Clash of Cultures in the Works of Fadia Faqir and Ahdaf Soueif

Table of Content

Reading works of literature by different Arab authors can broaden readers’ understanding of the culture they represent, especially when the stories occur within real historical circumstances. Two insightful works are My Name is Salma by Fadia Faqir and Sandpiper, a collection of stories by Ahdaf Soueif.

Both writers depicted the clash of cultures in their writings. In Sandpiper, Ahdaf Soueif vividly illustrates how disparate racial origins can drive a deep wedge between people, particularly couples in romantic relationships. On the other hand, My Name is Salma by Fadia Faqir mirrors the travails and tribulations experienced by the main character Salma in a foreign land.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

In the novel, Salma gets pregnant following a passionate tryst with a young man from her small village. Several events ensue, including a failed abortion, and she eventually assumes an incognito name to escape her dishonored kin and ends up in England. Beforehand, she is placed in protective custody in prison where she gives birth on the dirty prison floor. Salma spends much time living anew but continually longs for her homeland driven by compulsion to see her daughter resulting in meeting her tragic end.

Faqir employs an engaging storytelling style that interlinks Arab mindset and cultural beliefs with western experiences of the main character. The reader senses that much of My Name is Salma reflects Faqir’s own life story making it credible especially when depicting struggles of women seeking political asylum abroad while trying to meld into mainstream society.

Records show that Faqir grew up in Amman located in Jordan and settled with her English husband in northern England (Tarbush, par. 11). It can be gleaned that she was talking from experience when describing the adventures of her main character – from using modern undergarments to taking in the sights of England. Faqir successfully lures readers to immerse themselves in a story that brings to the forefront how women can be resolute human beings in the face of adversity, especially as a result of problems arising from their racial/cultural origins.

Being Jordanian certainly helped Faqir describe her Arab character and circumstances.

As authors who brilliantly depict the Arab woman’s experience, Fadia Faqir and Ahdaf Soueif both conducted research to supplement their own personal experiences in their respective countries, thereby heightening the authenticity of their stories. According to Tarbush (par. 15), “Faqir has researched honor killings in Jordan, so has an inside knowledge of the subject.” Cairo-born Ahdaf Soueif lets her intellectual Muslim family background reflect in her writings. Through her collection of stories in Sandpiper, Soueif effectively uses time and space, fiction and reality in the context of history and politics… (and) is helped here by well-founded information and research which challenge the oversimplified, stereotyped portrayal of Egyptian women in English literature” (Shanneik, par. 12).

Soueif and Faqir presented realistic views of their cultures while also writing a balanced view about other cultures. Tackling a multicultural standpoint with a careful approach not to deride their race while also illuminating real societal conditions requires special talent and keen observation of events. Faqir and Soueif both have strengths as female writers writing about identifiable characters amidst the rich historical background of the countries they hail from or have taken up residence in.

“Soueif’s creative edge is her hybrid vision — she transposes an Egyptian spirit into that which is non-Egyptian” (Wassef, par. 11). Soueif shared at some point in her career that “I would never have chosen to live abroad. It just happened. And one day I’ll go home” (Wassef, par. 13). In this aspect, parallelism with Fadia Faqir may be drawn as being a defender of women’s rights; one can surmise how Faqir must have entertained thoughts of going back to her homeland. It can be inferred that Faqir echoed her longings and part of her own personality through her main character Salma/Sally Asher. She also reflected her own strength and ability to overcome despair in her character Salma, who goes through the challenging stages of finding her identity while assimilating a new culture and surviving in a foreign land. Faqir’s activist leanings are also clearly illustrated in My Name is Salma.

Archaic as it may seem, honor killing or using bloodshed to recompense for a dishonored or tarnished honor of a tribe is oppression that reportedly still occurs in some societies. It can be said then that both authors’ personal lives and Arab backgrounds played a vital role in their writings.

Honor killings are researched by Faqir which gives an inside knowledge of the subject (Tarbush, par. 15). Soueif uses time and space, fiction and reality effectively within Sandpiper collection (Shanneik, par. 12).

Both Faqir and Soueif are reliable and true voices of the Arab world, particularly in depicting the plight of women who are shackled by socio-cultural realities or oppressive male dominance. This is clearly shown in the honor killing of Salma’s child and the main character herself in My Name is Salma.” The same theme is also present in one of the featured stories in “Sandpiper” called “Melody,” which takes readers to a Gulf Arab country where they witness family issues dealt with by middle-class couples of different racial origins. In this story, a Canadian woman yearns to have children, but her husband has blocked it with a vasectomy. Discerning readers will note how Soueif explores “the blindness of the white Canadian to her own experience of sexist oppression” (Massad) with subtlety.

Both Faqir and Soueif employ powerful literary devices such as imagery, figures of speech, and flashbacks to make their narrative prose not just readable but riveting masterpieces.

Works Cited

  1. Massad, Joseph. “The Politics of Desire in the Writings of Ahdaf Soueif.” Journal of Palestine Studies 28 (1999). 30 May 2009 .
  2. Shanneik, Yafa. “Developing a Euro-Arab Literature.” 10 May 2004. 30 May 2009
  3. .
  4. Tarbush, Susannah. “Fadiq Faqir’s Novel `My Name is Salma’.” 8 May 2007. 30 May 2009 .
  5. Wassef, Hind. “The unblushing bourgeoise.” 30 April 1998. 30 May 2009             .

Cite this page

Clash of Cultures in the Works of Fadia Faqir and Ahdaf Soueif. (2016, Sep 29). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront