Minaret by Leila Aboulela: From Exile to a New Home?
In recent years, a new literary genre appears to have emerged. It is characterized by the unmistakable voices of writers of Muslim origin who explore, often from a multifaceted perspective, the intricate relationship between their own and British culture, focusing too on the tangled experience of leaving their homeland and of being received by the Western society barely known to them.
Sudanese writer, Leila Aboulela, is part of this new literary tradition. In her second novel, Minaret (2005), she employs an ironic, lyrical, and absorbing narrative to depict the fascinating and highly problematic intercultural relationship between Najwa, the heroine, and the other characters, and most significantly between the girl herself and London. The English capital is at the same time a dangerous and cruel stranger who amplifies the geographical and cultural sense of alienation felt by Najwa, and a kind of partner in crime, in which Najwa loses herself only to finally recover her own identity, the spiritual dimension she had long lost, and much sought-after peace of mind.
In this essay, we investigate this at times difficult relationship to explore how the cultures that Najwa and London represent – respectively, Eastern and Western – combine and interweave, thus creating a liminal space where a new identity of compromise and dialogue is possible.
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