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Liberty is in Literature

In her CairoScene debut, and ahead of her weekly literary reviews, Anam Sufi explains her determination to get your head out of the clouds and into a book.

So I was asked to make my first article about the “kind of books that I am into” as a sort of introductory, red carpet-style shebang for my inauguration as a writer for CairoScene. Not to be at bloggerheads with anyone, but that’s a pretty difficult task. You see, I wouldn’t be a very adequate “reviewer” and much less, an adequate “reader”, even, if I circumscribed my reading interests within a certain genre or subject matter. But having said this, I guess what I’ll try to do is give you an idea of the kind of books that make me weak in the knees, send butterflies fluttering in my tummy, and make my toes curl with excitement.

Before jumping into all that though, perhaps a more detailed account of the face behind the “readers compass” is necessary. I’m just about completing my undergrad in English and Comparative Literature from the American University in Cairo. Old school idiots might be rolling their eyes thinking, ‘damn! A woman and a shiterature major, no surprise there,’ and those with half a brain might be thinking, ‘Mother of sexiness on toast! How interesting!’

Unfortunately, I don’t think my experiences can neither satisfy nor disappoint either one of those attitudes. I would be lying if I said the literature department provided me with a wholesome experience of the plethora of titillating reads out there. As the Ay-rabs say, “bel 3aks.” There were perhaps three courses in my three years that provided me with any reading material that wasn’t stuck in the 19th century or pinned to a fireplace amongst women with petticoats. All in all, much like Mulan in Mulan, I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to stick it to the man.

If you asked me about the Brontës, Jane Austin or Flaubert, I could dish out endless things about their writing. No offence to fans, but it’s not because I wanted to read their works. While they have their place in literature (and don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be a great guru in the field myself), they simply don’t float my boat. Times have progressed, and its time to spice things up with conflict and stylistic devices, and branch away from pedantic dos and don’ts. 

So back to “sticking it to the man”… My main tool to do so was to forge my own pile of reading material. I began looking “in-between assigned books” as they say (actually no one says that, but here’s hoping the make-shift phrase works). I realised that our generation is severely marred by its inability to accept literature and reading as being cool. My response? Quit turning to counter culture, assholes… liberty is in literature! Take it from me; there is nothing more attractive than a person that reads, for as George R.R Martin put it, "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… the man who never reads lives only one." 

Having said so, here’s to Hemmingway, to Murakami, to Fitzgerald, to Dostoevsky, to Rumi, to Chekov, to Kafka, to Ishiguru, to Shelley, to modernity, to post-modernism, to a God damn cocktail of inebriating literary shooters. And if you trust me, then stay tuned, as together we’ll work on bringing back the book.


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