in La rivista di Arablit, a. XI, n. 21-22, giugno-dicembre 2021, pp. 31-44.
The Egyptian writer Yūsuf Zaydān is part of the tradition – dating from the age of the Nahḍah – of intellectuals as “educators of consciousness”. Since then, faced with a national narrative controlled by political or religious power, Arabic literature has often revisited history with the aim of restoring – through the freedom offered by fictional discourse – the truth overshadowed by official history. Yūsuf Zaydān’s work aims at creating both a new self-awareness and a new perception of the Other within Egyptian society. His project, which is both ideological and literary, revolves around the issue of religious violence in a broad sense. It appears in particular in the historical novels ‘Azāzīl (2009) and al-Nabaṭī (2010), where he tries to show the continuum linking some currents of Christianity to Islam, with the aim of showing that current conflicts are simply the result of political choices.
Yūsuf Zaydān (1958) has been known on the Arabic literary scene since the publication of his novel ‘Azāzīl in 2008. This work has been the subject of a number of critical analyses. Most literature about Zaydān focuses on this novel and consists in short critical reviews. Only a few studies on this novel were published between 2013 and 2019. These deal with different issues: the politics of historical fiction in Egypt, the gender approach, the problematics of identity and an original ecocritical study on objects in the novel. Thus, for example, Mohammad Salem Al Mostafa interprets the novel as «an interesting and provocative dramatization of the dynamics of gender by which women’s identity is constructed in the Egyptian patriarchal culture» (Al Mostafa 2016: 38).