Navigating the Mezzaterra

Home, Harem and the Hybrid Family in Ahdaf Soueif's The Map of Love

in Critical Survey

The Map of Love (1999), a novel by the Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif, opens in Egypt and America in the late twentieth century, but shifts in time to explore and imaginatively reclaim the terrain of the travels of a Victorian woman in Egypt, Lady Lucie Duff Gordon, English author of Letters from Egypt (1865). The novel explores the links between a contemporary American-Egyptian family and a nineteenth-century Anglo-Egyptian one. By focussing on the hybrid family and by drawing on historical figures such as Gordon and the English Orientalist painter John Frederick Lewis, Soueif seeks to explore the complex dynamics of intercultural discourse. The Map of Love destabilises the homogeneity of a patriarchal and imperial narrative (several of Soueif 's nineteenth century British characters are anti-imperial) and it is through the representation of the harem as desirable domestic space that Soueif's revisionist project advances a positive vision of nineteenth-century Arab-Muslim domesticity and culture. These representations also align her project with nineteenth-century female travellers' accounts of the harem.

Article Information

Issue Table of Contents

Google Scholar