Mansoura Ezz Eldin

Portrait Mansoura Ezz Eldin
© Samuel Shimon

Mansoura Ezz Eldin was born in 1976 in a small village in the Nile Delta in Egypt. She studied journalism and media studies at Cairo University. While still a student she began writing short stories which were published in the major Arabic cultural publications. She has been working as an editor for the literary journal »Akhbar al-adab« since 1998 and has been  the editor of book reviews for the same journal since 2003. Five stories from her collection »Daw’muhtazz« (2001, tr: Trembling Light) were translated into English and included in the anthology »Unbuttoning the Violin«. These prose pieces reveal  Ezz Eldin’s characteristic style, which shifts between dream and reality, past and present, uncovering  the manifold realities of the self.

Her first novel »Matahat Maryam« (2004, English; »Maryam’s Maze«, 2007) met with great acclaim on the part of  critics and readers alike. In this novel Ezz Eldin recounts  the mysterious story of a young woman called Maryam, who awakes one morning from a nightmare to find herself in a strange flat. While searching for her family and friends she becomes lost in a labyrinth of dream and reality, reason and madness, in which she is confronted with questions concerning her past and her identity, leading her to a surprising final discovery.  In very precise and finely nuanced prose she describes the feelings and thoughts of her protagonist, who has the impression that »she just drifts on the surface of the world, not living in it,and that the world itself exists only in her mind«. This loss of the world occupies the narrator and she pursues it, uncovering as she does so hidden aspects of the human psyche. She also tells the story of the quiet emancipation of a woman who is not able to find a place in society and nearly loses herself in her fantasy worlds. The reader is drawn into a dream labyrinth and is confronted with similar questions. This  novel, praised the Egyptian poet Fatima Naoot, calls for an »active reader«, as is the case with any challenging work of art, a reader who is ready to pursue unanswered questions and decipher the myriad of signs for him or herself.

Ezz Eldin’s  second novel »Wara’ al-firdaus« (2009, tr: Behind Paradise) is about Selma, who returns to her family after the failure of her marriage, and writes a book about her family in order to understand and come to terms with the past. In this latest novel dreams continue to be  a main focus of artistic interest.  However, dreams here lose some of their nightmarish quality and become associated with the more traditional Arabic-Islamic idea of dreams.

Mansoura Ezz Eldin belongs to a new generation of young Egyptian writers who are no longer interested in broad social panoramas, but focus instead on the individual and his or her individual perceptions. She lives and works in Cairo.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin