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Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground [Paperback]

Ahdaf Soueif
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Nov 2004
"Globalisation is happening. It is driven by economics, ideology and communications. But does this have to entail the annexation of chunks of the world by the Great Power of any given moment? Surely that is the path to constant conflict, to grief and misery. There is another way: to inhabit and broaden the common ground. This is the ground where everybody is welcome, the ground we need to defend and to expand. It is in Mezzaterra that every responsible person on this planet now needs to pitch their tent. This is the ground from which this book is calling." Ahdaf Soueif is one of the finest commentators of our time. Her clear-eyed reporting is syndicated throughout the world, and these essays, written between 1981 and the present, are collected here for the first time. They are the direct result of Soueif's own circumstances of being, as she puts it, "like hundreds of thousands of others: people with an Arab or a Muslim background doing daily double-takes when faced with their reflection in a western mirror". From visiting Palestine and entering the Noble Sanctuary for the first time, to interpretations of women who choose to wear the veil, and to post-September 11th commentary, these selected essays are always perceptive, fearless, intelligent and necessary.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747577250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747577256
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 849,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Soueif is a political analyst and commentator of the best kind' -- London Review of Books

About the Author

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. She has translated I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti from Arabic into English. She also is a journalist and commentator and her work is syndicated throughout the world.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 58 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fiction not fact 21 Aug 2005
By A Customer
I found this book shelved under fiction at my local library and was pleased to find it because I've enjoyed two of her novels. Now I've read it I'm left bemused. The first part is reprints of some of her Guardian articles on Israel/Palestine, the second mainly book reviews. If I'd read the book reviews first I might have understood the political essays better: they are mostly surprisingly ungenerous and try to put the authors down by explaining how much better Soueif understands Egypt and Egyptians than they do, often putting undue emphasis on small issues of language and other details. The political essays are either mendacious or nave and at times truly shocking. She justifies Arafat's refusal to negotiate with Barak and Clinton at Taba by saying that Clinton was on the way out and he believed it better to wait for Bush, the oil-man. This is an argument from hindsight: no one knew before the election whether Gore or Bush would win and does not begin to justify the subsequent pain and deaths among both Israelis and Palestinians which could have been avoided if Arafat had been willing to negotiate rather than initiating the intifada - Churchill was right when he said 'jaw-jaw is better than war-war'. She says 'a 'believing' Muslim cannot hate a Christian or a Jew because of who they are since Islam is clear that Muslims must live in fellowship with people of the Book'. This ignores the vile anti-Jewish sentiments preached in mosques and published in the Arab press in recent years, including a resuscitation of the mediaeval Christian blood libel that Jews use human blood to manufacture festival foods. She is falsely told that the 2 new immigrants to Israel who lost their way and were lynched in Ramallah were government agents who pretend to be Arabs and prints this without question. Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd collection of essays 3 May 2007
By Blue in Washington - Published on
Ahdaf Soueif is an Anglo-Egyptian novelist of deserved reknown. However, her collection of some 20 years of newspaper commentaries, published as "Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground," does not enhance her writing reputation by much, in my opinion.

Apart from the opening essay in this book, which explains her theory of "mezzaterra," and one or two of her pieces on modern life in Egypt, most of the collection goes from one angry rant to another. Soueif's indignation is mostly aimed at Europeans, Israelis and Americans who have, in her opinion, abused and disrespected Islamic nations and Islamic people over a long period of time. She launches some vitriol toward the recently ousted Mubarak n government as well.

While her complaints are not unfounded, her voice is so shrill and her moral authority compromised by her self-imposed isolation from the Middle East and its manifold problems. This made me less sympathetic to her perspective. In fairness to Soueif, she was ill-served by a negligent editor at the publishing house who allowed these essays to be pulled together in a haphazard fashion. Overall, I think Soueif's works of fiction are a better investment of the reader's time.
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