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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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Series Editor’s Foreword


A Note on Transliteration and Translation

List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Literary Solitude: Autobiography, Modernity, and Independence

1 From Solitude to Stealth: Taha Hussein and Sonallah Ibrahim

2 Revolutionary Memoirs: Assia Djebar and Latifa al-Zayyat

3 Palestine Song: Mahmoud Darwish and Mourid Barghouti

4 Revolutionary Solitude: Edward Said and Najla Said

5 Dreaming of Solitude: Haifa Zangana and Alia Mamdouh

6 Tahrir Memoirs: Radwa Ashour and Mona Prince

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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