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Literary Autobiography and Arab National Struggles

Tahia Abdel Nasser

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Examines the effects of colonialism and independence on modern Arab autobiography written in Arabic, English and French

In memoirs, Arab writers have invoked solitude in moments of deep public involvement. Focusing on Taha Hussein, Sonallah Ibrahim, Assia Djebar, Latifa al-Zayyat, Mahmoud Darwish, Mourid Barghouti, Edward Said, Haifa Zangana, and Radwa Ashour, this book reads a range of autobiographical forms, sources, and affinities with other literatures.

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A Note on Transliteration and Translation
Introduction: Literary Solitude: Autobiography, Modernity, and Independence
Autobiography and the Modern Nation
Postcolonial Autobiography

From Solitude to Stealth: Taha Hussein and Sonallah Ibrahim
        The Fiction of Autobiography
        The Autobiography of Youth
        Solitude and Stealth

Revolutionary Memoirs: Assia Djebar and Latifa al-Zayyat
       Autobiography, Archives, and Algerian Fantasia
       The Solitude of the Search
       Solitary Song

Palestine Song: Mahmoud Darwish and Mourid Barghouti
       Memory and Memoir
       Mural and Memoir
       Migrant Memoirs

Revolutionary Solitude: Edward Said and Najla Said
       The Languages of Solitude
       Colonialism and Dispossession
       Revolutionary Solitude
       Looking for Palestine

Dreaming of Solitude: Haifa Zangana and Alia Mamdouh
       Literary Testimony
       Baghdad Dreams
       Tortured Memory
       Foreign Fiction

Tahrir Memoirs: Radwa Ashour and Mona Prince
From Specters to The Scream
Tahrir Diary
Epilogue: Arab Literature, World Literature

About the Author

Tahia Abdel Nasser is Assistant Professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo. She has published in Comparative Literature Studies, Yearbook of Comparative Literature, Alif: Journal of Contemporary Poetics, Journal of Arabic Literature, Dictionary of African Biography (2011), Mahmoud Darwish: The Adam of Two Edens (2001) and The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology (2001).


The corpus is well-chosen, germane, and spans a range of texts that have never been studied together. The chapter breakdown is extremely interesting in the way it pairs language, location and genre. The methodological framework is highly original in that it reads this multilingual Arab corpus as a complex instance of a fully embodied comparative literature. Moreover, the framing dialectic that moves between the subject's solitude/ belonging is richly productive and offers a new way of thinking about the texts and the tradition they represent."

- Samah Selim, Rutgers University

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