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By M. Naaman

Half ode, half educational treatise, this booklet strains the transformation of Cairo’s old downtown from its stunning starting as a French encouraged Belle ?poque wonder to a domain of contest and, extra lately, to its function as a neo-bohemian public sphere. utilizing the paintings of a number of Egyptian novelists, this examine explores the importance of this house to principles of modernity, classification realization, and the anti-colonial fight. Drawing on city reports scholarship, Arabic literary feedback, and cultural idea, this wide-ranging paintings argues second look of the old urban middle within the face of globalization and the continued fragmentation of city house is vital to knowing what it potential to be Egyptian at the present time.

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Extra info for Urban Space in Contemporary Egyptian Literature: Portraits of Cairo (Literatures and Cultures of the Islamic World)

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In other words, situating the self within the changing urban geography of the city becomes a vehicle for coming into one’s selfhood. 4 Echoing this idea, Mary Pat Brady writes in the context of Chicana literary production, “Literature thrives on the intersections between the shaping powers of language and the productive powers of space . . it uses space and spatial processes metaphorically to suggest emotions, insights, concepts, characters. ”5 At the core of Colonising Egypt and his later essay “The Stage of Modernity,” Timothy Mitchell suggests that the emergence of modernity—as an idea, fixed in time and European space—is critically linked to the way reality came to be conceived and rendered as an “exhibit” or representation.

Third, Hafez likens the unplanned nature of the ‘ashwa’iyyat housing (their unpredictability and chaos) to the fragmented, unpredictable development of the narration in these novels, where there are not necessarily any causal links. The macabre nature of the graveyard housing he links to the preoccupation in many of these works with death, rats, corpses, and skeletons. He is quick to point out that this is not to say that the novels do not have a structure. Many of them are structured more like a textual maze, with no obvious sign of design, much like the labyrinthine quality of many of the informal housing communities, “born out of a situation in which the immediate supersedes—indeed, negates—the strategic and long-term.

In particular I will focus on representations of the downtown (Wust al-Balad) and the way a number of newer literary works aim to historically revise and recall the symbolic value of this area for Egyptians today. In this regard I will seek to show a causal relationship between the transformations in the city and the reoccurring themes taken up by many of these authors. Echoing the work of Sabry Hafez, Dina Heshmat, Samia Mehrez, and Husayn Hammuda,16 I show how the works of these writers, as products of this rapidly changing space, reflect the way the city has served as the lens for negotiating or coming to terms with how such universal enframing narratives have and continue to shape the lives of Egyptians.

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