Ramza

Out El Kouloub, Author, Out El Kouloub, Author, Nayra Atiya, Translator
Out El Kouloub, Author, Out El Kouloub, Author, Nayra Atiya, Translator Syracuse University Press $19.95 (201p) ISBN 978-0-8156-0280-4
Hardcover - 201 pages - 978-0-8156-2618-3
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For Atiya, translating Ramza is clearly a labor of love, a journey back to her own Egyptian childhood. Starting from Egyptian writer Out el Kouloub's (1892-1968) stark French original, Atiya has added not only the odd adjective but also detailed descriptions from her own childhood memories to create, as she says in her introduction, ``an ornamented translation.'' But the tender evocation of the past should not disguise the fact that this is a feminist novel. Written in 1958 as one of five novels portraying Egyptian women from varying social classes, it depicts Ramza, the daughter of a Serbian slave and a wealthy Egyptian. Born at the turn of the century to a cloistered harem life, Ramza's politically liberal father nevertheless encourages her education. Only when she reaches a marriageable age does Ramza realize that her father's liberalism does not extend to chosing a spouse. Having fallen in love with the brother of a friend, Ramza rebels against her father and the complicated traditions that seem to thwart her, eventually becoming a cause celebre pitting traditionalists against modernizers and British occupiers against anticolonialists. The first half of the book carefully details the inner life of the harem, a life that was benighted and restricted but also protected and privileged. It is by juxtaposition with this earlier, easier life that the sacrifices Ramza makes become doubly poignant. (June)
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