In Honor of Radwa Ashour

I try not to republish many calls for papers, but I found this one over at the Translation Studies Portal and thought it might also be an opportunity to honor the award-winning novelist and academic Dr. Radwa Ashour. (Note that, if you’re interested in submitting, abstracts are due Dec. 28):

radwa_photo4More on the call for papers below. Meanwhile, from an earlier piece on Ashour:

Celebrated author Radwa Ashour, whose Granada trilogy was voted one of the top 100 literary works by the Arab Writers Union, and who has confidently and authoritatively taught hundreds of students to love literature, has not had an easy relationship with writing.

In 1969, at the age of 23, Ashour, with a well-crafted short story under her belt, traveled to a young writers’ conference in Zagazig.

“Looking around me, I saw Bahaa Taher, Yehia El-Taher Abdallah, Ibrahim Aslan, Abdel-Hakim Qasim, Amal Dunqul and others,” she previously told Al Ahram. All of these men were already accomplished. “And what had I written, apart from one short story that proved nothing? This scared me even more and I stopped writing.”

In her essay, “My Experience With Writing,” Ashour says that the question of whether or not she’s a truly talented writer continued to plague her. In the 1970s, “I renounced writing. I said that I was no good, and my resolution hit home as sharply and decisively as a guillotine.”

Between the ages of 23 and 34, Ashour focused on being a teacher and an activist. She also spent a good part of her life on airplanes. Her son Tamim was born in 1977, the same year her husband–Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti–was deported from Cairo. For a time, Ashour’s husband lived in Hungary, and she and Tamim visited as frequently as they could.

But the 1970s passed and, “all of a sudden, I found that writing reappeared with an insistent, importuning presence.”

It was 1980 when Ashour got back to writing. The impetus, she says, was the health problems that have continued to dog her throughout her life. Ashour’s first book, The Journey: Memoirs of an Egyptian Student in America, was written after she nearly died from persistent health problems. The book, finally published when she was 37, seems to have let writing’s “insistent, importuning presence” back into her life for good. Her first novel, Warm Stone, was published two years later.

Illness confined Ashour to bed several more times. But perhaps–as well as limiting her activities and causing her great pain–they also created time and space for her to write. Warm Stone was followed by several other novels, including Siraj in 1992, the celebrated Granada trilogy in 1994 and 1995, and the quasi-memoir Specters in 1998. Keep reading.

Ashour has won numerous awards, incuding The Owais award and Italy’s Fondazione Pescarabruzzo prize in 2011, the The Tarquina Cardarelli prize for literary criticism in 2009, Greece’s Constantine Cavafy Prize for literature in 2007 and others. Her Granada trilogy is on the Arab Writers Union’s list of the top 105 books of the 20th century.

Translator Barbara Romaine, who has translated Siraaj and Spectres, said she worked “very closely with Radwa as well–on both novels, but especially on Specters, which, with its dual narrative, is more complex than Siraaj.”

Romaine said, in an email exchange about translation and Ashour’s work:

 Among the things I love about Radwa’s writing is her courage in confronting the unthinkable–like those atrocities I referred to a moment ago. There is room for sentiment in her writing (in some of her depictions of family relations, for instance), but ultimately she does not shy away from harsh truths, and accordingly she doesn’t spare the reader, either.

Ashour, as is explored in the autobiographical aspects of her work, is married to Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti and is the mother of poet and political scientist Tamim Barghouti.


The call for papers:

The aforementioned call for papers comes from the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University; papers will be presented at a conference — set to be held March 22-23, 2014 — that aims to discuss “the various cultural, critical or aesthetic issues involved in works produced by Professor Radwa Ashour.”

The following key topics are suggested:

·       Renegotiating Modernity and Modernism

·       Introducing a new Arabo-Islamic Narrative

·       Radwa Ashour Translated

·       The Power of the Plume: Political Activism in the Writings of Radwa Ashour

·       The Journey: Deconstructing the Stereotypical Eurocentric Nahda Discourse in the Arab World

·       Re-reading Women Writers in Ashour’s Critical Writings

Paper abstracts can be sent to:

More about Ashour:

Youssef Rakha: As one long prepared

Mona Elnamoury: Radwa Ashour’s ‘Siraaj’: A Trip into the Past that Ends in the Present

Mona Elnamoury: Radwa Ashour on the Train of Images in the Egyptian Revolution

By Ashour

Essays and transcripts of talks

Mapping a nation: the legacy of Darwish

An excerpt from Siraaj, trans. Barbara Romaine