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The Map of Love How can it be that a set of the shoulders, the rhythm of a stride, the shadow of a strand of hair falling on a forehead can cause the tides of the heart to ebb and to flow Ah, the throes of love When her husband dies, a woman leaves England for Egypt, lured by paintings which helped her grieve She enters Egypt as the resistance fights against British occupation She falls in love with an Egyptian politician during a time when a woman was ostracized by her European community for being with an How can it be that a set of the shoulders, the rhythm of a stride, the shadow of a strand of hair falling on a forehead can cause the tides of the heart to ebb and to flow Ah, the throes of love When her husband dies, a woman leaves England for Egypt, lured by paintings which helped her grieve She enters Egypt as the resistance fights against British occupation She falls in love with an Egyptian politician during a time when a woman was ostracized by her European community for being with an Egyptian, albeit a wealthy, titled, one One hundred years later, Anna s great granddaughter, Isabel, an American, finds her great grandmother s journals and enters her world of love She cannot, however, translate the journals written in Arabic, so she enlists the help of, Amal Amal is an Arab woman, separated from her husband and children, who returns to Egypt after years living abroad Amal doesn t know she is connected to Isabel until she starts to read the journals of Anna Winterbourne.If this all seems intricate, it is because the narrative itself is weaved intricately maybe a bit too ambitious at times It illustrates political occasions over a century and ends in 1998, a year after the massacre near Luxor This novel was a Booker Prize finalist and one can tell by the sprawl of different perspectives, the play with time, the political history interwoven, and the cultural maneuver embodied in interchanging writing styles throughout chapters In other words, be very attentive when reading, or else risk being lost I ll always fall for a love story immersed in politics and social disparities, a story of love that spans cultures And I fell for this one, through the journals of Anna, through Isabel s love affair, even through Amal s daring brush with a past love I fell for the poetry included before each chapter, poetry from Aidoo, Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning The face of all the world is changed, I thinkSince first I heard the footsteps of thy soul With Her First Novel, In The Eye Of The Sun, Ahdaf Soueif Garnered Comparisons To Tolstoy, Flaubert, And George Eliot In Her Latest Novel, Which Was Shortlisted For Britain S Prestigious Booker Prize, She Combines The Romantic Skill Of The Nineteenth Century Novelists With A Very Modern Sense Of Culture And Politics Both Sexual And International At Either End Of The Twentieth Century, Two Women Fall In Love With Men Outside Their Familiar Worlds In 1901, Anna Winterbourne, Recently Widowed, Leaves England For Egypt, An Outpost Of The Empire Roiling With Nationalist Sentiment Far From The Comfort Of The British Colony, She Finds Herself Enraptured By The Real Egypt And In Love With Sharif Pasha Al Baroudi Nearly A Hundred Years Later, Isabel Parkman, A Divorced American Journalist And Descendant Of Anna And Sharif Has Fallen In Love With Omar Al Ghamrawi, A Gifted And Difficult Egyptian American Conductor With His Own Passionate Politics In An Attempt To Understand Her Conflicting Emotions And To Discover The Truth Behind Her Heritage, Isabel, Too, Travels To Egypt, And Enlists Omar S Sister S Help In Unravelling The Story Of Anna And Sharif S Love.Joining The Romance And Intricate Storytelling Of A.S Byatt S Possession And Michael Ondaatje S The English Patient, Ahdaf Soueif Has Once Again Created A Mesmerizing Tale Of Genuine Eloquence And Lasting Importance. Last fall my wife read about the BBC Fox production of Taboo starring Tom Hardy and an amazing supporting cast What could possibly fail Well, we waited for all the episodes to air and having recorded them sat to binge Along the way I noticed Guardian headlines bemoaning the show My best friend who doesn t believe in dvr dismissed the show as macho mumblecore Still, I harbored hope What an utter waste Taboo proved.So I went to Cincinnati the other day to buy books I found a nice copy and l Last fall my wife read about the BBC Fox production of Taboo starring Tom Hardy and an amazing supporting cast What could possibly fail Well, we waited for all the episodes to air and having recorded them sat to binge Along the way I noticed Guardian headlines bemoaning the show My best friend who doesn t believe in dvr dismissed the show as macho mumblecore Still, I harbored hope What an utter waste Taboo proved.So I went to Cincinnati the other day to buy books I found a nice copy and looked forward to settling down with what had been described by a GR friend as A.S Byatt s Possession in Egypt The weather turned really cold yesterday and I thought why not Well, 516 pages later, I do not understand the parallel There are two story lines, almost a century apart There are journals and letters The troubled travails of Egypt are explored through the casual racism of the British Occupation and the contemporary circa 1999 fears of US Israeli hegemony in the region Most of this is approached obliquely, though the resistance to Mubarak is balanced with fears of the jihadi There are mirrored situations where love conquers all and I felt my chest ache from repetitive sighing This wasn t for me One of my favorite books it has everything you could want romance, Egypt, kidnapping, desserts, stars, England, illigitamate children, brooding academic types, sexy political dissidents, bold women, multi cultural challenges, contemporary politics, turn of the 20th century politics, luxe, fabric, fashion, trunks with old letters, family homes, lattice shiveringly good A finalist for the Booker Prize when it was published in 1999, this novel of love and international politics set in Egypt is also a rich and rewarding mix of postmodern, post colonial, and Victorian era storytelling In the scale of its romantic ambitions, it reminded me often of The English Patient, and it cries out for a similar film adaptation to bring it visually to life Soueif evokes several imaginative worlds, ranging from the Sinai deserts of a century ago to modern day Cairo Narrated A finalist for the Booker Prize when it was published in 1999, this novel of love and international politics set in Egypt is also a rich and rewarding mix of postmodern, post colonial, and Victorian era storytelling In the scale of its romantic ambitions, it reminded me often of The English Patient, and it cries out for a similar film adaptation to bring it visually to life Soueif evokes several imaginative worlds, ranging from the Sinai deserts of a century ago to modern day Cairo Narrated from the point of view of its women characters, her story explores the relationship between the politically driven affairs of men and the sanctuary of home and hearth where women and children live their lives Thus the story traces both the struggle for power and the strongest urges of the heart, a compelling combination.Told mostly in the form of fragments of text journal entries and letters the narrative harks back to the 18th century epistolary novel We also get multiple narrators, mostly filtered through the perspective of its central character, a middle aged woman living in Cairo in the late 1990s The story she tells takes place in the years before WWI and concerns a love affair between an English widow and a wealthy, influential Egyptian man, who is 16 years older, all of it set against the British occupation of Egypt and the impact of European colonialism on a nation with thousands of years of culture and history As the novel shifts to the present, it describes the modern day aftermath of that period of history in the continuing interference of the West in the Middle East and the growth of Islamist and secular extremism that has emerged in response to it Meanwhile, the domestic world of women, bound in its traditions of caring for home and children, continues to guide their energies and concerns and provides sanctuary from the political strife that surges around them.Written in English by an Egyptian born writer, this intricately plotted novel is set in the present and deeply immersed in the past It is both a history lesson and a heart racing romance that walks the fine line between an orientalist perspective and an attitude that represents Egyptians and their culture from their own point of view For example, through discussions of early Jewish settlements in Palestine, the reader gets an Egyptian perspective of historical developments that were to lead to the creation of the state of Israel a half century later A glossary at the back of the book helps with reading through sections of the novel that incorporate Arabic expressions, idioms, and historical references Plan on taking a while to read this book unless you intend to skip over thedemanding parts It evokes a time and a world that is only somewhat familiar, given what we know of it from film and the media, and the book s richness of detail calls for a slowerattentive pace It s midnight at the Oasis The air is dry and warm, scented of Jasmine and a beautiful, spunky blonde Englishwoman in drag bewitches the sensitive, progressive Egyptian man in the shadow of the great ruins in one of several highly cinematic encounters written several decades too late for Omar Sharif and Julie Christie to play the protagonists.I didn t hate this book though it takes several strange, unadvised turns at least once into a bizarre and unresolved issue of incest , but the framework It s midnight at the Oasis The air is dry and warm, scented of Jasmine and a beautiful, spunky blonde Englishwoman in drag bewitches the sensitive, progressive Egyptian man in the shadow of the great ruins in one of several highly cinematic encounters written several decades too late for Omar Sharif and Julie Christie to play the protagonists.I didn t hate this book though it takes several strange, unadvised turns at least once into a bizarre and unresolved issue of incest , but the framework family saga sex politics is pretty trite If Isabel Allende married a Muslim, moved to Cairo and tried mimic E.M Forster, this is probably what you d get There is always at least one gem in the Booker shortliststhis was not one of them The only reason this gets a three is because it was an interesting journey into the world view of another, and I enjoyed it while I was reading it However, the morning after I finished it, I realized that although the interposition and parallelism of the the past and present was quite well done, the characters were flat All the protagonists are admirable and all get along famously including sisters, brothers, and all manner of in laws all conflict and pain is caused by the outsiders the Br The only reason this gets a three is because it was an interesting journey into the world view of another, and I enjoyed it while I was reading it However, the morning after I finished it, I realized that although the interposition and parallelism of the the past and present was quite well done, the characters were flat All the protagonists are admirable and all get along famously including sisters, brothers, and all manner of in laws all conflict and pain is caused by the outsiders the British colonial government, the Turks, the Israelis, the Egyptian collaborators The hareem is a tranquil haven where the women are well cared for and equal the Quran is never misused for violence Louisa May Alcott s Little Women are freakishly dysfunctional compared to the wonderworld of domestic life shown here I have no doubt that all of the antagonists portrayed in the book inflicted cruelties and indignities upon the group represented by the protagonists, but the book would have been farcompelling if the heroes weren t Disneyish 2.5 The book started as 4 but ended as a 2 When I read the synopsis I thought I was going to love it It ticked all the right boxes a love story set in Egypt, a country I really wanted to knowabout, the use of letters and diaries to tell the story, two parallel stories set at different points in time I loved Anna s story up to the point she got married and moved together with Layla and Sharif s mother I was hopping for apassionate relationship and I thought the romance story w 2.5 The book started as 4 but ended as a 2 When I read the synopsis I thought I was going to love it It ticked all the right boxes a love story set in Egypt, a country I really wanted to knowabout, the use of letters and diaries to tell the story, two parallel stories set at different points in time I loved Anna s story up to the point she got married and moved together with Layla and Sharif s mother I was hopping for apassionate relationship and I thought the romance story was not developed enough Also, i believe that it is impossible for Anna to be so great friends with everybody from the Harem from Layla to Sharif s mother No cultural clashes whatsoeverHard to believe that Also, there was no difficulty for Anna to adapt to the life in Egypt with her husband I would have liked the book to discussabout the cultural aspects of relationship After the middle of the book I felt that all the dialog and all the new characters were there only to introduce a political idea problem Although I enjoyed to learnabout the Egyptian history I did not fell that I got a clear idea of the events that happened during the time the two stories were set I though the romance history lesson was structured quite poorly and I did not clearly understand the message of the book The transition from one time to another was sometimes messy There were too many narrators Anna, Isabel, Amal, Layla and Sharif It made me fail to care for any of the characters Some of the plot twists, such as the unresolved possible incest and the love interest of Amal were unnecessary an somewhat bizarre.As a result, despite of an interesting format, the story did not succeed to engage me emotionally and I did not care about the characters evolution and relationships I was bored many times and the last 200 pages were a pain to finish History and political analysis just the way I like it coated with compelling fiction The romanticism and lushness of the prose threw me at first, but suited the story well and won me over.This book uses connected love stories to examine Egyptian nationalism in the face of British colonialism in the early 1900s This opens out into suches themes as broader colonialism, the Arabic language, and early Zionism.While not perfect sometimes hard to sustain the breathlessness and the ending didn t q History and political analysis just the way I like it coated with compelling fiction The romanticism and lushness of the prose threw me at first, but suited the story well and won me over.This book uses connected love stories to examine Egyptian nationalism in the face of British colonialism in the early 1900s This opens out into suches themes as broader colonialism, the Arabic language, and early Zionism.While not perfect sometimes hard to sustain the breathlessness and the ending didn t quite do it for me , I found this novel lovely, gripping, and filled with enormously charming characters I am now dying to spend time in Cairo And to solve all the problems of our postcolonial world That too I read the Arabic translation by DR Fatma Mousa, Ahdaf s mother And it seemed to me that the book was originally written in such glorious Arabic I am still willing to read the original ENglish and I expect it to be as beautifully written as the translation As far as the drama is concerned, the story is enchanting The moments I spent with the book, I was completely taken into other worlds Now that I have finished the book today, I have a feeling of bitterness because I will read noof I read the Arabic translation by DR Fatma Mousa, Ahdaf s mother And it seemed to me that the book was originally written in such glorious Arabic I am still willing to read the original ENglish and I expect it to be as beautifully written as the translation As far as the drama is concerned, the story is enchanting The moments I spent with the book, I was completely taken into other worlds Now that I have finished the book today, I have a feeling of bitterness because I will read noof Anna or Laila or even Amal I also have to admit that I learnt a good deal about the history of Egypt at the beginning of the 19th centery And this is what I love about historical fiction It s about getting a sense of life in the past instead of just learning dry facts or boring analysis Chapeau Ahdaf I wish I could get a copy of your book where every uttrance is written in the language you said it was spoken in


About the Author: Ahdaf Soueif

Ahdaf Soueif Arabic is an Egyptian short story writer, novelist and political and cultural commentator She was educated in Egypt and England studied for a PhD in linguistics at the University of Lancaster Her novel The Map of Love 1999 was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and subsequently translated into 21 languages Soueif writes primarily in English, but her Arabic speaking readers say they can hear the Arabic through the English Along with in depth and sensitive 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 Soueif has also translated Mourid Barghouti s I Saw Ramallah with a foreword by Edward Said from Arabic into English.In 2007, Soueif was one ofthan 100 artists and writers who signed an open letter initiated by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism and the South West Asian, North African Bay Area Queers SWANABAQ and calling on the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival to honor calls for an international boycott of Israeli political and cultural institutions, by discontinuing Israeli consulate sponsorship of the LGBT film festival and not cosponsoring events with the Israeli consulate In 2008 she initiated the first Palestine Festival of Literature PalFest 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


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