Ahdaf Soueif

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Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif at PalFest 2008.jpg
Native name
أهداف سويف
Born (1950-03-23) 23 March 1950 (age 68)
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." Her second novel The Map of Love (1999) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize,[3] has been translated into 21 languages and sold over 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. Her sister Laila Soueif, and Laila's children, Alaa Abd El-Fatah and Mona Seif, are also activists.[9]

She was married to Ian Hamilton[10] with whom she had two sons, Omar Robert Hamilton and Ismail Richard Hamilton.[11]

In June 2013, Soueif and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.[12][13]


  • 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."[14] 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 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


  1. ^ a b "Ahdaf Soueif" in Contemporary Authors Online. Gale. 11 November 2003.
  2. ^ Scott Anderson (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. [1]
  5. ^ Attalah, Lina in Mada Masr[2]
  6. ^ "The Palestine Festival of Literature – An explosive evening in the territories". The Economist. 2011-04-26. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
  7. ^ "The Palestine Festival of Literature Team". The Palestine Festival of Literature. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
  8. ^ "Afdah Soueif Profile". London: The Guardian. 2008-08-12. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
  9. ^ Soueif,Ahdaf (2011-11-13). "In Egypt, the stakes have risen". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
  10. ^ Morrison, Blake (2001-12-29). "Ian Hamilton Obituary". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  11. ^ "Dr Ahdaf Soueif (DLitt) Honorary Graduates". University of Exeter. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  12. ^ Gavin, Patrick (2013-06-19). "Celeb video 'I am Bradley Manning'". POLITICO.com. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Soueif Wins Mahmoud Darwish Award for Creativity", Mahmoud Darwish Foundation, 13 March 2010.
  16. ^ Oliver, Christine, "The 2011 Guardian and Observer books power 100 – interactive", The Guardian, 23 September 2011.

External links[edit]