Biography for Alifa Rifaat - 2011

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Biography for Alifa Rifaat,
author of “An Incident in the Ghobashi Household”
Source Citation
"Fatma Abdalla Rifaat." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Literature
Resource Center. Web. 24 Nov. 2011.
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**Note that this author goes by other names.
Title: Fatma Abdalla Rifaat
Known As: Rifaat, Alifa; Rifaat, Fatma Abdalla
Egyptian Writer ( 1930 - )
Source: Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2001. From Literature Resource Center.
Document Type:
Full Text:
COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning
Family: Born June 5, 1930, in Cairo, Egypt; daughter of Abdulla (an architect) and Zakia (a homemaker;
maiden name, Ali Rifaat) Rifaat; married Hussien Rifaat (a police officer), July 3, 1952 (died in 1979);
children: Amany (daughter) and Mamdouh and Moustafa (sons). Education: Domestic Arts School,
diploma, 1946; attended British Institute, Cairo, 1946-49. Religion: Muslim. Memberships: Union of
Egyptian Writers, Story Club, Authors Assembly of Egypt, Modern Literature Association, Literal Akkad
Assembly, Zaky Mubarak Assembly. Addresses: Home: 4 Mahmoud Ahmad El-Meligi St., Flat 3, El-Nozha,
Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Homemaker, 1952-55 and 1960-73; writer, 1955-60 and 1973--. Volunteer worker for Red Crescent,
1948 and 1973. Attendee at conferences and seminars, including First Feminist International Book Fair
(London, England), 1984, Arabic Literature Seminar (Berlin, Bonn, and Nuremberg, Germany), 1990,
UNISECO--Reality and Horizons (Casablanca, Morocco), 1990, Al-Salam Alikom Islamic Conference (Graz,
Austria), and many seminars in Egypt.
Excellence Award from Modern Literature Assembly, 1984, for excellence in body of work.
Hawatandbi-Adam (short stories; title means "Eve Returns with Adam to Paradise"),
Ministry of Culture (Egypt), 1975.
Jawharah Farum (novel; title means "The Jewel of Pharaoh"), Ministry of Culture, 1978,
translation published as Pharaoh's Jewel, Dar Al-Helal, 1991.
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Man Ya Kun al-rajul? (short stories; title means "Who Can This Man Be?"), Ministry of
Culture, 1981.
Salat Al-hubb (short stories; title means "The Prayer of Love"), Ministry of Culture, 1983.
Distant View of a Minaret, translation by Denys Johnson-Davies, Quartet Books, 1983,
from the Arabic, published as Leil Al-Shetaa Al- taweel (title means "The Long Night of
Winter and Other Stories"), Dar El-Asema, 1985.
Kad Lia al-Hawa (title means "Love Conspired on Me"), Ministry of Culture, 1985,
translation published as Love Made a Trap for Me, Nile Press, 1991.
Girls of Baurdin (novel), Dar Al-Helal, 1995.
Fatma Abdulla Rifaat once told CA that several significant childhood experiences as well as growing up in
a traditional Arab society profoundly influenced her life and her writings. Rifaat explained: "I had
wanted to go on to university education by enrolling in the College of Fine Arts, but my father's refusal
was decisive; he made me stay at home and married me off to my maternal uncle's son, a police officer.
All decisions in our family are made by the menfolk; we are proud of our Arab origin and hold on to
certain Arab customs, among which is the belief that the marriage of girls and their education remains
the business of the man. The men taught us to be ladies in society and mistresses of the home only. As
for the arts and literature, they were a waste of time and even forbidden.
"I wrote a short story when I was nine. It was about despair in our village. However I was punished for
this effort. Then I tried oil painting and studied music and song writing. Finally I went back to writing
short stories, a thing which clashed with my marriage. It is significant that my husband should have
created a storm when I published my first short story in 1955. Even though I published under a
pseudonym until 1960, he discovered it and made me swear on God's book that I stop publishing, or else
he would divorce me. I actually did stop writing for about fifteen years during which time I studied
literature and read many books on Sufism, history, astronomy, and the sciences, until finally he allowed
me, after I had fallen ill, to go back to writing. It was then that I wrote the story 'My World of the
Unknown,' which attracted attention, and I began to publish. My husband died, God rest him, in 1979. I
then met translator Denys Johnson-Davies, who encouraged me to change my style by abandoning
some of the romantic aspects. He also convinced me to write the dialogues in colloquial.
"Death has always been one of the main subjects about which I write, due to the emotional impact of
the death of a close childhood friend. Most of my stories, however, revolve around a woman's right to a
fully affective and complete sexual life in marriage; that and the sexual and emotional problems
encountered by women in marriages are the most important themes of my stories. When I married I
found my sexual life unfulfilling because nobody talked to me about the subject or taught me anything. I
believe there should be more education for women, even if only through books. In my view, it is wrong
to look to the West for sexual education for young people. Our society does not allow us to experience
sex freely as Western women may. We have our traditions and our religion in which we believe."
Document URL
Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000082951
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