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Soueif’s The Map of Love: A Postmodernist Perspective



This paper examines Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love (1999) within the framework of postmodernism. It will become clear from the analysis of the postmodernist nuances in the novel how Soueif makes use of the inferences of cross-cultural encounters to establish a form of counter-discursivity. Within the hybrid space created in the novel, Soueif brings forth a variety of voices that act upon deflating the formerly dominant discourse of colonialism. Throughout the research it will come to light how The Map of Love is a postmodernist, polyphonic novel that exhibits a multiplicity of narratives, voices and discourses. The voice of the colonized is brought to the forefront in order to undermine the dominant colonial discourse of the British. The discourses of history, colonialism, post colonialism, imperialism, Orientalism, feminism and even linguistics all combine to convey the fluctuating reality of Egypt before and after colonization as well as the flux nature of the self / other relations.
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Western characters are quite prominent in the works of Arab novelists in diaspora since the events of these novels are mainly set in European and American urban spaces. European and American characters have been rendered differently from one period to another and from one Arab writer to another. In this context, one may suggest that the portrayal of Westerners by Arab British women writers may be described as ambivalent as some writers represent them favorably while others depict them in unfavorable ways. Moreover, one can find both favorable and unfavorable representations of Western characters in the same literary work. This study investigates how Westerners are portrayed in the works of two Arab British women writers. Specifically, this paper investigates how Ahdaf Soueif's The Map of Love and Fadia Faqir's My Name is Salma ambivalently depict Western characters. In her representation of Westerners, Soueif aims at producing a Western voice which speaks for the colonized against the colonizer while Faqir aims at highlighting her protagonist's mental and psychological dilemma as a vulnerable refugee through her interactions with various Western characters. Overall, negative representations of some Westerners are certainly counterpoised by positive depictions of some others. Both Soueif and Faqir carefully portray their Western characters in a way that reflects the two novelists' astute artistic and creative powers.
This review of the works of novelist Ahdaf Soueif explores the major aesthetic and political themes of her novels and short stories. Soueif's honesty in exploring questions of sexual desire, intercultural dialogue, and the politics of language are further examined in the accompanying interview.
This article examines the phenomenon of code switching in The Map of Love (1999) by the Egyptian—British writer Ahdaf Soueif. Though she chooses English as a medium for her creative expression, Soueif deploys Arabic in her narrative to represent different aspects of the linguistic and cultural norms of Egyptian society. The article's methodology is informed by Kachru's framework on contact literature and his categorization of the occurrence of literary code switching or bilingual creativity into different strategies that encompass cultural and linguistic processes. The results indicate the predominance in The Map of Love of the discourse strategies of employing lexical borrowing, culture-bound references and translational transfer. Finally, the article analyzes the functional motivation of code switching in the postcolonial context of the novel and how the use of certain creative strategies might enhance or diminish the narrative's effectiveness and readability.
The Map of Love (1999), a novel by the Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif, opens in Egypt and America in the late twentieth century, but shifts in time to explore and imaginatively reclaim the terrain of the travels of a Victorian woman in Egypt, Lady Lucie Duff Gordon, English author of Letters from Egypt (1865). The novel explores the links between a contemporary American-Egyptian family and a nineteenth-century Anglo-Egyptian one. By focussing on the hybrid family and by drawing on historical figures such as Gordon and the English Orientalist painter John Frederick Lewis, Soueif seeks to explore the complex dynamics of intercultural discourse. The Map of Love destabilises the homogeneity of a patriarchal and imperial narrative (several of Soueif 's nineteenth century British characters are anti-imperial) and it is through the representation of the harem as desirable domestic space that Soueif's revisionist project advances a positive vision of nineteenth-century Arab-Muslim domesticity and culture. These representations also align her project with nineteenth-century female travellers' accounts of the harem.
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