1) Radwa Ashour’s Specters, trans. Barbara Romaine
Radwa Ashour’s half-memoir, half-novel Specters, published in 1999, is about many people, places and events–perhaps too many. But one of its central locations is Tahrir Square, and one of its central themes is revolt and its repression. Tahrir is important to Ashour both personally and politically: She spent much of her girlhood near the square, and notes that many Egyptian calls for freedom have been issued from there.
In February of 1946, she writes, there were massive demonstrations in Tahrir against the British, which were violently attacked by British authorities. Some 40,000 demonstrated against the occupying forces: 23 died, 122 were wounded.
Ashour learned of this uprising after a girlhood familiarity with Tahrir, and writes of how this knowledge changed her vision: “Places suddenly acquire a new meaning when you get to know their stories–maybe not the whole story but a glimpse of the story, a piece of it that suddenly illuminates the place, so that you see it in a way that you never saw it before or understood it.”
Ashour also describes student protests centered on Tahrir Square in January 1972, in which she participated with her husband, the poet Mourid Barghouti. She mentions that the 1975 workers’ protests centered on Tahrir, as did the “bread riots” of 1977, which nearly unseated President Anwar Sadat.