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An Analysis of Hybridity in Ahdaf Soueif’s Works

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Published: Mon, 12 Feb 2018

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.

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, a common ground. This mutual ground is not competitive, rather it offers an enrichment working at both sides of the construction.

Ahdaf Soueif herself describes the common ground as followed:

[The Mezzaterra is] a territory imagined, created even, by Arab thinkers and reformers starting in the middle of the nineteenth century when Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt first sent students to the West and they came back inspired by the best of what they saw on offer. Generations of Arabs protected it through the dark time of colonialism. (Soueif, qtd. in Mahjoub 2009: 57)

The “Mezzaterra” constitutes a space where the best elements of different cultures are combined and where admiration for the thought, literature and music of the West is accompanied by confidence in the possibilities of an Egyptian culture, free from colonial occupation. Ahdaf Soueif’s strong belief in this unity of East and West is accompanied by a high level of hybridity, a model which she explores in her writings as well as in her personal life. For instance, in naming her offspring, Soueif illustrates her interest in merging two cultures since her sons have combined Arab-English names, namely Omar Robbie and Ismail Ricki (Darraj 2003: 91). She challenges transcultural issues in her fictional novels while she also writes non-fictional articles for English newspaper The Guardian as well as for Egypt’s esteemed newspaper Al-Ahram. Her fictional and her non-fictional writings epitomize her dual identity, the fact that she is the product of a cross-cultural upbringing, therefore making her a prime example of a hybrid writer. However, this high level of hybridity in her personal life has led her to be perceived as a writer who does not belong exclusively to Egypt or England. Soueif is frequently regarded as a foreigner by the English, while she is oftentimes denied the status of a native Egyptian (Darraj 2003: 92). Susan Darraj, who has written articles on Arab-Muslim feminism and Muslim writers, claims that Soueif’s “lush style is often described as exotic and foreign by her Western readers, while her sexual imagery and themes arouse the ire of some Egyptian readers who do not want to claim her as ‘one of their own’” (Darraj 2003: 91), which explains the perception of Ahdaf Soueif as an outsider by both sides. In an interview, Soueif addressed the confrontational issue of hybridity by claiming that “there are so many hybrids now, people who are a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The interesting thing is what we make of it, what kind of hybrid we become and how we feel about it” (Soueif, qtd. in Malak 2003: 148). Ahdaf Soueif seems to have found a space, despite the fact that she does not belong exclusively to either the Eastern or the Western literary circuit, which allows her to harmonize both her Egyptian and English roots. However, she admits that some voices in our contemporary world do not share her belief in the common ground, as she claims that: “[i]n today’s world, separatism is not an option. In order to stay alive we will all eventually end up on some form of common ground. However, the loudest voices that are heard are those that deny the existence of this, who shout that a ‘clash of civilizations’ is taking place” (Soueif 2004, translated from KVS Express 2008).

Ahdaf Soueif was launched onto the international scene by her first novel In the Eye of the Sun (1992), which tells the story of a young Egyptian girl who finds herself trapped in an unhappy marriage and who seeks intellectual and marital freedom in England. In addition to this first novel, Soueif has also published two short-stories compellations, Aisha (1983)and Sandpiper(1996), and a second novel, The Map of Love (1999). While Soueif’s first novel takes a young Arab woman out of the heart of Egypt and transports her to England, her second novel reverses the pattern and narrates how an Arab woman tries to puzzle together the life story of her great-aunt, an English Victorian lady who traveled to the East and started a second life in the harem. In my thesis I will focus on Ahdaf Soueif’s novels In the Eye of the Sun (1992) and The Map of Love (1999) and investigate whether the author’s strong belief in the “Mezzaterra” and in hybridity, which has characterized her life, is also explored and therefore detectable in her novels. I have chosen these novels because both books narrate stories about young women who are moving between Egypt and England, or East and West, and the struggles they encounter when trying to merge different cultures. A comparative study of both books will expose how Ahdaf Soueif deals with the effects of her dynamic upbringing and identity in her fictional writings. This analysis will be preceded by a discussion of the existing body of academic theories on the topic of hybridity in postcolonial studies. In my analysis of In the Eye of the Sun and The Map of Love, I will focus on hybridity, and more specifically on the merger of Western and Eastern elements, by exploring the following research questions: (a) Which formal, textual elements of In the Eye of the Sun and The Map of Love display Ahdaf Soueif’s belief in the “Mezzaterra” and, more specifically, hybridity? (b) Which components on the level of content suggest that Ahdaf Soueif inserts the notion of hybridity into the lives and interests of the characters in her novels? (c) How does Ahdaf Soueif deal with traditional views concerning East and West? (c) What future does she describe for hybrids living in our contemporary, globalized world? At the end, a conclusion will be drafted and the initially asked questions will hopefully have been answered in detail.

2. Theoretical Concepts, Novels and Genres

2.1 The Postcolonial Matter – Ahdaf Soueif as a Postcolonial Writer

Critics have argued that Ahdaf Soueif is both an essayist of non-fictional articles and author of fictional stories who displays in her writings a great interest in the merger of different cultures in places characterized by a colonial past. As mentioned earlier, her nonfictional work has illustrated her belief in the “Mezzaterra”, a common ground for these cultures where they can live harmoniously and people can benefit from this productive merger. Soueif’s fictional writings have been identified by critics such as Susan Muaddi Darraj (2003) and Emily Davis (2007) as postcolonial literature, by claiming that she “reshapes, rethinks and re-evaluates the colonial period in the Middle East” (Darraj 2003: 102). The definition of ‘postcolonial’ is not without contradictions. Ama Ata Aidoo, who also writes articles and books on Western-Eastern tensions, claims that “the ‘post’ in postcolonial implies that colonization is over and this is not true”, because the regions which have a colonial history are still in the process of decolonizing today, “whether in economic, political, or cultural arenas […]” (Aidoo qtd. in Katrak 2006: xii). Within the framework of this thesis I would like to follow Aidoo’s line of thought which echoes the approach of Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin who argue that the process of colonization does not “cease with the mere end of political independence [rather it] continues in a neo-colonial mode to be active in many societies” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1995: xv). The problematic naming of notions relating to colonization and postcolonial literature proves that there is still much controversy and incongruity among theorists. In the purpose of this thesis, I would like to follow Ketu H. Katrak’s personal definition of postcolonial areas which she utilizes in her book Politics of the Female Body: Postcolonial Women Writers of the Third World (2006). She describes postcolonial areas as:

geopolitical regions that share a past – a colonial history of occupation and domination – and a present of continuing neocolonialism that necessitates active decolonizing strategies. Neither the colonial nor the postcolonial world is a given historically and geographically; these regions were deliberately named as such through histories of conquest and domination, of nations and national boundaries drawn often arbitrarily by colonizers. (Katrak 2006: xii)

The significance of this discussion of the notion ‘postcolonial’ can be explained by Adhaf Soueif’s exploration of places characterized by colonization, either by narrating the lives of characters living during England’s occupation of Egypt or by placing them in our contemporary world, which is faced with the effects of its colonial past, a process oftentimes associated with globalization.

Some of Soueif’s characters experience the direct effects of colonization while other witnesses are set in a postcolonial era. The question which Soueif tries to answer is whether Egypt has liberated itself from colonial occupation after it gained independence. In my opinion, Soueif condemns Western occupation of her native country, but simultaneously expresses admiration for the thought and culture of the West in her fictional novels, an act which illustrates her belief in a common ground where cultures co-exist.

2.2 Theoretical Frame and Concepts

2.2.1 The Issue of Hybridity – Homi K. Bhabha

Authors like Ahdaf Soueif, Andrea Levy and Zadie Smith, who are characterized as writers of postcolonial fiction, often narrate the stories of people that are confronted with the merger of different cultures and the creation of hybrid identities. This means that they have to find a way to combine an authentic identity with elements from a new culture. The creation of such a hybrid identity that acknowledges and values the fusion of elements emanating from different cultures proves to be a significant notion in In the Eye of the Sun (1992) and The Map of Love(1999). Vital attributions on the issue of hybridity have been brought to the field of postcolonial theory by Homi K. Bhabha, a postcolonial critic and accomplished essayist who has published articles on fundamental notions in cultural studies, such as identity, race and colonialism (Rutherford 1990: 207). These concepts have brought him to the discussion of some matters of contention which have proven to be cause for confusion and misunderstanding in cultures characterized by a (post)colonial history.

Homi K. Bhabha argues that many of our contemporary globalized, plural societies acknowledge the idea of diversity of cultures as a positive thing, so that cultural multiplicity is encouraged and established. However, he attacks the tendency of Western peoples, who consider themselves to be the ‘cultured’ or ‘civilized’, to “understand and locate cultures in a universal time-frame that acknowledges their various historical and social contexts only eventually to transcend them and render them transparent” (Bhabha 1990: 208). This way, Western societies continue to believe that nationalities and cultures which are different from their own are interesting enough to explore, but are, eventually, their minors in civility, knowledge and cultivation. Bhabha finds in this contradictory attitude two significant problems that concern the problematic issues of superiority feelings and racism (Bhabha 1990: 208). The first problem relates to the superiority approach of the ‘already cultured’ to newcomers, who, therefore, will always retain the status of ‘immigrants’ or ‘outsiders’. Despite the fact that multiple societies proclaim encouraging exclamations which seem to applaud and respect cultural diversity, there is, according to Bhabha, always an additional suppression of the other culture. He claims that the “host society” or “dominant culture” constitutes a norm in which other cultures are welcomed, however, they must be located within their own “grid” (Bhabha 1990: 208). This can be illustrated by the traditional Western view on Arab women who are wearing the veil. Many Western people do not know the history of this Arab cultural element but only see it as a manner of gender oppression, therefore they condemn it. Leila Ahmed, who has written several essays on the topic of Orientalist stereotyping in the West, claims that the veil is “more than anything a symbol of women separated from the world of men, and this is conventionally perceived in the West as oppression” (Ahmed 1982: 523). For this reason but also for other religious and political arguments, Arab women living in the West are oftentimes denied the opportunity to wear a veil, they must adjust to Western manners of convention. People with an Eastern background who migrate to the West must adapt or they will be excluded from society. What we can witness in our contemporary world is an ambivalent attitude towards globalization which justifies diversity but simultaneously denies some cultures the right of equality. The second problem which Bhabha attacks, focuses upon racism, a problematic issue often encountered in multicultural societies (Bhabha 1990: 208). Fear for something new and unfamiliar oftentimes entails an aggressive and degrading attitude towards newcomers. As opposed to centuries ago, the current population of a particular country is no longer characterized by a single people with solitary beliefs because globalization has opened the gate of one country to the rest of the world, facilitating an exposure to other cultures.

While Ahdaf Soeif is encouraged to write about an imaginative space where different cultures come together to live harmoniously with each other, Bhabha denies the possibility of such an effortless or peaceful act. He claims that cultures that adhere in a contemporary context are often radical opponents on the field of political principles, religious conventions, sexual orientations and other significant cultural issues (Bhabha 1990: 208). Following this reasoning, the necessity for “a politics which is based on unequal, uneven, multiple and potentially antagonistic, political identities” has to be realized to answer the “[changing] nature of the public sphere” (Bhabha 1990: 208). Homi K. Bhabha argues that societies in a contemporary, postcolonial context should not try to reshape newcomers to their own model, since it will be more satisfactory to focus on a merger where cultural differences can co-exist.

To further support his claim, Homi K. Bhabha introduces the notion of the “Third Space” (Bhabha 1990: 211), an imaginative space which functions as a meeting point for opposite powers which do not attempt to reach cultural domination. This contact zone, which Bhabha describes, is not achieved through a serene fusion of elements from different cultures, rather it is constructed by contradictory, and oftentimes, irreconcilable notions. According to him, the act of merging different cultures and pretending that they can live side by side harmoniously is impossible and oftentimes counterproductive. Bhabha further explains that:

[a]ll forms of culture are continually in a process of hybridity. But for me the importance of hybridity is not to be able to trace two original moments from which the third emerges, rather hybridity to me is the ‘third space’ which enables other positions to emerge. This third space displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives, which are inadequately understood through received wisdom. (Bhabha 1990: 211)

A key notion for peoples anchored in this hybrid construction of the “Third Space” is the quest for an identity which does not acknowledge only one authentic culture, but which is constituted by the inclusion of new cultural elements. The original and separated identities are no longer significant, since the new, hybrid identity has replaced them. Critics claim that the notion of hybridity has often been used in postcolonial theories to refer to “cross-cultural exchange” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1995: 119), however, this use has to be criticized, since it neglects the discrepancy that joins the merger of different cultures. When discussing the quest for a hybrid individuality, Bhabha gives his preference to the notion of identification instead of identity, since the former relates to the act of identifying “with and through another object, an object of otherness” (Bhabha 1990: 211). Identity has to do with myself, identification has to do with the ‘Other’ and myself. Bhabha describes this process of cultural hybridity as the stimulator of “something new and unrecognizable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation” (Bhabha 1990: 211).

Michaela Wolf, who is inspired by the many theories on hybridity, describes Bhabha’s “Third Space” as a sort of “in-between-space, which is located between existing referential systems and antagonisms, […] [in which] the whole body of resistant hybridization comes into being in the form of fragile syncretisms, contrapuntal re-combinations and acculturation” (Wolf 2008: 13). However, she finds in Bhabha’s approach to hybridity a controversial boundary, since the name implies a plurality of cultures, which automatically incorporates concepts of inclusion and exclusion (Wolf 2008: 14), a process which is for instance often linked with the issue of language. Globalization is an ongoing development which merges diverse cultures and therefore enables exposure to new and different languages. As a result, minority languages might disappear while others find a growing number of speakers. In the case of (post)colonial literature, the act of translation may prove to be a problematic issue for the people involved. In her novels, Ahdaf Soueif exposes a great interest in the issue of language, by allowing her characters to shift between the English and Arab language whilst continually drawing attention to the problematic act of translation.

2.2.2 Orientalism – Edward Said

When discussing the importance of language and the issue of stereotyping in hybrid writings that deal with Eastern-Western oppositions, it is important to refer to Edward Said and his work Orientalism (1978). Said described the theory of Orientalism in his book as a way of looking at the East that can be regarded as “a manner of regularized writing, vision, and study, dominated by imperatives, perspectives, and ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient” (Said 1978: 202). More specifically, it refers to the superiority approach of the West which dominates, restructures and holds authority over the Orient. The Orient is not “an inert fact of nature, but a phenomenon constructed by generations of intellectuals, artists, commentators, writers, politicians, and, more importantly, constructed by the naturalizing of a wide range of Orientalist assumptions and stereotypes” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 168). In summary, colonialists depicted the Orient as an exotic and immoral place in urgent need of Western civilization, therefore Orientalism enforced the colonial mission. Said was one of the first academics to study colonialism on the field of discourse, and therefore showed the close interaction between the “language and the forms of knowledge developed for the study of cultures and the history of colonialism and imperialism” (Young 2007: 1). Said’s theoretical approach to colonial literature implemented the understanding of acts practiced in colonial times by analyzing accounts in literary texts, travel writings and memoirs. He concluded that the language used in those reports to analyze or represent colonialism was not purely instrumental. Said argued that Orientalism developed as a construction on the discursive field, so that the language in which colonization is represented, is never unbiased, neutral or objective. Furthermore, Orientalism is “a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient’s difference with its weakness” (Said 1978: 203). This significant approach to Orientalism defies traditional academic views upon the representation of colonization in Western literature. Said’s theory claims that in these texts, the written accounts on the Orient only depicted Western desires which envisioned the East as an exotic place, therefore Orientalism bore little evidence to the authenticity of its object. So the Orient is not an actual place, rather it is a “system of representations framed by political forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and later, Western empire” (Said 1978: 202). This allegation made by Said in his book Orientalism (1978) is important for hybrid writers positioned in our contemporary literary landscape who tell stories about their colonial heritage. Hybrid authors are oftentimes characterized by the fusion of elements which formerly belonged to the different cultures of the colonizer and colonized. These writers who are now narrating stories that deal with (post)colonial issues are no longer people remotely situated from the source. Ahdaf Soueif, an example in case, is despite her English upbringing closely connected with her Egyptian heritage and still has a strong connection with the country of her roots, as opposed to earlier colonists. Robert Young acknowledges this fact and Said’s theory by suggesting that “colonial discourse analysis has meant that we have learnt a lot about the fantasmatics of colonial discourse, but at the same time it has prevented us by definition from knowing about the actual conditions such discourse was framed to describe, analyze or control” (Young 1996, 2007: 2).

Young’s contribution to Bhabha’s analysis of colonial discourse has shown how Western representations of the Orient and colonization in general delineated not just a theoretical approach but more so a portrayal of their exotic desires. In her novels, Ahdaf Soueif reacts to this ongoing tendency in the West to imagine the Orient and its culture as exotic objects, by dismantling the stereotypes which were originally constructed to illustrate Western desires. For ages, Orientalist discourse has been a form of “Western fantasy [which could] say nothing about actuality” (Young 2007: 2). These colonial reports on the Orient have initiated a process in which elements belonging to the Eastern culture, such as the harem, the veil and polygamy are regarded as synonyms for female oppression. In the postcolonial era, hybrid writers are able to write stories about their own native country in a format and language which does not discourage Western readers, therefore accounts from secondary sources are excluded and a more trustworthy picture of the Orient is illustrated.

2.2.3 The Subaltern – Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak discusses the problematic issue of ‘voice’ for oppressed people in her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in which she refers to this group as the “subaltern” minorities (Spivak 1988: 66). The notion subaltern refers to those of inferior rank, a term which was introduced by Antonio Gramsci to designate the minority groups in society who are struggling with the domination of the ruling classes (Spivak 1988: 78). Spivak argues that histories which truthfully narrate the lives of these oppressed people have remained ignored for centuries, a case in point illustrated by accounts on the subaltern woman, which were always narrated through colonial, male voices whilst never allowing the woman herself the opportunity to recite her narrative. Spivak continues her claim by stating that “within the effaced itinerary of the subaltern subject, the track of sexual difference is doubly effaced. […] If, in the context of colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow” (Spivak 1988: 83). The colonized subject, and more specifically, the subaltern woman, is and has always been missing in documentary archives, because she is not given a voice. The question whether they can speak is a question that the subaltern must ask (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 218).

Spivak elaborates on her discussion of the exclusion of subaltern groups by referring to the contemporary and ongoing epistemic suppression that Eastern voices experience, since they are forced to implant Western forms of thought and writing (Spivak 1988: 80-82). This claim is based upon Spivak’s presumption that the subaltern must adapt their way of thinking, speaking and writing to a more Western model if they want to be heard. Spivak argues that this is a case which does not allow those subaltern peoples to really speak their mind and therefore they will never achieve their hopes to be actually heard, since they must adopt Western ways of thought and reason. By trying to give the subaltern a voice mediated to a Western model, these oppressed peoples become even more silent. Spivak ends her article and answers the question whether or not the subaltern can speak as followed: “The subaltern cannot speak. There is no virtue in global laundry lists with ‘woman’ as a pious item. Representation has not withered away. The female intellectual as intellectual has a circumscribed task which she must not disown with a flourish” (Spivak 1988: 104). Spivak concludes that by trying to adapt to Western notions of thinking, writing and telling, the subaltern reaffirms his position as the subordinated. The significance of the discussion of the subaltern to this thesis relates to the identity of writer Ahdaf Soueif, who is a female, Anglophone author writing in the former-colonizer’s language in a postcolonial era. To follow Spivak in her claim about the subaltern, who cannot speak, would mean that Ahdaf Soueif narrates her stories in a lingual and structural model that pleases the West. However, Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin argue that Spivak’s main concern is not that the oppressed cannot voice their resistance or that they must adjust to a Western mode of voicing their thoughts in order to be heard, rather she focuses on an “unproblematically constituted subaltern identity” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 1998: 219).

The significance of discussing all of the vital contributions on hybridity, Orientalism and female voices delivered by different academics to the field of postcolonial theory relates to the purpose of this thesis in which the level of hybridity in Ahdaf Soueif’s fictional novels is analyzed. Therefore, in the following chapter of this thesis, I will illustrate how the theoretical concepts and ideas described above are explored in In the Eye of the Sun (1992) and The Map of Love (1999).

2.3 Novels and Genres

My analysis of In the Eye of the Sun (1992) and The Map of Love (1999) will prove that Ahdaf Soueif’s writing style tries to capture the spirit and conventional customs of the era in which she is narrating her stories. In the Eye of the Sun tells the story of a young Egyptian woman Asya, whose life is set against the political actions of the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century. It focuses on her years-long struggle for personal independence and her attempts to break away from patriarchal conventions and Orientalist stereotyping, therefore making it “a coming of age novel in the European Romantic tradition of the bildungsroman” (Massad 1999: 75). The novel begins in England in 1979, where we meet a twenty-nine-year-old Asya who has taken the care for her dying uncle upon her. The story then goes back in time to the infamous year of 1967 where Asya witnesses the destroying effects of the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria. As a young student, she falls in love with Saif but she soon finds herself trapped in an unhappy marriage based upon patriarchal conventions. Her first steps to independence are set once she has decided to follow her mother’s example by obtaining a Ph.D. in England. However, she soon finds herself captured in the fantasy of another man, the American Gerald Stone who embodies Orientalist stereotypes.

In The Map of Love, a contemporary Arab woman, Amal, tells the story of her English-born great-aunt Anna Winterbourne, who fled her life in Victorian England to travel to the East at the end of the nineteenth century. Recently widowed, Anna has a desire to explore Egypt to see whether her admiration for the Orientalist paintings of John Frederick Lewis is justified and whether he depicted Arab life in its authenticity. Ignoring traditional views the West holds over the East, Anna follows the footsteps of real Victorian female travelers, such as Lady Lucy Duff Gordon and Lady Emily Blunt, who looked beyond Orientalist stereotypes. Anna finds love and a new family in Egypt when she marries Egyptian nationalist Sharif Basha. Over a century later, Amal magically reconstructs Anna’s story by exploring the content of a trunk which was brought to her by an American woman, Isabel. The trunk contains letters, diaries and newspaper clippings. Isabel’s love story echoes Anna’s, since both of them fall in love with an Egyptian man, passionate about the political affairs of his country. In Isabel’s case, she falls for Amal’s brother Omar. My research will illustrate how Ahdaf Soueif cleverly fuses the fictional and historical level in this novel by capturing the spirit of the age in which her love story is set, making it a historical romance.

3. Analysis: Hybridity in In the Eye of the Sun (1992) and The Map of Love (1999)

In order to systematically and thoroughly answer the research questions put forward in the in


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