Writing on history and framing the evolution of Jewish figures in Egyptian novels: Ṣālat ʾUrfānīllī (ʻʻOrfanelli’s Hallʼʼ) by Ašraf al-‘Ašmāwī

  • Naglaa Waly University of Turin


Since his debut in 2010, the Egyptian writer Ašraf al-‘Ašmāwī (b. 1966) has been distinguished by two features: setting novels in historical contexts and paying considerable attention to minorities and  marginalised classes in Egyptian society. The focus of this article is on Ṣālat ʾUrfānīllī' (“Orfanelli’s Hall,” 2021), one of his most recent novels. In this novel, a-'Ašmāwī addresses the presence and the life of the Jewish community in Egypt in the period between 1911 and 1972. The novelist highlights the historical issues of Jews, in parallel with the political and social changes in Egypt over several decades of the 20th century. In addressing political and economic issues related to this period, he questions and subverts the official, exclusionary versions of history.  Against this backdrop, Ṣālat ʾUrfānīllī offers a case study with two aims: firstly, to discuss recourse to historical context and its connection with political and socio-cultural concerns and secondly, to point out the evolution of Jewish characters in post-2011 Egyptian narratives.


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Author Biography

Naglaa Waly, University of Turin

Naglaa Waly received her PhD in Linguistic Studies and Translation

at Ain Shams University, Cairo, in 2012. In 2016 she further received a Master’s degree in Afroasiatic Languages and Literatures at the University of Naples “L’Orientale.” She is a lecturer in Arabic at the University of Turin, a literary translator and editor of the series “Letteratura egiziana contemporanea” of the Istituto per l’Oriente Carlo Alfonso Nallino. Her field of research covers the areas of translation studies and the contemporary Egyptian novel. In 2017 she won the “Lifetime Achievement Award for Translation” from the Italian Ministry of Culture.

Naglaa can be reached at: naglaawaly@yahoo.it