ismail Richard Hamilton.

In June 2013, Soueif and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.


  • Aisha, London: Bloomsbury, 1983.
  • In the Eye of the Sun, NY: Random House, 1992.
  • Sandpiper, London: Bloomsbury, 1996.
  • The Map of Love, London: Bloomsbury, 1999.
  • trans. of I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti. NY: Anchor Books, 2003.
  • Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground, NY: Anchor Books, 2004.
  • I Think of You, London: Bloomsbury: 2007
  • Cairo: My City, Our Revolution, Bloomsbury, 2012

Literary awards

In a review of Egyptian novelists, Harper's magazine included Soueif in a shortlist of "the country's most talented writers." She has also been the recipient of several literary awards:

  • 1996 Cairo International Book Fair: Best Collection of Short Stories (Sandpiper)
  • 1999 Nominated: the Booker Prize ("The Map of Love")
  • 2010 Inaugural Mahmoud Darwish Award
  • 2011 Cavafy Award
  • 2011 Named in The Guardian′s Books Poewer 100

Literary criticism

Marta Cariello: "Bodies Across: Ahdaf Soueif, Fadia Faqir, Diana Abu Jaber" in Arab Voices in Diaspora. Critical Perspectives on Anglophone Arab Literature. Al Maleh, Layla (Ed.) Amsterdam/New York, NY, 2009, Hb: 978-90-420-2718-3


External links

  • Official website
  • Biography and critical perspective, British Council.
  • Diary of an Egyptian Rebel, The Guardian, 4 February 2011.
  • "Cairo, Hers Again", Guernica, February 2012.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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