Blue Aubergine

Blue Aubergine

Publishing House: The American University in Cairo Press

Publication Year: 2004

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 130

“Blue Aubergine” by Miral al-Tahawy is a profound narrative that chronicles the life of Nada, a young Egyptian woman born in the tumultuous year of 1967. Her journey from childhood to womanhood is set against the backdrop of Egypt’s social and political turbulence during the late 20th century. Nada, nicknamed “Blue Aubergine” due to her premature birth and bluish appearance, navigates through a life marred by emotional and physical scars inflicted by her upbringing and childhood traumas. She struggles to connect with men and seeks affection, oscillating between full Islamic attire, including a niqab and gloves. She alternates this with a more liberal look as a young graduate student. Her quest for love and tenderness remains unfulfilled, reflecting societal harm from imposing restrictive values on the youth.

Navigating Tradition and Identity in a Shifting Egyptian Landscape

The novel shifts unpredictably in time and space, populated by a diverse cast of characters like aunts, teachers, and fellow students, who all play a part in Nada’s complex journey toward self-awareness. It becomes clear that Nada’s adherence to traditional values of chastity and innocence, and her attachment to her past, only lead to loneliness and sorrow.

The story is divided into three segments, each focusing on different stages of Nada’s life: her childhood, college years, and PhD studies. The narrative employs various perspectives, including first, second, and third-person viewpoints, as well as letters to her brother Nader. Despite her resilience, Nada’s life is fraught with challenges, from her traumatic birth to a childhood accident that leaves her jaw wired shut, affecting her ability to fit in at school and gain support from her mother.

Nada’s experience at college is marked by a self-imposed isolation behind the veil, yet her eventual removal of it only offers partial freedom. Her life is in stark contrast to her college roommate Safaa, who actively engages in life. It also contrasts with her brother Nader, showing different societal paths. Nada’s struggle is further highlighted in her dissertation, focused on ‘The Dialectic of Rebellion and Gender Oppression’.

“Blue Aubergine” is a complex narrative that blurs the lines between dream and reality, desires, and actual experiences. It provides a rich tapestry of character portraits, including Nada’s family and friends, and explores the internal conflicts and societal pressures she faces. The novel, though challenging with its shifting narrative, richly explores Egypt’s cultural and political landscape during a critical era.

It’s a story that delves deep into the psyche of a woman trying to find her place in a world that often seems at odds with her innermost desires and needs.

Read More About Miral Al-Tahawy

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