“Siddhartha said: ‘What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.'”
Alifa Rifaat’s stories are situated within an Islamic framework that allows her to create a feminism of her own. Since Islam and empowerment are often misguidedly placed in contradiction to one another, it’s easy to see why Rifaat is not a household name.
This may all seem too idealistic to some but nonetheless conveys a crucial message about the role of the artist and what cultural and literary representations can offer in the ongoing debates about the so-called “problem” of Muslims in the Anglophone North Atlantic.
To deal with the sense of ambivalence and confinement, I read. Reflecting back on my refuge in books, yes, I needed comfort and escape, but I was essentially trying to make sense of the turmoil not by watching the news but by reading.
When I found out that I was reviewing “Muslim” for World Literature Today, I was elated. And you can read about why in my review in the summer issue of World Literature Today.
Migrant writer Aglaja Veteranyi once wrote that “[her] father says you remember the smell of your country no matter where you are but only recognize it when you’re far away.”
Fiction has the power to uncover what is left unsaid in headlines and social media posts. It disrupts the chain of narratives that insidiously silence the voices of those who demand to be heard.