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So You May See

So You May See

Mona Prince
Translated by Raphael Cohen
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    So You May See
    Book Description:

    This audacious novel opens with Ayn as she reflects on the act of writing and wonders if love alone is sufficient subject for a narrative. Haltingly at first, she weaves the tale of her love affair with Ali with witty asides about her own writing, and the limits and self-deceptions that are at the heart of all storytelling. As the story finds its way, through sea and desert, and the realms of mysticism and magic, we learn of a passionate, volatile relationship, one severely tested through countless separations, of Ayn’s relationships with other men, including her intense encounters with a Corsican ex-convict, and of her own desire to escape the confines of marriage, even to the man she loves. Disarmingly candid in the telling, So You May See leads us gently into a revolt, a fierce rebuttal of conventional romantic literature and an indictment of the sexual mores and unquestioned attitudes to marriage and relationships in contemporary Egypt.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-176-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Prologue
    (pp. 1-4)

    I often said to him: I will immortalize you; I will create a myth out of you.

    I will write about you and me, about our love story.

    He would mock me with his words: You don’t know how to write.

    I teased him: Has someone loved you and written about you before? He humbly said no. My presumption would increase, and I would say: Well then, that person will be me. He would assert that I don’t know how to write. I’d be quick to stifle him: You’re not a literary critic, you don’t even read literature. You’re only...

  3. Dedication
    (pp. 5-8)
  4. 1.
    (pp. 9-70)

    In Kundera’sThe Unbearable Lightness of Being, Tomas remembers that his love for Tereza was born as a result of a string of laughable coincidences: six o’clock; the novelAnna Karenina; a particular bench in the park, which was situated opposite the restaurant where Tereza worked; and two others that I don’t recall now. He had been thinking, somewhat discontentedly and indifferently, how blind coincidences had led him to this woman who had become the love of his life, he a man who didn’t believe in love and could never get enough of women.

    Was it coincidence? Is there really...

  5. 2.
    (pp. 71-98)

    I cannot let the last scene pass uncommented; its irony is inescapable. In its melodrama I am reminded of one of the set-piece scenes of Arab cinema, in particular, films of the 1970s and 1980s. There is a pair of sweethearts who have been caught up in a love affair for donkey’s years. Our Romeo can’t fulfill the material requirements of marriage, and the relationship comes to an end when his Juliet marries a wealthy Arab or big-time businessman. By convention, the young woman returns her engagement ring—if they were engaged—by placing it on the table in front...

  6. 3.
    (pp. 99-130)

    Hand in hand, as though we do not want to slip away from each other, our two souls renew their friendship. I am filled with the certainty that we will never part, whatever happens.

    On the way, Ali asks me if I’ve had dinner. I nod my head to say yes.

    “Shall we have dinner again, together?”

    I look into his eyes and nod once more.

    “What? Have you learned patience, or silence?” He makes it a joke since he’s not used to sign language, from me in particular.

    “What have you got to say?”

    His eyes brim with love....

  7. 4.
    (pp. 131-176)

    By the light of a small torch Ayn read Henri Charrière’sPapillonthe whole way to South Sinai. This was human behavior laid starkly bare under the microscope of prison. Crime was latent in the human soul, concluded Ayn after finishing the book, which she had loved despite the horrific nature of some of the scenes. In some way she understood the world of criminality, and even found it more gratifying and alluring then the world of values, praiseworthy morality, and fake refinement. She dozed off contemplating the behavior of society’s outlaws. She dreamed of the birth of the new...

  8. 5.
    (pp. 177-192)

    To whom should Ayn turn when she reached Cairo cloaked in the dust of Apollo’s grave? The question did not occur to Ayn. She had lost the ability to think. She hadn’t eaten or slept in two days. Hyun, who had remained to a degree conscious, rolled her along like a small rock from one bus to another and from one bus station to another until they reached Cairo. At that point Ayn started moving to a different rhythm and with a different sensibility and, intentionally or unintentionally, slipped out of Hyun’s arms.

    Now she knew her way. The way...

  9. 6.
    (pp. 193-196)
  10. 7.
    (pp. 197-197)
  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 198-204)
    Ayn al-Saqi

    Writing has no mercy for father or mother or lover. I find myself in agreement now with Roland Barthes. I hadn’t known that the novel is a living creature with the capacity to grow and develop according to its own conditions until I had started to write myself. Writing is only subject to its own conditions and desires. I attempted, as much as I could, to keep away from any social or political context that might ruin the sense of love. I prefaced this novel with a dedication to the beloved. But according to Barthes the novel may in the...

  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-205)