Although Sufi characters - saints, dervishes, wanderers - occur regularly in modern Arabic literature, a select group of novelists seeks to interrogate Sufism as a system of thought and language. In the work of writers like Naguib Mahfouz, Gamal Al-Ghitany, Tahar Ouettar, Ibrahim Al-Koni, Mahmud Al-Mas'adi and Tayeb Salih we see a strong intertextual relationship with the Sufi masters of the past, including Al-Hallaj, Ibn Arabi, Al-Niffari and Al-Suhrawardi. This relationship becomes a means of interrogating the limits of the creative self, individuality, rationality and the manifold possibilities offered by literature, seeking in a dialogue with the mystical heritage a way of preserving a self under siege from the overwhelming forces of oppression and reaction that have characterized the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
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Ziad Elmarsafy is Reader in the Department of English and Related Literature, University of York. He is author of 'The Enlightenment Qur'an: The Politics of Translation and the Construction of Islam' (Oneworld Publications, 2009).
"Readers interested in how a particular work fits into the broader arabophone literary scene will appreciate Elmarsafy's thorough indexing, while those familiar with Arabic will also appreciate lengthy quotations from the original works in over 60 pages of endnotes. The volume has a helpful bibliography including plentiful French-language scholarship on Arabic literature, fiction, and literary theory more generally. Elmarsafy is to be commended on the ambitious project to encompass a large geographic expanse, and his selections are meant to be illustrative rather than encyclopedic. The work is meticulously detailed; hence, a reader new to the field would necessarily read this work alongside a more introductory survey of trends in modern Arabic fiction." --Celene Ayat Lizzio, Brandeis University, Journal of Postcolonial Writing
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