Ahdaf Soueif was born in Cairo. She is the author of “Aisha”, “Sandpiper”, “In the Eye of the Sun” and the bestselling novel “The Map of Love”, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999. Her collection of cultural and political essays, “Mezzaterra”, was published in 2004, as was her translation of “I Saw Ramallah” by Mourid Barghouti. She has been awarded the Blue Metropolis Literary Prize (in Montreal) and the Constantin Cavafis Award (in Cairo and Athens), and is also the founder of the Palestine Festival of Literature, PalFest.
Soueif is also a journalist and her work is syndicated throughout the world. For the past five years she has been a key political commentator on Egypt and Palestine, and throughout the 2011 uprisings in Cairo she reported from the ground for the Guardian, and appeared on television and radio. She lives in London and Cairo.
Soueif will take part in the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which will take place in Dubai from March 4 to 8.
To become a writer, one needs to read a lot. Do you agree?
Yes, indeed. But I would say one needs “to have read a lot”. Since forever.
Do you think books can change or influence societies?
Yes, in the long term, as they become part of the ideas/culture/discussions of society.
When and where do you like to read?
Whenever I can and wherever I can.
Who is your perfect reader?
The reader who enjoys the book.
Do you hang on to books or pass them around when you are done reading?
I pass them around. But there are favourites that I need to always have a copy of on my bookshelf.
If you could recommend one book, which one would it be?
Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”.
Do you have any literary role models?
Too old for that now.
What do you think of literature festivals?
They’re good places to meet readers and other writers and can make everyone feel part of a common human project.
What are you expecting from Emirates Airline Festival of Literature?
To enjoy it.