Somaya Ramadan


Somaya Yehia Ramadan
(سمية رمضان) is a short-story writer, translator, cultural and literary critic. She received her B.A. from the English Department, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, and her Ph.D. in 1983 from Trinity College, Dublin.

After two successful collections of short story-  "Khashab wa Nohass" (Brass and Wood), in 1995 and "Manazel el-Kamar" (Phases of the Moon) in 1999- Somaya Ramadan published her first novel Awraq Al-Nargis (The Narcissus Leaves) in 2001.

This pseudo-autobiographical narrative, set between Egypt and Ireland won her not just instant acclaim within Egyptian literary circles but the AUC Naguib Mahfouz Literary Award as well in December 2001.

In their citation to that year's award the judges said: "The novel is supremely complex, with modernist techniques pushed to the utmost, and thus maintaining all along a superb and vibrant creative tension. The author expresses the inexpressible, and articulates that which cannot be said directly, by creating confrontations between revealing and holding back.

Somaya Ramadan has carried the subject matter of her novel to new aesthetic grounds in refined language and innovative form, by embedding the informative within the imaginative, the ambivalent within the allegorical. Marked by a hallucinating and captivating narration, this is liminal writing par excellence: writing while gazing at the abyss of being."  The committee was made up of Abdel-Qader El-Qutt, Abdel-Moneim Tallima, Ferial Ghazoul, Hoda Wasfi, and Mark Linz.

As part of the award the English translation of Awraq Al-Nargis was published in 2002 by AUC Press

Somaya, has also translated excentsively, articles and essays pertaining to the post colonial situation from Edward Said, Laila Abu Lughd and others. Foremost among her translations is Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" and the "Theatre of Images", by a group of American playwrights.

She is one of the founding members of the Women and Memory Forum which is a non-profit organization working on the history of women in the Arab World. In that capacity she has contributed to their workshop in re-writing folktales from a feminist perspective. She is currently engaged in research on the Jaque Menou/Zobeida el Rachidiyaa connection.

Somaya worked as a teacher of English in AUC’s Freshman Writing Program from 1983 to 1989, and is currently a lecturer in English and translation at the National Academy of Arts. She has two sons and lives in Cairo.


Publications: (Arabic

  • "Khashab wa Nohass" (Brass and Wood, short stories), in 1995.
  • "Manazel el-Kamar" (Phases of the Moon, short stories) in 1999.
  • "Awraq Al-Narjis" (Narcissus Papers, novel), Cairo: Dar Sharqiyat, 2001. Won Naguib Mahfouz Medal for literature 2001. The novel stages the (narcissistic) mirror in which a politically and socially conscious Egyptian woman, Kima, sees herself and her identity. Where will Kima's newly found self-consciousness, apparently trapped in contradictions, lead her? The destination is not what matters here, as it is the journey that makes this novel a grabbing read.

(Translated from Arabic to English)

  • Leaves of Narcissus. 2004


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