Matrimonio e negoziazione del posizionamento sociale in Ḫiṭbat al-šayḫ (Il fidanzamento dello šayḫ, 1915), il romanzo incompiuto di Ṭāhā Ḥusayn

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In: Quaderni di Studi Arabi
Maria Elena Paniconi Università degli Studi di Macerata Macerata Italy

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In the early twentieth century, themes such as the emergence of a young, newly urbanized effendiyya, the idea of marriage nurtured by this new class, the choice of the bride, and the role of the wife and the husband within the family were crucial in the cultural and social debate in Egypt. Throughout the discussion of these themes, the relationship between genders and generations was established, and new social boundaries were negotiated.

After a short analysis of the trope of marriage in the first period of the Egyptian novel (1906–1945) this contribution focuses on Ḫiṭbat al-šayḫ (The šayḫ’s engagement), a text by the renowned Egyptian author and academic Ṭāhā Ḥusayn (1889–1973), published only in 2017 by Dār al-waṯāʾiq in Cairo. This novel, although unfinished, offers one of the first examples of epistolary novel in the Egyptian late nahḍa context. The text, which consists of fifteen letters of various lengths, written by five fictional characters, is fundamental in understanding the theme of marriage as a social positioning tool.

Indeed, through the mechanism of epistolography, Ḫiṭbat al-šayḫ mirrors the complex social debate, incorporating in its own structure the discussion of social boundaries by different social actors.

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