CAIRO: In a world of hyper-globalization and the idea of a clash of civilizations taking hold in the west and the Islamic world, it is difficult to find those individuals that truly transcend borders. Ahdaf Soueif is one of those few people that are able to capture the entire world through her writing.
She is not an activist per se; rather, Soueif is a teller of stories that are able to bring forth the ideas of the present conversation between two people that appear to be at odds with one another. Soueif tells The Daily Star Egypt her vision of who she is and reveals many of her nuanced views on society and politics in the region.
“I want to be known as a novelist, Soueif reveals. “You write about what moves you . so if politics is a strong part of your life at the time, you will write something that has aspects of activism in it.
Soueif is the author of two collections of short stories, two novels and a collection of essays. Her novel, The Map of Love, is a bestseller and has made her a household name across the globe. Her collection of essays on Palestine and the Middle East, Mezzaterra, have captivated the world and brought more light to the situation in Palestine.
But she is not simply a novelist; Soueif hits the reader with the truth. As both British and Egyptian, she is able to captivate different audiences with her writing. She says that if the character is British then she will write as a Brit, but if the character is Egyptian, she will be Egyptian. Her latest book, The Map of Love, was short listed for the Booker Prize in 1999.
Soueif is also a cultural commentator and has gained the respect of the intellectual world from London to New York to Cairo. She loves Egypt and wishes more people understood the region as a whole.
“This is still a great place and people would be sure to enjoy it if they came, she comments. “If people had a friend it would be much better and it would allow them to understand the crisis that is going on in the region.
Soueif says that the region is hard to understand without a intricate look at the current situation that the Middle East finds itself in. With activists groups abounding, the Middle East is in a transition period.
“I hope they [activists groups] have a future, Soueif begins. “The drawback of such groups like Kefaya is that they are new. They don’t have the roots such as the Brotherhood.
“Their strengths are also their weaknesses, Soueif says. “They are not a party and are often too inclusive. They insist on being horizontal, but there isn’t a large mobilization.
Although she says they might actually be truly democratic in nature, she doesn’t have the answer to the problems facing opposition groups.
Always willing to enter a discussion of politics and culture, Soueif believes the Palestinian question is the largest problem in the world today. “If I could change one thing, it would be the Palestinian issue.
On a societal level, she believes poverty is the biggest challenge that Arab nations will have to combat before the region moves forward.
“There is a great deal of wealth and poverty in this region, especially Egypt, she says. “There didn’t used to be a great disparity between the wealthy and the poor and this threatens the fabric of society.
Finally the question of media came up, and Soueif doesn’t shy away from criticizing a field she often enters.
“The media are more committed to their own ideals, she argues. “The media should do their job better; let’s get rid of selected sound bites and choose a better selection of stories to show people.
Soueif says that she doesn’t believe that media are viewing their job as informing the public any longer.
“What we have is a black and white confrontation, she continues. “It is a binary way of presenting things and this goes against the pluralistic notion.
“It seems to me that the media no longer serves the public, instead it is serving a political end.