Ahdaf Soueif

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Ahdaf Soueif
أهداف سويف
Ahdaf Soueif at PalFest 2008.jpg
Born (1950-03-23) 23 March 1950 (age 71)
Cairo, Egypt
Notable work
The Map of Love (1999)
Spouse(s)Ian Hamilton
RelativesLaila Soueif (sister)

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

Early life[edit]

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.[1] Her sister is the human and women's rights activist and mathematician Laila Soueif.[2]


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." Soueif's second novel, The Map of Love (1999), was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize,[3] has been translated into 21 languages and sold more than a million copies.[4] 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,[1] but her Arabic-speaking readers say they can hear the Arabic through the English.[5] 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.[citation needed]

In 2008 she initiated the first Palestine Festival of Literature,[6] of which she is the Founding Chair.[7]

Soueif is also a cultural and political commentator for the Guardian newspaper and she has been reporting on the Egyptian revolution.[8] In January 2012 she published Cairo: My City, Our Revolution – a personal account of the first year of the Egyptian revolution. She initially supported the overthrow of democracy and its replacement with the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.[9] Her sister Laila Soueif, and Laila's children, Alaa Abd El-Fatah and Mona Seif, are also activists.[10]

She was married to Ian Hamilton,[11] with whom she had two sons: Omar Robert Hamilton and Ismail Richard Hamilton.[12]

She was appointed a Trustee of the British Museum in 2012 and re-appointed for a further 4 years in 2016.[13] However she resigned in 2019 complaining about BP's sponsorship, the reluctance to re-hire workers transferred to Carillion and lack of engagement with repatriating artworks[14]

In June 2013, Soueif and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.[15][16]

Political views[edit]

In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, Soueif signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few."[17][18]

In 2020 Soueif was arrested for demanding the release of political prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt.[19]


  • 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[edit]

In a review of Egyptian novelists, Harper's Magazine included Soueif in a shortlist of "the country's most talented writers."[20] She has also been the recipient of several literary awards:

Literary criticism[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b "Ahdaf Soueif" in Contemporary Authors Online. Gale. 11 November 2003.
  2. ^ Anderson, Scott (4 May 2017). Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart. Pan Macmillan. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-5098-5272-7. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  3. ^ Nash, Geoffrey (2002). "Ahdaf Soueif" in Molino, Michael R. (ed.), Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 267: Twenty-First-Century British and Irish Novelists. Gale: pp. 314–321.
  4. ^ Mahjoub, Jamal (2011), "Selmeyyah" in Guernica Magazine, 15 March 2011.
  5. ^ Attalah, Lina in Mada Masr[1]
  6. ^ C.S. (26 April 2011). "The Palestine Festival of Literature – An explosive evening in the territories". The Economist. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  7. ^ "The Palestine Festival of Literature Team". The Palestine Festival of Literature. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  8. ^ "Afdah Soueif Profile". The Guardian. London. 12 August 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  9. ^ Soueif, Ahdaf (1 July 2013). "In Egypt, we thought democracy was enough. It was not". The Guardian. Manchester. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  10. ^ Soueif, Ahdaf (13 November 2011). "In Egypt, the stakes have risen". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  11. ^ Morrison, Blake (29 December 2001). "Ian Hamilton Obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  12. ^ "Dr Ahdaf Soueif (DLitt) Honorary Graduates". University of Exeter. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Prime Minister Reappoints Three Trustees to the Board of the British Museum". GOV.UK.
  14. ^ Soueif, Ahdaf (July 15, 2019). "Ahdaf Soueif | On Resigning from the British Museum's Board of Trustees · LRB 15 July 2019". LRB Blog.
  15. ^ Gavin, Patrick (19 June 2013). "Celeb video 'I am Bradley Manning'". POLITICO.com. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  16. ^ iam.bradleymanning.org; Maggie Gyllenhaal; Roger Waters; Oliver Stone; Daniel Ellsberg; Phil Donahue; Michael Ratner; Alice Walker; Tom Morello; Matt Taibbi; Peter Sarsgaard; Angela Davis; Moby; Molly Crabapple; Tim DeChristopher; LT Dan Choi; Bishop George Packard; Russell Brand; Allan Nairn; Chris Hedges; Wallace Shawn; Ahdaf Soueif; et al. (June 18, 2013). "I am Bradley Manning (full HD, 4:40)". YouTube. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  17. ^ "Vote for hope and a decent future". The Guardian. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  18. ^ Proctor, Kate (3 December 2019). "Coogan and Klein lead cultural figures backing Corbyn and Labour". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  19. ^ "Coronavirus: Egypt detains novelist Ahdaf Soueif for demanding prisoners' release". Middle East Eye.
  20. ^ Creswell, Robyn (February 2011). "Undelivered: Egyptian novelists at home and abroad". Harper's. Harper's Foundation. 322 (1, 929): 71–79. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  21. ^ "Soueif Wins Mahmoud Darwish Award for Creativity" Archived 2013-08-26 at the Wayback Machine, Mahmoud Darwish Foundation, 13 March 2010.
  22. ^ Oliver, Christine, "The 2011 Guardian and Observer books power 100 – interactive", The Guardian, 23 September 2011.

External links[edit]