978-0-679-74932-5 / 9780679749325

In the Eye of the Sun





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About the book:

Literary critic Edward Said has described Ahdaf Soueif as "one of the most extraordinary chroniclers of sexual politics now writing"; In the Eye of the Sun, a story of love and war, sexuality and politics, in modern Egypt and England is a key contribution to that chronicle (Soueif's The Map of Love, first published in 1999, is another). The book begins in London in 1979, with Asya reflecting back on events in Cairo more than a decade before. It's May, 1967: Asya, studying for University, is in the grip of "exam fever"; on the stage of international politics, war is about to break out between Israel and Egypt. Soueif presents that war in brief, journalistic "scenes" that run alongside her exploration of Asya's coming-of-age as a woman in modern Egypt. For Asya, education, love, sexuality and marriage are bound up with, and touched by, the violent conflicts between Egypt and Israel--as well as the seductions, and disappointments, of Europe. Studying for her doctorate in literature at an English University, Asya confronts the difficulty of her marriage to Saif--a man she loves but has never been able to make love to, who is never with her but finds her demands on his time "intolerable". The scenes between husband and wife are among the most memorable, and painful, in the book: in particular, Saif's furious shock at his wife's (eventual) infidelity: "I expected my wife to be loyal. I expected my wife to have some sense of honour. I expected ..."

Exploring the gulf between them through that other gulf between East and West, Soueif offers a remarkable reflection on the recent history of Egypt and England through the life of a woman who won't give up on her question: "Why does it have to be like this?" --Vicky Lebeau

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